Canon Camera Just Became the Best Webcam You Own
Canon’s EOS Webcam Utility software and Webcam Accessories Starter Kit give Canon cameras a new purpose as a webcam. See how to set it up.
There’s still a mad rush to find the tools necessary to operate home-based quasi-offices. Students, educators, and home workers need computers and other hardware to make it happen, but major retailers are sold out of microphones, headsets, laptops, PC components, and webcams—especially webcams.
Fortunately, there’s a way to circumvent the need to buy a new webcam, albeit one that requires owning a Canon camera. The EOS Webcam Utility is Canon’s answer to the ongoing webcam shortage. It’s really, really easy to set up, and the picture quality is top notch. Here’s how it all works.
How to Install the Software
Canon earned some goodwill last year when it pushed out its EOS Webcam Utility Beta software—the software has since left beta—turning several Canon cameras into legitimate webcams. To get your Canon camera working as a webcam, head to the Canon website and download the webcam utility specific to your camera.
However, while the software came at the perfect time, the hardware wasn’t always able to keep up. The short battery life on the cameras made them tenuous options for video calls. However, Canon’s new EOS Webcam Accessories Starter Kit fixes that issue for several cameras across Canon’s lineup.
Canon’s New Webcam Accessories Starter Kit
The Webcam Accessories Starter Kit comes in three variations that each serve a line of Canon cameras. Each kit comes with an interface cable, a power adapter, and a dummy battery. The camera can stay on for hours with the dummy battery, which draws its power from an electrical outlet via the power adapter. The interface cable connects the camera to the computer via the USB port, which the webcam software then converts into a clean video input.
I have the kit compatible with the M50, M50 Mark II, and the M200, which is priced at $89.99. The other kit is priced similarly and serves Canon’s Rebel series, with compatibility for the T7, T6, T5, and T3 cameras. Finally, the kit for Canon’s RP is the most expensive of the bunch, coming in at $159.99. While each kit has the same kind of components, they vary depending on the camera. In my case, the kit came with an LPE12 dummy battery, a corresponding power adapter, and a Micro-USB cable. The kit also comes with a card containing a QR code that directs users to the webcam utility download page.
The tech in the kit is by no means revolutionary. You can purchase a dummy battery and power adapter for a fraction of the price on competing sites, and you probably already have a Micro-USB or USB-C cable lying around somewhere. These affordable products, however, aren’t manufactured by recognizable brands. I’m all for saving a buck, but not with batteries and power supplies, which can be volatile and cause harm to the device or the user. On top of being a potential fire hazard, these off-brand batteries and power supplies can introduce unwanted noise to the recording.
Reviews for several of these off-brand products mention unwanted noise in videos. While this may not be a problem when video conferencing, those who use the camera and kit to record videos will be affected if using the camera’s onboard microphone or an external microphone connected to the camera. Ultimately, the lower price of dummy batteries and power supplies isn’t worth it. Canon’s accessory kit, however, is worth it.
Though Canon’s accessory kit would have made a more significant impact last year at the height of the pandemic, it’s still a welcome product. The kit puts the hardware on par with the webcam software, and that’s all I needed. With demand still for webcams, the accessories kit is highly sought after. Luckily, I preordered mine.
As much as I like Canon’s EOS Webcam Utility software, the experience wasn’t perfect. The batteries used by the M50 are just terrible and tap out after forty-five minutes or so—it’s worse for third-party batteries. After having my camera die on me in the middle of meetings, I switched over to using a different webcam, albeit one not as high-quality. Several times, I considered giving in to buying the off-brand dummy battery and power supply before deciding not to risk it. But, thankfully, Canon decided to release their version, and I’m glad they did. With the webcam utility software and this accessories kit, the three-year-old M50 is getting a second wind as one of the best affordable, high-end webcams on the market. Streamers, too, should seriously look into this camera and kit if wanting to step up their setup on a budget.
At almost $100, the kit isn’t cheap. But, for what it does I think it’s worth it. With the ability to make long video calls, stream for hours on end, and record videos without having to swap out batteries, the webcam accessory kit is a smart pandemic purchase and just a solid purchase, overall.
