With the best document cameras, teachers can create a more engaging and immersive learning experience for students.
Document cameras let you zoom in on papers, books, small objects, and documents of all types and sizes and display them to your audience. They make it easy to see the details of an object or text, giving students a better understanding of what they are looking at.
Simply put, document cameras are great for presentations, lectures, and demonstrations in any learning environment, including online learning situations. That’s right, some document cameras can even interface with Zoom and other live streaming tools to let you share live images with your students.
And since document cameras are portable, they can travel with you wherever you go. Whether you’re teaching in the classroom or giving a live online demonstration to students around the world, you’ll have the tools and resources needed at your fingertips.
So, whether you’re in a traditional classroom, giving a presentation in a huge auditorium, or teaching students online, having the best document camera can help you bring your lectures to life.
Of course, when it comes to document cameras, there are many choices. And with all the technical specs, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one is truly the best document camera.
We took a look at the doc cams available at different price points to find the ones that are truly worthy of your consideration at various budget levels.
Don’t want to read our full guide to the best document cameras available now? Check out our top picks below:
My Top Pick
- Offers high-definition and ultra-high-definition image capture.
- 8 megapixels.
- Includes a free download of Visualizer software.
- Automatic focus and exposure.
- Ability to set the focus manually.
Best for: This model is high-quality and professional grade. It is a strong value for its price.
This is one of the best doc cams on the market due to its awesome features. Read more about this product in my review below.
- Works well even under low-light conditions.
- Offers ultra-high definition quality for live-streaming.
- Compatible with PCs, Macs, and Chrome notebooks.
- Small size (11.38” by 4.53” by 3.27”)
- Includes an eyepiece connector for a microscope.
Best for: Biology teachers and those working in a lab who want to show images seen under a microscope.
Two of these cams that I reviewed are nice choices for different purposes. I think the V4k model from IPEVO has an amazing image quality. I would choose the INS-1 model from INSWAN if I wanted to show students things with a microscope.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Document Camera for Teachers, Presenters, and Trainers
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions that will help you understand more about these devices.
How many megapixels should a camera be?
Megapixels are a measurement of a camera’s ability to determine the possible print sizes of images that are captured. One megapixel is equal to one million pixels. A higher number of megapixels help the cam capture more-detailed images that are needed for larger prints. Think of the resolution as the size of the view and clarity on a video display and megapixels as the details captured by the sensors to use for printing something. This will help you understand easier.
You might think that you would want to use the best capture levels all the time. However, there is a trade-off because when more details are captured, each image’s file size increases. When lighting conditions are low, using a camera with higher megapixels captures more unwanted “noise.”
Refer to this megapixel scale for your reference so you can see that any number of megapixels from one to more than 10 provides an excellent low-resolution video display. For live streaming, a one-megapixel camera is sufficient. High-definition video needs around two megapixels. Five megapixels cams are super-high-definition. Ultra-high-definition is eight megapixels.
Should I get a portable document camera?
Portability is the kind of thing you may appreciate, even if you do not need it immediately. The trade-off is that the less-portable systems are heavier, sturdier, and more stable. They are more like workhorses. A non-portable system will be a better choice if the doc cam is in one location. Also, it is better to have a non-portable unit if it will have heavy use, such as using the document cam to scan many pages of physical books for a digital library.
Do document cameras connect to smartboards?
Yes. All you need to make sure is the systems are compatible. Smartboards connect to a computer, and a document camera also connects to a computer. Smartboards show what is on the computer screen, so if that image comes from the signal, it will show what it is recording.
Here is a video that shows an example of how to connect a document cam to a smartboard.
Do I need a camera with live-streaming?
This is a feature that is most important to educators, trainers, and presenters that conduct virtual sessions that offer live-streaming events. Almost all popular document cams now have the ability to stream video images. However, special-use devices, for example, those only used to scan the pages of physical books, do not need this capability.
