When you think of the best document cameras, you probably think of that big, clunky square projector that your teacher would roll out (because it required its own dolly) to project bookwork on the projector screen. Well, document cameras have come a long way since those days, and the best document cameras now have applications that go beyond the classroom (even though they are still great for that, too).
Like other pieces of technology, document cameras have gone digital. The best models can provide ultra-high-definition video, connect easily to a variety of devices and let teachers scan and record at the push of a button.
Below, we have all the information you need on this vital classroom tool as well as the best document cameras for sale online.
The Virtual Classroom
The height of the coronavirus era was stressful for a myriad of different reasons — we don’t have to go down that rabbit hole — but one of the things nobody saw coming was Zoom kindergarten classes. Online classes are nothing new, but now teachers from elementary to college have to be ready to teach online. When leading a virtual classroom, document cameras are an essential tool.
Of course, teachers aren’t the only professionals who rely on these audio-visual tools. The best document cameras are also needed in many office and government settings.
If you are looking for the best document cameras for the classroom or office, consider the following:
- Document cameras may connect to your devices via USB, HDMI or WiFi
- The best document cameras record video and scan documents as well
- Not all document cameras work with both Mac and PC
- Document cameras range anywhere from $80 to $2,300. Premium models, such as ELMO document cameras, are capable of capturing 4K video and have powerful zoom lenses.
How We Picked The Best Document Cameras
The most important thing is that your content is displayed clearly. If your students can’t see what is being displayed, they are going to have a hard time learning. As much as possible, we selected document cameras that can shoot in 1080p and have a frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps) for smooth video shooting, although there are a couple of options below that shoot at 720p.
We also picked ones with good compatibility. If a document scanner isn’t compatible with both Mac and PC, we looked for options that connect to your laptop or TV by USB or HDMI.
We also looked for additional features like curve flattening and image restoration to make your presentations and scanning are at top-level quality. These features are most common in document scanners, which lack the video and streaming capabilities of the best document cameras for teachers.
Don’t think that you have to spend a fortune to get a decent document scanner, especially for teachers whose budgets are stretched thin enough. If all you need is something to project work or documents to your co-workers or students, and one with good zooming capabilities, there’s really no need for all the bells and whistles (and price tag) for a fully-loaded document scanner.
Below you’ll find our recommendations for the seven best document cameras available for the classroom or office.
1. Inswan Ins-1 4K Document Cameras
This easy-to-use, lightweight and durable document camera is a great and affordable tool for the classroom or office. It features a 30 fps frame rate, which you’ll find in the most expensive document cameras (we’re looking at you Elmo 1349), and even has a LED light to prevent glare when the lighting in the room isn’t great. The built-in microphone helps with voice clarity, especially during webinars or web-conferencing. The best part: all of this comes for under $100.
2. Ipevo V4K Ultra High Definition Document Camera
The Ipevo document camera has a 90% approval rating on Amazon. That’s because of the 8MP camera that shoots in UHD with a smooth 30fps frame rate. It also focuses quickly when you are switching back and forth between materials to show the classroom or the office. And it works with both Mac and PC, so you’ll be able to connect it regardless of your flavor of laptop.
3. Epson DC-07 Document Camera
Documents? 3D objects? Experiments? Whatever you’re trying to show to the class, the Epson DC-07 Document Camera can do it in the clearest way possible. It’s got 8x digital zoom and provides fine detail for viewers. It uses 1080p/15 fps video at full-res to display without much delay at all. You can even capture images or freeze the screen if you need to. Complete with a built-in microphone, these are great for online lessons as well.
4. ELMO MA-1 STEM Document Camera
If you (or your school) has the budget to drop some money on a high-end document camera for your STEM classrooms, then we recommend the brand ELMO. They make top-of-the-line imaging machines and have models in the several-hundred-dollar range all the way up to several thousands of dollars for the best cameras and streaming quality. This 1080p document camera lets you easily stream HD video and comes with a built-in 5-inch touchscreen. It’s intuitively designed to make STEM experiences as immersive as possible, and the touchscreen allows you as the teacher to browse the web, connect to educational apps and even display via a built-in Miracast system. This way, you can move about the classroom and interact with students, without being tied to a desk or podium.
