The best document cameras take a focal point of the class and place it on the big screen to be talked about as a group. These devices are also a really great way to include more detail to an online lesson or video materials for students to watch later. Overhead projectors are very much a thing of the past now that these versatile cameras are here to stay.
A document camera (opens in new tab), not be be mistaken for the best webcams (opens in new tab), lets you share live video footage of a document, small objects, experiments, a book, and more, right on any display your classroom may have. You can also use this on platforms such as Zoom to include more video angles when teaching lessons online. Or make video resources using multiple camera angles for a more immersive learning experience.
Most of these cameras also double as scanners, using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to pull text and digitize it. Look for WiFi connectivity for the greatest compatibility. It's also worth noting that USB is great for online use with computers but those packing HDMI are built for in-classroom use mainly. You may want to stream over Zoom, or similar, directly to students' devices in class so they all have a close-up view wherever they are.
Here are the very best document scanners for teachers to help you find the one that serves your needs best.
- Epson DC-21 Document Camera Review (opens in new tab)
- How to Use a Document Camera for Remote Learning (opens in new tab)
Best document cameras
1. IPEVO Do-Cam: Best document camera overall
The IPEVO Do-Cam is a superb document camera option for teachers who don't want to break the bank but do want plenty of features, all in a portable package. Thanks to a fold-down design and built-in cable store, this is quick and easy to pack up to move between classrooms.
Plug in via USB and the cam is ready to go with all its Full HD resolution quality, presuming you have a device with a USB-A connection – sorry, Macbook users. A one button switch lets you jump between the 8MP web camera and document scanner mode easily. The frame rate is decent and at 0.74 pounds it's lightweight, plus if you want to really stand out it comes in yellow as well as gray.
2. Aver U50: Best document camera for compatibility
The AVer U50 is a very versatile document camera, both in its flexibility, using the moveable arm, as well as its compatibility. It uses USB and works easily with Mac, Windows, and Chromebook devices. The 5MP CMOS camera is plenty powerful enough and offers 8x digital zoom. This camera is wide-angle and features an image-clarifying six LED lights, which are powered via the USB connection.
The cam is portable enough and lightweight but could offer even more flexibility in the head movement. It is relatively affordable and represents a very capable and easy-to-use option backed by stable AVer software.
3. Inswan INS-1: Best affordable document camera
The Inswan INS-1 is a superb option for anyone who wants a document camera for a little less cost yet still packs in lots of powerful features. This one manages to deliver Full HD 1080p quality, with 30 frames per second video, all via a simple USB connection that's good for Mac, Windows, and Chromebook.
This device doesn't foldaway quite so well as some options, but is still light and portable. The LED light is small, although it works well combined with that 8MP CMOS sensor. Buttons on the head can be helpful but do make for wobble when in use. You get digital zoom, and this will also double as a webcam should you need. All that for under $100 is very impressive.
4. Epson DC-21: Best document camera for teaching
The Epson DC-21 is the best document camera specifically for teaching, but due to a very high price, it's lower down this list. This is heavier than others here and bulkier, although that's because this is built for specific classroom use – it even comes with microscope adapter heads included, making it ideal for science lessons.
The 1/2.7" CMOS sensor is very powerful and as such can capture entire A3/tabloid areas in one shot – all done easily thanks to a powerful autofocus button. This can then be outputted to a big screen using VGA pass-through while also connected to a Mac or Windows machine. This unit can even split-screen content and zoom in optically by an impressive 12x.
5. ELMO MA-1: Best document camera for STEM learning
The ELMO MA-1 is another powerful teaching-specific document camera that's bumped down the list due to its high price tag. But for that money you get a tool that's perfect for STEM learning and that works stand-alone without the need to connect to a computer. The touchscreen lets you add annotations, zoom, and even access videos and images from an SD card.
Onboard is also a Chrome browser, WiFi connectivity, a QR-code reader, countdown timer (ideal for exams), and more. This outputs directly to a digital whiteboard via VGA or HDMI, and even lets you add your own apps, such as Google Translate to live translate text on the screen.
6. Ipevo VZ-X: Best for compatibility
The Ipevo VZ-X is a great option for anyone that needs their document camera to function with lots of device types. This model is built to work with Mac and Windows machines but also Chromebooks, iOS, Android, and most other devices either by HDMI or even with Apple TV. Pairing can be done over WiFi for the easiest wire-free way to get connected, and there is USB available too when needed.
The wide selection of physical buttons on the camera base itself make for easy controls -- ideal if you're presenting at the front of class with the camera while your laptop is out of reach. From zooming and focusing to locking position or using exposure compensation, it's all a tap away with dedicated buttons.
There's a microphone built-in too, making this a viable online streaming camera for teaching remotely as well as in class. Another model, minus the WiFi feature, is available if you want a more affordable variant of this superb document camera.