Product Guide: Document cameras

from Technology & Learning Document cameras are becoming a staple for schools. Here's a rundown on the latest and what to consider before purchasing. Document cameras have come a long way from the big, hot overhead projectors of the 1960s. Today document cameras (also called visualizers or document imagers)
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from Technology & Learning

Document cameras are becoming a staple for schools. Here's a rundown on the latest and what to consider before purchasing.

Document cameras have come a long way from the big, hot overhead projectors of the 1960s. Today document cameras (also called visualizers or document imagers) use electronic cameras to capture documents, books, and photos then use high-intensity lights and lenses to display them on-screen.

But that's not all: Many document cameras can serve as tripod-mounted cameras, allowing educators to display 3D artifacts. Some can even rotate their heads to capture students on camera, and many can be connected to PCs to provide double duty as multimedia projectors.

As with any product, capabilities and prices vary. Things to look for include number of megapixels offered (more means higher picture resolution and detail), zoom capabilities (optical is better than digital), and ability to interconnect with other devices.

Buyer's Checklist

Look for the following when shopping for a document camera:

  • A clear, clean font
  • Easy auto focusing
  • A tilting head to accommodate various-sized material
  • The ability to zoom in on objects
  • An on-board control panel that is easy to use
  • A remote control
  • At least three megapixels of resolution

What to Look For

What should you look for when buying a document camera? T&L spoke with Jane Miller, an instructional technology facilitator with Spokane Public Schools in Spokane, Washington.

At the minimum, says Miller, "It is imperative that the models under consideration have the ability to project a clear image of 12-14 font that can be viewed from the back of the room," Also important are "the ability to focus easily, a tilting head to accommodate various sized materials, the ability to zoom in on objects, and an on-board control panel that is easy to use."

To get the most out of a document camera, look for one with remote control capability, at least three megapixels of resolution, and auto focus. According to Miller, "Auto focus is extremely important. Many teachers have trouble distinguishing what needs to be adjusted, the focus of the projector or the camera."

The Spokane Plan

So what document cameras does Spokane Public Schools choose? In 2002 it bought about 34 Elmo DP70s at $500 each, using a grant from the Gates Foundation. "By 2004 the Spokane community passed a technology bond that began the next purchase phase of emergent technologies," Miller says. "After much research, our district began purchasing the AVerMedia (AVerVision) brand of document cameras. This decision was made based on the quality of the projection, price, and functions."

Of the AVerVision document cameras purchased, Miller prefers the 300AF—which usually run between $650 and $699 each. "This model has been a delight," she says. "The auto-focus capability and improvements on the remote control and software allow for ease of use."

James Careless is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa, Canada.

T&L compares some of the best document cameras for schools.

Company Name/URL

AVerVision
aver.com

Model

document cameras ranging from AVerVision139 to AVerVision530

Range of Megapixels (MP) Available

0.85–3.2 MP

Range of Zoom Options

digital zoom and pan/optical zoom (not on all models); some models have "AVERZOOM"

Zoom Range

4X-8X digital/0–12X optical

Focus

manual/automatic (varies by model)

Inputs

VGA, USB

Outputs

DVI, VGA, composite video, S-Video

Price Range

DVI, VGA, composite video, S-Video

Company Name/URL

Boxlight
www.boxlight.com

Model

BV1100 visual presenter

Range of Megapixels (MP) Available

0.41 MP

Range of Zoom Options

power zoom (optical)

Zoom Range

220X

Focus

manual

Inputs

MIC, video, audio

Outputs

S-Video, video, audio

Price Range

$899

Company Name/URL

Canon
www.usa.canon.com

Model

RE-455X

Range of Megapixels (MP) Available

0.79 MP

Range of Zoom Options

power zoom (optical)

Zoom Range

12X

Focus

automatic/manual

Inputs

RGB

Outputs

video, S-Video, RGB

Price Range

$1449

Company Name/URL

Dukane
www.dukcorp.com

Model

DVP505A Visualizer

Range of Megapixels (MP) Available

0.85 MP

Range of Zoom Options

digital, optical, and mechanical

Zoom Range

motorized 4X digital/12X optical/6.7X mechanical

Focus

automatic

Inputs

RGB, Computer D-sub 15 pin (VGA)

Outputs

RGB, Computer D-sub 15 pin (VGA), DVI Digital & Analog Connector, S-Video mini DIN 4 pin, composite video, USB, audio

Price Range

$1695

Company Name/URL

Elmo
www.elmousa.com

Model

Elmo P100

Range of Megapixels (MP) Available

0.85–2.1 MP

Range of Zoom Options

digital and optical

Zoom Range

4X–8X digital, 5.3X–16X optical

Focus

automatic/manual

Inputs

USB, SD card

Outputs

DVI, S-Video, composite video

Price Range

$589.99–$3850

Company Name/URL

Epson
www.epson.com

Model

ELPDC05 High Resolution Document Imager

Range of Megapixels (MP) Available

0.85 MP

Range of Zoom Options

digital and optical

Zoom Range

digital 2X/optical 18X

Focus

automatic

Inputs

RGB

Outputs

RGB

Price Range

$3,795

Company Name/URL

Toshiba
www.toshiba.com

Model

TLP-C001 Document Camera

Range of Megapixels (MP) Available

3.0 MP

Range of Zoom Options

digital and optical

Zoom Range

4X digital/2X optical

Focus

automatic

Inputs

RGB

Outputs

RGB

Price Range

$498.99

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Document Camera Promotion promo image

Document Camera Promotion

AVerMedia® Information, Inc., provider of presentation and surveillance technology, has announced a Buy 8 Get 1 Free promotion on the AVerVision CP300 Interactive Document Camera through September 30, 2009.