How to Use a Digital Camera as a Webcam

by Jeff Grundy

Early digital cameras enabled you to take pictures only, but many modern models also enable you to capture video. Some video-capable digital camera even enable you to use the video capture function for chat programs like Skype or Windows Live Messenger just as you would a standard webcam. If your digital camera has an integrated webcam feature, enabling it is relatively simple using software from the camera's installation disc or by selecting the proper menu or switch settings, with specific instructions usually in the camera user guide. Even if your video-capable digital camera has no integrated webcam function, you can stream a video feed from the camera just as you would a webcam as long it has DV, Firewire or RCA video output ports.

Connect the USB data cable to the USB Out or Data Out port on the USB capture device and then to an empty USB port on the computer. Insert the USB capture device software into your optical drive, and then wait for the device setup wizard to appear. Click "Install" or "Setup" and follow the prompts to install the capture device driver in Windows. Restart your computer if prompted.

Connect your digital camera to the USB video capture device. Depending on the type of digital camera you own, you might have one or several options for connecting audio and video out cables -- usually DV, Firewire or RCA. Therefore, connect the appropriate connection cable to Audio Out and Video Out ports on the digital camera and the Audio In and Video In ports on the USB video capture device.

Power on the digital camera, and then wait a few seconds for Windows to detect the connection of the camera with the USB capture device. If Windows doesn't detect the digital camera automatically, launch the capture application for the USB capture device, and then wait for Windows to detect and initialize the camera connection.

Launch the video capture program for the USB capture device, and click "Options," "Settings" or "Tools" on the menu bar. Select the "Capture Device" or "Detected Capture Devices" menu option, and then select the name of your digital camera in the list of connected devices. If the brand or model name of your digital camera doesn't appear in the connected devices list, choose the “Detected Camera Device,” “USB Connected Device” or other similarly-named device option. Don't close the video capture program, but rather simply minimize it to the Windows task bar.

Launch a video chat application such as Google Talk, Skype or Yahoo Messenger. Click "Preferences," "Settings” or "Options" on the menu bar, and then click “Video,” “Video Setup” or “Webcam Settings.” Verify that the name of the digital camera, "USB webcam" or something similar appears as the default webcam device, and then click the "OK" or "Save" button.

Start a chat conversation with someone in your friends list and use the digital camera to engage in video chat just as you would a standard webcam.

Tips

  • If your digital camera has an integrated webcam feature, simply choose the "Use as Webcam" or "Webcam" selector switch setting or menu option, and then connect the camera to the computer with a USB cable. After you connect the digital camera to the computer, Windows detects the devices and configures it as a standard webcam you can use with chat programs.
  • If you don’t already have a USB capture device or TV tuner that enables capturing of video, or your camera won't support video streaming, consider just buying a regular webcam. Many webcams cost about the same or less than TV tuners or capture devices and are usually easier to use with video chat applications because they normally don’t require third-party applications or drivers.

Items you will need

  • USB video capture device
  • DV, Firewire or RCA video cable

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images