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How to Use Your Laptop as a Free External Monitor for a Canon DSLR

09.7.11 @ 4:25PM Tags : , , , , , , ,

I’ve been doing a number of interviews and filming self-shot videos as part of my attempt to make my first feature film. I’ve used a number of external monitors with my 5D Mark II in the past but I don’t actually own one myself, so I haven’t been able to see the rear LCD while I’m standing in front of the camera. But as I was shooting an interview with NextWaveDV’s Tony Reale today, he mentioned that I could use the free bundled EOS Utility software to monitor the camera’s output over USB with my laptop. As the author of The DSLR Cinematography Guide, it seems stupid that I didn’t know this, but I’d either forgotten (very possible, as my brain is quite frazzled these days running the campaign) or I’d never tried it in the first place. It’s the cheapest way to get an external monitor (since it costs nothing):


Yes, EOS Utility even gives you live RGB histograms and focusing control (if you have autofocus lenses — which I don’t). I’d thought of the program in the past as something to be used for shooting stills, but can start and stop recording movies, change white balance, and zoom in to 100% as a focusing aid. Note that you will need your original Canon CD-ROM to install EOS Utility — while you can get the latest upgrade to the software (for Mac, for Windows), Canon will not to my knowledge let you install these downloads from scratch (which seems unecessarily restrictive — I mean, we have the Canon camera itself, who cares about the original CD?). When you start up EOS Utility, click on “Camera settings/remote shooting” as seen here:

Then, in the control panel that pops up, click on “Live View shoot.” And there you are, free USB monitor! While the refresh rate is not real-time, it’s definitely good enough for shooting interviews. And one of the best things about this is that unlike with an HDMI external monitor, the rear LCD stays active. I think I knew about this at one point, but I’d forgotten. Did you guys know about this?

[via NextWaveDV]

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  • I shot my first timelapse a few years ago using EOS utiliy and an old ibook with my Canon 40d :) That application is pretty neat!

  • At least for the Mac, the online point updates to the EOS Utility are actually full installs of the software. Technically you can’t install them without an existing copy on your computer but there is an easy hack found online via a search for “canon eos utility without dvd drive” or something similar.

    • Wish I knew about that before I dug through 50 old install CDs to find my original disc — only to discover it wouldn’t install without going to install Rosetta on my Mac, since it was so old!

    • That’s really handy to know I spent quite a while trying to find my original EOS install disc. I’ve put the disc in a safe place now haha.

  • I did know about this and used it on a recent short. However, it wasn’t until the end of the shoot that we figured out the refresh rate is way faster on a good Macbook Pro than on a similarly powered PC. I think it has to do with native H.264 support on the Mac.

    • funkydmunky on 09.8.11 @ 8:16PM

      Similarly powered is extremely vague. It would matter exactly what GPU was in each. As for native support I’m not sure i understand. They each have the codec installed or they don’t.

  • Any way to do this with a Nikon D7000 or D90

    • I think from memory you can do it with Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 because I use it regularly for Live View composition in stills mode and I think I discovered it will see movie mode in Live View as well. Not near my laptop to check right now.

      • Did you manage to confirm if this can be done on a Nikon D7000? I really need to have a live video feed out of my Nikon D7000 while recording video. Is this possible?

    • Also LR3 has a tether function, though I haven’t tried it for my Nikon.

  • As I have read through your book and website several times Koo, I don’t think I have ever found out how to make the rear LCD stay active when I got an HDMI external monitor connected through the mini-HDMI output (Canon 60D). Have I missed that article or brief paragraph which explains that I cannot have a dual screen when I use the HDMI monitor? – K

    • I think that’s how they all are — plug in the HDMI, lose the LCD display.

      • Actually, Magic Lantern allows you to keep the LCD on with the external HDMI. I think they introduced it since March or April 2011.

  • Great tip that I think many of us overlooked! Now if only they would allow real time viewing on an iPad or even an iPhone…think of the possibilities!

  • Koo,

    I posted this on Next Wave DV, but just so you know, if you have lost the CD you can follow the steps below to install the update downloadable from canon’s website from scratch. Hope this helps those who lost their CDs :)

    Download the updater, delete the file:
    UpdateInstaller.app/Contents/Resources/update.plist

    Run UpdateInstaller

    Cheers,
    Mark Cocks
    thedslrjourney.com

  • Daniel Leite on 09.7.11 @ 10:27PM

    Add an ipad and airdisplay and you’ll get it handheld;-)

  • Does anyone know how to get this working on Lion? After installing the utility it claims it cannot run on this version of the OS.

