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Acquire Images from Webcams

Create a Webcam Object

To acquire images from a webcam, you first create a webcam object. Use the webcam function to create the object. You can use it in three ways:

  • Connect to the first or only camera by using no input arguments

  • Specify a camera by name by using the webcam name (as a character vector) in an input argument

  • Specify a camera by the list order using an index number as the input argument

Note

In desktop versions of MATLAB®, webcam support is available through the MATLAB Support Package for USB Webcams. For instructions, see Install the MATLAB Support Package for USB Webcams. Webcams are also supported in MATLAB Online™. For more information, see Webcam Support in MATLAB Online.

Find the name of your camera by using the webcamlist function. Run webcamlist first to make sure that MATLAB can discover your camera(s). In this example, it discovers the built-in webcam in the Dell® computer, and a connected Logitech® webcam.

webcamlist
ans =

  2×1 cell array

    {'Logitech Webcam 250'}
    {'Dell Camera C250'}

No Input Argument

If you use the webcam function with no input argument, it creates the object and connects to the first camera returned by webcamlist. In this case, it uses the Logitech camera, since that appears in the list first.

% Use cam as the name of the object.

cam = webcam
cam = 

webcam with properties:

                     Name: 'Logitech Webcam 250'
               Resolution: '640x480'
     AvailableResolutions: {1x11 cell}
                 Exposure: -4
                     Gain: 253
               Saturation: 32
             WhiteBalance: 8240
             ExposureMode: 'auto'
                Sharpness: 48
               Brightness: 128
    BacklightCompensation: 1
                 Contrast: 32

When you create the webcam object, it connects to the camera, establishes exclusive access, and starts streaming data. You can then preview the data and acquire images using the snapshot function, as described in Acquire Webcam Images.

Note

The only properties available in MATLAB Online are Name, AvailableResolutions, and Resolution. The default resolution of the webcam is the only resolution supported in MATLAB Online for the R2018a release.

Index as Input Argument

If you use the webcam function with an index as the input argument, it creates the object corresponding to that index and connects to that camera. If you only have one camera, you do not need to use the index. You can use the webcam function with no input argument and it creates the object with the single camera that is connected. The index is useful when you have multiple cameras.

The index corresponds to the order of cameras in the cell array returned by webcamlist when you have multiple cameras connected. In this example, device 1 is the Logitech camera and device 2 is the built-in Dell webcam.

webcamlist
ans =

  2×1 cell array

    {'Logitech Webcam 250'}
    {'Dell Camera C250'}
% Use cam as the name of the object. Use 2 to connect to the Dell camera.

cam = webcam(2)
cam = 

webcam with properties:

                Name: 'Dell Camera C250'
          Resolution: '320x240'
AvailableResolutions: ('320x240' '160x120' '80x60')
          Brightness: 128
            Contrast: 32
                Gain: 0

Camera Name as Input Argument

If you use the webcam function with the name of the camera (as a character vector) as the input argument, it creates the object and connects to the camera with that name. Use the exact name that is displayed by the webcamlist function, such as 'Logitech Webcam 250', or use a shortened version of the name, such as the camera brand. In this case, you can simply use 'Logitech' to connect to the Logitech webcam.

% Use cam as the name of the object. Use 'Logitech' to connect to the Logitech camera.

cam = webcam('Logitech')
cam = 

webcam with properties:

                     Name: 'Logitech Webcam 250'
               Resolution: '640x480'
     AvailableResolutions: {1x11 cell}
                 Exposure: -4
                     Gain: 253
               Saturation: 32
             WhiteBalance: 8240
             ExposureMode: 'auto'
                Sharpness: 48
               Brightness: 128
    BacklightCompensation: 1
                 Contrast: 32

When you create the webcam object, it connects to the camera, establishes exclusive access, and starts streaming data. You can then preview the data and acquire images using the snapshot function, as described in Acquire Webcam Images.

Acquire Webcam Images

This example describes the typical workflow for acquiring images from webcams and bringing them into MATLAB.

  1. Find the cameras that are connected to your system, and make sure MATLAB can detect them.

    webcamlist
    
    ans =
    
      2×1 cell array
    
        {'Logitech Webcam 250'}
        {'Dell Camera C250'}

    The output is a list of any webcams that are connected to your system. In this example, it discovers a built-in webcam in the Dell computer, and a connected Logitech webcam.

  2. Create a webcam object called cam, using the Logitech camera.

    cam = webcam('Logitech')
    
    cam = 
    
    webcam with properties:
    
                         Name: 'Logitech Webcam 250'
                   Resolution: '640x480'
         AvailableResolutions: {1x11 cell}
                     Exposure: -4
                         Gain: 253
                   Saturation: 32
                 WhiteBalance: 8240
                 ExposureMode: 'auto'
                    Sharpness: 48
                   Brightness: 128
        BacklightCompensation: 1
                     Contrast: 32
  3. Preview the image. The size of the preview image is determined by the value of the Resolution property. The preview window shows a live RGB image from the webcam. The preview window also displays the camera name, resolution, frame rate, and the timestamp in seconds. Timestamp is the elapsed time since the object was created. To preview your image, call the preview function on the object name, which is cam in this example.

    preview(cam)
    

    The preview updates dynamically, so if you change a property while previewing, the image changes to reflect the property change.

  4. Set any properties that you need to change. For example, you might want to change the resolution.

    First you can see the resolutions your camera supports using the AvailableResolutions property.

    cam.AvailableResolutions
    
    ans = 
    
       Columns 1 through 6
    
          '640x480'  '160x90'  '160x100'  '160x120'  '176x144' '320x180'
    
       Columns 7 through 11
    
          '320x200'  '320x240'  '352x288'  '640x360'  '640x400'

    Change the resolution.

    cam.Resolution = '320x240';
    

    For information on which properties you can set for webcams and how to set them, see Set Properties for Webcam Acquisition.

  5. Close the preview at any time using the closePreview function.

    closePreview(cam)
    

    If you do not explicitly close the preview, it closes when you clear the webcam object.

  6. Acquire a single image from the camera using the snapshot function and assign it to the variable img.

    img = snapshot(cam);
    
  7. Display the acquired image.

    imshow(img)

    You can also use the image function to display the acquired image.

    image(img)
  8. Clean up by clearing the object.

    clear('cam');

For an example showing how to acquire images in a loop, see Acquire Webcam Images in a Loop. For a list of the functions you can use with the webcam support, see Supported Functions for Webcam.

See Also

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