You may already own a fantastic webcam. If you have an iPhone, you can level up your webcam quality — for free!

Enter NeuralCam Live

The makers of NeuralCam Night Mode, which makes it easy to take low-light photos with your iPhone, also make NeuralCam Live. With the free version of this app, which runs on iPhones or iPod Touch devices running iOS 13.0 or later, it turns your device into a high-quality webcam. 

Those with Android devices may want to check out the highly-regarded Reincubate Camo app to do something similar.

NeuralCam Live Zoom meeting
A screenshot of an iPhone using NeuralCam Live on a Zoom meeting.

About NeuralCam Live

The app is free, although you can upgrade to NeuralCam Live +Plus for $4.99 monthly or $29.99 yearly. Using it for free, NeuralCam offers high quality webcam streams if you connect it via USB cable directly to your computer. IT works with Zoom, Google Meet, OBS, Teams and many other video call and streaming software and browsers on your Mac. 

NeuralCam Live +Plus

If you upgrade to NeuralCam Live +Plus, you can also use different modes. These include Ring Light, which creates a face-following ring light, using the light from your iPhone if necessary. Head-Bubble Mode creates a dark vignette around your head to hide the background. Naturally, NeuralCam offers Low Light Mode, as you would expect. This brightens the video using a pared-down method similar to the BlackSight app. 

NeuralCam Live using Low Light Mode.
NeuralCam Live using Low Light Mode.

You can see how these upgrades work on your phone in Preview Mode, but unless you upgrade, it won’t show up on your video call.

NeuralCam Gesture Guard in action.
NeuralCam Gesture Guard in action.

Gesture Guard is interesting. Using AI, it detects things such as face touches. This includes scratching your face, picking your nose, yawning and other motions. In practice, it worked most of the time. I’m sorry to say that I did not test it for guarding against nudity. However, since I’m reasonably thorough, I am happy to report that it instantly blurred a middle finger.

NeuralCam Live also offers several different filters. Original, pearl, gum, and moody are free. Smooth, vintage, t&o, crisp, airy, b-light, cinema, forest and dark require the upgrade.

How is the setup?

The setup is simple. You download the app on your iPhone and follow the prompts, connect to your Mac with a USB cable, install a plugin to your Mac and select it when you open Zoom or whatever video call app you use.

As a bonus, this also charges the iPhone. There’s also no possibility of your iPhone/webcam running out of juice during a meeting!

In action

The iPhone used as a webcam.
The iPhone used as a webcam for Zoom.

I mounted my iPhone SE 2020 using a Square Jellyfish tripod mount and an Oben CTT-1000 carbon fiber tabletop tripod

I used it on numerous video calls, including two with Zoom, and one with Introvoke, Google Meet and Skype. I also tested it on Meetfox, although I wasn’t on a call with someone, and it worked well there as well. 

The only “issue” I had was curiously when I was opening the app to write about it for this article and while it was not connected to any video app on the iMac. The app crashed on me several times in succession. This occurred even when I swiped up to close the app and then opened it again. This then happened again when I was connected to the iMac again. I finally figured it out. I had switched my phone to Airplane Mode prior to using it as a webcam during those times. After all, I didn’t want to suddenly have my phone receive text messages or calls. But I found that the app seems to need a connection to launch all of its functions. Once it’s fully launched, then you can switch to Airplane Mode without further issues.

A high-quality webcam without spending boatloads

In use, I found it rock solid, delivering a quality webcam image, which people noticed right away. It’s considerably higher quality than the built-in iMac webcam. Sharper, more detailed, brighter.

I used the back camera on my phone, meaning that the screen and interface are facing away from me. I feel like the possibility exists that I might attempt to adjust the iPhone and inadvertently hit a button on the screen, although I have not done this yet. If I mistakenly touch Gesture Guard or another filter, I would have to flip it back and try to adjust it, most likely needing to take it off the Square Jellyfish holder. Perhaps there could be some sort of setting lock to avoid this?

Regardless, I am absolutely thrilled about upgrading to a quality webcam without having to spend any money.