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Versatile WebCam C# library

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4.96 (134 votes)
23 Feb 2015CPOL
Easy to use C# WebCam library that's not plagued with weird DLL references or PInvoke calls


Update on 2015-06-06

Thanks to Static Flux for his extensive pull request. I'll try to follow up with more changes. If you have code changes to share, just submit your own pull request on GitHub.

Update on 2015-02-23

Thanks to bntr and Axel I think that resolution problem is finally resolved. Take a look at this discussion for more info. To enable easier collaboration on future improvements to the library I've setup Github repository, click here for C# Web Cam repo. If you do improve the library please feel free to submit pull requests so that others can benefit from your work.

Rest of the article is unmodified - leaving it in original form for now.


It was 2005 and time to start coding a project for Imagine Cup when I first stumbled upon the need to capture images from a webcam. Luckily, I was in a pretty good team and the teammate who took this task upon himself (Filip Popović) wrapped up a Visual Studio project after a couple days of scouring the web and reading a bunch of articles (including CodeProject ones of course ;).

Since then, whenever I needed to capture an image from a webcam I would go back to that old code from 2005. And even though the code served me well, I wasn’t pleased with it. The problem was in the foundation of the solution – Filip utilized PInvoke and used the clipboard for copying an image into a Bitmap that could be manipulated within C#. Not that I blame him or anything – me being unable to improve his solution over the years was the bigger problem. Every search I tried ended up in finding something similar (this is the only solution I liked); and the more I read about the subject the more I realized that I missed certain knowledge (C++ and DirectShow) in order to develop something better.

That’s the first reason I’m writing this article – if you are good when it comes to C++ and DirectShow, please read on and see if you can help. The second reason is that I also wanted to make this article a merging point for all fellow C# developers with the same problem – I see that StackOverflow is overflowing with questions on this subject and most solutions out there are either really (really, really) badly written or way too conceptual.

So, don’t worry that this article will be simple call for help ;). The solution I am sharing as a foundation is pretty well performing and robust, and I am sure that when you finish reading this article, you’ll finally have a solid library on which you can depend on when it comes to easily capturing images from a WebCam in C#.


The current library I’m using is completely extracted from Touchless SDK (if you have couple seconds definitely check it out – Touchless is one of those cool projects that simply invite you to start playing with them). Meaning that I’m not claiming any authorship; all I did was take out the parts that are not WebCam related in order to promote easier reuse. If this article does spark improvements, I will make sure that they are integrated back into the Touchless SDK as a way of saying thanks to Michwass and his crew for the terrific job they’ve done.

So, how do we capture an image from a WebCam?

Once you download the source code that is attached to the article you should have the following three projects:

  • Demo – simple Windows Forms project that demonstrates how a WebCam is used. It references WebCamWrapper which in turn references WebCamLib.
  • WebCamLib – this is where the magic is happening – it is a C++ project with just two files (WebCamLib.h and WebCamLib.cpp) that queries a WebCam using DirectShow and returns results.
  • WebCamWrapper – a C# wrapper on top of the C++ project that enables easy integration into the .NET world.

For a starting point I recommend a code view of Demo\MainForm.cs. This form implements most of the operations you can think of when it comes to WebCam access. First is the iteration through the WebCams hooked up to the computer:

private void MainForm_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
    if (!DesignMode)
        foreach (Camera cam in CameraService.AvailableCameras)

        if (comboBoxCameras.Items.Count > 0)
            comboBoxCameras.SelectedIndex = 0;

The CameraService class you see in the code is contained in the WebCamWrapper project and is the main wrapper over the main class CameraMethods that is the only class implemented in the C++ WebCamLib project. CameraService exposes AvailableCameras as a list of Camera classes that contain the logic for a certain WebCam. Once the user makes a choice of camera, you’ll obviously want to start the capture:

private CameraFrameSource _frameSource;
private static Bitmap _latestFrame;

private void btnStart_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    if (_frameSource != null && _frameSource.Camera == comboBoxCameras.SelectedItem)


