We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›
Despite the name, document cameras aren’t only used for taking photos of documents. Sure, that’s one use for them, but they’ve actually become a classroom staple as many schools and businesses now use virtual platforms. Teachers and presenters use the best document cameras to project an image of their documents onto a larger surface or a laptop to screen share on a conference call. They’re also a valuable tool for virtual meetings where one person needs to show or demonstrate to everyone else in the meeting.
There are a few things to think about before you buy. Compatibility, portability, and extra features like split-screen and a remote should be on your mind. Image quality should factor in too. In some cases, you’ll need pristine quality, and in others, a little fuzziness won’t make much of a difference. It’s all in how and what you use the document camera for. Our guide will help you determine which features you need and includes a list of the best document cameras for the classroom or professional presentations.
- Best portable: INSWAIN INS-1 Document Camera
- Best compatibility: AVer U50 Document Camera
- Best dim light performance: IPEVO Ultra High Definition Document Camera
- Most versatile: IPEVO VZ-X Document Camera
- Best budget: OKIOLABS OKIO CAM S 2-in-1 Document Camera
The best document cameras: Reviews & Recommendations
Best portable: INSWAIN INS-1 USB Document Camera
The INSWAIN INS-1 USB Document Camera is designed for presentations on the go. It has its own USB light and anti-glare sheet to increase visibility when lighting conditions aren’t ideal. Three-joint adjustability helps you get a good angle and lets the camera pack down smaller when traveling. Autofocus helps ease transitions when you zoom in and out. Finally, the built-in microphone lets it act as an all-purpose audio/video device for presentations, saving you time and storage space.
Best compatibility: AVer U50 Document Camera
The AVer U50 Document Camera features a simple interface that’s compatible with Microsoft, Apple, and Google products. It also offers a pretty easy setup. All you do is plug in the USB cord to the device, and it’s up and running. This model includes a built-in microphone and light for improved visibility and audio when conditions aren’t ideal. The arm adjusts height and angle so you can move in as close as needed. The AVer’s two modes let you share a livestream or take still photos.
Best dim light performance: IPEVO Ultra High-Definition Document Camera
The IPEVO document camera includes a Sony CMOS image sensor that reduces noise and reproduces accurate colors when lights are low. This model can keep up image quality for live streams or take still photos for sharing during presentations. The setup instructions aren’t the best, but once you’ve granted the camera permission through your device, control and adjustments are intuitive.
Most versatile: IPEVO VZ-X Document Camera
The IPEVO VZ-X Document Camera brings a lot to the table, literally. The battery offers 9 to 12 hours of continuous operation with no cords, decluttering desks and conference tables. Through the USB cord, it can connect to several different display devices, such as a projector, Apple TV, and iOS or Android devices. The stand includes controls like rotating, zooming in, and various filters. Dim lighting won’t slow it down either because it has the Sony CMOS image sensor plus the Amarelle integrated system-on-a-chip to reduce noise and improve focus speeds.
Best budget: OKIOLABS OKIO CAM S 2-in-1 Document Camera
The OKIOLABS OKIO CAM features a fold-out base for stability and dual uses. The head swivels to the front so that you can use it as a webcam in addition to a document camera. The OKIO folds down for easy storage and portability and weighs less than a pound. It’s compatible with many of the most popular recording and conferencing tools and apps like Zoom and QuickTime player. A few apps come with the camera to jumpstart its use, too.
The best document cameras are essential for school and office
Document cameras have largely replaced overhead projectors as the go-to classroom presentation/lesson device. As everyone has been forced to do more virtually, businesses have also taken advantage of the best document cameras to stay in touch with clients and customers.
These cameras come in different designs, from small portable models that don’t require a laptop to ceiling-mounted arms that zoom in tight for clearer images. Features can include everything from split-screen capabilities and scanners to wireless connectivity and multiple compatibility options.
Elementary school teachers may want a portable model that can move around the room (and won’t cost a fortune to replace if little hands knock it over). However, if presentations are part of your business model, a feature-heavy model will offer more connectivity and presentation options.
What you present makes a difference too. Image clarity varies from model to model. Those who need to share their own writing, like when teaching a math class or other similar detail work, will need better image quality than someone who’s sharing less detailed work.
