When it comes to gearing up your home studio for video, it’s easy to think that the most expensive gear you can afford is ideal. This logic especially applies to cameras for recording purposes. After all, it’s easy to think initially that instead of getting a cheap webcam to do recording, you could get away with a DSLR or high end camera.
The problem with that thinking is that DSLRs are NOT good for recording in certain situations. The sensors tend to overheat within a 30-minute span. Users have reported burned out pixels and the camera being damaged. Furthermore the camera can shut down automatically due to it hitting the heat sensor.
So instead of looking to your DSLR for recording, there are some better options you can consider. Here is what I would suggest.
Using DSLRs Properly
As I mentioned above, the DSLR will typically be able to run for 30 minutes straight of recording. As a result, you do have a small window of opportunity. You can theoretically record shorter video clips through the DSLR and allow for cooling times.
Alternatively, some DSLRs can connect to a computer through a USB cable and act as a camera source.
Other DSLRs you need to tap into the video out port (typically HDMI on newer cameras) and then you need to input that into your computer as a camera source.
But therein lies a problem: computers don’t have video “inputs”. They output to monitors…
To mitigate this, you need a device that takes video in (e.g. HDMI) and sends it to something the computer can understand, which is typically USB. An Elgato HD60S is what I recommend. It takes an HDMI source and presents it as a video output source (i.e. webcam) to the computer when you connect it by USB.
Through this method you could make a DSLR work as a webcam, however there are much better options out there. Namely using a video camera rather than a DSLR.
Video Camera vs. DSLR
So let’s get back to the camera issue. The 30 minute thing is why you would consider a video camera over a DSLR camera to begin with. No doubt that a DSLR will provide better pictures if you plan to use it that way as well. DSLRs are designed to take amazing shots due to the controls and sensors.
Another thing DSLRs have in favor are their lenses. Being able to take “wide” enough shots that can encompass a person and the surrounding environment is key. Fortunately, entry level DSLRs typically come bundled with a fairly adequate lens for this situation (something like an 18-55 mm lens).
But if you are planning to record for longer than 30 minutes each time, video cameras should be considered as a better investment.
An entry level consumer video camera would be a “handycam”. A great one to try and find is the Canon Vixia HF R800. The nice thing about this is the built-in lens which has a great focal range, meaning it can go wide and also zoom in.
Also, if your plan is to use a camera exclusively as a webcam, I wouldn’t ignore the Logitech C920 / C930 webcams. They definitely have their place and look great. And mounting them on a flex arm clamp allows you to position them quite well. They just work!
Determining the best camera for the job depends on your video goals. If your looking for a typical webcam, an external webcam would be appropriate. Your computer’s built-in webcam would also be fitting.
If your goal is to have an alternate video source that isn’t an off the shelf webcam, then you need a device to present that video source to the computer and you need the actual video source itself.