Last update: Jan 12, 2022

Webcams have become a more important part of work life since the rise of home office in the pandemic. Although good audio is far more important, proper video contribute to a good impression when speaking to clients or in public events.

This article summarizes my current state of knowledge regarding suitable camera models to be used as an high quality, yet affordable webcam. The listed prices are current (Jan 22) used prices on German Ebay, Ebay Kleinanzeigen and MPB. I chose body-only (no lens) prices were possible, but most used offerings include the kit lens. This list does not include cameras with a fixed lens, although there are suitable models.

General considerations

Why no 4k webcam?

Peripheral manufacturers like Razer and Logitech react to the demand for better video and release new, higher quality webcams. These premium webcams exceed notebook-integrated solutions and have advantages like a built-in microphone. However, DSLR and DSLM cameras still have the edge when it comes to image quality in most situations. This is due to their larger sensors and more sophisticated optics. They also produce a nice natural bokeh.

Linux support

Since I use Linux, I cannot use the manufacturer-made webcam tools via USB. All listed cameras provide some sort of clean HDMI feed that can be captured using an HDMI grabber. There is heaps of information on HDMI capture cards on the internet. I covered cheap models in a blog entry in 2020.

Which additional equipment is needed?

  • Lens (50€ for used kit lens), if not included
  • HDMI grabber (between 10€ and 200€), depending on your needs
  • HDMI Micro to HDMI cable (10€)
  • Dummy battery with power supply (around 20€), needed for most cameras

What about overheating?

Some cameras have cooling issues when used as a webcam. Cooling depends on ambient temperature and construction. Cooling has vastly improved over the last couple of years, since it is also needed for longer video clips. I disregarded all cameras where I know that cooling effectively prevents webcam use in normal conditions.

Which one to buy in the same price range?

Video quality has improved in cameras over the last couple of years. This includes features like in-video auto focus, more focus zones, and backlight correction. A reason for these optimizations is camera manufacturers realizing that smartphones are now attacking the enthusiast camera market (after they killed the entry market). The segment of high-quality video cameras gained some popularity because of Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Manufacturers aim for this “influencer” market now. For multiple cameras in the same price bracket I would therefore recommend to pick the newer image processor or sensor.

Another decision maker is the availability of higher-quality lenses. For cameras used as a webcam, a 18-35mm lens with a better maximum aperture is a nice upgrade. Big manufacturers like Nikon and Canon do have an advantage when it comes to the availability of cheap lenses.

150€ and less

For less than 150€, the EOS M10 is the only (and best) option.

Model Release Resolution Sensor Flip-Screen Image Processor Needs Hack Price
Canon EOS M10 2015 1080p30 18,0MP No DIGIC 6 Yes(1) 140€

150€ to 200€

For less than 200€, the EOS M100 offers the best frame rate and latest image processor. Since the camera sold well, offers as low as 150€ can be found from time to time.

Model Release Resolution Sensor Flip-Screen Image Processor Needs Hack Price
Nikon D3300 2014 1080i60 24,2MP No ? Yes(3) 180€
Canon EOS M3 2015 1080p30 24,2MP No DIGIC 6 Yes(1) 190€
Canon EOS M100 2017 1080p60 24,2MP Yes DIGIC 7 Yes(1) 200€
Nikon D5200 2012 1080i60 24,1MP Yes ? Yes(3) 200€

200 to 300€

For less than 300€, the Sony Alpha 5100 is well-equipped. I’d still recommend the Canon EOS M100, as the image quality of the Alpha 5100 does not justify the upmark.

Model Release Resolution Sensor Flip-Screen Image Processor Needs Hack Price
Sony Alpha 5100 2015 1080p60 24,3MP Yes BIONZ-X Yes 270€
Nikon D5300 2013 1080i60 24,2MP Yes ? Yes(3) 280€

More than 300€ (selected cameras)

Many, very high quality cameras are available around 300€. My current recommendation is the EOS M200, since it provides native clean HDMI and a quite recent image processor.

Model Release Resolution Sensor Flip-Screen Image Processor Needs Hack Price
Sony Alpha 6000 2014 1080p60 24,3MP Yes BIONZ No 300€
Canon EOS M200 2019 1080p60 24,1MP Yes DIGIC 8 No 300€
Canon EOS M5 2016 1080p60 24,2MP Yes DIGIC 7 Yes(2) 360€
Canon EOS M6 2017 1080p60 24,2MP Yes DIGIC 7 Yes(2) 360€
Canon EOS M50 Mark II 2022 1080p60 24,1MP Yes DIGIC 8 No 450€

Required hacks

(1) The camera can be hacked with CHKD to clean HDMI overlays and disable the runtime limit.

(2) The camera can be hacked with a custom canon script to clean HDMI overlays and disable the runtime limit. However, there is manual interaction required to clear the overlays, anytime the camera is switched on.

(3) The camera can be hacked using a Nikon patch to disable the Live View runtime limit. However, there is manual interaction required to clear the overlays, anytime the camera is switched on.

Disregarded cameras

Cameras released before 2013

I set 2013 as an arbitrary date before video quality from DSLRs and DSLMs is likely worse than an equivalent webcam. This includes cameras like the Nikon D5100 and D7000.

Canon EOS M (camera)

The Canon EOS M can be hacked with Magic Lantern to provide a clean HDMI output. To my knowledge, the feed is only a copy of the low-resolution monitor image and not suited as a webcam.

Canon EOS M50 (Mark I)

For the EOS M50 there is no hack for clean HDMI. The only option is to use the proprietary EOS utility under Windows or macOS and life with the limitations.

Canon EOS 1100D, 1200D, 1300D

These cameras are supported by Magic Lantern and should offer clean HDMI. The reports I found criticize the video quality and it might just be upscaled from the monitor resolution. For risk-aware users, they might be worth a try, though.

Canon EOS 2000D, 4000D

These cameras provide no clean HDMI and Magic Lantern is not available.

EOS 7D Mark II

The camera can output clean HDMI but overheats after 20 to 30 minutes.

Nikon D3400, D3500, D5500, D5600

These Nikon cameras offer clean HDMI but Live View shuts down after 30 minutes, making it unusable for webcam use.

Nikon Z system

Nikon Z are interesting candidates, but currently too expensive to be listed.

Many Sony SLT-A models

Many SLT models (like the SLT-A58 and SLT-A77) provide no clean HDMI and there is no option to hack them.

Notes on systems

This section summarizes general information on systems that apply to all included cameras.

Canon EOS M

The Canon M system is discontinued as of 2022. This must not be an issue for their use as webcams. Prices may drop in the following months, as photographers sell their kit and switch to more future proof systems.

The EOS M6 that I use produces the best results when switched to “movie” mode, this might apply to all EOS M cameras.

Nikon 1

The Nikon 1 system is discontinued and no camera provided a clean HDMI output.

Sony NEX

The Sony NEX system is the predecessor of the Alpha DSLMs. No NEX camera does provide a clean HDMI output.

Notes on the listing

The listed resolution is my best guess of the HDMI output resolution. Other resolutions may be configurable / available. I list the frame rate at 1080p resolution. Most cameras that only achieve 30fps at 1080p can reach 60fps at 720p but I can only speculate if the higher frame rate is also transferred via HDMI.

I do not have hands on experience with all listed cameras. If I got something wrong, please ping me on Twitter or write me an email.