USB Webcams Out Of Stock? Make One With A Raspberry Pi And HQ Camera Module

More people working from home has had an impact on the cost and availability of USB webcams, so [Jeff Geerling] got around the issue with a DIY solution that rang in around $100. It consists of a Raspberry Pi and HQ camera module acting as a USB webcam, and there is no messy streaming of ffmpeg over the network masquerading as a camera device or anything. It works just as a USB camera should.

[Jeff] chose a Raspberry Pi Zero and HQ camera module for his unit, making a tidy package that might not be quite as small as commercial webcams, but is certainly perfectly respectable as a USB camera. That being said, there are a few drawbacks, namely the lack of a microphone or autofocus, latency issues at higher resolutions, and the need to shut down the Pi cleanly.

Check out the GitHub repository for everything needed to set up your own, including a complete hardware list and some options for mounting. [Jeff] also tested whether the camera would work with the new keyboard-embedded Raspberry Pi 400, and it absolutely does. Embedded below is a video walkthrough and demonstration of the whole project, so check it out.

33 thoughts on “USB Webcams Out Of Stock? Make One With A Raspberry Pi And HQ Camera Module

    1. I saw his video about a week ago and picked up one of the HQ cameras with no issue from sparkfun. $50 plus a bit more for the 6mm lens. Just arrived today works great. After some googling I found this already made distro, that boots up in about 5 seconds. The process is literally burn the ready made image to a SD card. pop the card in the pi, wire the camera to the pi. Finally plug it into your PC and within about 5 seconds a USB webcam shows up and is ready to go. The most work you’re going to spend on this project is either attaching the cam and pi to a ready made mount or 3d printing one, which was the route I went. It’s by far the best quality USB webcam I’ve ever owned.

  1. $10 hdmi usb capture card + any camera, dslr, mirror-less etc. you have already with decent hdmi output. Also what happen with integrated cameras in notebooks? Where is problem exactly, help me understand?

    1. $10 HDMI capture dongle are probably going to be of dubious quality and probably provide headaches. There were people that actually went this route when the rona started and it became very hard to get your hands a particular higher quality capture dongle and there was a story about this very capture dongle that many people were snatching up for the purpose of using dslrs and the like as webcams Laptop cameras? lol generally of horrible quality or horrible placement. If it is mounted at the top of your screen it means that probably half the image is going to be shot over your head when the screen is at a nice viewing angle. Or it’s some weird shit like the laptop the guy in the article has where the camera is down by the keyboard, meaning your hands get in the shot and it’s basically aimed right up your nose.

    2. This has better quality than most laptop cams.
      Not everybody has a DSLR laying around. Or in my case the Sony A6000 can’t be charged and run at the same time. I had to buy a extra “fake” battery that has a cable.
      It’s a fun project for people who already have a pi and pi cam laying around and need a webcam :)

    3. It’s not so simple, unfortunately. I have exactly that, the HDMI capture dongle, and a Canon DSLR. However, the HDMI output of my DSLR includes exactly what is shown on the LCD on the back, including the various information displays, and the focusing frame. While the info displays can be turned off, I have not found out how to disable the focusing frame, which unfotunately ruins the entire idea of the DSLR as a webcam!
      If anyone has ideas of how to disable the focusing frame, I’m all ears!

  2. Best way: Install droidcam app available in android play store or ios app store, install droidcam server on linux, windows or on whatever you are working on, then use your phone camera as the webcam. Simple.

  3. Agree – modifying a discarded off the shelf digital camera gets you a lens (but perhaps not the compact size of this project. I have a few old digitlal still cameras I’m trying to find a use for. Just cannot bear to recycle such neat tech.

      1. Oh, thanks for this! It’s really helpful. I had been thinking of hacking together a conference camera with the Pi HQ camera, but kept getting stuck on which lens to buy for the room it’ll be in.

  4. If you really need a USB webcam and are on a budget, get a PS3 Eye. It should be less than $10. Though only 640×480, it’s a superb camera. The lens has almost no distortion and can be switched between wide and ‘normal’. Low light performance is very good. It’s capable of 120 FPS as 320×240. The four-mic array can be made to work too.

  5. I see the lack of microphone as a feature.

    I’ve been looking for a decent camera without a microphone but no one sells them anymore. The only camera I could find without a mic was this <$5 piece of crap that has about the same resolution and quality as a nipkow disk.

    For a mic I have a USB adapter that is built into an XLR connector and that goes into a Karaoke mic. The thing I like about this is the Karaoke mic has a mute switch built in. I can mute it manually on the analog side. There is no piece of privacy sapping software which can get past that nor any way to hack it.

    A microphone that is built into a webcam gets turned on/off via software. I don't want one. I only want a plain camera and if it doesn't come with one I will 3d print a lens cap.

    I have tried the camcorder into a capture card trick. Thats.. ok. At least with the camcorder I have there were alerts and timeouts and menu options to go through to get it into the right mode to do that. I prefer the convenience of an actual webcam.

    I suppose I could just buy a mic'd webcam, crack it open and disconnect the microphone element. Call me OCD but that would still show up as an audio input device in the mixer and that would just bug me.

    1. I don’t see any reason why not. I even have a tripod mount case for the original Pi Camera. For that matter, I could just use my Pi Zero W in the official Zero case as a webcam, just without a mic. Although, I have a Blue Snowball USB mic, so that’s not an issue, either.

    2. No reason other than most of the other camera modules have the quality of a phone camera from the 2005-2010 era. It has been entirely why I have never bothered with the cameras on the Pi platform. It wasn’t until seeing this video about a week ago I realized how good that Pi HQ camera can be and picked one up myself. If you’re really going to go that route, you might as well just use whatever $10 off the shelf webcam you can find, the quality will probably be the same.

  6. >”what if I told you I am recording this on a professional quality webcam that ..”

    Quality so good he used it for the whole 9 seconds of 12 minute video! Neat hack, just dont lie to me.

  7. I see the lack of a mic as a feature.

    I use an analog mic with an XLR to USB adapter. The advantage is it’s analog mute switch. I only turn it on if I want to talk. There is no privacy sapping software nor hack that can turn on an analog mic with a physical switch.

    I’ve been searching for a webcam without a mic. The only one I have found is so cheap and crappy that it reminds me of the image produced by a nipkow disk! I have tried the camcorder into a capture card trick (without the audio connected) but it was bulky and the various menus and timeouts made it inconvenient to use. I never thought it would be so hard to find just a plain old webcam!

    If that concern seems weird when talking about adding a camera well, of course I’ll print a lens cap for the camera too.

    I got kind of excited when reading this. I have a couple Pi Zeros laying around, I would just need to buy the Pi camera. Then I remembered my previous plan… put an old laptop camera module into a 3d printed case along with the necessary voltage regulator and level shifter. I think I can do that for less money than a pi camera.

  8. The question nobody is asking is why use up a valuable USB port when the Raspberry 3/4 has a camera port built in? Raspberry Pi camera comes with a cable to connect to this

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