Using a DSLR as a Webcam - A guide & tutorial

Using a DSLR as a Webcam – A guide & tutorial

When a streamer wants to make everything look as high-end as possible, they will often use a DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam. The process itself isn’t exactly “plug and play” as DSLR/Mirrorless cameras generally do not include “webcam” functionality. So how do you do it? The answer: a capture card.

Sony mirrorless camera and Logitech C920 webcam

Sony mirrorless camera and Logitech C920 webcam


What is a Capture Card?

You may have heard the words “capture card” thrown around a lot by streamers and in stream setup videos.

Capture cards play an important function in multi-PC streaming setups and while the OBS NDI plug-in can make using a capture card in a two PC setup unnecessary, there is no way around needing one when it comes to using a DSLR as a webcam.

Many brands and types of capture cards exist. The majority of them are USB, and out of those, the majority are USB 3.0 based. There are also internal PCI-E capture cards such as the Elgato HD60 Pro or the Avermedia Live Gamer HD but for the sake of simplicity and ease, today we will be focusing on USB based capture cards.

The most popular USB capture card for use with a DSLR/Mirrorless camera is the Elgato Cam Link which tends to cost around $120-$130. A good alternative to the Cam Link that is also more universally compatible as it is USB 2.0 instead of 3.0, is the Avermedia Live Gamer Mini which costs the same as the Cam Link too.

For today’s guide, we’ll focus on use with the Cam Link. The instructions would be the same for pretty much any capture card out there, though.

Avermedia Live Gamer Mini and Elgato Cam Link capture cards

Avermedia Live Gamer Mini and Elgato Cam Link capture cards



The Best DSLR & Mirrorless Camera for Streaming

Selecting a DSLR or mirrorless camera for streaming can be a chore all by itself but there are a few important features to be aware of.

  • The camera must have an HDMI output

  • The camera must be able to output “clean” HDMI out

  • A wall A/C adapter must be available for the camera

  • The camera must not be prone to overheating

  • The camera must be able to run powered on with no time limit

  • The camera must have lens with a decently wide field of view (the lens that comes with the camera works too)

What “clean HDMI out” means is that the camera does not place any overlays, graphics, images, or graphs, or any of the “camera stuff” on the image coming out of the HDMI connection. That way, your feed from the camera is unobstructed.

Other types of cameras that have HDMI out can also be used, so long as the rest of the requirements are met, such as the Canon Vixia series of camcorders. Popular cameras used as webcams are the Sony A5100 (and many of the cameras in A5000 and A6000 series) as well as the Panasonic G7, and the Canon SL2.


Also, please be aware, many of the HDMI outputs of these cameras is Micro-HDMI or Mini-HDMI and so you will also need a Micro/Mini HDMI to female HDMI adapter to use a standard HDMI cable for this function (or a Micro/Mini HDMI to HDMI cable at a length of your choice).

Micro HDMI port

Micro HDMI port

Micro HDMI cable

Micro HDMI cable

Micro HDMI adapter

Micro HDMI adapter


An example of “not clean” HDMI output vs “clean” output

“Not Clean” output from DSLR/Mirrorless camera

“Not Clean” output from DSLR/Mirrorless camera

Clean output from DSLR/Mirrorless camera

Clean output from DSLR/Mirrorless camera




How To: Camera Lighting and Mounting

A few other key things to maximize the quality you’ll get with your DSLR/Mirrorless camera as a webcam are using a basic tripod and decent lighting.

Something like the Amazon Basics tripod, which is very affordable, should be plenty to hold your camera in place. If you don’t have good lighting, any basic desk lamp with a daylight temperature bulb will suffice. Daylight bulbs can be found at any hardware store and also on Amazon, usually with a “5000k” color temperature rating or higher.

Basic height adjustable lamps for streaming or video work

Basic height adjustable lamps for streaming or video work

 
Another basic lamp idea for streaming or video work

Another basic lamp idea for streaming or video work

Light temperature range with the ideal range for photo/video work highlighted

Light temperature range with the ideal range for photo/video work highlighted

Amazon Basics tripod with DSLR camera mounted. What you would need to utilize in your setup.

Amazon Basics tripod with DSLR camera mounted. What you would need to utilize in your setup.

A complete basic PC streaming setup with lighting and DSLR camera on tripod highlighted

A complete basic PC streaming setup with lighting and DSLR camera on tripod highlighted

 


How to Plugin Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera

All the setup and obtaining the parts are pretty much the hardest parts of all of this. Once you’ve obtained everything you need, plugging it in should be no problem.

You’ll want to run an HDMI cable from the camera to the capture card/Elgato Cam Link. Plug the Cam Link’s USB connection to an available USB 3.0 port, let Windows detect and install what it needs, then you should be ready for the next step!

Elgato Cam Link plugged into PC and camera

Elgato Cam Link plugged into PC and camera

A quick run through of connecting and mounting a camera with a capture card, recapping all previous steps & instructions

A quick run through of connecting and mounting a camera with a capture card, recapping all previous steps & instructions

Adding the Camera to OBS Studio

Almost as simple as the plugging in your camera with the process above, here is where you’ll add the camera to your scene in OBS Studio. The steps are as follows:

  1. Open OBS Studio

  2. Click the + sign under sources, or right click in that area to add a new source

  3. Select “Video Capture Device”

  4. Give your source a name you’ll remember in the dialog box under “create new”

  5. On the next dialog box, where it says “device,” click that dropdown and select the Elgato Cam Link (or other capture card device you are using)

  6. Your image should pop up in the preview window

  7. Click “OK”

  8. Resize your new DSLR Webcam to fit your scene!

Adding a video capture device

Adding a video capture device

Naming the video capture device

Naming the video capture device

Selecting your capture card

Selecting your capture card

Capture card setup complete and integrated into OBS overlays

Capture card setup complete and integrated into OBS overlays

A quick rundown/recap of adding the capture card in OBS

A quick rundown/recap of adding the capture card in OBS


Once you’ve been through all the steps, you’re off to the races!


OBS.Live - Monitor, Control, Integrate, and Interact with your Stream!

You may have noticed the integrated Activity Feed and Chat window above. The OBS.Live plugin for OBS Studio by StreamElements does all of this and more!

OBS.Live lets you see how many viewers you have, Activity Feed, skip/replay/manage Alerts, refresh your Overlays, Media Request controls, set what game you’re playing, set your stream title all in OBS Studio...so much good stuff! The plugin is available to download right here:



Happy Streaming!

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