Do you want a camera that’s portable?
Some teachers get to stay in place when they work, but others lug their equipment from room to room or work to home every night. A portable document camera lets you go where you need to go without weighing you down. Portable models often feature wireless connectivity or a USB cord that connects the camera to a laptop or charging device for easier mobile use.
The camera’s arm may collapse for compact transport and storage, and it may come with a carrying case to protect it in a backpack or briefcase. These models also feature lightweight designs. They may, however, be light on extra features like zoom capacity, field of view options, or a remote control.
The best document camera helps you take advantage of learning resources
Document cameras have to be compatible with software, apps, and operating systems when used with laptops or other technology. Some cameras are picky about operating systems and apps. One that’s compatible with a wide range of operating systems is more likely to work well with the software and apps that are also compatible with those operating systems.
Microsoft, Apple, and Google (Chrome) are the top spots when it comes to operating systems, though some people may also use a Linux system. A camera that’s compatible with all three (or even better, four) can work with the wide variety of technology found in today’s homes, classrooms, and businesses.
The best document cameras can make images pop in a dark space
All cameras—document, digital, or otherwise—need adequate light to show images clearly. Projecting an image onto a large screen keeps students engaged and enhances learning, but most rooms require dim light for the projected image to show up well for students. Additionally, some rooms don’t have adequate lighting for a clear video feed.
A document camera with a built-in light keeps your area of focus lit and clear on the big screen even if the lighting conditions in the room are dim. Some models include multiple lights, while others have one that always points toward the camera’s subject. These lights can save you from buying separate lights and from the frustration of poor document visibility.
The best document cameras are designed with versatile connectivity options
Document cameras can connect via USB, USB-C, wireless (Bluetooth or WiFi), and other connection methods like HDMI. Obviously, the more connectivity options the camera has, the easier it is to use. Some models work with a USB cord or wireless connection. Wireless options untether you from a desk or table, so you can use the camera when and where you need it most. If you get a model with wireless capabilities, check the battery life. Most presentations don’t go over an hour, but models with a 5-10 hour battery life will make sure you’ve got plenty of battery power.
Connectivity isn’t completely separated from compatibility either. Different connectivity options may be enhanced by compatibility. For example, a wireless document camera that can work with Apple and Microsoft products may be of more use for those who work from an office and home, where they may have different operating systems in each location.
A limited budget doesn’t mean you can’t get a camera with decent quality.
Document cameras under $75 may be missing some of the fancier features like split screens and remotes, but they can still offer versatile uses and decent images. Some may include a built-in light and microphone. They don’t typically offer as many connectivity or compatibility options as more expensive models. Before you purchase a less expensive model, make sure it will work with the other technology at your disposal. Finally, don’t expect crystal-clear images with less expensive cameras. This is an instance where you get what you pay for.
Q: Can webcams be used as document cameras?
Webcams don’t usually function as a document camera because they do not have a base or arm that allows you to angle the camera down toward the document. However, document cameras can be used as webcams if they have certain design features, such as a swiveling head that can face forward.
Q: Can you record using a document camera?
Some document cameras record or connect to an app that can record your sessions. However, others don’t. If that’s something you need, be sure to look for a document camera with that particular feature.
Q: What is the purpose of a document camera?
A document camera lets you livestream and take still photos of documents. For example, if you’re explaining a complex problem to a group, you can use the document camera to livestream a document that shows an explanatory diagram. Or you can use the camera to show the group the diagram live as you draw it. They’re invaluable in classrooms, both in-person and virtual. For example, in a classroom, you can connect the camera to a projector to magnify a document onto a large screen. They can also be used to make presentations in a business setting.
Final shopping tips when buying the best document cameras
Visuals communicate in ways that words alone can’t. Lessons and presentations get a boost when they include the best document camera. When students or clients can see your presentation happening in real-time, explanations become clear, plans come into focus, and your goals get achieved. Before buying, decide on a budget and what extras you need. Keep compatibility and connectivity at the top of your priority list, too. The right camera will enhance your use of your favorite apps and should work with the technology you use most.