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How to Use a DSLR as a Webcam - Easy Steps to Learn How

Follow these easy steps to use a DSLR as a webcam! Learn how to use a digital camera as a webcam on any computer with or without a capture card.
Stephen Robles
Video & Podcast Creator
Last Updated:
June 27, 2022
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

Are you looking for a way to improve the quality of your video content? Traditional webcams are convenient and easy to use, but they don’t always provide the best quality audio and video. We’ll explain how to use a DSLR as a webcam and walk through several different methods for connecting a camera to a Mac or PC. We’ll also explore the benefits of using a DSLR camera for your recorded or live streaming video content and cover which digital cameras can be used in place of your device’s webcam. 

What is the Difference Between a DSLR Camera and a Webcam?

Webcams are designed specifically to be used with a desktop or laptop to record video and images. Most modern laptops come with built-in webcams, so you don’t need to buy any additional hardware to live stream or record video. DSLR cameras are pieces of hardware designed to be used independently of a computer to capture images and videos. These external cameras can also be used as webcams by connecting them to your laptop or desktop with a USB cord or HDMI cable. 

The main difference between a webcam and a DSLR camera is the image quality, which depends on the size of a camera’s image sensor. A larger image sensor is able to detect and capture more information about the images it’s recording and produce a higher image quality. Webcams generally have much smaller image sensors than DSLR cameras and therefore tend to deliver a much lower image quality. 

Benefits of Using a DSLR as a Webcam

Webcams are convenient, especially if they’re built into your device, but there are many benefits when you use a digital camera to create content. It may require a larger budget, but investing in a DSLR camera will pay off in the long run because of the level of professional quality using one brings to your content. 

Here are the top five benefits you’ll notice when you use a DSLR as a webcam to create content:

  1. Improved image quality: As previously mentioned, DSLR cameras have larger image sensors than webcams. DSLRs also use a mirror to reflect light captured by the lens into the image sensor, which results in better image quality. 
  2. Low lighting performance: Because of their large image sensors, DSLR cameras can capture more light than webcams. This means that they can perform better in environments with low lighting. Many DSLR cameras have a mode specifically for dim lighting that will enhance their performance in these types of environments. 
  3. Advanced image settings: DSLR cameras have many more settings you can personalize and adjust to improve the quality of your video capture. You can adjust settings that include frame rate, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Having the correct settings for these things will make a huge difference in the quality of your content. 
  4. Ability to Accessorize: Webcams don’t usually come with many accessories you can use to improve your video quality. DSLR cameras can be accessorized and customized to improve quality and functionality. Some of the accessories you can get for a DSLR camera include mounts, flashes, triggers, lenses, filters, and DSLR microphones 
  5. Versatility: While you can only use webcams with your computer, you can use DSLR cameras as webcams and as stand-alone cameras away from your desktop or laptop. Use a DSLR camera to capture content in your studio or out in the field.

Why use a DSLR camera instead of a webcam?

Now that you understand the benefits of using a DSLR, we’ll explain the practical uses for connecting a DSLR to your computer as a webcam. 

The most common reasons to use a DSLR as a webcam include: 

Video calls and meetings

A DSLR camera is a great investment for professionals who use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet for client meetings and presentations. Using an external microphone and camera will improve the audio and video quality of calls and up your level of professionalism. 

Livestreaming content

If you live stream to YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, or another social platform, using a DSLR instead of a webcam will improve the overall quality of your content. The better the quality of your video content, the more likely it is you’ll grow your audience. 

Taking pictures

Many people use webcams to take photos to share with loved ones or for creating content for blogs and other online content. DSLR cameras will provide better images with higher resolution that you can share on social media.  

How to Use DSLR as Webcam Mac and Windows PC

There are a couple of methods for using a DSLR or mirrorless camera to record video. The methods vary depending on camera model, webcam software, and the type of system you’re using. 

The three methods for using a DSLR as a webcam on a Mac or PC are: 

Step 1: Connecting your DSLR with an HDMI cable via a capture card

Step 2: Installing the webcam software included with your camera and using a USB connection

Step 3: Using streaming software to broadcast your content using your DSLR 

We’ll explain how to use a DSLR as a webcam with and without a capture device and how to use an external camera to stream using streaming software

How to Set Up a DSLR as a Webcam With a Capture Card

Many older models of DSLR cameras don’t come with webcam software that supports their use as a webcam with desktop devices. In this case, you’ll have to use a capture card and an HDMI cable to connect your DSLR to your computer. 

Follow these steps to use a DSLR as a webcam with a capture card: 

Step 1: Choose the best capture card for your DSLR camera. 

