How does the video quality between Zoom and WebRTC compare, let's take a look.
Using your mobile camera as a webcam?
I test out some virtual webcam software for your mobile phone.Chris Koehncke
Following my previous article comparing the video quality of WebRTC and Zoom, I might need to upgrade my webcam. Decent webcams are in the $80-200 range. But, I always found webcams a tad cumbersome, long cables, finding a free USB plug on my laptop is becoming rarer, and then having to purchase a powered USB hub.
A simpler solution was to use my mobile phone as a webcam. A quick search uncovered a handful of candidates so I set about with a quick unscientific test in a normal boring office with unflattering light (definitely not Insta perfect).
There are handful of mobile apps that used WiFi to ‘broadcast’ the video from my mobile device to my laptop. At my laptop, this mobile camera showed up as a normal webcam which I could easily select for input with Zoom or any WebRTC application.
Epocam is an iPhone only app (with a matching driver/program for Windows or Mac) and works via USB or Wifi. Epocam is only $7.99 and sold by Elgato, who has a wide variety of video/audio components for the serious web broadcaster. The app had a few nits but otherwise worked well. You open your video application SELECT the Epocam as your “camera” and then open the Epocam application on your iPhone. After a few moments, they would magically connect.
Epocam is my recommendation based upon ease of use, however, it doesn’t work on Android devices. Elgato sells other products for your home studio. I thought this was cool “Stream Deck” which is a little macro-control physical keypad that allows you to single press to perform several functions (think switching your camera source back and forth). This YouTube video explains in more detail.
iVCam works on both iPhone and Android however it only seems to only support Windows computers. iVCam is from e2eSoft and appears to be a Chinese company which I found to be the Shanghai Yitu Information Technology Co. The website is in English, basic but there was none of the typical company information which was suspect. Pricing was not on the website and you can purchase from the PC client or via the app using Google Pay. It’s an annual subscription of $7.99/$9.99 for basic or advanced or a single $24.99 one-time fee.
Despite lack of Western marketing capabilities. iVCam worked as promised and had a similar performance as the EpocCam application.
DroidCam was the clunkiest of them and supports both iPhone and Android and but only supports Windows/Linux (no Mac). It appeared to be a techie project of some sort. Whereas the other applications have a ‘self-discovery’ function to match the client IP with the host IP. With DroidCam you had to type in the IP address of the host PC/computer. Despite that, it worked fairly well and the pro version is a miserly $5.99.
Finally, there is from Camo from Reincubate this iphone ONLY product offers a lot of video tuning elements (you can easily switch between various input devices on the fly). Its matching desktop software works on Macs and PCs. The downside, it only supports a wired USB connection. Worth checking out but for $39.99 it’s expensive if you using it only as a virtual webcam.
My discovery – the Apple iPhone 11Pro Max ($1,100) camera was beaten to the ground by a new Samsung Galaxy A32 5G ($250)! Even a cheapie $79 BLU Vivo X5 phone looked better IMHO.
I started the test with the bias that my iPhone was likely the best virtual webcam. I quickly found the iPhone delivered the ‘worse’ quality as a virtual webcam.
To create a reference, I took a native pic with the front-facing cameras of the iPhone, Samsung, and Blu. Note: The Samsung was sharp and the iPhone was a bit yellowish to my liking. The Blu while sharp was washed out. I would deem all of them acceptable.
Below are sample screenshots from live Zoom calls using a variety of phones and virtual webcam software. For reference, I included a Logitech C920 Pro ($79) shot. Note: my office has a full window providing natural lighting and I attempted to take all shots with same lighting..
As an additional comparison, here are two photos (from the far end) using the Zoom mobile app. In this case, the iPhone seemed warmer and not as washed out as the Samsung.
As the video is going from your mobile to your laptop before being sent out again there was some lag. However, the lag was not super noticeable. In a side-by-side comparison, you could visually denote the lag though. The virtual webcam apps also support using the phone for the microphone input (but I didn’t test that).
For the money a virtual camera is a handy tool to consider. The Zoom mobile client might includes as a ‘feature’ to facilitate multiple cameras). Disappointing though was how consistently bad the iPhone looked even against a $79 BLU Android mobile (when operating as a virtual webcam).
Photo by Jeroen den Otter on Unsplash