_frameSource is the variable in which we’ll save the currently selected Camera. Touchless developers decided not to tie their capture source exclusively to WebCam (good choice obviously) so they made a generic IFrameSource interface that CameraFrameSource implements… and that’s how this class ended up as a container instead of the Camera class directly. The rest of the code is pretty self-explanatory – if we select the same frame source, we’ll just exit; if not we will thrash the old camera and start a new one. Onto the startCapturing method:

private void startCapturing()
        Camera c = (Camera)comboBoxCameras.SelectedItem;
        setFrameSource(new CameraFrameSource(c));
        _frameSource.Camera.CaptureWidth = 320;
        _frameSource.Camera.CaptureHeight = 240;
        _frameSource.Camera.Fps = 20;
        _frameSource.NewFrame += OnImageCaptured;

        pictureBoxDisplay.Paint += new PaintEventHandler(drawLatestImage);
    catch (Exception ex)
        comboBoxCameras.Text = "Select A Camera";

private void setFrameSource(CameraFrameSource cameraFrameSource)
    if (_frameSource == cameraFrameSource)

    _frameSource = cameraFrameSource;

private void drawLatestImage(object sender, PaintEventArgs e)
    if (_latestFrame != null)
        e.Graphics.DrawImage(_latestFrame, 0, 0, _latestFrame.Width, _latestFrame.Height);

public void OnImageCaptured(Touchless.Vision.Contracts.IFrameSource frameSource, 
                            Touchless.Vision.Contracts.Frame frame, double fps)
    _latestFrame = frame.Image;

We start off by fetching the selected Camera from the ComboBox which we then use to create and set the CameraFrameSource. Lines after that influence the capture parameters (be sure to remember these three lines as we will be getting back to them later) and after that we have a subscription to two events.

The first event, NewFrame, is raised whenever WebCamLib captures an image from the WebCam. As you can see, we save that image into a local variable _latestFrame and from there you can do any additional image processing you like. The second event is just a fancy (and more efficient) way of saying pictureBoxDisplay.Image = frame.Image. For some reason, setting the Image property on a PictureBox too often causes flicker and we obviously do not want that – instead we resort to invalidating the PictureBox and then handling its paint event to draw the current image from the WebCam.

Now that all that is implemented, we just StartFrameCapture and enjoy the view from our WebCam. Try it out – press F5 and then click the ‘Start’ button once the Form loads up.

Rent is too damn high

When you grow tired of watching yourself, simply close the form. Once you are back in Visual Studio, check out the thrashOldCamera method (that is utilized from the Form_Closing and btnStop_Click methods also):

private void thrashOldCamera()
    if (_frameSource != null)
        _frameSource.NewFrame -= OnImageCaptured;
        pictureBoxDisplay.Paint -= new PaintEventHandler(drawLatestImage);

Well, nothing too fancy – we unsubscribe from the two mentioned events, set the _frameSource variable to null, and call Dispose on Camera so that the C++ WebCamLib can perform cleanup operations.

Believe it or not – that’s it. There is nothing more critical to explain or implement in order to use images from your WebCam in C#. The extra code that exists in MainForm.cs is just there for saving the current image:

private void btnSave_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    if (_frameSource == null)

    Bitmap current = (Bitmap)_latestFrame.Clone();
    using (SaveFileDialog sfd = new SaveFileDialog())
        sfd.Filter = "*.bmp|*.bmp";
        if (sfd.ShowDialog() == DialogResult.OK)


And bringing up the configuration dialog:

private void btnConfig_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    // snap camera
    if (_frameSource != null)

Configuration Dialog


As you can see from the code – the implementation is pretty easy and clean (unlike some other approaches that use WIA, obscure DLLs, clipboard, or hard disk for saving images, etc.), meaning that there are not many problems. Actually, currently there is only one problem I can identify. You remember these three lines?

_frameSource.Camera.CaptureWidth = 320;
_frameSource.Camera.CaptureHeight = 240;
_frameSource.Camera.Fps = 20;

Well, it turns out that they are not working as advertised. First, let’s talk about FPS. If we dive into the Camera class (line 254) here is what we will see (the method that gets called after an image is captured from the webcam):

private void ImageCaptured(Bitmap bitmap)
    DateTime dtCap = DateTime.Now;

    // Always save the bitmap
    lock (_bitmapLock)
        _bitmap = bitmap;

    // FPS affects the callbacks only
    if (_fpslimit != -1)
        if (_dtLastCap != DateTime.MinValue)
            double milliseconds = ((dtCap.Ticks - _dtLastCap.Ticks) / TimeSpan.TicksPerMillisecond) * 1.15;
            if (milliseconds + _timeBehind >= _timeBetweenFrames)
                _timeBehind = (milliseconds - _timeBetweenFrames);
                if (_timeBehind < 0.0)
                    _timeBehind = 0.0;
                _timeBehind = 0.0;
                return; // ignore the frame

    if (OnImageCaptured != null)
        var fps = (int)(1 / dtCap.Subtract(_dtLastCap).TotalSeconds);
        OnImageCaptured.Invoke(this, new CameraEventArgs(bitmap, fps));

    _dtLastCap = dtCap;

Even if you just glanced at the method, you probably saw that most of it is dedicated to calculating the time between frames and ditching the frame if it came too soon. Which is not too bad, I guess – controlling the frame rate on C# level rather than on hardware level will probably not kill you.

