Like the rest of the photographers who shoot Canon, I was extremely excited when Canon announced a beta version of their Canon EOS Webcam Utility part way through 2020. I was so glad to see my cameras (Canon 80D and Canon 7DM2) on the list of supported cameras, but when I tested the software I was disappointed about the resolution.
The first full release (non-beta) of the Canon EOS Webcam Utility doesn’t send full HD 1080p video resolution to a stream. It is constrained to about 1/4 full HD sending a stream with a resolution of 576p (1024×576).
My Canon Camera Records 1080p, Why is the Stream Resolution Limited to 576p?
I haven’t found anything from Canon directly stating the limitation nor explaining why it is in my testing I have only seen a 576p stream even though my cameras support 1080p. Absent something official from Canon, I have an educated guess as to why this might be.
I think Canon wanted to offer the broadest support possible for their cameras (40 with the full release) and built their EOS Webcam Utility to the lowest technical capabilities. That is the slow USB 2.0 connection built into the majority of Canon cameras.
I first discovered that the streaming resolution was limited to 576p when I tested the beta release of the EOS Webcam Utility. I did the math based on the bandwidth offered by USB 2.0, and 576p is the “safe” uncompressed resolution to use over that connection. Safe meaning that anything higher over USB 2.0 could result in dropped frames.
I was hopeful that this limitation I discovered in the beta release was a factor of Canon engineering not having enough time to have the EOS Webcam Utility understand the capabilities of newer cameras that have USB 3.0 or higher connections. Unfortunately, it looks like the full release doesn’t do anything different for newer cameras with higher bandwidth connections.
How Do USB 2.0 Webcams Get 1080p?
I know what you are thinking because I had exactly the same question when I did the math on the USB 2.0 connection. How is it webcams like the wildly popular Logitech C920 gets 1080p video when it also has a USB 2.0 connection?
The answer is video compression. The math I did that confirms you can only do a reliable stream of 576p over USB 2.0 was based on uncompressed video. Every single pixel of every frame being sent over that USB 2.0 connection. Webcams that only do streaming are purpose built for the job and they compress the video before sending it down that USB 2.0 pipe.
When I figured out that video compression could make a world of difference, I hoped that again this was a place where Canon engineers just needed a little more time and maybe video compression could be added to the EOS Webcam Utility to solve the problem.
However, there is a flaw in that logic. The EOS Webcam Utility is software from Canon the receives the signal on your computer, it has nothing to do with how that signal is sent by the camera. For Canon to add video compression to that USB output they would have to update the firmware of the camera. So far, that hasn’t happened.
How Does 576p From a Canon Camera Compare to 1080p From a Webcam?
576p is roughly 1/4 the resolution of 1080p, which would make you think it is only about 1/4 the quality. Below is a screenshot of OBS software where I have the 1080p feed coming from the Logitech C920 on one side and the 576p feed coming from my Canon 80D on the other side. Can you tell which is which?
How about this where I pulled just me out of the images which is about 200% zoom into the pixels?
Logitech left, Canon right.
In my testing I don’t think the 1080p stream coming out of the Logitech C920 is better than the 576p stream coming out of the Canon 80D. In fact, I think that the depth of field difference you can get out of a Canon camera with a fast lens at 576p is better than the 1080p video from the Logitech C920.
It think this is especially true if you consider the purpose Canon has stated for their EOS Webcam Utility:
“The EOS Webcam Utility is a software solution which unlocks webcam-like capabilities for select EOS Inter-Changeable Lens and PowerShot camers. By connecting your Canon camera to a computer with a USB cable, the camera will be available as a video source for many video conferencing applications.”Canon EOS Webcam Utility Optional Software download description
The EOS Webcam Utility is not designed to do anything more than show you in a video conferencing application. Think about the quality level of the video needed for video conferencing. The bar is not very high.
Good lighting has more to do with the quality of your video conferencing than anything else. The next most important thing is a fast lens (a lens that has a wide aperture like f/2.8, f/1.8, f/1.4, or even f/1.2) so that you can optically blur out your background instead of faking it with the mostly awful virtual effects.
What Video Conferencing Applications Are Supported by EOS Webcam Utility?
The beta release of the EOS Webcam Utility was pretty limited with regard to the streaming applications it supported. It is really good news that the list of supported applications grew significantly with the full release of the utility:
- Cisco WebEx
- Facebook Live
- Google Hangouts
- Google Hangouts Meet
- Facebook Messenger
- Microsoft Teams
- Open Broadcast Software (OBS)
- YouTube Live
How Do Photographers Install the EOS Webcam Utility?
You can download the full release of the Canon EOS Webcam Utility here:
Installation is mostly straight forward. Here is my step-by-step guide for installing and using the beta version that is identical for the full release.
NOTE: If you installed the beta version of the EOS Webcam Utility, I had to un-install that first before the full release would function consistently. It didn’t overwrite the beta version. Un-install the beta, reboot, then install the full release, and reboot again.
Can I Get 1080p Streaming From My Canon Camera?
Yes! Just not through the USB connection on the camera using the EOS Webcam Utility. The HDMI from the camera can do 1080p (or higher on those Canon cameras that support 4K or better resolution).
The problem is that HDMI out on your Canon camera is not designed to support streaming. You computer won’t see it as a webcam source. In order to make this work you have to use an HDMI capture device.
The most popular HDMI capture device is the Elgato Cam Link 4K. You connect the HDMI from your camera to the Cam Link and then the Cam Link to a USB 3.0 port, and your computer will see you Canon camera as a webcam.
The Cam Link has been so popular it has been backordered for months, though it looks like the stock is about to catch up again here in late 2020. If that device isn’t available a good alternative is the AVerMedia Live Gamer Ultra.
I bought the Live Gamer Ultra because the Cam Link was out of stock and have been happy with the results.