Faced with the need for a webcam which will give me a wide range of zoom, and allow me to change depth of field, I am wondering if I can use my Nikon D7200 as a webcam.
How is it set up? What is the resolution?
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There are two ways which a Nikon D7200 or similar Nikon dSLR can be configured to be used as a webcam:
Nikon has a NEW webpage which covers this, which did not exist until recently. Sources say that COVID-19 work from home has caused a greater demand for cameras usable for webcam use. Here's the Nikon page, with lots of their product advertisements: https://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and-explore/live-streaming-with-nikon-cameras.page
The USB approach is pretty straight forward, and depending upon your application may need a go-between package. There are commercial ones, free ones and open source ones. I will not evaluate them here, but when I found an app which needed such a package, I quickly found some options. I tried several, but decided to not attempt to evaluate them.
The capabilities of the so-called go-between packages vary. Some just present the camera output to the end application needing webcam input. Others allow remote camera control, and permit adjustment of exposure, focus, etc. Again, that is outside the domain of the question, but a useful capability for someone who wants remote control of their camera.
The resolution of the USB approach was not determined.
The HDMI approach is a little more complicated, but promises to be HD quality. HDMI is taken from the camera, an unceremoniously converted with an HDMI to USB converter. I did not have one of these to try. The USB input is then treated as a video stream for use as a logical webcam, probably through a similar go-between package (perhaps even the same ones).
With two connection methods established, the remaining issue was whether such use of the camera would damage the sensor. My searches found many such concerns and talk of sensor time-outs and overheats.
The D7200 sensor can be set to not time out, but a normal time limit is about 28 minutes. Nikon tech support, after some research, confirmed that there are not sensor duration limits, and normal sensor use (eg not pointed at the sun) will not cause degradation. As an image scientist, I know that there are many environmental considerations for cameras, and I was able to confirm that Nikon states that the temperature range for the camera is from 32F to 104F. That suggests that thermal gains from being on a tripod in direct sunlight could readily exceed the upper end environmental limits. Protection such as an umbrella on an adjacent tripod is a mitigation approach.
So in summary: Yes, the D7200, and similar Nikon dSLRs can be used as a webcam, for video as well as stills. With the right software focus, aperture, exposure and other parameters may be controlled by camera control software. There are two (perhaps more) methods for data transport, USB port and HDMI port. There are no safety-of-equipment issues associated with long duration capture, such as overheating of the sensor, assuming normal precautions.