If you've seen one document camera...

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Question: What criteria should we be looking at when comparing document cameras?

The IT Guy says:
For a technology that hardly existed a few years ago, document cameras have really gone through an amazing upgrade path very quickly. Here are a few things to consider as you compare models:

  • Resolution. How many pixels will the document camera display? XGA resolution is 1024x768, SXGA resolution is 1280X1024, and UXGA is 1600x1200. Higher is usually better, but if the resolution is higher than your projector will show, it's not going to do a lot of good during presentations. However, if you capture still images using the camera, then you get the benefit of the higher numbers.
  • Autofocus/autoexposure. Newer models of document cameras are coming with these auto functions, which are really useful. Instead of having to re-focus every time you zoom or move the camera, one button will bring everything back into clarity. The same applies for the brightness and color balance controls.
  • Goose-neck versus fixed-arm. Some document cameras use a flexible gooseneck to hold the camera, which allows you to point the camera in a variety of directions. This can be helpful in a science class, for instance, if you are looking at objects rather than documents. On the other hand, sometimes it can be frustrating trying to get the gooseneck exactly parallel to the desktop, where fixed-arm cameras quickly point straight down.
  • Zoom. Some cameras have actual zoom lenses on them, where whereas some "zoom" simply by letting you move the lens closer to the document or object.
  • Pass-through mode. Many document cameras now come with something called pass-through mode, which allows you to hook the document camera to the presentation computer, and view the image as part of your computer's display instead of directly through the projector. This is a particular advantage for classrooms using interactive whiteboards, as you can use the whiteboard software to annotate over the image from the camera.
  • Image capture. Virtually all document cameras now have image capture capability. What varies is how you get the images out. Some cameras need to be hooked up to a computer through a USB cable and use special software to transfer the images out. However, some now have a slot for the same kinds of memory cards used by digital cameras. The card can be quickly popped out and put into a card reader hooked up to a computer, and no special software will be required to transfer the images.

Those are the major issues I recommend you look at. Don't overlook actually trying out devices, too. It's important to have good technical specifications, but if they're wrapped in a package that is difficult or frustrating to use, they don't do anydo no good!

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