Three best document cameras

Allen Foster

A document camera isn't limited to working with documents.

In this age of ever-increasing awareness, concerned individuals are constantly looking for better ways to do their part to make the planet a little greener. A document camera is designed for anyone who regularly presents to a group. Instead of scanning, printing, and handing out materials that will ultimately be discarded, a presenter can reproduce the source material on a large screen so everyone can follow along without the need to create disposable materials.

A document camera is useful in a wide variety of situations, including teaching; giving lectures, demonstrations, and business presentations; communicating; and archiving materials. If you'd like to learn more about these handy devices and find the one that is best for your needs, keep reading.

Considerations when choosing document cameras

Compatibility: Although most document cameras have software that runs on a variety of operating systems, not all are that flexible. Make sure the document camera you are considering is compatible with your OS.

Inputs: Running presentations from a saved file on your laptop or an SD card requires auxiliary inputs on your document camera. If this is how you prefer to work, you will need a USB input and an SC card slot on your unit.

Outputs: If you'll be displaying your presentation on a large video monitor, that is different from connecting it to a projector. The best document cameras have multiple outputs: VGA, HDMI, and USB.

Resolution: Lower-end models may have just one option, but document cameras that cost more offer a variety of resolutions, such as XGA (1024 x 768 pixels), WXGA (1280 x 800), UXGA (1600 x 1200), and more. It's best to get a unit with a range of outputs.

Ease of adjustment: Whether it's a simple gooseneck or a series of arms, tightening knobs, and swivels, the greater the flexibility your document camera offers, the better you will be able to achieve a clear focus.

Additional features: Auto focus, memory (for saving images and presentations), anti-glare, optical zoom, scroll, freeze, and split screen are all features that can help you deliver a more dynamic presentation.

Document camera prices: Approximately $75 is the crossover point for document cameras. Below that and it can be hit or miss with quality and desired features, so proceed with caution. Once you're looking in the $100 to $250 range, you should be able to find most of what you want at an acceptable quality level. Above $250 will get you lightweight, fully positionable, high-resolution models with memory. Some document cameras in this price range even have the added benefit of being wireless.


Q. What is the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom?

A. An optical zoom is achieved through physical means, in other words, adjusting the lens, and it offers much sharper results. A digital zoom is similar to zooming in on a small image on your computer screen -- you can make it bigger, but the larger you go, the fuzzier the image becomes.

Q. Why is there a microphone on my document camera?

A. Besides allowing you to boost your voice for larger audiences (through an amplification system), when you make a presentation with a mic, you can record both the video and audio to preserve the entire lesson for future use.

Documet cameras we recommend

Best of the best: Elmo MO-1 Visual Presenter

Our take: High-quality compact, durable, and adaptable document camera.

What we like: Easily portable. Folds down to the size of a small stack of papers but only weighs 2.5 pounds. Camera head has a 300° swivel and can output to a variety of devices, as well as accept data from SD card slot, HDMI input, or USB port.

What we dislike: Parts of instruction manual are difficult to understand. Rather pricey compared to others on this list.

Best bang for your buck: Ipevo Point 2 View USB Camera

Our take: Remarkably functional. Good for Mac, PC, and Chromebook users who are interested in an entry-level model.

What we like: Great balance of features and affordability. Adjustable stand coupled with rotating camera head provides a decent amount of flexibility when lining up the shot. Macro mode lets you move in as tight as two inches.

What we dislike: At two megapixels, offers a little less clarity than pricier cameras.

Choice 3: Lumens Ladibug Document Camera

Our take: Reasonably priced. Designed for use in a number of group situations ranging from school classrooms to boardrooms to lecture halls.

What we like: No-frills, lightweight, quality unit that works with Macs and PCs. Can be used independently or with interactive whiteboard. Features 4x digital zoom for detailed image capture.

What we dislike: If you like bells and whistles, this isn't the best choice for you. The camera does what it does well, but it doesn't necessarily dazzle.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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