How to Use Your Olympus Camera as a Webcam

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Whether you want a professional look for your livestreams or simply to look better during your next video chat, one of the best options is to use a dedicated camera with excellent video specs—such as your Olympus Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera. Now that Olympus has launched the OM-D Webcam Beta you can get these advantages without much effort. A few key accessories can help make it even better, but the benefit is well worth it.

Why Use an Olympus Camera Instead of a Webcam?

It is all about quality. Olympus cameras have significantly better video capabilities than your conventional webcam. That, and the ability to control things like exposure and aperture, will add some reliability to your streaming setup. Also, being able to place the camera elsewhere in your room or on your desk can help you work with more flattering angles or your better lenses.

Recommended Cameras and Equipment

To accomplish the goal of using an Olympus camera as a webcam you will need to download the OM-D Webcam Utility to a Windows computer and then have a compatible camera connected via USB. Or, if you want even higher quality, you will need one key feature: clean HDMI output. What this does is output the highest-quality video, with no overlays, via HDMI. This signal can then be read by a capture device for use in streaming or as a webcam. Here are the current cameras that offer this capability:

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Mirrorless Digital Camera
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Mirrorless Digital Camera

The camera is just the first step, and hopefully you already have that at the ready. You will need a couple other things to complete the circuit:

Blackmagic Design UltraStudio 4K Mini Thunderbolt 3 Capture & Playback Unit
Blackmagic Design UltraStudio 4K Mini Thunderbolt 3 Capture and Playback Unit

Choosing an HDMI cable should be straightforward—get one that is long enough but not too long. A little extra slack isn’t the worst thing, either. As for the video capture device, that will depend on your needs. There are multiple types, with an array of features and an even wider array of price points. The simplest options connect over USB and come at a reasonable cost.

The final step we would recommend is an external power solution. The worst-case scenario is that your camera cuts out halfway through a stream or call. Battery life for the BLH-1 Pack is about 100 minutes for streaming, so short calls should be no problem. For added safety or multiple calls, you would use an AC adapter or maybe find a dummy battery system with a third-party AC solution or larger battery source. For the E-M1X, E-M1 Mark III, or E-M5 Mark III, you can plug into the camera’s USB port for charging in between streaming sessions.

One thing to think about during setup is what lens to use. Luckily, Olympus has published a list of recommended lenses:

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens

In summary, you’ll want a lens that is able to give a wide-angle perspective and has a reasonably fast maximum aperture. Though, honestly, any lens you have will likely work with proper camera positioning. Just set it wide open if you want shallow depth of field.

How to Set up Your Camera and Computer

Once you have all the necessary pieces to get started, you can begin to get your computer and cameras set up. Depending on your chosen capture device, you might have to install a driver or software package to get it up and running. That should be your first step. Once that is accomplished, and you have a charged camera, you are ready to set things up.

For the camera’s settings:

  • Go into the menu and for the HDMI output, also known as Output Mode, and set it to “Record Mode.”
  • Place the camera into Video Mode.
  • The recommendation is to use Full HD resolution at 60p. This provides a clean image and matches up with the point at which many streaming systems max out.
  • Secondly, you’ll want to use Manual or Aperture Priority for the best control. This is so you can select an open aperture for shallow depth of field.
  • Make sure to choose a standard color profile; flat looks will not translate well to your stream.

After you have the camera configured, you’ll want to plug everything in. You’ll need to follow the instructions of your capture device, but eventually you should be able to select that device as your camera input.

More Info on Streaming

For more information on streaming or learning how to set up another brand or type of camera for use as a webcam, please stop by the B&H Livestream Center. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.

5 Comments

What precautions are necessary to prevent the sensor from overheating and prematurely ending the streaming session?

Most heat is generated during the actual recording of video to a memory card, so using this method should mean that extended recording times shouldn't be an issue since it doesn't actually record internally.

Does the OMD5 Mk 2 have streaming facilities?

Unfortunately, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II does not support this method or any other official methods for livestreaming.

Actually guys as an owner of the E-M5 Mark II, I'm happy to report it DOES indeed work for streaming! I can provide photos or video if you'd like. You simply need to purchase( if you don't still own it...I didn't.) The Olympus CB-USB-6 cable.....$10-20

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