Turn your Android phone into a USB webcam with DroidCam.
I can't believe it took me a whole fucking year of pandemic-time to discover this app. My laptop's webcam is... basically fine. It's a cheap 720p sensor with a tiny lens. It doesn't really cope with low light, and the picture is a bit fuzzy and grey. If you're on a conference call with me, I look like this:
I've got an old Samsung Android phone which I don't use any more. It's one of those with billions of megapizels and quantum nano AI bobbins. Here's how it makes me look:
Static photos don't really do it justice. I don't have the photography vocabulary to describe depth of field or wideness of gamut. But I think it makes for a better image. Colleagues have remarked that I look more HD. Which I think is a compliment...
You can use the front-facing camera, if you prefer. That also means you can see what you look like when presenting.
The front-facing camera also gives a much wider field of view:
You can connect over USB or WiFi. USB mode works fine in Linux, as long as you can install ADB. The WiFi connection also gives you a web-based control panel:
- Install an app on your phone.
- Turn on developer mode on your device.
- Install some random Linux scripts and fart about on the command line.
There's a basic Linux app for controlling the settings.
It isn't all sunshine and roses though. Firstly, you need somewhere to mount the camera. I have a Ring Light and tripod which is a bit wobbly, but does the job. I have to position it carefully to make sure my laptop isn't in view.
The app is a little temperamental. I don't know if it is my phone going to sleep, or a USB issue - but it does occasionally just stop. Hardware, eh!?
There's no way to swap cameras via the Linux client - although you can tap the screen and set them on the app. While you can toggle the autofocus, zoom, white balance, and exposure from the Linux client - you must use the command line to set resolution and aspect ratio. So it is a bit inconsistent.
The resolution is limited to 640x480 on the free version. But that's about the maximum of most video calling software. The £5 pro version does both 720p and 1080p if you need it. Obviously, streaming 4K video is impossible over a cheap USB cable.
I paid for the pro version - and the 720p and 1080p video are good. If you use the app, you can increase the video quality - but you may find that you drop a few frames that way.
Magic. Although it seems so weird to me that this isn't a standard feature of Android phones. We have MTP mode for file transfer, why not an optional WebCam mode?