How to use a document camera for distance learning (with Zoom)?
Zoom and other online conferencing systems have become extremely popular because they are so easy to use. Using a document cam with Zoom is a no-brainer. You connect your cam to your online computer using a USB cable, install the Zoom software on the computer, and then, in the Zoom software, click the “Share Screen” button in the meeting controls. Most picks double as a webcam. Some have a two-camera or camera focus feature that allows easy switching between the document view and a webcam view.
Here are the devices I examined in a list and then each of the reviews follows.
This model is designed for professionals who know how to download the necessary software and set up a piece of equipment like this.
A great choice for usage in teaching science classes as it can be attached to a microscope.
This doc cam is very helpful when scanning a physical book or pages of notes.
This is the perfect choice for Zoom lessons, scanning small images or text.
If you want a device with a wireless connection and built-in Wi-Fi, this is an excellent choice.
It is a nice model to use for time-lapse photography, stop-motion capture, and live video streaming.
This model has USB and HDMI connectors to any computer and directly to a TV or projector without using a computer.
This is a low-cost solution for home use and used in schools for those who don’t want to spend much money.
1. V4K – IPEVO
With an eight-megapixel camera, the V4K model from IPEVO captures ultra-high-definition images. It can stream them at 15 frames per second. Alternatively, high-definition images at a slightly-lower resolution can stream at 30 frames per second.
This model does double duty. It scans documents and can be used as an HD or UHD webcam thanks to its built-in microphone. It is compatible with PCs, Macs, and Chrome notebooks.
- The device has a microphone built-in.
- Works with many popular video conferencing software programs.
- Captures nice image quality even in low-light conditions.
- The camera has a SONY CMOS image-sensing system that reduces unwanted image-capture noise with an excellent reproduction of the colors.
- When switching to different materials, automatic refocusing is very fast.
- No user manual is included. All product information is found online.
- A free download of visualization software is necessary to get this pick to function.
- Not plug-and-play, so you may have configuration issues when setting up this device.
This video shows a comprehensive overview of this cam, what it comes with, and how to hook it up, with a demonstration of it being used to create a live stream.
Summary: This model is designed for professional use by those who know how to download the necessary software and set up a piece of equipment like this. It can be frustrating for amateur users because the only available tech support is sending a question by email to the company and then waiting a day or so for a response. If you never did this before, you may need some technical help from someone comfortable with the setup procedures.
2. INS-1 – INSWAN
The INS-1 model from INSWAN is a favorite with science teachers. This is the only camera that I reviewed that has the ability to show images of things under a microscope. You will have the class’s full attention when demonstrating the bacteria that can be found in a glass of drinking water.
Another terrific and useful feature of this model is the LED lighting to help capture images in a low-light condition. There is also an anti-glare sheet to make the image clearer when turning on the LED light. It is also able to live-stream the images for virtual classroom sessions and record them for later viewing. I found it very easy to set it up, with the quick-start guide that is included.
- Has a well-built, sturdy design.
- Captures ultra-high-definition images for live-streaming at 30 frames per second.
- Made in Taiwan, which is known for making excellent document cams.
- Compatible with PCs, most Macs, and Chrome notebooks.
- Not plug-and-play. It requires a download of the free Documate software to get it to work.
- May have trouble working with the newest versions of the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.
This video by Ryno Reviews shows the unboxing of the InSwan INS-1 document camera. The reviewer shows how to use it in low-light conditions and as a webcam.
Summary: This is one of my favorite document cameras that are priced under $100. You may want to get one specifically for its ability to be attached to a microscope. Many like to use it in teaching science classes. I am not a super techie so, when I was setting it up, I was happy to learn that the company offers manuals and online video tutorials for this item. Students get excited when seeing microscopic activity on a big screen or during virtual classroom presentations.