But what about finding out the other two lines, which influence the size of the captured image, also not working (line 235 in Camera.cs)?

private void CaptureCallbackProc(int dataSize, byte[] data)
    // Do the magic to create a bitmap
    int stride = _width * 3;
    GCHandle handle = GCHandle.Alloc(data, GCHandleType.Pinned);
    var scan0 = (int)handle.AddrOfPinnedObject();
    scan0 += (_height - 1) * stride;
    var b = new Bitmap(_width, _height, -stride, PixelFormat.Format24bppRgb, (IntPtr)scan0);
    // Copy the image using the Thumbnail function to also resize if needed
    var copyBitmap = (Bitmap)b.GetThumbnailImage(_width, _height, null, IntPtr.Zero);
    //var copyBitmap = (Bitmap)b.Clone();

    // Now you can free the handle


As you can see, the image size is actually faked. Majority of cameras I’ve tested out will tend to return images in the 640x480 size. Which is fine in most cases – if you need a smaller image, b.GetThumbnailImage will allow you to easily resize it. However, if you wish a higher resolution image, you are stuck and that’s not a good thing.

So, anyone from the C++ world is more than welcome to help with this. The following links I’ve read gave me the impression that all that’s needed to be done is somehow invoke the Video Format window in C++, the same way we are now invoking the Video Source Configuration window (for setting Brightness, Contracts, etc):

Video Format Dialog

  • Setting up Webcam properties with DirectShow forum post
  • EasyWebCam project – for most part it is bad, but it does have a Video Format window. I decompiled WebCam_Capture.dll from the project only to find out that everything is implemented using PInvoke - meaning that it’s useless for our approach. So, if somebody can bring up that same window using C++ and DirectShow – please help out by extending the existing CameraMethods class.


I hope that you leave this article with that warm and fuzzy feeling of happiness knowing that you can now easily communicate with your WebCam even though you are just a simple C# developer.

In case you have anything to add, be my guest and go wild - I’ll be watching the comments section. Any calls for help (even this simple approach is not simple enough for you), suggestions (you did the same thing using a different approach), criticism (you did the same thing using a different approach and you don’t like this one), or offers for help… are all welcome.


  • 2015-06-06 - Merged Static Flux's extensive pull request
  • 2013-01-01 - Added a link to the source modified by Jake Dreww[^]. Still searching for a working solution when it comes to resolution settings. Some leads:
  • 2010-10-07 - Initial version of the article.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Chief Technology Officer
United States United States
If you liked this article, consider reading other articles by me. For republishing article on other websites, please contact me by leaving a comment.

Comments and Discussions

GeneralRe: Great, but a WPF sample? Pin
stepe12-Nov-16 7:10
Memberstepe12-Nov-16 7:10 
QuestionCamera Resolution Pin
MichaelWechter24-Feb-15 11:25
MemberMichaelWechter24-Feb-15 11:25 
AnswerRe: Camera Resolution Pin
lepipele25-Feb-15 4:25
Memberlepipele25-Feb-15 4:25 
QuestionTilt (FlipVertical) - now working Pin
Axel Arnold Bangert20-Feb-15 11:30
MemberAxel Arnold Bangert20-Feb-15 11:30 
QuestionC++ - Resolution has been solved 25-Aug-12 17:36 by "btnr" Pin
Axel Arnold Bangert19-Feb-15 7:05
MemberAxel Arnold Bangert19-Feb-15 7:05 
QuestionExtremly fine Tutorial Pin
Axel Arnold Bangert17-Feb-15 13:26
MemberAxel Arnold Bangert17-Feb-15 13:26 
QuestionFreeze on StopFrameCapture when disconnecting USB camera Pin
Member 773389514-Jan-15 16:36
MemberMember 773389514-Jan-15 16:36 
Bug(Solved) System.AccessViolationException - error and fix Pin
Member 861205224-Oct-14 1:19
MemberMember 861205224-Oct-14 1:19 

Used this sample but got errors on a Surface Pro 3 when switching between different web cams:
"Attempted to read or write protected memory. This is often an indication that other memory is corrupt."

