Hands up, who’s got a snazzy DSLR or digital camera they rarely use anymore? Even in the days before we were stuck at home, cameras on our smartphones have become so high quality that it felt unnecessary to lug around a dedicated camera unless you’re a bonafide photographer. So, chances are your DSLR or digital camera is now just sitting gathering dust somewhere. Well, assuming your camera has an HDMI output, here’s how you can repurpose it into a great quality webcam.
Audio video capture card
First, you’ll need to trick your computer into thinking your digital camera is a regular webcam. You can do this using an audio video capture card, which plugs into a USB port on your computer and translates the signal from your camera into a format the computer can understand.
Audio video capture cards range in price. At the high-end, there’s something like the popular Elgato Cam Link, but you can also pick one up on Amazon for under $20, that supports 1080p. You’ll need a cable to go with it — depending on your camera, this is likely to be a micro HDMI (which goes into your camera) to HDMI (which goes into the capture card), but you’ll want to check the ports on your camera to make sure.
Next, you need a way of keeping your camera from turning off during your calls or livestream. You could just rely on keeping the camera battery charged, if that works for you. Or else you can replace the battery with a dummy battery that has a power cable coming out of it, so you can keep it plugged in at all times!
You’ll need to check the exact battery type your camera takes, and then do a search for a USB or mains power adapter that will fit. So for instance, the Sony ZV-1 camera is powered by a Sony NP-BX1 type of battery. A quick Amazon search for “NP-BX1 power adapter” brings up results like this dummy battery which can replace the battery and plug straight into another USB port on your computer.
Tripod or mount
The final piece of equipment you’ll likely need is a tripod or mount to keep your camera steady and at the correct angle. A pile of books probably won’t cut it, as there may be cables coming out of the bottom of the camera. If space is tight, you could go for something like the GorillaPod, which is compact and flexible, so can be adjusted to wrap around objects on your desk. Or you could grab a mount that clamps to the edge of your desk and has a flexible neck. Or if you have enough room, you can always use a regular tripod if you already own one.
Setting everything up
Set up your camera on its mount or tripod, and then pop your power adapter into the battery cavity. Plug the USB from the power adapter into your computer. Next, grab the audio video capture card and pop that into another USB port, and connect it to your camera using the HDMI cable.
Switch on your camera, navigate to an application that uses the camera (like video calling or livestreaming software), and check the camera sources. Your camera should show up automatically, thanks to the audio video capture card! You may need to tweak some settings on your camera itself to hide the information text, change the focus mode and so on, but you should now be good to go.
This setup is a little more fiddly than using a plug and play webcam, but your picture quality will hopefully be much more professional — plus you’re giving an old piece of equipment a new life!
We hope you found this tutorial useful, and we’d love to see what results you achieve. Tag us on Twitter at @vitocommunity.