3. S1 – iOCHOW
The S1 document camera from iOCHOW is a high-definition (HD) scanner that can go almost anywhere. It uses a sophisticated OCR software program that captures text in many languages correctly. There is an automatic image capture feature that I find very useful called “intelligent picture shooting.”
The intelligent photo capture makes automatic corrections of images, such as filling in an incomplete scanned image edge and creating a merger of both sides of a captured photo identification card while eliminating the unneeded white space. You can set up intelligent capture for repetitive tasks to make the process go more smoothly and quickly.
- This device has a sturdy and stable build that reduces movement when bumping a desk or table it sits on.
- There are built-in LED lights that can be turned on from four angles to create the perfect lighting conditions.
- Has a eight megapixel camera for stills and HD images for live-streaming.
- It can capture large images (11.6” by 16.5”) in ultra-high-definition mode.
- The optical character recognition software recognizes and correctly interprets many languages.
- Not compatible with Macs or Chrome notebooks.
This video from Christ InfoGeek shows the unboxing, setup, and use of this model. There is no narration during the video, just nice piano background music.
Summary: I enjoy using the auto-photo feature. It works on a timer to take image captures automatically. This is very helpful when scanning a physical book or pages of notes. It allows time to turn the page and then takes a capture without having to press a button. I find this process an excellent timesaver and much easier than using other systems for physical book scanning.
4. TT-12i – Elmo 1341 model
The TT-12i – Elmo 1341 model is an impressive professional-grade camera that is loaded with excellent features. It has a built-in digital zoom that increases an image up to 96 times, perfect for scanning small items or zooming in close on images or text.
The output resolution is adjustable for low Internet bandwidth conditions. I use it to record my live sessions and store them on a portable hard drive to take with me while also making a backup copy on the cloud for my students to view whenever they want to see it. If a student misses a class, the video is there waiting for them to access it on the cloud server.
- The Image sensor is CMOS with 3.4 megapixels.
- The arm on the stand and the camera head is fully adjustable, making is easier to get it at the best angle to capture an image.
- It is compliant with the USB video standard of UVC.
- The video output is 720p or 1080p, XGA, SXGA, and WXGA. This model works with the American NTSC broadcast standard and the European standard of PAL.
- Serves as double-duty to capture images or as a web cam.
- It is higher cost, at just over $700, than the others I reviewed.
This video from Moravian IT College shows how to use the controls of the Elmo TT-12, which is found in many schools, colleges, and universities.
Summary: Many teachers already have experience using this document camera because it is prevalent in the educational system due to its sturdiness. Set-up is not difficult, and it is easy to use.
5. VZ-X – IPEVO
The VZ-X camera model from IPEVO excels in usability. Just connect it to any PC, Mac, iOS device, Android device, projector, computer monitor, or TV that accepts an HDMI digital input.
Using Wi-Fi makes it super easy to connect to smartphones and other wireless devices.
- This model with 8 megapixels captures high-definition (HD) images at 1920p x 1080p and ultra-high-definition (UHD) images at 3264px 2448p.
- HD images can live-stream at 30 frames per second.
- It has a built-in LED light to use for low-light conditions.
- The shooting area is quite large (11.14” by 19.72”), which is wonderful to work with, for example, when showing blueprints.
- The battery life is up to 12 hours and the Wi-Fi range is up to 33 feet.
- This model is a bit pricey, at around $590.
- The instruction manual is online and does not ship with the unit.
- The company only offers tech support by email.
This reviewer in this video by GorillaPhysics likes this document camera that he calls a “visualizer.” He shows the controls and shows that it has Wi-Fi to use it wirelessly.
Summary: This model is a little costly due to built-in-in Wi-Fi. However, if you want a device with a wireless connection, this is an excellent choice.
6. OKIOCAM S – OKIOLABS
The OKIOCAM S model from OKIOLABS works either as a scanner or a webcam. It is a nice camera to use for time-lapse photography, stop-motion capture, and live video streaming.
It is a plug-and-play device compatible with PCs, Macs, and Chrome devices that is simple to set up and easy to use.
