Your built-in webcam on your computer is fine. A Logitech C920 webcam is better. A digital camera with a nice lens is fantastic. And it’s not complicated to set up as a webcam to use in Zoom, Ecamm, Skype, or whatever.
The camera outputs video over HDMI, a dongle converts HDMI to USB, and a cable connects the two. That’s it!
Here’s a quick (1 minute) demo Facebook Live comparing the Sony a6000, Logitech C920, and built-in iMac webcam:
The following walkthrough is Mac-specific. It should work just as well on Windows, though I don’t have access to a Windows machine to test it.
- Sony a6000 camera, $550, https://amzn.to/2CS3FvH
- Elgato Cam Link, $100, https://amzn.to/2R98pDt
- Micro HDMI to HDMI cable, $12, https://amzn.to/37JEiZf
- AC power supply, $17, https://amzn.to/3c884sL
- Boom Arm, $13, https://amzn.to/2yvc8B4
- Andoer Ball Head, $19, https://amzn.to/2PMoHyK
- Sony 32GB UHS-II SD Card, $25, https://amzn.to/2pVBvrg
- A computer with USB 3.0 and a 4th generation quad‑core i5 processor or better. This is according to Elgato, but it may work with lower spec computers
- Elgato Game Capture Software: https://www.elgato.com/en/gaming/downloads
- OpenMemories: Tweak: https://github.com/ma1co/OpenMemories-Tweak
Links are affiliate. Prices are those at the time of writing. If you find a dead link, let me know in the comments.
When you first receive your camera, put in the battery, and connect the USB plug to the wall adapter to charge. The USB port on the camera is behind the small door on the side. The port under USB is where the micro HDMI cable connects. We’ll use that soon.
You’ll need an SD card to take pictures or record video on the camera without the computer. The SD card in the Optional Hardware list above assumes you don’t already have an SD lying around. You don’t need an SD card to use the digital camera as a webcam with your computer. See the note about the SD card helping with heating issues while recording in the Limitations section below.
Turn Off HDMI Info Display
By default, info like ISO and white balance that you see on the camera screen will appear on your computer as well. To disable this from showing up on your computer (it will still show on the camera), press Menu then press Right until you’re at the far right icon that looks like a toolbox, press Right to the number 3. Press Down to HDMI Info Display. Press the center button to select the option, then set it to Off.
Connecting to Your Computer
Turn the wheel on the top of the camera to the Movie setting. The icon looks like a piece of film.
Plug the small end of the micro HDMI cable into the side of the camera and the other end into the Cam Link. Plug the Cam Link into a USB 3.0 port on your computer. Turn on the camera.
Open Zoom, Ecamm, Skype, OBS, or PhotoBooth (any app that uses a webcam). Select Cam Link as the source. Press the Play button on the back of the camera to see the live video. You’ll need to press Play each time you connect or turn on the camera. You’ll also need to readjust the zoom after turning the camera on each time.
Be sure the camera is on before you open the app. Zoom, especially, needs to see the camera as the app starts up. Close and reopen the Zoom room if you forgot to turn the camera on first.
DONE! You should be able to use your camera as a webcam from now on.
Positioning the Camera on Your Desk
At this point, you’ll want a way to get the camera to see your face over the computer. A cheap Neewer microphone boom arm with a ball head attachment lets you place the camera right at the top of an iMac monitor where your webcam typically sits.
You can use a standard camera tripod or Neewer ring light kit, but this places the camera behind the computer monitor quite a bit, which leads to a more downward angle over the back of an iMac. A laptop should be easier to get a more level view from a tripod. The ring light puts out quite a bit of heat as well, as mentioned below. This could lead to overheating.
If Cam Link is not a camera option or selecting it doesn’t bring up the camera view, repeatedly try the following:
- Unplug and reconnect the Cam Link from your computer.
- Use a different USB port.
- Turn the camera off then back on.
- Disconnect and reconnect the camera from the HDMI cable.
- Quit the application and reopen it.
- Restart the computer. (I’ve never had to do this, but it’s worth a shot.)
Your computer should find the Cam Link eventually. I don’t have a surefire way to get it connected the first time every time. Usually unplugging and plugging the Cam Link back in works.
This process of unplugging and reconnecting may change the Cam Link name to Cam Link #2 or another number. That’s okay. Select whatever Cam Link option appears.
If Cam Link never appears as a camera option, download and install the Elgato Game Capture Software from https://www.elgato.com/en/gaming/downloads. Open the software and select Cam Link in the top right. This may trigger the installation of a driver that was missing from your computer. You don’t need this Game Capture Software after this first time. I didn’t need this software when using the Cam Link on my Macbook Pro.