Looked into the code and some of it does really not make sense to me. This is a mix of comments and things I changed to get it working.

Note that this is impressions, I have not looked throughly at the code apart from noting some very obvious strangeness and making some changes to make it work for my current needs.

CameraFrameSource.StopFrameCapture() subscribes multiple event listeners instead of unsubscribing. Should be changed to:
this.Camera.OnImageCaptured -= OnImageCaptured;

Demo project / Demo.MainForm.thrashOldCamera() calls _frameSource.Camera.Dispose().
Should be changed to:

Actually, this one leads to a big can of worms. I would not expect to call Dispose() on this object because it is still referenced, using the "disposed" object again when video stream is restarted for the camera. Although it _is_ allright (!), because dispose does not touch the object itself, it calls StopCapture() which again calls _cameraMethods.StopCamera(). All this while the event handling will keep triggering (repeatedly) in the disposed object, because we did not call StopFrameCapture() to unsubscribe. Nasty.

The Camera constructor subscribes to the
_cameraMethods.OnImageCapture += CaptureCallbackProc;

In other words - EVERY camera instance will attempt to handle the video stream each time the OnImageCapture event triggers, not just the current / active camera.

I worked around this by adding a boolean flag that I toggled in StartCapture() / StopCapture(). Not a clean fix, but got it working this way and called it a day.

Thank you for the sample! Sorry the negative parts, I wanted to highlight the issues in addition to leave a quick summary in case other people run into exceptions and trouble with multiple cameras.
GeneralRe: (Solved) System.AccessViolationException - error and fix Pin
Lance Roberts18-Nov-14 16:49
MemberLance Roberts18-Nov-14 16:49 
GeneralRe: (Solved) System.AccessViolationException - error and fix Pin
subrat13231-Mar-15 9:40
Membersubrat13231-Mar-15 9:40 
Questionshould StopFrameCapture() unregister the OnImageCaptured handler? Pin
tetdai6-Oct-14 8:55
Membertetdai6-Oct-14 8:55 
AnswerRe: should StopFrameCapture() unregister the OnImageCaptured handler? Pin
Lance Roberts18-Nov-14 16:51
MemberLance Roberts18-Nov-14 16:51 
QuestionSet Resolution? Pin
sitichai0184-Sep-14 0:53
Membersitichai0184-Sep-14 0:53 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
yumbelie23-May-14 9:05
Memberyumbelie23-May-14 9:05 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 Pin
lepipele5-Jun-14 13:07
Memberlepipele5-Jun-14 13:07 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 Pin
yumbelie5-Jun-14 13:27
Memberyumbelie5-Jun-14 13:27 
GeneralRe: My vote of 5 Pin
lepipele7-Jun-14 17:50
Memberlepipele7-Jun-14 17:50 
QuestionVs2013 - unable to compile Pin
Thornik13-Apr-14 4:16
MemberThornik13-Apr-14 4:16 
QuestionVisual studio 2008 running Versatile Webcam C# Pin
Member 1070441927-Mar-14 6:44
MemberMember 1070441927-Mar-14 6:44 
AnswerRe: Visual studio 2008 running Versatile Webcam C# Pin
lepipele5-Jun-14 13:10
Memberlepipele5-Jun-14 13:10 
Questionmultiple pictureBox to view mor than one cam Pin
Member 1031676328-Oct-13 20:01
MemberMember 1031676328-Oct-13 20:01 
AnswerRe: multiple pictureBox to view mor than one cam Pin
free5lot29-Dec-13 20:56
Memberfree5lot29-Dec-13 20:56 
QuestionpictureBox crops the webcam preview Even in stretch mode Pin
Member 1031676328-Oct-13 18:35
MemberMember 1031676328-Oct-13 18:35 
AnswerRe: pictureBox crops the webcam preview Even in stretch mode Pin
Member 1031676328-Oct-13 18:50
MemberMember 1031676328-Oct-13 18:50 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Shambhoo kumar16-Sep-13 18:16
professionalShambhoo kumar16-Sep-13 18:16 

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Posted 7 Nov 2010


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