DroidCam - use an old Android as your Webcam

by @edent | , , , , | 2 comments | Read ~247 times.

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:

A grey and fuzzy still from my webcam.

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:

A more saturated and high quality still from my phone.

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.
A camera displaying my face.

The front-facing camera also gives a much wider field of view:
Me grinning at the camera - you can see quite a lot of my room.

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:

Web interface with camera view and controls.

Installation

There's a basic Linux app for controlling the settings.

A settings screen with options to stream over WiFi or USB.

Open Source

The Linux client is Open Source. The dev seems very responsive to suggestions and pull requests - even fixing a small bug I found within a couple of days.

Downsides

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.

Verdict

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?


2 thoughts on “DroidCam - use an old Android as your Webcam

  1. I have just done this. Funnily it seems USB is best on Linux, but WiFi on Windows. Definitely worth a fiver!


  2. @Edent I use Iriun Webcam (iOS & Android) with a couple of different Macs. The app needs to be running on the computer & the phone itself.EpocCam is another, it loads drivers onto the computer.

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