I don’t own a webcam for my desktop computer because of privacy and security concerns—Big Brother is always watching, after all. However, my Pixelbook does have a webcam, and its picture quality leaves a lot to be desired. Canon’s webcam software bridges that gap. I can have a great webcam when I want to, without compromising my privacy, and it’s miles ahead of any webcam that sells for under $100.
When using a Canon as a webcam, the video quality will depend on the camera, the lens, and lighting, among other things. To achieve the best results on your webcam setup, choose movie mode on your camera. I also suggest turning on auto-focus, but you can manually focus if you prefer.
I used the Canon M50 as my webcam, and I have no complaints. The camera’s excellent dual-pixel auto-focus tracked my head as I moved around, and it rarely, if ever, lost focus.
I used a 15-45mm Canon EF-M lens, which came included, with an aperture range of f/3.5-6.3. When I moved closer to the camera, the background behind me blurred because of the shallow depth of field. Standard webcams don’t offer bokeh like that.
Since I used a telephoto lens, I was able to adjust the lens to zoom in, which resulted in over-the-top close-ups whenever I wanted to add some drama to a call.
Joking aside, being able to tighten up the frame is useful when you don’t want to display everything behind you—e.g., a messy room or kitchen. My camera also has an articulating touch screen, so I was able to adjust what the camera was focusing on with a simple touch.
To have an even better experience, it’s a good idea to put the camera on a tripod. Invest in one if you haven’t already. I used a JOBY GorillaPod 1K, which is about a foot tall, and it kept the camera eye-level on my desk.
Also, while I didn’t have one on hand, a light (such as this one from Elgato) would take your webcam setup to the next level. This gear would increase your budget, but the spend is worth it if you’re a frequent webcam user.
What You Need to Know
This type of webcam setup isn’t perfect, so here are three points you should consider—desk space, battery life, and microphone.
My desk, which you can see above, is not for a camera setup. You’ll need to make some space for a camera, a tripod, and any other accessories you’re using.
While webcams are lightweight and easily mounted on a monitor, a heavy DSLR or mirrorless camera might need a workaround. I’ve seen people stack boxes behind their monitor or place the camera above the PC tower. Something like this arm camera mount is a clever (but expensive) solution.
When using a Canon camera as a webcam, keep an eye on battery life. The USB charging cable doesn’t charge the camera, at least in my experience. However, I did notice that the battery lasted much longer. I was on a two-hour call recently, and the camera stayed powered the whole time.
The EOS M50 is known for its bad battery life, and it shouldn’t have lasted that long. However, the longer battery life is a result of the camera being idle; it’s not shooting images or video, which are the real battery hogs. Regardless, if you opt out of the kit mentioned above, keep a charged battery nearby in case a call goes on for longer than expected.
Finally, you’ll need a separate microphone to conduct videoconferencing calls. The camera’s built-in microphone doesn’t function as an audio input for your computer, and neither will an external camera microphone like the RØDE VideoMic Go on my camera. Most USB microphones priced around $100 are good. Check out this list of options to see some of our favorite picks.
Since the software is still in beta, hopefully Canon will add microphone functionality in the future. Some webcams may come with a built-in microphone, but it’s much better to have a dedicated microphone.
Is This for You?
If you already own a Canon camera and a Windows computer, then the answer is a resounding yes.
You could buy a new Canon camera, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re purchasing solely for webcam reasons. If you’re determined to buy, you can find heavily discounted Canon cameras on eBay and similar sites. And, if you do purchase an affordable Canon camera, it’ll be higher in quality than any low-cost webcam. Just remember to check compatibility on the chart at the top of this post.
Your experience may be a bit different based on the variables mentioned above. But, the truth is that the software works as advertised—it allows Canon owners to use their camera as a webcam. Not only does it work, but Canon owners won’t have to spend a single extra dollar.
The software just plain works without having to adjust any settings. Simply download it, forget about it, and open up your living room to the world.
Update 04/16/2021: The EOS Webcam Utility is now compatible with macOS devices, which it did not support when the article was written. The software now works with macOS 10.13 and above. For more information, visit Canon’s EOS Webcam Utility page. Canon also launched the Webcam Accessories Starter Kit after this article first appeared. The article has been updated to reflect these changes.
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Cover image via Canon.
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