Make sure the capture device you’re using is compatible with your specific camera. You’ll want to compare the resolution and frame rate of your camera with what’s supported by the capture card. If you want to record or stream in higher resolutions, be sure to get a card that supports 4K. 

Capture cards come in internal and external models. Internal capture cards connect directly to your computer’s motherboard and require technical knowledge to install. External capture cards connect to your device via a USB cable and don’t require additional installation. Laptops only support external capture cards. 

Step 2: Set up the capture card.

The setup for your capture card will depend on the card you’re using. If you’re using an internal capture card, follow the provided instructions to connect it properly to your device’s motherboard. Many capture cards will require you to download and install DSLR webcam software from their manufacturer site on the web before you can begin using them. Consult the instructions provided with your specific card to determine how and where to get the software you need. 

Step 3: Get your camera ready. 

Before you get your camera connected and in position, you’ll want to make sure the settings are where you want them. Take the time to double check the following things before you start recording: 

  • Make sure your camera is connected to a power source. Since DSLR cameras run on battery power, you need to ensure it’s connected to power so it doesn’t turn off while you’re recording. 
  • Lock in settings like the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO so everything is good to go when you’re ready to record. If you’re recording in a room with dim lighting, turn on your camera’s low lighting mode to ensure you’re getting the best picture possible. 
  • Switch your camera’s settings to clean HDMI out so that any overlays won’t be displayed in your stream or recording.

Step 4: Connect the camera and capture card. 

Make sure your camera is powered on and plug your HDMI card from your camera into the capture card. Next, plug your capture card into the HDMI port on your desktop or computer. Most DSLR cameras use an HDMI mini input for connecting to capture cards and other external hardware that requires an HDMI connection. 

Step 5: Record or stream using software. 

Once you’ve connected your camera to your computer using a capture card, you’ll have to add your capture card as a video source in any program you want to use it with. How you add the capture card will depend on the software or program you’re using. Follow the instructions provided by your recording or streaming software or app for adding a video source.  

Once you’re all set you can begin recording with your DSLR as a webcam.

How to Set up DSLR as Webcam Without a Capture Card

Setting up a DSLR as a webcam without a capture card requires fewer steps and less hardware. Any newer version of DSLR camera will come with DSLR webcam software you can install on your Mac or PC. Once the software is installed, you can connect your camera to your computer with a USB cord and start using it. Every camera is different, so be sure to check your camera’s manual for the exact steps for installing software and connecting your camera. 

In general you can follow these steps to use your DSLR as a webcam without a capture card:

Step 1: Download and install the latest version of your DSLR’s webcam utility software

Step 2: Turn on your DSLR camera and place it in video recording mode. 

Step 3:  Adjust your camera’s recording settings to suit your needs

Step 4: Connect your camera to your desktop via the USB cable

Step 5: Open your recording software and choose your DSLR when selecting your camera. 

Step 6: You can now use your DSLR camera as a webcam for recording and streaming. 

How to use DSLR as Webcam for Streaming

One of the most common reasons people use a DSLR as a webcam for streaming is to improve the quality of their live content. DSLR cameras can be used in conjunction with streaming software to create professional-quality content for online platforms. We’ll provide recommendations for paid and free streaming services that support the use of a DSLR as a webcam. 

Try Riverside

Riverside is a remote content creation platform designed to streamline the video creation and streaming process. It has automated editing features and simulcasting capabilities that allow you to quickly stream to major social sites at the same time. Riverside supports resolution up to 4K, so using an external DSLR camera is a great choice for premium video quality. 

If you choose to use a DSLR with Riverside to stream, using a capture card will allow you to get the most out of your camera and stream in up to 4K. If you’re just using a USB cord to connect your DSLR for use with Riverside, you're limited to the following resolutions depending on your model of camera: EOS Webcam Utility (Cannon) - 1024x576, Imaging Edge (Sony) - 1024x576, or Nikon Webcam Utility (Nikon) - 1024x768.

When you're ready to record on, set up a DSLR camera by taking the following steps: 

Step 1: Connect your DSLR to your desktop or computer. Follow the instructions in the sections above for assistance with this.

Step 2: Log in to your Riverside account.

Log in to Riverside

Step 3: Create a new studio from your dashboard and go to the settings of the studio you've created for your recording. 

Creating a new Riverside studio to use a DSLR as a webcam

Step 4: Adjust the following settings:

  • Under the "Security" tab make sure that you’ve selected the "Public" options so audiences will be able to see your stream. 
  • Under the live stream tab select which platforms you want to push your stream to.
  •  For the Recording Type, select "Audio and Video".
  •  Choose your recording resolution. You can choose between Optimized quality at 720p HD or paying users can choose Advanced Quality at up to 1080 HD or 4K resolution.

