tl;dr: A better camera, with front facing lighting will make you look much better. A fancy camera is great, but a pain to set up. The best option for most people is to attach an HD camera to your monitor, like the ones recommended by Wirecutter.
This post will summarize how to set up your fancy DSLR or Mirrorless camera with Zoom, and it will work for most video calling or web conferencing tools. It will make you look clearer and better simulate being in person, as we all transition to working from home.
I’d also suggest getting a decent audio set up. The best option for most people is a wired USB headsets with a mic that is a consistent distance from your mouth.
Please note, this guide only covers Macs and Canon cameras. It is meant to be a companion to my Youtube video below.
A number of other guides recommended using the Camlink and a HDMI cable, but these were sold out, and required a ‘clean’ HDMI out feed so it’s a little more fussy from a set up perspective but easier once you have it running.
Here is a screenshot of my Macbook Pro Zoom feed, the feed from the built in Camera on my LG 5K monitor, and from the Canon M50 (in that order). I took these screenshots directly from Zoom, and I hope you can see the difference between the three 🙂
The most important thing to get right is the video and audio quality when setting up your home video conferencing kit. Quality video and audio can make interacting virtually feel more natural, and may be worth the investment if you spend lots of time on video calls and plan to work in a distributed fashion for an extended period of time.
This entire set up costs under $1,000, which is still expensive but I think worth it if you’re working from home all the time.
- Canon EOS M50 ($400-600): This was highly recommended by a number of blogs and Youtube channels that I follow. It seems to have very good price to value ratio and costs around $450 for the camera and the lens. I bought the ‘creator kit’ from Amazon (linked above) which was $550, and includes a Rode mic as well.
- Dummy Battery ($25): The dummy battery just makes it more convenient for you so you don’t have to change the battery often – each battery only gives you about 2-3 hours of video, so it’s pretty essential.
- USB micro to USB C cable ($10): This is how you connect your camera to your computer. You could use a standard micro USB to USB cable and a USB to USB C. Try and get a fast USB 3.0 cable as you’ll get some lag otherwise.
- Amazon Basic Tripod ($15) : This is a very basic tripod but does the job keeping my camera well positioned behind my monitor.
- [Upgrade] Sigma 16mm f/1.4 ($400): I upgraded the stock lens a Sigma 16mm f/1.4 lens which I recommend. It is a prime lens (without zoom) with a large aperture (better in low light) and a low focal length (helps blur the background). I really like this lens, and it takes really nice portrait photos as well. If you use it outside though you’ll need to get ND filters (sunglasses for your lens) as otherwise too much light gets in and your photos are overexposed.
NOTE: Canon just released (May 27, 2020) a beta webcam utility that makes this whole process much easier from a software side. Here is their video to set it up – it saves on all the steps below but the software is still in beta.
The following steps below still work, but the webcam utility is easier!
You need three pieces of software to make this work and they are all open source or free:
- Camera Live – Camera Live is an open source tool to create a live video feed from your Camera. Download the latest Alpha (13) if you are on the most recent version of Mac OS Catalina (10.15.4 at the time of writing).
- Camtwist: Camtwist allows you to broadcast the live video feed from Camera Live to other tools, like Zoom via a Syphon server.
- Zoom: Download the latest version of Zoom. They now allow you to use virtual cameras agin so you should not have any issues.
Office Set Up
I set up the camera above my laptop screen, and don’t use my large screen while on Zoom with the fancy camera. I position the camera above the laptop screen because it keeps the camera at eye level (how a real person would look at me), and allows me the see the person I’m speaking with while making eye contact with the lens.
I hope you enjoy using your new video conferencing set up!