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Buy a DSLR, the best webcam is too expensive to justify

We just looked over on Amazon at the price of the C920, our usual go-to webcam, and were appalled at what we saw. That “Best webcam”, which usually goes from around $40-$80 is listed at OVER $220. If there was ever a time to consider getting into DSLR’s as your stream cam, now is the time. The webcam simply isn’t financially viable at this point for what you get out of it.

A DSLR + Capture card setup is leagues ahead of what a webcam is capable of, though at the cost of being a bit more expensive overall. True, you are spending more money on this setup than what the c920 or Brio costs, but not by much.

You can expect your entry into the DSLR world to cost around $800, with most of that cost being the camera itself & the rest into the capture card & tripod.

Now, if you can find a DSLR body used, that can cut that cost substantially, but before you buy any of them, you need to make sure they have a few features that are required for streaming use.

Why the best webcam simply can’t compete with the value of a DSLR setup right now

There are a number of advantages that a DSLR or mirrorless camera offers over a webcam:

  • Much larger sensor sizes
  • Improved internal processor for better image quality
  • Multiple lens options & Focal length manipulation (for that Bokeh effect!)
  • Ability to be used without a PC to record
  • Attachments for lights, microphones when recording,
  • The list goes on.

And typically, the main disadvantage is the price. And while this factor is still in effect, aka, you won’t be able to get a New DSLR or Mirrorless camera cheaper than a webcam, even now, the value is substantially better at the prices the webcams are at.

See, DSLR prices haven’t raised all that much in response to the ongoing crisis. Now, webcams are much closer to the prices of their bigger brothers.

However, used bodies actually are cheaper than webcams in some cases right now. Quite literally, a superior product is available for cheaper.

So what do you need to use a DSLR Camera on stream?

To start, A High-end DSLR, or Mirrorless camera

The best webcam is a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.

Picture of a man holding a camera out of focus, with the lens reflection showing two tall buildings and what appears to be a large cloud on the right side of the image.

The bulk of the expense lies here. If you are not familiar, a DSLR(Or Digital Screen Lens Reflex) is the large lensed monsters typically used by professional photographers & Videographers for making ultra-crisp high DoF masterpieces that you see the pictures of every day. If you’ve been to a fast-food restaurant, chances are the images inside the menu were taken using a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.

They typically start at around $200 (USED) and can go as high as $27,500 (As much as a new car!!!) Don’t worry, you can make do with those “Low end” DSLR’s just fine… Even the lowest end DSLR is better than the highest-end Webcam. The difference in sensor size and internal image processor makes all the difference.

Our Recommended Camera is a Mirrorless: The Sony A6000. Any Camera with clean HDMI out and support for wall power or a dummy battery will do the job well.

Our reasons for choosing the Sony A6000

  • Clean HDMI Out (Very important!)
  • Fantastic 1080P60 Video Quality
  • Cheap Dummy Battery
    • You will need one of these for long stream sessions. Don’t want your face cam going out mid-stream after all.
  • No Auto-off feature that shuts the camera off after 30 mins of “inactivity” (The camera just thinks its on and outputting to an external display, not a capture card)
  • Somewhat low cost.

A Capture card or Camlink

A capture card is a necessary component to link up to the camera’s HDMI-Out port. It is this signal that we capture the feed from the cameras to OBS Studio. Some options to choose from are:

These five are really the best consumer grade capture cards out there. There are certainly cheaper ones, but cheaper cards tend to drop frames or have a significant signal delay.

No camera is complete without its lens & mounting solution

A camera mounted on a tripod facing the ocean on a beach.

And the lens is where the cost is. Starting out, we think a simple budget lens is more than sufficient. For this, we will be recommending a Neewer lens. You can eventually replace it with different lenses if you like, but this is the cheapest lens we could find on Amazon for the A6000.

Some notes about this lens:

  • It’s 35mm
  • It’s a fully manual lens
    • Innermost ring adjusts the aperture
    • The outermost ring adjusts the focus.
    • The white line between the two rings is where you read the setting.

We prefer fully manual lenses for this use case, as it allows you to dial in exactly where the focus is, and you never have to touch it again unless you move the camera physically.

If it is too wide-angle, you may want to look for a lens with a number higher than 35mm. We feel 35mm is a great start.

The final piece of the puzzle you need then is a mounting solution.

Looking for 4k cameras?

The step up to 4k comes with a price premium, but with the Sony A6100, you get access to 4k30. The A6100 still has the Clean HDMI Out feature and no auto-off feature, so that’s what you’ll want to get.

There are certainly other options out there, make sure you do your research to ensure the one you choose has those important features listed above.

Tripods, Wall mounts, and more

When choosing your mounting solution, for the love of everything, please don’t buy a tripod head with a ball mount. Trust me, those things are a major hassle to deal with.

Our recommended Tripod is sold by KamiSafe and offers a fluid head tripod mount with a decent quality; more than sufficient for streaming.

If instead, you prefer a wall-mounted solution, you can buy this thing designed for CCTV cameras. Just be sure the screws are in the stud and you’re good to go. and Yes, we know. We just said avoid ball mounts. We Know! We’re just giving you options.

The Final option would be something like a Gorillapod. For these tripods, it is VERY important to weigh your camera beforehand to make sure this camera falls in that range. If not, you will need to buy the next step up. (It will slowly lose its position if overweight, as it overcomes the friction limit of the legs.) A Gorillapod lets you shelf mount the cameras with ease.

Let’s not forget the lights. Buy Lights before you buy this setup.

We’ve got an in-depth article about lighting you should read to decide on a lighting solution for this monster “webcam”.

Poor lighting can make even the best DSLR’s or Mirrorless cameras perform poorly; This is why it is important to ensure your lighting solution is effective.

Can’t afford a webcam or DSLR camera right now? You’re not out of options…

We get it; $500+ is a lot to drop on a camera setup. So what can you do in the interim while the prices are a mess?

Got an old smartphone in a drawer somewhere?

Using certain apps, you can tie the camera of your phone to an IP, and use it as an internet-enabled Webcam. Just know that this comes with a security risk with some apps, anybody with the right IP address can view the camera feed.

NewTek NDI has an app for iPhones. They did have one for Android, but it was removed for some reason. NDI is widely used by the streaming community in OBS to link up PC’s without a capture card, so we trust that their program is secure.

For Android phones, we tested IPWebcam, and it seemed to work fine. Again, the security concern is still there, but it is an option to get a webcam in these strange times for cheap or free(If you have the phone handy). We do recommend using an old phone that does not have an active mobile plan with nothing on it, just in case.

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