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How to use your DSLR as a webcam for a PC or Mac

Looking for a webcam that's better quality than the one in your laptop? This is how to convert a camera you already own into a webcam for video calls on Zoom, Skype or Google Meet.

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No webcam? No problem.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Webcams are in short supply because of coronavirus lockdowns, so you may find yourself looking for a better-quality camera than the one in your Mac or PC. Fortunately, there is a way to use your DSLR or camcorder to boost the picture quality for all those Zoom calls and Skype sessions.

You can use your phone as a webcam and save yourself the trouble of connecting a stand-alone camera, but you may not get the best picture quality.

There are a couple of different ways to turn your DSLR into a webcam. Which one you choose will depend on your camera, whether it has USB or HDMI output, and if you're connecting to a PC or Mac.

Also, you'll definitely want to put your camera on a tripod to keep it steady during your calls and connect it to power if you plan to run it for a while. You also may want to look into recording your audio with a separate microphone rather than the in-camera mic if you want the best sound.

Read more: CNET's best digital cameras for 2020

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Use Canon or Sony software to use your camera as a webcam

Both Canon and Sony now have a way to connect their cameras to your computer (Canon to PC or Mac, Sony to PC). All you'll need is a USB cable, which should have come in your camera box. 

First download EOS Webcam Utility Beta (Canon) and Imaging Edge Webcam (Sony), both free. Once you've loaded up the software and plugged your camera in, change the camera to movie mode, then set the camera input in Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet.

Before installing the webcam software, first check to see if your Canon camera or your Sony camera is compatible. Also, this is beta software so you may experience bugs. Only US Canon camera models are supported.

Try a webcam app for your DSLR that connects over USB

Another option is the program SparkoCam for PC. It offers a free trial, but it does put a watermark over the image. It costs $70 for the unlocked version, which works with several Canon and Nikon cameras. 

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Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Once you connect the camera to your computer via USB, you'll be able to change the exposure and adjust other settings from SparkoCam. Unfortunately, you won't be able to record audio from the camera directly, so you will either need to use the computer's microphone if it has one, or have an external microphone hooked up so people can hear you. I've experienced some image stuttering when using SparkoCam depending on the camera, so it may not be the most reliable solution for you. Ecamm Live is another option for Mac that's recommended for Nikon users, although I haven't tested it specifically.

Connect your DSLR via HDMI for the best quality

This is best suited for cameras that can output a clean HDMI signal -- that means there aren't any overlays like exposure details or focus tools on your image. It also works with Mac or PC.

First, you'll need an HDMI cable to get the live image from your camera. Whether you need a mini or full-size HDMI cable depends on your camera.

Then, you will need a capture device such as the Elgato CamLink ($130). Once you plug your compatible camera into the dongle, it converts the HDMI signal to a USB signal so you can use your camera as a webcam. You'll just need to select the camera in your videoconferencing app of choice like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

If you want to take your streaming game beyond Skype or Zoom, here's a great tutorial that walks through the process of hooking up your camera, then using a free software tool called OBS to adjust even more settings for livestreaming.