If Cam Link doesn’t appear in the Elgato Game Capture Software, unfortunately something else is wrong, either with the Cam Link itself, the cable, or your computer. Try another computer, or return the micro HDMI cable for another, or return the Cam Link for another to see which piece of hardware is the culprit. See Computer Specs limitations below to ensure your computer is compatible.
The new battery last about 2 hours. The LCD display is the biggest battery hog. You can place a sticker over the light sensor by the viewfinder to keep the screen off.
To get “unlimited” stream time from your camera, an AC power supply draws power from your wall outlet. The camera treats this 3rd-party power supply like a battery and shows a percentage which counts down on the camera.
- AC power supply, $17, https://amzn.to/3c884sL
For me, it drops to around 40% at the same rate as the battery but stops there. I’ve been able to record over 11 hours of video to my computer using this AC adapter.
If you want to be absolutely certain that the camera won’t die, purchase the official Sony power supply. The camera doesn’t show a percentage at all.
- Sony ACPW20 AC Power Supply, $90, https://amzn.to/2q1n3Oy
The battery door on the camera has a small flap to allow the AC power supply’s wire to run through while the door is closed. Or you can leave the door open, which some say helps with overheating issues.
The official specifications as stated by Elgato for the Cam Link are as follows:
- Windows 10 (64-bit) / macOS Sierra 10.12
- USB 3.x
- 4th generation quad‑core Intel Core i5 (i5-4xxx or comparable)
Finding Your Operating System
Click the Apple icon in the top-left of your computer and select About This Mac. Your operating system version is at the top.
Finding Your USB Specs
Typically, USB 3.0 ports are blue, but not on Mac computers. In the About This Mac window from above, click System Report…. Under Hardware, click USB. Look for 3.0.
Finding Your Processor Specs
The Cam Link worked fine on my Late 2015 Macbook Pro with dual-core i5 CPU, which technically doesn’t meet the spec since it’s not quad-core. But it’s a 5th generation i5 (newer than the required 4th generation) and uses hyper-threading to simulate a quad-core processor. I’ve not tried it on a lower-powered CPU.
To see what processor and how many cores you have on a Mac, do the following:
- Open the Terminal in Applications → Utilities → Terminal.
- Type sysctl -n machdep.cpu.brand_string and hit Return.
- Look for “i5-4xxx” or better. Mine was i5-5257U.
- Type sysctl hw.physicalcpu hw.logicalcpu and hit Return.
- The first number is how many actual cores you have. The second is how many are simulated. The second number should be at least 4 to to meet the minimum specs of the Cam Link.
If You Don’t Meet the Minimum Specs
The Cam Link may still work on lower configured computers. If you’re comfortable purchasing and returning, it may be worth a shot.
If it doesn’t work and your computer has USB 3.0, try this instead of the Cam Link:
- AJA U-TAP, $300, https://amzn.to/2CS5NUd
The Cam Link uses your computer to process the video. The AJA U-TAP processes the video before it gets to your computer, so it doesn’t require a powerful processor. It still needs a USB 3.0 port to provide the bandwidth needed to accept the HD video stream.
If you don’t have USB 3.0, you’ll be stuck with 720p video at best. I can’t vouch for the following product, but it may work.
- HDMI to USB 2.0, $170, https://amzn.to/2ypa8KS
WARNING: If you have a Mac, don’t substitute the Cam Link for the Elgato HD60 or HD60s. They don’t work. The camera view will appear in the Elgato Gaming Capture software, but you won’t be able to select it as a camera in Zoom or Ecamm. I initially purchased the HD60s, but returned it because of this.
If the camera gets too hot, it shuts off to protect itself. Recording video for long periods of time can heat the camera to the point of shutting off. I’ve only had this happen when recording to the SD card. It’s never overheated when streaming to the computer. Writing to the SD card is what generates the heat. If you only use the camera as a webcam, you’ll never have a problem with overheating.
If you’re recording to the SD card and are having issues with heating, you can try keeping the battery door open, or direct a quiet fan at the camera. Keep it out of the sun as best you can.
Try mounting the camera away from any lighting sources like a ring light. Some ring lights have a camera mount in the center of the ring, but all the heat from the light’s electronics will go straight up to the camera, which could cause issues.
Some claim that UHS-II SD cards help with overheating issues but I still experienced overheating with this card. The camera itself doesn’t take advantage of the UHS-II benefits of an extra row of contacts, so I’m not sure how the card would help with heat.
- Sony 32GB UHS-II SD Card, $25, https://amzn.to/2pVBvrg
I bought it just in case even though I had an extra SD card (non-UHS-II) lying around but I still had overheating issues.
Recording (Not Streaming) Time Limits
The only limits to streaming and recording on your computer are those listed above and your hard drive space. Recording to the SD card, however, is limited to 30 minutes.
