Webcam alternatives when working from home ­– in times of the covid pandemic, many employees have to deal with video conferences every day. They are quite important for communicating with each other because when working from home, personal contact is impossible.

Anyone who doesn’t use a laptop with an integrated webcam needs additional hardware for joining a call with its own video.

But to do so, it is not obligatory to buy a webcam. Good alternative devices can be found in most households. In the following text, we have summarised how they can be used easily.

Advice: links added with the little star in this article „alternatives to webcams when working from home” are so called commission links. By clicking them and buying a product as a result, we will receive a small commission for your purchase. The product´s price will of course stay the same.

Why are webcams that expensive and hard to find at the moment?

In the beginning of the 2000s, webcams became more and more popular in the course of the global distribution of the WWW. They were the first opportunity to connect users via video. But in the last few years, those cameras became unimportant. Communication has especially focused on smartphones which are typically equipped with a selfie cam. In addition, laptops became increasingly popular. Usually, they got an integrated camera too. That’s the reason for the insignificance of external webcams.

This situation changed due to the Covid19 pandemic in 2020. Many employees moved out of their office to work from home with their computer desktops. They were in need of additional webcams for video calls regularly held. So, in spring, those devices experienced a high level of interest which in turn led to a quick sold out. Some dealers took advantage of the situation by temporarily increasing the price for a webcam by 400 €. Buying one for less than 100 euros was partly not possible.

Good news is that there are great alternatives to webcams. In the following, we want to introduce you to some possibilities.

Webcam alternatives: using available camera equipment for video conferences

Telefonkonferenz: Tipps und Regeln für erfolgreiche Online-Meetings

A camera is indispensable for online meetings. But you can also use digital cameras if available!

The positive fact is that consumers are not helpless against this price trend. Most households already got other devices which can be used for video conferences. But every employee should consider himself if he is willing to use his personal devices for work purposes.

It is clear that employees are not forced to pay for a webcam that is used for working. Costs can be beard by the employer after previous arrangement. If there is no agreement possible, the employer cannot stipulate that the purchase of a webcam is mandatory.

Most easy for video calls is the use of personal smartphones, tablets or laptops. As long as there is no sensitive data stored on the devices, there is no reason not to do it according to the data security. Only conference tools like Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or others are required there. For this purpose, the appropriate program or app needs to be installed on the device. When using a laptop, most applications can be operated without former installation.

Especially using one’s private laptop can be quite laborious as a second device needs to be placed on the office desk. If the employee additionally uses the work-related computer for taking notes or carrying out an application, this will mean that the eyes are not directed towards the webcam but another monitor. This can be prevented by using, e.g., a single-lens reflex camera which can be positioned and arranged in an ideal way.

Can I use my SLR camera as a webcam?

Webcam alternatives when working from home 2

Many camera manufacturers allow you to use your SLR camera as a webcam via a software program.

Yes, commercially available SLR cameras can be used as a webcam. This applies to all common dealers. Some, like Canon, Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and Co. even provide special software applications that need to be downloaded and installed to the PC.

Anyone with an older exemplar and a dealer who has no appropriate solution, can try to use ManyCam. This is a software from an independent developer that is compatible with several cameras.

Programs allow to adjust the settings of the display. Brightness, colour settings and the white balance can be set.

Using one’s own SLR camera as a webcam is not difficult. It only needs to be connected to the computer via a USB cable. After starting the software, it will automatically detect the camera. After that, it can be chosen as the source in Skype, Teams, or every other tool for conferences.

Regarding a single-lens reflex camera you need to consider if it should be used for working purposes, even much thoroughly than with your smartphone. Because using it as a webcam can sustain damage. The sensor can be overexposed due to the lasting operation. The UV rays may attack the L-RGB filter which leads to permanent reduction in quality while taking pictures. An alert appears for most models if the limit is reached. You really need to take that seriously and put the camera down for some time.

What equipment is required for using a SLR camera as webcam?

There is no special equipment required if wanting to use a SLR camera as a webcam. The according software can be downloaded on the manufacturer’s website. This and the installation may take only a few minutes. Users don’t have to buy the connecting cable separately because it is already contained in the camera’s delivery. That is also e.g., necessary for transferring pictures onto a computer if you got no card reader.

We recommend using a small tripod as an option too. You can place the camera on it in safe position, aligned straight and showing the right picture detail at the same time.

If using the ManyCam programme you always will need an additional external microphone because it cannot transmit sounds.

Using an action camera or smartphone as webcam

Webcam alternatives when working from home 3

The action camera pictured here can be remodelled as webcam. In most cases you do not even need to install a software or driver for that.

Many action cameras can be used as webcam too. For that you may need to update the firmware of the camera. For example, the manufacturer GoPro has provided an updated firmware in 2020 to enable this function. Compatibility issues can occur if using action cameras. Thus, the actualised firmware could first only be used for computer with a Mac OS operating system and certain conference tools. Best would be to test the action cameras as a web camera as manufacturers often only provide insufficient details.

This is a reasonable action camera which can be of use as a webcam.

Using a smartphone as webcam for the computer sounds quite easy in the first place. For that, you will only need the Droidcam app and the appropriate client for the computer. But latter can cause problems on your work-related computer because you might be missing the proper rights for installing it. Conversely this possibility would not be available, or you need to be given the authorisation for being able to use this software.

After completing the installation, you need to open it on both devices. Then the smartphone will show the IP address which in turn has to be entered into the required array on the computer’s application. In order to link both devices, they have to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network. If this is the case, Droidcam can be selected as source in the conference tool.

Droidcam is able to be used in a multiplatform way. The computer’s client can be used with the operating systems Windows and Linux. The DroidCam app can be downloaded for Android and iOS, for smartphones as well as tablets.

Conclusion: webcam alternatives

We have proven that there are different possibilities for replacing a webcam. The most easy one are smartphones and tablets as they can be found in most household anyway. You can either use the appropriate application for the video call or connect them by DroidCam to your computer.

Using a SLR or digital system camera has to be well thought out as they might get damaged by that. Anyone who got an action camera, should first test if it can be used as webcam. If that info is not listed at the manufacturer’s information, that doesn’t mean it is not possible.

At least feasible would be using your personal laptop that has an integrated webcam besides the occupational computer. That one does take a lot of space on your desk which is usually severely limited anyway when working from home.

The post "Webcam alternatives when working from home" written by:

Sophie Voigtländer

Expertin für Bürogestaltung und Ergonomie

Sophie joined deskonia at the beginning of 2021. Since then, she is mainly responsible for translating all kinds of texts into English.

She studied International Communication and Translation.

see all posts by author