Apple makes a mean iPhone camera, but when it comes to their Macs, it’s a whole different story. Sure, they’re getting better, with the M1 Macs having the best of the bunch, but there are a lot of Macs out there with subpar webcams. If you use an external display for your MacBook, you might not even have a good webcam solution. As it turns out, though, you do—with your iPhone.
Don’t bother with an external webcam for your Mac: So long as you have an iPhone, you already have a webcam, thanks to a new Apple feature called Continuity Camera. Well, technically, Continuity Camera is already a thing: Previously, this feature referred to the ability to take or scan an image on your iPhone and have it appear on your Mac. Now, the definition has greatly expanded.
How to turn your iPhone into your Mac’s webcam
With macOS Ventura and iOS 16, you can simply bring your iPhone up to your Mac and have it instantly become your computer’s webcam. That’s it: Your Mac will automatically recognize and prioritize your iPhone as the main camera, allowing you to take advantage of the smartphone’s far superior cameras for your video calls.
Even better, if your iPhone has an ultra-wide camera (iPhone 11 and later), you now have Center Stage on your Mac: This feature tracks your face and the faces of other participants during the call, so you can move around the room while staying in frame. In addition, with the iPhone 12, you can take advantage of Studio Lighting to artificially brighten your face. With the iPhone XR and later, you can use Portrait mode to blur the background.
Most impressive of all, however, is Desk View. Desk View uses your iPhone’s ultra-wide camera to broadcast a top-down view of your desk, perfect for showing others on the call desk-facing items like documents. Previously, you needed to set up an independent camera pointed at your desk in order to achieve this angle, but no longer. In order to use Desk View, simply open Spotlight on your Mac (Command + Space), search “Desk View,” then select it.
In order to use Continuity Camera, you’ll need an iPhone XR or later running iOS 16, as well as a Mac running macOS Ventura, both of which are currently in beta. You can enroll your iPhone and Mac in these public betas in order to try out the new feature, as well as the many new features coming with iOS 16 and macOS Ventura. If you’re interested, here’s our guide on installing the iOS 16 beta, as well as our guide on installing the macOS Ventura beta.
Again, Continuity Camera is an entirely wireless experience, so you don’t need to buy anything specific in order for it to work. Placing your iPhone on a tripod behind your Mac will do the trick, but if you want a more convenient solution, keep an eye out for Mac-specific mounts made by companies like Belkin. They’re sure to launch alongside iOS 16 and macOS Ventura’s releases this fall.
Of course, not everyone has access to iOS 16 and macOS Ventura. Some of our iPhones and Macs didn’t make the cut for these new updates, which means no Continuity Camera for us. Of course, if you have a compatible iPhone but also have a Windows PC, you won’t be using Continuity Camera either. In either case, you’ll need to turn to a third-party option to use your iPhone as your Mac or PC’s webcam.
Our choice is EpocCam; this app has a lot going for it, but best of all, it’s free. There are features that are locked behind the paid version of the app, such as full 1080p video, but you might find that the standard video feed that comes with the free version is more than enough for your calls.
How to set up EpocCam as your computer’s webcam
When you first open the app, a welcome screen informs you that you need to install a driver onto your Mac or PC. If you’re using a Mac, you can AirDrop, email, or copy the download link for the driver. If you’re using a PC, you can only choose to email yourself the link.
On Mac, EpocCam works whether you plug in via USB or if you use wifi. It’s a great solution if you want to avoid any extra wires cluttering up your desk. On Windows, however, you’ll need to connect your iPhone to your PC in order for EpocCam to work.
Once the driver is on your computer, open it and follow the installation directions. On your iPhone, give EpocCam permission to use your device’s camera and network, and you should see a video feed above a “CONNECTING TO YOUR COMPUTER” message. You’ll need your iPhone and computer connected to the same wifi network; if all is set up correctly, the full EpocCam controls will appear on your iPhone.
Now, all you have to do is launch your video app of choice on your Mac or PC and set your camera source as EpocCam. For example, if using Messenger for your video calls, click the three dots and choose the “Device settings” option. Then, click the menu under Camera, and choose EpocCam.
Extra EpocCam features
Once you do, you should see your iPhone’s video feed in your video call app. You’ll also find a few options on the EpocCam app; tap the triangles to flip your video feed, the camera icon to flip to your other iPhone camera, or the large button in the center to choose between background blur or a green screen effect.
That’s all there is to say about the free app. With the $7.99 paid app, however, you get access to the following:
- Remove watermark
- Full 1080p video
- Wide angle camera support
- Replace your background
- Choose your connection: wifi, USB, or NDI
- Microphone-only mode
- Use your flashlight
- HDR video streaming
- Manual focus
Among all the options held back from the free version, the one that might affect you the most is the watermark. It’s not huge, and it sits at the bottom of your video feed, but you might find it too annoying to use. For many people, though, it’s worth having a free webcam solution should you need it.
[This article was originally published on Sept. 9, 2021. It was updated on July 13, 2022 to include information about Apple’s Continuity Camera for iOS 16 and macOS Ventura.]
Read the full article here