If you thought that with all the smart phones and digital cameras floating around today’s schools, the days of the document camera would be numbered, you’d be dead wrong. Epson’s DC-21 takes this genre to a new level of quality and ease of use.
A dead-ringer for the DC-20 it replaces, the DC-21 continues with a white and gray color scheme, an articulated swivel arm, sturdy base and large downward-facing lens. Along the way, it’s gotten slightly larger and has picked up its game in just about every area that counts.
The DC-21doc cam still opens to allow the aiming of the camera to any conceivable position and just as easily folds up just as small for storage. At any time, the camera head can be rotated 90-degrees right or left so that it can be aimed at just about anything. It includes a padded case so it can be carried from room to room, but does without a lens cap to protect its optics.
Inside, the DC-21 sticks with a CMOS imaging target that tops out at full HD resolution. This is backed up with excellent optics that include 12X-optical as well as 10X-digital zooming potential. At the arm’s full extension, the camera takes in 20.7 by 11.7-inches, or roughly two sheets of paper, perfect for using with a large-format atlas.
The camera’s LED lighting has two settings for illuminating an object but even the lowest setting can create a hot spot on many surfaces. In most cases, the room lighting should be more than enough to create a sharp and rich image, though.
It really comes into its own because rather than having to hold a smartphone steady as you’re trying to project a map or take in a chemical reaction, the DC-21 camera arm does the hard work. The arm has two articulated segments so that it can be used in a nearly infinite number of positions. Best of all, it doesn’t wobble. The base can be screwed into a table top.
Its connection panel on the side can fit into just about any classroom with the ability to connect with a computer (with USB and VGA), send its images to a projector or large display (via VGA and HDMI) and a USB port. It has an SD card for grabbing material or saving lesson’s video, but doesn’t connect with a USB thumb drive.
The controls are simple and let you select from the camera’s direct view, what’s on a connected PC as well as a two-way split screen that shows both. At any time, you can freeze the action, capture an image or video and zoom in and out. All the buttons are large and well labeled. While the buttons aren’t backlit, there are good enough for teaching in the dark.
All told, it takes about a minute to plug in, turn on and aim the camera at what you’d like to show the class. It worked just as well for flat items, like maps, magazine articles and photos, as for 3-D objects, like a petri dish, rock or insect. It includes an adapter that allows the DC-21 to connect directly with an optical microscope in a science room.
You can also use the DC-21 for general videos but there’s a trick. After aiming the camera head, you’ll need to either use the remote control’s rotate image twice or go into the menu’s Image section and rotate the image 180-degrees to keep everything from looking upside-down.
Along the way, the voices of teachers and students can be captured by the DC-21’s camera-mounted microphone. This helps with creating videos that include a voice-over of the lesson, but as use the zoom, an annoying whirring noise of its motor will obscure the sound track.
The DC-21 comes with a small remote control that can select the source, freeze the action and control what’s shown on the system’s two-way split screen. The remote, however, does without a laser pointer and if you have an Epson projector you’ll find yourself trying to use the wrong one because in the dark they are almost identical.
If you use Epson’s Brighter Futures discount program, the DC-21 can be had for $549 along with a three-year warranty; $80 less and a year more. Regardless of whether it’s to show the live dissection of a flatworm or what bark looks like close-up, the Epson DC-21 Document Camera can put just about anything on the big screen.
$549 (with Brighter Futures discount)
+ Sturdy base
+ Excellent optics with adjustable light
+ 12X optical zoom lens
+ Excellent connections
+ Microscope adapter
- No laser pointer
- Lacks lens cap