- Low cost.
- The resolution is 1920p x 1440p. Video streaming is 1920p x 1080p at 30 frames per second.
- This device is lightweight at 0.59 pounds (269 grams).
- Works with all the popular video conferencing software
- Has a magnetic baseplate to hold it in position.
- Made mostly from plastic.
This video by DocumentCam shows the unboxing and setup of this item that the reviewer thinks is small and cute.
Summary: Use this device as a webcam, and you can talk during a live video showing your face and then turn the cam to take an image of something on your desk below.
7. VZ-R – IPEVO
The VZ-R model from IPEVO has USB and HDMI connectors. The USB output connects to any computer with a USB input. An HDMI connection is useful to connect directly to a compatible TV or projector without using a computer.
It captures either high definition or ultra-high-definition images.
- This 8-megapixel device has a Sony CMOS sensor with an Ambarella video chip.
- Captures 3264p x 2448p in USB mode and 1920p x 1080p in HDMI mode.
- Can capture large images of 10.6” by 18.9”.
- The auto-focus feature is fast and the color resolution is excellent.
- It is compatible with the popular video-conferencing systems.
- Automatic refocusing on the same image is annoying in low-light conditions. You can turn it off.
This video by Quentin Stafford-Fraser shows this cam in use to scan documents on his desk and how the controls work.
Summary: This document camera works to capture images with any USB-enabled computer and is directly connected to a television, monitor, or projector using an HDMI connection.
8. OKIOCAM T – OKIOLABS
The OKIOCAM T model from OKIOLABS is a low-cost solution for home use and used in schools. I use it to share diagrams, drawings, worksheets, quiz results, and more during online lessons.
This doc cam is slightly more expensive than the other OKIOCAM S model, which I also reviewed. I do not mind paying a little more to get a camera with a slightly better resolution. to take images of documents that are up to A3 (11” x 17”) size.
- This model is plug-and-play.
- Captures high-definition images of 1920p x 1080p.
- Live-streams at 30 frames per second.
- Compatible with the popular online conferencing systems.
- Works with Windows, iOS, and Chrome OS.
- Email-only tech support.
This video by ThePenguinProf shows the unboxing, and the reviewer is a teacher who likes the budget price, plug-and-play setup, and portability.
Summary: The benefit I appreciate of this model over the cheaper one, made by OKIOLABS, is the ability to capture a larger area (11” x 17”) with the camera.
Other Essentials Chosen for Online Teachers
Here are some other suggestions for things that I think are useful accessories that online teachers will appreciate.
This USB hub creates four additional USB ports for a device or computer. It comes with an attached two-foot cable. The hub works for devices with a USB connection. It supports PC or Macs.
It provides extra connections that are easy to use for flash drives and portable hard drives.
This adapter is designed to connect Macs and Apple devices. It works well with the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. It offers 100W charging. Many types of connectors work with this adapter, including USB C, standard USB, HDMI, SD/TF Cards, and RJ45 for an Ethernet connection.
This is a small, easy-to-use, 10-Watt mini amplifier for a teacher in a larger room to make it easier for students to hear the lessons. It has a microphone headset that connects to the amp. It can be worn by being attached to a waistband. It is rechargeable and lightweight.
- How to use a document camera for remote learning
- How to replicate a document camera in a Zoom meeting
- Basic set up for Elmo document camera
- How to hook up a document camera so you can view the images on the computer
A Final Word on the Best Document Cameras
Every educator, trainer, or online instructor will find that having a document cam is an essential part of the tools needed to provide quality educational and training experiences for virtual classrooms and online presentations.
Document cameras make it easier to share visual information, which is a great way to engage students and make presentations more interesting.
Remember, there’s no single one-size-fits-all document camera. You have to consider what exactly it is that you need to find the best document camera for your specific situation.
Have any questions about our guide to the best document cameras? Let us know by commenting below.