Digital cameras are sold with 30-minute limits for recording video. If they are able to record more than 30 minutes, they’re considered a video camcorder, which is treated differently by import tariffs (or something like that). So camera manufacturers limit the time to 30 minutes of video. OpenMemories: Tweak is an application that disables this limit.
OpenMemories: Tweak is ONLY needed for recording video to the SD card for more than 30 minutes if overheating doesn’t get you first. This is NOT required to stream or record video using the Cam Link for more than 30 minutes.
Do you need OpenMemories: Tweak?
- You are pre-recording videos to the SD card that will be longer than 30 minutes in a single shot.
- YES you need OpenMemories: Tweak.
- You are pre-recording videos longer than 30 minutes to your computer using the Cam Link and Ecamm or Zoom.
- NO you do not need OpenMemories: Tweak.
- You are streaming video for more than 30 minutes using the Cam Link and Ecamm or Zoom.
- NO you do not need OpenMemories: Tweak.
Bottom line: If you press the Record button (small red button on the side) and don’t press it again for more than 30 minutes, you’ll need OpenMemories: Tweak.
Installing OpenMemories: Tweak
OpenMemories: Tweak is a “hacked” application. This comes with all the warnings. This is not supported by Sony and you are responsible if something goes terribly wrong. Proceed at your own risk!
You’re going to download two pieces of software to your computer, load OpenMemories: Tweak on your camera, then change a setting to access “unlimited” recording time.
- Go to the following website and complete “1. Downloading and running DriverLoader_1013.” You do NOT need to complete “2. Downloading and running the System Software Updater.”
- This is an official Sony tool that initializes your computer and camera so they can communicate properly.
- Use the USB cable that came with your camera.
- Disconnect your camera.
- On the camera, press Menu, go to the Toolbox icon on the right, then the number 4, and set the following:
- USB Connection: MTP
- USB LUN Setting: Single
- Reconnect the camera to your computer using the USB cable that came with the camera.
- Go to https://github.com/ma1co/Sony-PMCA-RE/releases/latest and click on the only .dmg file in the Assets list. Currently, it’s “pmca-gui-v0.17-osx.dmg”.
- Open the .dmg file that downloads.
- Open the application that appears in a new window, currently “pmca-gui-v0.17”.
- Click “Install app” at the top.
- Open the drop-down list and select OpenMemories: Tweak.
- Click “Install selected app” button.
- It should end with “Task completed successfully”
- Disconnect the USB cable.
- On the camera, press Menu, then move to the four squares that look like a checkerboard.
- Select Application List, then OpenMemories: Tweak
- Select Video to the right.
- Press Down to “Disable video recording limit” and select the checkbox.
- It should change the time to 13h 01m 00s. That’s you’re new limit.
- Press Menu twice to return back to the camera.
All information about OpenMemories: Tweak lives at the following GitHub page: https://github.com/ma1co/OpenMemories-Tweak
If you encounter a black screen on your camera and solid red light on the bottom after loading the app, turn the camera off, take the battery out for a few seconds, put it back in, and turn the camera back on. This happened to me, and all was fine after restarting the camera.
If your computer loses wifi and becomes unresponsive, restart the computer. This happened to me after unpacking the .dmg file. A restart fixed the issue. Unpacking the .dmg worked fine after the restart. It worked without issue on a different laptop, so it was likely an issue with my computer rather than the .dmg file.
Does this work with my DSLR or mirrorless camera?
- You need a clean HDMI output from your camera, which means you can turn off the information overlays mentioned at the top.
- You need to be able to keep the camera from shutting off due to inactivity.
- Here is the list of compatible cameras from Elgato:
Does the Cam Link work with a USB hub?
Yes, if the hub is USB 3.0. It should also be a powered hub. I tested the Cam Link with the following USB hub and it worked fine:
- Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Ultra-Slim, $17, https://amzn.to/2RZLOqV
Is there a delay in the video signal?
- No more than any other webcam. I use the following USB microphone and both video and audio are in sync while using the camera. I’d guess most audio sources will be synced with the Cam Link video just fine.
- Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB, $74, https://amzn.to/2EvRs1e
- Check the Facebook Live demo here:
- If you would like to use the camera’s audio and get the signal along with the video in the HDMI cable, know that the built in microphone on the a6000 is pretty bad (really bad). Unfortunately, there is no standard audio input jack on the camera to use an external mic like a lav mic. The only way to get decent audio from the camera itself is by purchasing Sony’s hotshoe shotgun mic which clips to the top of the camera.
- Sony ECMGZ1M Microphone, $68, https://amzn.to/2CRHDJq
- The Cam Link transmits audio along with video through the HDMI cable and appears as an audio source on the computer.
This is part of our Ultimate Tech Guide for streaming and teaching online. Grab the free guide here! Lots of hardware and software suggestions for streaming online.