    • The current version, 2.9.0 won’t work on Lion, I installed the previous update 2.8.1 and it works fine. But interestingly, I don’t see 2.8.1 on the Canon site any longer, just 2.9.0 and 2.7.2. I would try 2.7.2 or see if you can find 2.8.1 somewhere else.

  • Yep, figured this out the other day after I emailed you re: using the iPad as an external monitor. Figured out that if you use a screen takeover app over WiFi (such as Air Display by Avatron Software), you can wirelessly operate your camera from the iPad via EOS Utility>Air Display>iPad.

    Pretty cool.

    Avatron’s link is http://avatron.com/apps/air-display

    –Buster

  • Very usual info, Koo. I honestly had no idea. I neglected the utility program in favor of a card reader for easy dump-n-go. Figured it really had no use….. well until now. Thanks again.

  • Just to inform that inside Mac OX Lion, the EOS Utility is not working. Any update expected from Canon?

  • At last!

    I kept wondering why all DSLR filmmakers keep discussing various small monitors (&”-10″) and never use a laptop. I understand that a small monitor is often more convenient, but focusing on large laptop screen should be much easier. So I would suppose there would be a use for such setup at least sometimes – but I never heard anyone doing that until now.

    Not a film maker myself I guessed that there might some more hidden disadvantages not obvious for me…

  • I use this ALL the time, almost everything I film in the studio is filmed this way, I love it.

  • Don’t use the EOS utility if you’re using Mac OS 10.6.8.

    That’s Canon’s recommendation. I wish they would have emailed me with this info since I use it to download everything I shoot.

    When trying liveview the program crashes. I don’t know what the other problems might be.

  • I wanted to make a monitor from a broken laptop LCD but I found out that it’s not worth it. I have seen a chinese tablet pc, HD with HDMI input that really catched my eye and it’s under 300 bucks. Must be crap, but I will try it out on the store.

  • I’m using EOS Utility quite often for interviews, but like D.B. said, it’s very buggy (using OSX 10.6.8). Don’t know if it is less buggy on Leopard/Lion, anyone?

  • I wander if there s a way to do a HDMI to USB conection. I want to build a Jib crane and was thinking of adding a remote electronic follow focus, that will unfortunately occupy the USB port of the camera, No I don’t own a external monitor other then my laptop and will need a screen to focus, the labtop doesn’t have a HDMI port, therefore I’d really like to know if there is such thing like a HDMI to USB that can be used?

  • How about remote tethering to stills (not video) to either laptop or ipad… Dont think you can do this (from a 5DMII) can you?

  • Mike Holifield on 05.28.12 @ 7:23AM

    are there any apps that work for sony, specifically the A-57? The camera does live view, and live view out via hdmi, but I can’t find much information about how to get it to work with a macbook (since macbook doesn’t have an hdmi input)

  • This is fantastic! You’ve really helped me a lot. I had forgotten about EOS Utility and was thinking I was going to have to search for cables/adapters or buy an external monitor. I’ve connected to my MacBookPro no and it works perfectly. Thanks again!

  • is there a equivalent to all of this for Nikon (D5100)

  • i’ve seen the attached video long ago, its not quite useful as it does not show the pc connectivity things. i’m too waiting for real solution for live streaming of dslr video recording in my laptop.

  • what about playback? can we playback to the laptop (monitor) as well??? thanks for your help!

  • Maybe you know:
    When I connected the hdmi from the canon 60d to my computer.
    I can’t see a live video on my laptop.
    Any idea why?

    Thanks

  • is it possible to put HDMI for monitoring in the same time lcd camera still on? I’m using sony DSLT..

  • How to view the dslr live view menu options on my laptop screen… Is that possible.
    When I connect with my usb cable to digicamcontrol I only see the live feed but not my camera menu options…

    I want my students to see the dslr lcd menu options on a laptop screen or projector while Iam teaching photography.
    I will thank any help provided…

    Ajay

  • Can you have a playback on the screen after filming a scene to check on proper facial expressions?

  • I have the EOS M with the software. It seems like I cannot use the remote viewing with this model (the remote option is visible but grayed out). This is driving me crazy as I need exactly that feature! Does anyone know of an add-on product I can buy? Thanks!

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