With webcams in short supply and demand skyrocketing due to the sharp spike in remote work, you might be staring at your digital SLR or mirrorless camera, wondering why you can’t connect it to your computer and enjoy better video quality than laptop webcams provide. The simple answer is, most cameras don’t support the function, at least on their own. Yes, they have USB ports, but there’s some software needed to take a digital video signal and feed it into Zoom, Google Meet, and others.
The good news is, the big camera makers have jumped in with software to bridge the gap. If you’re on a Windows platform you can download software for select Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, or Sony cameras and use them as a webcam.
Mac users aren’t as well serviced. To date, Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic have released macOS webcam software, but others are Windows only. There are hacks—I’ve been plugging my Sony a7R IV into my MacBook Pro every morning for a staff meeting for months—but you’ll need to be comfortable with Terminal commands if you want to down that route.
No matter what system and camera you’re using, we’re here to help.
Canon EOS Webcam Utility Beta
The Canon EOS Webcam Utility Beta, available for macOS and Windows systems, works with select SLR, mirrorless, and fixed-lens cameras. It’s advertised as a beta, so don’t expect tech support if you’re having trouble. You’ll need a 64-bit version of Windows 10 or a macOS system running High Sierra, Mojave, or Catalina to use it. It should work with Big Sur too, when it’s released.
It’s limited to recent models, and while there are some low-cost options on the list, you can’t plug in a $100 PowerShot Elph. Support is limited to G series PowerShots and interchangeable lens models.
The EOS Webcam Utility works with the entire spate of current-generation EOS models—Canon’s branding for its SLR and mirrorless lines—and a handful of their predecessors. This is good news if you bought a Canon camera in recent memory, but leaves owners of older bodies in the cold. If you already have one of the following cameras, you’re set.
Supported Canon Cameras
Once you’ve got the software running on your system, it’s just a matter of plugging your camera in via USB, and selecting the right source in your video chat app.
Remember that the app is in beta, and you may find support to be hit or miss. For example, on a Mac system, it’s possible to use the EOS Webcam Utility in a Chrome browser window, but not in Safari.
Fujifilm X Webcam Software
Fujifilm’s webcam utility is cross-platform, with support for PCs running Windows 10 and Macs running Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, and Catalina.
It only works with Fujifilm’s higher-end X and GFX system cameras, with support dating back a couple of generations. You’ll need a Fujifilm X-T2, X-T3, X-T4, X-H1, X-Pro2, X-Pro3, GFX50S, GFX50R, or GFX100 to use it.
As for entry-level support, there are two recent models that work as USB webcams without the need for additional software. You can plug the X-A7 or X-T200 into your computer and you’ll be able to use it as a webcam in Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Zoom.
Nikon Webcam Utility Beta
Nikon’s software is for Windows only. It works with PCs running 64-bit versions of Windows 10 and is available as a free download. Nikon promises that a Mac version is coming soon.
Camera support is limited to recent releases, so you’re out of luck if you have an older SLR. But current models are supported. At press time, the app works with the D5600, D7500, D500, D780, D850, D6, Z 50, Z 5, Z 6, and Z 7.
Olympus OM-D Webcam Beta
The Olympus OM-D Webcam Beta is available for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 10 systems, as well as for Macs running Sierra through Catalina.
It only works with a few models, all above entry-level. They are 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.
I tested the macOS software along with the E-M1 Mark III and it worked like a charm. You just need to select the appropriate USB connection type when you plug the camera into your computer—use the icon that shows a camera connected to a desktop PC to do so—and if you want a 16:9 frame, remember to change the aspect ratio in camera settings.
Please note, the newest E-M5 Mark III isn’t supported—for once, you’re better off with an older model to take advantage of a new feature.
Panasonic Lumix Tether for Streaming
The Panasonic Lumix Tether for Streaming software is cross-platform, with some beta software caveats. It works with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 10 systems, and Macs running operating systems as old as El Capitan (10.11) through the latest Catalina release.
But there are some bugs that cause weird operation on Catalina. Panasonic outlines them, and offers workarounds to help you get it running if you’re having trouble.
As for camera supported, it’s limited to higher-end models. The software works with the Lumix GH5, G9, GH5S, S1, S1R, and S1H.
Sony Imaging Edge Webcam
Sony’s webcam solution, Imaging Edge Webcam, works with 64-bit Windows 10 systems and supports a wide range of fixed-lens and interchangeable lens camera models.
If you’ve got an a9 II, a7R IV, or ZV-1, you’ll need to make some changes to network settings in the camera menu to get things working, and there are a bunch of other models that require you to have the Mode dial set to a specific setting for the best results.
Once you’ve got the software installed, you can refer to Sony’s documentation to get details for your specific camera model.
The Mac Hack (Camera Live + CamTwist)
Camera makers have done a good job supporting Windows systems, but not every brand offers a Mac webcam app. There are workarounds, including a hack that I’ve been using for Google and Zoom calls, detailed in a report by DPReview.
If you’re comfortable fooling around in Terminal, the command line interface offered by macOS, you can type in a couple of commands to open up your computer to a wide array of enthusiast and professional cameras. You’ll need to have Zoom installed.
Be comfortable with Terminal before going down this road
The first command, xcode-select –install, loads Apple’s Xcode development toolkit onto your Mac, if you don’t have it installed already.
The second, sudo codesign –remove-signature /Applications/zoom.us.app/, removes the signature from the Zoom application.
You might be wondering, is this safe? Our senior security analyst, Max Eddy, cautions against it, warning that it may have unforeseeable consequences. As such, we don’t recommend this trick for everyone.
The Camera Live interface is bare bones
If you decide to proceed, you’ll need to download a couple of apps—Camera Live and CamTwist. Once you’ve got them installed and have your camera connected, start Camera Live—you should see your camera in its list of connected devices.
You’ll want to use the Syphon source in CamTwist
Next, launch CamTwist, select Syphon as your video source in the first column, and the Camera Live server from the drop-down on the far right portion of the screen. Once it’s running, you’ll be able to select the CamTwist app as a video source in Zoom, Google Hangouts, Google Meet, and others. Just remember to use Chrome as your web browser—Safari doesn’t let you move away from your Mac’s built-in camera.
Select the CamTwist as the source in your browser—and make sure you’re using Chrome
But, it’s a hack, so expect it to be a bit finicky. You might need to do a bit of a dance with Camera Live and your camera’s On/Off switch to make things work, and I’ve had to issue a Force Quit on a few occasions. Your experience might depend on your camera, too—the software was much more likely to crash with the Nikon Z 7 connected than with the Sony a7R IV.
Software can only get you so far. If you have a camera that’s not supported by any apps, but still want to use it as a webcam, there are some hardware options.
You just need to make sure that you can output a video signal via HDMI—to test this, plug your camera into your TV and see if there’s a picture. Also importantly, see if you can turn off distracting user interface elements from the video signal. Most interchangeable lens models with HDMI can, but it’s worth it to check.
Products like the Elgato Cam Link 4K ($130) and the BlackMagic ATEM Mini ($295) bridge the gap between HDMI and USB. Connect either to your PC or Mac via USB, then plug your camera in via HDMI, and you’ll be able to use it as a webcam. You’ll need to spend some more money, but if you already own a nice camera without its own webcam support app, you might find them to be better investments than a standalone webcam.
If you’re digital camera isn’t supported, and you’d prefer a standalone webcam to a something like the Cam Link, head over to our guide on how to buy the best webcam to suit your needs.