Updated February 19, 2020 by Daniel Imperiale

The 8 Best Document Cameras

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This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in March of 2015. If presentations are a key component of your job — whether in a classroom, training room, boardroom, or even a video conferencing suite — you can incorporate exciting new visual technologies using one of these document cameras. These innovative electronic imaging devices can be used to display three-dimensional objects, pages from a book, artwork, people, and more. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best document camera on Amazon.

8. Ipevo Point 2 View

7. Hue HD Pro

6. Elmo 1351 TT-X1

5. AverVision FlexArm U50

4. Lumens DC170 Ladibug

3. Epson DC-21 High-Definition

2. Ipevo V4K Ultra High Definition

1. Elmo MX-P

Editor's Notes

February 17, 2020:

The new Ipevo V4K Ultra High Definition bested a pair of Ipevo models on our previous list in categories like price and build quality, but it's the 4K resolution that really set it apart. Its Sony-made sensor is no slouch either, coming from a world-renowned imaging company. The Elmo MX-P is another new addition to the market that offers users 4K resolution, and its form factor and well-placed, intuitive controls earned it a top spot.

Elsewhere, we saw the arrival of some upgraded models, including the Lumens DC170 Ladibug and the Elmo 1351 TT-X1, as well as the inclusion of a previously overlooked model, the Epson DC-21 High-Definition. That Epson model may not attain 4K, but its HD video is bolstered by a 12x optical zoom that can combine with a 10x digital zoom to really get you close in on a variety of details. It's also from a company known for making outstanding projectors, so you can safely assume it won't have any connection problems when setting up a classroom.

Interactivity On A Large Scale

The camera can also be mounted on a ceiling to capture a wide angle of view, depending on what it is you're trying to present.

Interactivity is a popular theme these days. When you think of interactive information, what comes to mind? Social networking services, for example, allow you to share thoughts with friends, fellow colleagues, and anyone else who's interested in you or a group of people sharing a common interest.

The internet is another prime example of high-tech interactivity at work, given that it connects people to one another through information that one would otherwise not be aware of or would have to research in a library alone. Modern mobile phones connect people not only through voice, but also through built-in digital camera technology that offers the ability to video chat and share experiences and snapshots using a small screen. Camera technology doubles as an interactive teaching tool to distribute knowledge and imagery to large audiences in an academic setting. It is this concept that leads us to the unique niche of the document camera.

Also known as a visual presenter or visualizer, a document camera is a real-time image capture device that has a main purpose of displaying an object to a large audience. The document camera is capable of magnifying and projecting images of both two and three-dimensional objects as well as information on overhead transparencies. Whether you're working in a classroom, video conference room, or even a courtroom, the document camera delivers interactive visual technology in a live presentation to a group of people. Most document cameras are mounted on arms and stands in order for their lenses to be positioned over a page in a book, a piece of artwork, or a three-dimensional object of some kind.

The main components of a document camera include the optics, the camera itself, the lighting system, and the motherboard. The optics define the resulting image quality of whatever is being shown to the audience. The unit's optics make use of an iris (or aperture), which regulates the amount of light passing through its lens.

The smaller the aperture, the greater depth and level of detail that can be shown for an object. Just the same, the greater the light intensity on the document camera, the more independent its operation can be from surrounding light sources. This comes in particularly handy if you intend to make a presentation in a dark room. The motherboard has its greatest influence on the produced image quality. As an object increases in size, it requires a higher degree of image resolution, which means that more data must be processed by the document camera at once. That said, the camera's motherboard must be powerful enough to handle that data.

Unlike an overhead projector, the document camera is capable of zooming in on the object it intends to project to an audience, which allows it to behave like a transparency by enlarging small print or text from a book in real-time. The camera can also be mounted on a ceiling to capture a wide angle of view, depending on what it is you're trying to present. Another fundamental difference with this technology is that document cameras are typically less bulky than their projector counterparts. Such projectors take up a lot of room. The document camera is thinner, lightweight, and easier to adjust. Finally, a document camera does not require dimming of the surrounding light conditions in order to make a presentation easy to see.

Document cameras can be connected to a computer via USB cable or to an interactive whiteboard. Either one of these options provides a method of central collaboration. Central collaboration is a fancy way of saying that a group of presenters (or an audience) can be engaged with a single topic at the same time.

A Brief History Of Document Cameras

The earliest attempts at creating document cameras occurred in the 1970s. These first cameras consisted of conventional video cameras placed onto copy stands with additional lighting added so they could operate in a dark room.

As an answer to the decline in popularity of overhead projectors in the late 1980s and as the need for presenting increasingly elaborate documents to large audiences became more important, both WolfVision and the Elmo Company developed the first document cameras at the same time. The cameras were both displayed at the Photokina trade fair in 1988.

The development and rapid advancements of both digital display and computer technology also helped to drive the adoption of the document camera over traditional projector technology throughout the 1990s into today's presentation market.

The Best Camera To Suit Your Needs

Because document cameras are so versatile in nature with respect to their applications, one must take into account how they plan to use a document camera when making a purchase. If you plan on presentations with extremely large objects, then perhaps a ceiling model with a rotating camera head and multiple output resolutions will be a good choice, since you'll need to move it around quite a bit to get the proper angle.

An on-board adjustable zoom dial is another key feature to look for, as the clarity of your image will greatly depend on an object's size.

By contrast, if your primary need will be for office or classroom presentations, then investing in a smaller desktop model will probably suffice. An on-board adjustable zoom dial is another key feature to look for, as the clarity of your image will greatly depend on an object's size.

Compatibility and connections are also important factors to consider. If using a mix of both Macs and PCs, one must ensure the document camera is compatible with both the Windows and Apple operating systems and that it has a USB connection. Some of the most modern document cameras also have HDMI ports for hooking up to high-definition display monitors.

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Daniel Imperiale
Last updated on February 19, 2020 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).

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