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How to use your own camera as a webcam

Elgato Cam Link
Elgato Cam Link (Image credit: Windows Central)

No matter how good any of the best webcams are, it simply cannot match the quality delivered by an actual camera. Whether you're a creator, streamer, or just want your online video presentations for work to look their absolute best, using your own camera as a webcam is easy and makes a huge difference.

There are two methods we're going to look at here. The first is by using Elgato's dedicated Cam Link dongle, and the second is by using any existing capture card you may have access to.

What you need your camera to have

Camera

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Before getting started, it's essential to check whether your camera will be suitable. Essentially you need two things: the ability to output video over HDMI (or Micro-HDMI as it most likely is) and that you can remove the on-display overlay.

Elgato has a helpful resource that's an excellent place to start, but it's also not necessarily definitive. But before you invest in any additional hardware, do make sure your camera supports both of these things. The second, in particular, is essential else you'll be mirroring all your cameras overlay onto your video output.

You'll also need a way to ensure your camera will stay powered on. In some cases, you may be able to keep it powered over USB, or you may need a dummy battery that hooks up to the mains. It will vary depending on your camera, but for popular brands like Lumix and Sony, you'll probably be looking to get a dummy.

Elgato Cam Link

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Elgato Cam Link is one easy piece of equipment to use; in fact, it's no different from using a webcam as far as your PC is concerned. Getting set up is very straightforward.

  1. Connect the Mini-HDMI cable to your camera's video output.
  2. Connect the HDMI end to the input on the Cam Link.
  3. Connect the USB port on the Cam Link to your PC.

To verify everything is working correctly, simply open up the Windows Camera app, and you should now see an image just as you would if it were a regular webcam.

It's a simple plug-and-play affair, though it's perhaps a good idea to visit the Elgato downloads page and grab the latest version of Game Capture just to make sure you've got any drivers you might need.

The latest Cam Link can capture video in up to 4K, so it's also essential to ensure that you set your camera up correctly for your desired resolution. If you're intending to use it for streaming somewhere like Twitch, 4K won't really matter.

How to use your own camera as a webcam with a capture card

EVGA XR1

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Alternatively, if you have a capture card lying around or you'd just prefer to get one of those over a Cam Link, you can get precisely the same results.

The setup process is identical, except you're connecting the HDMI from the camera to a capture card instead, and you will need to ensure you have the right companion software for your card.

4K capable capture cards are more expensive than the Cam Link 4K. If you're shooting for UHD video, then you're certainly better getting one of those unless you happen to have a spare 4K capture card.

If you don't have a capture card, something like the EVGA XR1 will work well with as it doesn't require drivers and is fairly affordable. If you're working with a desktop PC, then the AVerMedia Live Gamer HD is a great call, with driver-free operation over PCIe for zero latency and remarkable quality.

Our top equipment picks

If you're looking to take your webcam game to another level with your own camera, then the Elgato Cam Link 4K is one of the easiest ways to do that.

Whether you want to do video conferencing, streaming or recording a YouTube video, once you've connected your camera to a Cam Link and then the Cam Link to your PC, you'll be able to see yourself looking better than any webcam will ever make you look.

Additional equipment

A capture card, if you don't already have one, might be a more flexible alternative, but whatever you use, you'll certainly need the right cable for the job.

Evga XR1

Evga XR1 (Image credit: EVGA)

EVGA XR1 (opens in new tab) ($100 at Amazon)

The EVGA XR1 doesn't require any drivers so with your camera connected it'll work just like any regular webcam.

Live Gamer HD2

Live Gamer HD2 (Image credit: AVerMedia)

AVerMedia Live Gamer HD2 (opens in new tab) ($130 at Amazon)

An internal, driver-free capture card that will deliver great gaming content or let you hook up a camera as a fantastic webcam.

Mini HDMI cable

Mini HDMI cable (Image credit: Amazon)

Mini-HDMI to HDMI cable (opens in new tab) ($13 at Amazon)

Many cameras will need a Mini-HDMI to HDMI cable to connect up to either a Cam Link or a capture card.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.