It felt like companies were offering some goodwill during the pandemic when they released free software that allowed a camera you already own to work as a webcam, but now, Canon’s looking for some of that sweet recurring subscription revenue. A new update to its EOS Webcam Utility software adds a bunch of new features, but only as part of a new Pro tier that costs $5 per month or $50 per year.
Opting to pay gets you new features like streaming up to five cameras at once via USB, wireless single-camera streaming, 60fps support, finer controls for custom scene profiles, watermark insertion, control of your camera settings via the UI, and some further granular tweaks. While much of that sounds nice and may make for a better experience when using the EOS Webcam Utility, the Pro version tops out at just 1080p resolution (the free tier is still stuck with 720p). That seems a little paltry for a paid service utilizing a variety of cameras capable of outputting 4K via their HDMI ports.
Look, I get it: Camera companies are thirsty for recurring revenue streams just like everyone else — and normally, their only source is a pro service program like Canon Professional Services (CPS). But while some of these new features added to Canon’s webcam software seem nifty, I can’t shake the fact that basic capture cards are really cheap now, and two years of this service costs about as much as buying an Elgato CamLink 4K for yourself — which supports the same 1080p / 60p and even goes up to 4K resolution without any subscription. As for all the advanced software control, OBS may be a pain in the ass to learn, but it’s free to use.
I get it: Camera companies are thirsty
It’s a relief to see that Canon will maintain the free tier for owners who just want the basics and can’t be bothered to buy additional hardware for streaming, but now it seems like a safe bet that most new features will be kept behind the paywall. If you want to deal with the fuss of using your mirrorless camera for Zoom calls, you should budget for an external power supply anyway, so adding a capture card to the mix for a little more money seems more logical than paying a subscription.
That’s especially the route I’d go if using the Pro version of the EOS Webcam Utility remains as frustrating as the time I tried the free version last year with a Canon EOS R. It didn’t take me long to uninstall the software and run screaming back to my capture card.