The webcam market began to dwindle in the past few years, but that has all changed with the uptake in virtual meetings amidst the ongoing pandemic. Now webcams are a vital bit of kit, but besides from being expensive, most are simply sold out – so what can you do instead? If you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve essentially got a high-end webcam, you just need to hook it up to your Mac or PC.
Here, we outline how to use your iPhone as a webcam on Mac or PC.
How to use an iPhone as a webcam on Mac
There are plenty of apps available that turn your iPhone into a webcam, but the best we’ve seen to date is Camo by British company Reincubate. The app is free to download on your iPhone, and all you’ll need is a Lightning cable and a counterpart app installed on your Mac. There’s no PC support just yet, but it’s in the works and will be available very soon according to the dev team.
Why Camo? While most other apps allow basic webcam features, Camo allows you to use your iPhone camera to its full potential with a suite of advanced video settings to tweak, and you can use any of the cameras on your iPhone – not just the main sensor. The software is slick, it’s flawless in performance and it’s more secure than its counterparts too.
It’s free to use too, albeit with restrictions. For the full experience, Camo Pro will set you back £34.99/$39.99 per year. If you’re serious about improving your webcam quality, be it for video calls in Zoom and Google Meet or live streaming in OBS, it may be worth investing.
With that being said, here’s how to use Reincubate Camo to turn your iPhone into a high-end webcam.
- Download Reincubate Camo on your iPhone.
- Download Camo Studio on your Mac via the Reincubate website.
- Open the Camo Studio app.
- Click Install to finish installing Camo Studio.
- Open the Camo app and connect your iPhone to your Mac via Lightning cable, making sure that the cable supports both power and data transfer (ideally the cable that came with your iPhone).
- You should see your iPhone camera feed appear in the Camo Studio app.
- Open the video chat/streaming software of choice, and head to the Settings menu. In the webcam dropdown, you should see a new option – Camo Studio – select it to use your iPhone as your webcam.
There you have it! There are limitations to the free version of the app, including being limited to the selfie and rear main sensor of your iPhone, being capped at 720p and most importantly, there will be a Camo watermark on the webcam whenever it’s used, but as mentioned earlier, they can be removed by subscribing to Camo Pro.
The 720p cap shouldn’t be a problem for most people though, especially considering the 720p output still looks better than the output of many 1080p cameras, but it’s a handy option for pro-level creators.
How to customise your iPhone webcam feed
If you’ve paid for access to Camo Pro, you’ll gain access to a range of Pro features that further improve your iPhone webcam experience.
Some of the big features include the ability to use your iPhone’s flash as a fill light, upping the quality to 1080p (with 4K on the roadmap), using all the cameras on your iPhone, and arguably most importantly, the ability to tweak video elements like focus, exposure, brightness, hue, saturation and more to get the perfect look for your setup.
Thankfully, the Camo Studio interface is straightforward to use: in the left-hand pane, you can select the iPhone and lens you’d like to capture from, along with the output resolution. You’ve also got the Activity controls menu, allowing you to enable and adjust the brightness of your rear-facing flash to light darker environments and, if you need a tighter angle, you can zoom in on the video feed in the Post-processing menu.
It’s the right-hand column that’s arguably most important, as that’s where you can tweak the video feed itself. As well as gaining manual control over the focus – which is amazingly granular when used with the iPhone 11 Pro Max – you can control elements like exposure and white balance to finetune the look of the video feed. Once you’ve got your presets selected, you can save that as a preset for easy access in future – to do that, simply select the Presets dropdown and click Create New Preset.
It's not a necessary purchase if you're only looking to use your iPhone as a webcam on the occasional Zoom call, but if you're looking for a way to use your iPhone to capture high-quality webcam-style video, complete with granular access to various advanced camera settings including focus and flash brightness level, it's a worthy purchase.
What about Windows?
While we wait for the release of Camo Studio for PC (which Reincubate says will be very soon) there are other options available for PC users, albeit none are quite as slick or as capable as Camo.
One of the most popular choice for Windows users is iVCam. Much like Camo, iVCam is primarily a premium service with a free tier offering access to basic functionality and a watermark. It’s a $9.99 one-off purchase, and it provides similar functionality to Camo, but it doesn’t offer the same high-end experience or image quality as Reincubate’s option. If iVCam isn’t your cup of tea, iCam is another paid option popular with Windows users.
The downside of most of these apps is that they aren’t nearly as easy to set up as Camo, and many require you to follow complex tutorials for setup. There’s also a question of security when it comes to webcam apps, with EpocCam’s video feed being accessible by anybody on the same network.
If you’ve got your heart set on a traditional webcam, take a look at our choice of the best webcams.