No webcam? Use your cellphone digicam for video chats as an alternative

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No webcam? Use your phone camera for video chats instead

Erlon Silva/TRI Digital/Getty Photographs

Although many states are lifting coronavirus lockdowns, quarantines and shelter-in-place orders to some extent, you are still seemingly spending plenty of time speaking with colleagues, household and pals via video-chat and conferencing apps similar to Skype, Microsoft Groups and Zoom. (Should you’re utilizing the latter, listed here are 13 prime Zoom ideas, although beware the privateness and safety points like Zoombombing.) If the webcams you have been eyeing are out of inventory otherwise you simply do not need to purchase a brand new one, you possibly can simply use your cellphone’s digicam and create one for your self.

So long as the cellphone you employ is not quite a lot of years outdated, picture high quality needs to be higher than your laptop computer’s default digicam, extra useful and simpler to place so you are not filming your double chin or straight up your nostril. 

This is the best way to flip your cellphone right into a webcam at no cost.

You do not even want a webcam app

A devoted webcam app (extra beneath) has particular options, however you do not have to have one to make use of your cellphone digicam for video chats.

You too can simply launch the app of your video chat service of selection, like Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, and chat straight via there. Nevertheless, there are steps you possibly can take to be sure that your video high quality is the most effective it may be. Learn on!

Learn extra: Greatest gear for video chats from residence: Webcams, lights, mics and extra


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Find and download the right webcam app for Android or iPhone

There are dozens of free and paid apps that can help you transform your workhorse smartphone into a webcam. 

Webcam apps for Android phones

I tried IP Webcam (free, or $4 for the Pro version), DroidCam (free, or $5 for the Pro version), and EpocCam Webcam (free, or $5 for the Pro version). DroidCam had the most clear instructions within the app, but only works with Windows or Linux machines. The same was true for IP Webcam. 

Because I’m using a Mac, I went with EpocCam Webcam. 

Webcam apps for iPhones

I tried out EpocCam Webcam (free, or $8 or $20 for the professional versions), iCam ($5) and iVCam (free). All were fairly easy to set up, once you find the instructional pages on their websites. EpocCam and iCam work for Windows or MacOS machines, while iVCam works for iPhone users who have Windows computers, not Macs. (Update: Another option is the NDI HX Camera app — it formerly cost $20 but is now free, and allows iPhones to be used as HD webcams.)

For any webcam app

Whatever you download, read the privacy policy, install it and follow the instructions to connect it to your computer (you might have to download a driver, or run it through a browser or other viewer.) You’ll be asked to give the app permission to access your camera and microphone. 

Be aware

Running the app frequently may drain your phone battery, so you may want to hook up your phone to an external power bank or position your setup near a wall outlet if you find yourself in need of a charge. 

Read more: Ultimate webcam tips: How to look and sound great online

Use your phone’s main camera

Your phone’s main camera will produce a higher quality image than the selfie camera, and with more options for zooming and focusing as well. The iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy S20 and many other premium smartphones have sharper resolution at 1080p than the latest MacBook models, which has a 720p webcam built in. For best results for using your phone as a webcam, use that rear camera instead of the front-facing selfie camera. 

The webcam apps and video chatting apps will often allow you to select options like video resolution, quality and orientation, as well as focus, white balance and color effects. 

Read more: How to become a YouTuber: Online classes and equipment to get started

Stabilize your phone

Avoid cramping your arm or hitting an unflattering angle by stabilizing your phone on a tripod, stand or tabletop mount. This will give you the least shaky and most professional-looking results. (CNET recommends this $37 mini-tripod from Manfrotto.)

Set up some lighting

Whether you’re working in a home office, at your kitchen table or on your bed, you’ll need some good lighting to make your face look bright, eliminate shadows and maybe hide a wrinkle or two. Consider buying a ring light. (CNET recommends this basic $30 model that comes with 36 LEDs, a clip stand and three light modes.)

Invest in a microphone

Your AirPods ($159 at Apple) or other headphones with a built-in mic will get the job done, but if you’re using your new DIY webcam to record something professionally, you should invest in a good microphone. (CNET recommends this Blue Yeti USB Microphone for $130 or this Shure MV88+ Video Kit with Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone for $249.)

These tips should help you create a better home office and video conferencing setup, now that just about every meeting is a video meeting — and potentially help you find a new use for your old phone as well. For more ways to repurpose your older phones, check out how to turn your old phone into a home security camera for free, and how to find new uses for that old Android phone or iPhone.


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