5. Ipevo VZ-R HDMI-USB Document Camera
FOR REMOTE TEACHING
The Ipevo document camera has a 90% approval rating on Amazon. That’s because of the 8MP camera that shoots in UHD with a smooth 30fps frame rate. It also focuses quickly when you are switching back and forth between materials to show the classroom or the office. And it works with both Mac and PC, so you’ll be able to connect it regardless of your flavor of laptop. You can even connect this document camera to your computer via USB, which makes this a convenient option for remote instruction.
6. OKIOLABS USB 2-in-1 Webcam and Document Camera
This affordable document camera from OKIOLABS has excellent reviews and is a convenient machine for teachers teaching remotely from home as it’s a webcam and a document camera in one device. You can use it as a front-facing camera for videotaping lectures and then flip it so you can demonstrate solutions, grammar mistakes, math equations or other material that requires a pen and paper. It works seamlessly with video conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. It’s also compact, lightweight, easy to set up and the multi-jointed camera makes it possible to capture content from all angles.
7. HUE HD Pro USB Document Camera
This is easily one of the most portable and lightweight document cameras we’ve come across. It can be connected with native Windows, Chrome OS, macOS and Linux camera apps to easily show students what’s going on. The neck of the device is extremely moveable for easy angles without frustration. It uses HD 1080p streaming and has built-in lights so you can easily show what you’re doing to students or colleagues. To make it extra fun, it also comes in a variety of colors.
8. iCodis Document Camera X3
BEST FOR PC
This document scanner comes with software that assists you with your presentations. It can automatically segment specific areas of your document, and even help correct defective images. It also scans documents to create PDF versions for online use. Although the software can do some pretty nifty stuff, it is not compatible with Mac OS. For anyone using Windows OS, it’s a great desktop document camera for teachers.
9. Lumens DC125 Ladibug Document Camera
This adorable document camera is a small but mighty package that has full HD 1080p output resolution and a high-speed 30fps dynamic image. It can also zoom 8x and has a built-in microphone. The water droplet design is mounted on a jointless gooseneck that’s highly flexible so adjusting your image is easy. It also has hands-free focus and is plug-and-play, so it’s easy to set up. It’s compatible with all major brands of smart whiteboards, and is easy to hook up to your computer through the 10-inch USB cable.
10. Aver U50 Document Camera
BEST FOR LOW LIGHT
Lighting plays a critical role for document cameras because the last thing you need to deal with is grainy-looking footage with soft details. What’s special about the Aver U50 is that it features a 5-megapixel 1/4″ CMOS sensor with built-in LED lights to bring out a clear image even when the room’s dimly lit. This combination results in the image being not only bright but also more detailed and without the digital noise that you sometimes notice on other document cameras.
11. CZUR ET18 Professional Document Scanner
BEST FOR ARCHIVING
Professionals that deal with old newspapers, documents, and photos that need to be digitally converted will want to check out the CZUR ET18 Document Scanner. While it’s not an ideal choice for live classroom instruction, it’s an indispensable tool for archivists. When scanning large books and other materials, this document scanner will automatically adjust the image so that the text and overall picture are flat. This auto-flatten feature can be a godsend for saving time. For a slightly more affordable document camera for archivists, consider the new CZUR Shine Ultra Pro. Unlike the more expensive ET18 model, the Shine Ultra Pro is also portable.
12. Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 Overhead Book and Document Scanner
The Fujitsu ScanSnap offers a lot of the same cool features as the CZUR ET18 such as auto-flatten and image deskewing. In addition, it can automatically remove thumbs caught in the image. Its coolest feature is the ability to detect when a page has been turned and automatically capture a new image, which can save you time and energy while going through the time-consuming process of digitizing material. While this professional overhead document scanner is on the pricey side, Amazon often has this product available at a discount.
Also Consider: Brother DS-640 Compact Mobile Document Scanner
This portable document scanner isn’t an alternative to document cameras that let you share images and video in real-time with your students. However, if you simply need a convenient, low-cost portable scanner for documents and other types of classroom material, then it can be an effective solution.
Update: This story was last updated on August 12, 2022, at which time pricing and retailer links were updated throughout. We added the Aver U50, the CZUR ET 18 Document Scanner and the CZUR Shine Ultra Pro document camera to the list. As an alternative, we also added the Brother DS-640 Mobile Document Scanner as an “Also Consider” option. Finally, we removed the ioChow Document Camera based on poor reviews and availability.