Why Can't My Kodak Work As A Webcam?

I recently was given a Kodak C182 digital camera. For the most part, it is a fantastic improvement over my old camera. But, it will not work as a webcam. I checked the Kodak site and the answer to “Will my easyshare work as a webcam?” is no. Why not?

The camera can take images and can connect to the computer’s USB port. Why can’t it work as a webcam?

For the same reason your microwave can’t toast bread like a toaster (even tho they both are for heating food) and your VCR can’t play DVDs (even tho they both play movies).

A digital still camera is not a webcam even though it has the ability to take short movies. Heck, I don’t even think most digital video recorders can function as a webcam.

Just not what it was programmed to do.

A toaster uses heavy resistance coils to heat bread. A microwave (very roughly) causes water molecules to spin and produce friction heat.

They are very different.

A VCR detects magnetic patterns on a metal tape using (well I’m not sure if it uses a magnet, an electromagnet, or some sort of ferrous sensor). A DVD detects peaks and valleys in a plastic disc using an infrared laser.

They are very different.

My digital camera and my webcam both have an optical sensor, a bunch of circuitry and connect to the computer. The main difference is quality. My webcam needs more light, has less pixels in the image, has no place for a battery, and only functions when connected to a computer’s USB port. Why can’t my Kodak, which can record video and communicate with my computer, not stream video to my computer?

I thought of this. But why not program it to do so? The only reason I can think of is to get people to buy a separate camera and webcam.

My phone can’t act as a webcam, either, even though it can connect to the computer and record video. As mentioned, it was not designed to do so. To act as a web cam, the camera has to be wired to send to its output port a series of images in real time. That doesn’t have anything to do with the optical sensor, and ability to connect to a computer.

It’s all about marketing. You have a $100 camera. At that price point, the extra cost that would go into making it act like a webcam would blow their pricing model for the target market. How many people would be willing to pay the extra money to get the webcam capability? How many people want both in the same unit anyway? “Oh, can’t use the web cam because I left the camera in the car.” It’s a different story when you’re talking about a $500 video camera, where they make it more feature-rich to justify the price.

ETA: Sorry, didn’t mean to be so blunt about the price, especially since it was a gift. Just trying to be factual.

Actually, there are also technical problems with keeping the CCD on for extended periods of time that can damage it due to heat build up. Many cameras aren’t designed for that.

I don’t get this. The thing already has to pipe the video data to the screen on the back. It’s probably not analog. Why would it cost so much to send that feed down the USB port?

I know my $100 camera from a few years ago can handle it fine. The webcam feature wasn’t even advertised, but Windows XP automatically made it a webcam before I installed the software.

I think I understand . . .

It’s a cost/benefit thing. There is no real reason why they couldn’t program a webcam mode (If the LCD overheating is a problem, they could set it to shut down when in webcam mode). But it would increase the cost by at least $10. Last time I checked a webcam can be had for $20 or less.

Oddly, my old camera (which had no LCD display and had worse picture quality than my webcam) did work as a webcam.

On an odd note, when connected to a computer and turned on, the lens shutter doesn’t open and the lens doesn’t move out as it usually does.

The problem mentioned up thread was not with the LCD, but the CCD (the sensor). I don’t know whether this is a real limitation or not, but I wanted to point out it’s not the same thing.

Oops. I thought that was a typo.

Nope, Charge Coupled Device, or the sensor. It’s the reason that DSLRs couldn’t do video until recently, they weren’t designed to dissipate the heat and you’d cook the sensors.

Well, look, I gave some generic reasons but I don’t work for Kodak. I am not a EE but I do know that the interface necessary to send a video feed to an LCD screen is not the same as that for sending it out a USB port. Perhaps an electronics designer will weigh on this.

But I don’t think you’ll get your real hard-core answer except from someone in the camera industry who is in on these kinds of decisions.

I don’t know if that was a problem with some large CCDs, but that seems like a moot point now. I think all camera manufactures have switched to CMOS sensors by now.

As far as I know, the main reason DSLRs didn’t have live video was because large CCDs can’t be read out very fast. CMOS sensors are also faster to read out, and don’t have to be read out sequentially.
Getting back to the OP, I think the main reason is that most people don’t want to use one camera for both purposes. A webcam is a computer accessory that stays on top of the monitor. Another factor is that many older digital cameras had proprietary USB protocols that required special drivers. So they could add various functions easily, including a webcam feature. I think most customers got sick of having to install drivers, and prefer cameras that act like generic external drives.

still cameras with fixed focus might have the webcam functionality.

a mechanically focusing camera wouldn’t be a good webcam because things would not stay in focus. the camera does focusing before the image starts being captured.

Part of it is the USB interface itself - modern digital cameras generally support the Mass Storage spec and maybe the PictBridge interface. This means that generic OS drivers are all that are required for downloading and printing, removing the requirement for a driver to be supplied with the camera, and increasing the usable target market without adding development work.

Using a camera as a webcam would require a USB video driver as well, making the camera firmware more complex and requiring drivers to be installed on the host.


Actually, there are many high-end webcams with autofocus. There are ways* to do autofocus while capturing video; otherwise you can’t make an autofocus camcorder.

*I expect it’s a contrast-based system. Though a separate infrared distance sensor would be feasible as well.

i would expect autofocus on the fly in a camcorder though not a still camera