Step 6: Click “Invite to studio” when you are done, to send audience members and participants a link to join your live stream. You can also select "Go to studio" if you’d like to go straight to your recording.

Step 7: Before entering the studio you will go to Riverside's Lobby to choose and test your equipment. Click the dropdown with the camera icon under the video preview on the right side of the screen. 

Choosing a DSLR camera for a live stream recording

Step 8: Select the camera you connected to your computer in step 1. 

Step 9: Click "Join Studio" when you're ready and once inside your studio press the ‘Record” button to start streaming.

You can watch this video for an in depth step-by-step on streaming with Riverside:

Free Pick: Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Studio

OBS Studio is a free, open-source program for recording and streaming video content. You can use a DSLR camera with OBS Studio by connecting via a camera card. Though OBS has many great features and is free to use, the program isn’t intuitive, so you should plan to spend some time learning how to use the software’s services before you can start streaming. 

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Digital Cameras You Can Use as Webcams

Not all digital cameras can be used as a webcam. The top three brands of DSLR that come with software to make it easier to use them as webcams are Canon, Nikon, and Sony. We’ll explain the software you’ll need for each of these types of cameras to use them as a webcam. 

To convert these cameras into webcams download the correct software and check the instructions above on how to use a DSLR as a webcam without a capture card.

How Do I Use my Canon Camera as a Webcam?

Newer models of Canon DSLR cameras can be used as a webcam with the Canon EOS Webcam Utility. This downloadable software supports more than 40 DSLR, mirrorless, and fixed-lens Canon camera models. It’s compatible with a 64-bit version of Windows 10 or macOS systems running Catalina, Mojave, or High Sierra. 

How Do I Use a Nikon Camera as a Webcam?

The Nikon Webcam Utility software makes it easy for you to use newer models of Nikon DSLR cameras. It works on PC systems running 64-bit versions of Windows 10 and macOS systems running Catalina, Mojave, or High Sierra. The Nikon software only works with a small selection of cameras that includes the OM-D E-M1, OM-D E-M1 Mark II, OM-D E-M1 Mark III, OM-D E-M1X, and the OM-D E-M5 Mark II.

How Can I Use a Sony Camera as a Webcam?

Use your Sony camera as a webcam with the Sony Imaging Edge Webcam software. The program supports a wide variety of Sony cameras and is compatible with 64-bit versions of Windows 10 or macOS systems running Catalina, Mojave, or High Sierra.  Be aware that you may have to adjust settings on your camera via the settings menu to get the software to work

Use a DSLR Camera as a Webcam for Online Content 

There are many advantages to using a DSLR camera as a webcam, including improved audio and video quality. DSLR cameras can be connected to Macs or PCs using webcam software or capture devices. Make sure any DSLR camera you’re considering investing in is compatible with the recording or streaming software you plan to use. 

FAQs on DSLR Webcams:

Do you still have questions about how to use a DSLR as a webcam? Our FAQ section has answers to questions about how to set up a DSLR as a webcam and the software you’ll need to start recording or streaming. 

Can You Use a DSLR as a Webcam?

Yes, you can use a DSLR camera as a webcam for live streaming and video content creation. How you connect your DSLR camera to your computer to use as a webcam will depend on a couple of different factors, including the brand of DSLR you’re using.  

Can I set up multiple DSLR cameras as webcams?

As long as the software and computer you’re using allow you to connect multiple DSLR cameras, you can use more than one DSLR as a webcam. If you’re connecting DSLR cameras to your computer via USB or HDMI, be sure you have the inputs to plug in more than one camera. Check the specifications of the software you’re using to ensure streaming with more than one external camera is supported.  

Do I need a capture card to use a DSLR as a webcam?

You might need a capture card to use your DSLR camera as a webcam. Whether or not you need a capture card mostly depends on the brand and type of camera you have, and the software it comes with. Reference the sections in the above article to learn how to set up a DSLR as a webcam with and without a capture card. 

How can I use my DSLR as a free webcam?

There is more than one method for using a DSLR as a webcam. There are plenty of free software programs you can use to connect your camera to your computer if your DSLR camera does not come with software that enables it to be used as a webcam. The above article covers many different ways to connect a DSLR camera to your computer.

What’s the best DSLR for webcam use? 

There’s no clear pick when it comes to the best DSLR for webcam use. If you don’t want to spend extra time or money on a capture device, check to see if the DSLR camera you’re considering comes with webcam software. 

Do I need software to use a digital camera as a webcam? 

Yes, you’ll probably need some form of software to use your digital camera as a webcam. Whether it’s software that comes with your DSLR, software for a capture device, or streaming software, you’ll need one program or another to use your digital camera as a webcam. 

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