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I've got an iMac 27" paired with a Thunderbolt 27" display that's rotated to portrait mode. Both of them have integrated webcams. Some applications are screwy and inconsistent about letting me pick which webcam to use.

I always want to use the webcam on the iMac and never the one on the Thunderbolt display, especially as it's rotated so the webcam image is not only off-center, but 90 degrees in the wrong direction.

Is there any way (defaults setting or something) for me to disable the webcam on the thunderbolt display, but still let the webcam on my iMac to function?

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6 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Apple don't provide any way to control camera devices centrally, it is left up the program in use to provide the ability to choose.

Generally, well written programs give you a choice, and poorly written (and, generally, poorly supported) programs don't. (Photobooth, I'm looking at you.)

The only way I know to force a program to not use a camera is a hack that's been around a while and that is to use something like iChat to make the other iSight busy so it's not picked up by any other program.

Another, older, hack is to remove the kexts that support the devices, however, that would stop all the iSights from working, so, in this case, not a good idea.

So, in the end, there's no answer, but I'm sure there's an app that people would pay for in there somewhere.

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If using FaceTime, go to MenuBar > Video > camera and select the camera for the built-in display (or any of the external monitors) as you prefer.

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I'm posting this for progeny. It seems that in most apps now (including Photo Booth) there is a Camera menu item that allows you to switch the camera you're using. For the Thunderbolt Display the menu items are: Camera > FaceTime HD Camera (Display).

I'm not sure if this has always been here and I just missed it or if an update resolved the issue. Regardless it's great to have some control over which camera you want to use.

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If you are using Skype, this is something that you can set - go to Skype (menu in the Skype app) -> Preferences -> Audio/video, and select the video input from the drop down menu. Then select "Camera". Perform the same procedure for editing the microphone preferences.

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I use an app called iGlasses which can switch between different webcams. My 2011 MacBook Pro is normally used with the lid closed, thus making it impossible to use the FaceTime camera.

With iGlasses I can choose between a firewire iSight, a firewire Mini DV video camera, the built-in FaceTime camera or a USB webcam. The app is by www.Ecamm.com and can be trialled free but costs $19.95 to buy.

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Hmmm...thanks for the answer, but I'm not sure this solves my issue. I think that with iGlasses, it'd let me pick which camera just for the iGlasses app. My actual problem is with Google Hangouts or Skype Video, where both apps sometimes pick the wrong webcam and doesn't seem to detect the right one. I'd like to disable the external monitor webcam so that no app (like Google Hangout) ever has the chance to pick the wrong one. –  Ted Naleid Jan 11 '12 at 20:03
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The trivial non-technical way which works in all cases is to put a small piece of black electrical tape over the camera. Then, even if a program manages to change the settings to turn the camera on, the camera will not be usable.

To re-enable the camera when you want to use it, remove the tape.

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