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In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are working from home than ever, and the need to stay in touch or log into conference calls has led to a shortage of common tech accessories like webcams and USB microphones from retailers online.
Wyze, a company known for its small-but-mighty smart security cameras has come up with a quick fix: it’s issued a free firmware update that allows you to use its Wyze Cam and Wyze Cam Pan as a webcam.
Both cameras cost well below $50, and the Wyze Cam Pan is still currently in stock (Note: while the Wyze Cam is backordered, a bundle that includes a MicroSD card is still in-stock for $39; that’s good because you’ll need a MicroSD card to use the Wyze Cam Pan as a webcam, too).
All of the features that make the Wyze Cam Pan a great smart security camera carry over when it’s used as a webcam. It has a maximum resolution of 1080P, so you’ll look clear; a built-in microphone, so your colleagues can hear you; and a wide, 110-degree field of view, so people will be able to see your entire room (whether this is good or bad is up to you.)
The camera’s namesake feature refers to the fact that it tilts up and down and pans around to follow objects in motion. The panning feature will be disabled in webcam mode, but the ability to physically change its angle is very useful if you want to get the right angle for your video call.
Wyze goes out of its way to state that its cameras were not explicitly designed to be used as webcams. It’s also important to note that you can convert the Wyze Cam or Wyze Cam Pan back into a smart security camera once everything returns to normal by installing the latest version of the camera’s normal firmware.
That caveat aside, Wyze says the camera was tested on Windows 7, Windows 10, and MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra), and was able to get it to work with Zoom, GoToMeeting, Blue Jeans, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Cisco. These tests were conducted with the cameras connected to a computer using a USB-A to USB-A cable; they had mixed results when they tried using a USB-A to USB-C cable.
If you want to use the Wyze Cam or Wyze Cam Pan as a webcam, the process is actually pretty simple. Download the firmware for the model of camera you want to use from Wyze’s site, insert a MicroSD card onto your computer, and drag the firmware file onto it. Eject the MicroSD card from your computer, insert it into the camera, then plug the camera into your computer. This may sound complicated if you’re unfamiliar with the word firmware, but don’t worry, it’s almost as easy as installing an app on your computer. If your computer doesn’t have an SD card reader, you can get an adapter that plugs into either a USB A or USB-C port.
At most, the Wyze Cam Pan, MicroSD Card, and a USB adapter will cost you roughly $60, which is significantly less than the current price third-party sellers are charging for dedicated webcams. It’s not the ideal solution, but it’ll definitely be better than the webcam built into your laptop — if it has one. Plus, you can eventually repurpose it into a smart security camera to monitor part of your home, which isn’t a feature supported by a traditional computer webcam.