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Classroom Close-Up

IPEVO_VZ1_07With all the phones being used in classrooms as impromptu document cameras, it’s refreshing to see a dedicated doc-cam that not only delivers a high-quality image and is easy to use but is inexpensive enough to get one for every classroom. In other words, forget about $600 document cameras in the classroom because IPEVO’s $139 VZ-1 HD outperforms cameras costing much more.

At roughly half the size and weight of doc-cams from Epson and Samsung, the black VZ-1 folds-up and is easy to carry between classes. It is powered by an included USB AC adapter and cable. Press the bright green power switch to start it up and it takes the VZ-1 a few seconds to display the image.  

The device’s camera head lacks a lens cap, but when folded it fits securely into the base, protecting the optics. Unfold its articulated arm and the VZ-1’s camera can sit as far as 13-inches above the target while providing a generous 12.75- by 8.5-inch field of view. It can get as close as 2-inches to an object and remain in focus. The camera swivels 270-degrees, allowing it to be rotated to the best orientation, which makes positioning the camera quicker and more exact.

It has a manual focus control, but the camera’s auto-focus was quick and accurate. The autofocus mechanism works well on a variety of items, but is overly sensitive to being shaken or jostled, even on a sturdy table. The camera has a built-in two-element LED light, but its brightness can’t be adjusted and can produce a hot spot in the image if you’re not careful.

IPEVO_VZ1_04While the camera head lacks an optical zoom, you can move it up and down to adjust how much of frame is filled. Able to capture full HD video and send it directly to a projector, the VZ-1’s 5-megapixel camera can be set to 800 by 600, 1,024 by 768, 1280 by 720 or 1,920 by 1,080 resolution. I actually prefer to set it to Auto Resolution and let the document camera set its output to match the projector it’s connected to.

There are advantages to connecting the VZ-1 to a notebook that’s linked to a projector with the included Presenter software and USB cable. The pay-off is that the detail captured is increased to as much as 2,592 by 1,944 resolution, the camera’s limit. It is transformed into one of the sharpest doc-cams around, but as the resolution rises, the video delay does as well.

The software works with a PC or Mac computer and can run full-screen on a computer. It allows you to take a screen shot at any time, but not annotate the screen or capture a video stream. It makes up for the camera’s lack of a zoom lens with a 6X digital zoom set up for getting close.

A bonus for the software is that it can mirror the image both vertically and horizontally. Oddly, for such an advanced device, the VZ-1 uses a VGA cable to transfer the video stream to a projector rather than an HDMI or DisplayPort one. It also lacks a microphone or audio-in jack.

A good idea is to get IPEVO’s $69 Wireless Station. It connects to the camera’s USB port and allows the doc-cam to be used with an iPad or notebook without a cable. You can annotate and highlight items on-screen.

IPEVO_VZ1_02Over the course of several weeks, I used the VZ-1 with a variety of targets, a Dell M110 projector and an Acer R7 notebook. It was easily overwhelmed by bright light so I kept the blinds down on sunny days. It worked well with magazine articles, maps and books as well as for showing the displays of tablets and calculators. It was also adept at projecting how to perform a dissection, a chemistry lab and even for capturing writing on a pad of paper with a Sharpie for showing how to solve an equation or edit a sentence. In other words, the VZ-1 can turn just about anything physical into a lesson and can make the blackboard jealous.

In the spirit of more for less, the VZ-1 outdoes document cameras costing three- or four-times more with high-quality images and the ability to use a projector directly or a notebook. In other words, it’s time to put your smartphone back into your pocket or bag.





+ Inexpensive

+ Flexible camera head

+ Can drive projector or notebook

+ Auto-focus lens

+ Software

+ LED light

+ HD+ resolution


- No optical zoom

- Lacks microphone or audio jack

- Sensitive to shock

Stage Set

Portable tablet stand PTS_2013-12-06_ipad-tiltedIf a document camera is too much to lug around between classes, Belkin’s Portable Tablet Stage can easily go from room to room as needed. At a little over 2-pounds, the aluminum Portable Tablet Stage is smaller and lighter than Belkin’s original Tablet Stage, but can turn just about any tablet into a doc cam. It easily folds open to and can be set up horizontally as a document camera, at an angle to view an object or vertically as a camera stand for shooting videos. It works well with the free Stage App for iPad as well as the recently updated $5 Pro version that allows video recording and importing of Acrobat files.


Stage’s Second Act

1_stage_sketch~ipad[1]When it comes to Belkin’s Stage iPad app, a good thing just got better. The second version of the interactive software works with Belkin’s Stage iPad holder to turn the tablet into a document camera. It not only works with iOS 7.0 and easier to use and more functional, but the app has a better interface and the ability to use more color. It’s still free, but the Pro version includes video recording, costs $4.99 and there are school discounts available.




Ready for a Classroom Close-Up

Dc-12 aWith tablets and phones invading the classroom disguised as document cameras, Epson’s new DC-12 doc-cam stands out. It not only can handle HD resolution but can display two images at once with its picture-in-picture format. The arms articulate and the camera head rotates up to 180-degrees to get the right view. While others have an optional microscope adapter, it’s included with the DC-12. The doc cam’s set up is simplified because the DC-12 automatically senses the resolution of Epson projectors that are connected to it and adapts to show the best picture. It should be out by November and cost $600 with a three-year school warranty.

The Phone as Document Camera

Scandock-1Why fuss with an expensive document camera when you can use your phone to put a lesson on the big screen? Scan Dock does exactly that. Just slip your phone (iPhone or Android smart-phone) into the holder, adjust the pair of LED lights and snap away. The results are surprisingly sharp and the dock automatically crops and optimizes the image, but it doesn’t include annotation software. It costs $500.

ISTE 2013: A New View

DownloadThe latest document camera is eInstruction’s ShareView 2, which not only delivers stills and videos but allows teachers to continue to use the company’s WorkSpace software and its thousands of only lesson materials. The big step forward is the tablet-friendly WorkSpace Connect app so that teachers can control what is shown and annotate it. There are free apps for Android and iPads.

All the Classroom’s a Stage

TabletStage-Belkin-hi-resWho says you need an expensive document camera to turn papers and physical objects into a digital stream for a projector? Not with Belkin’s $200 Tablet Stage, an innovative device that can turn just about any tablet into a better visualizer.

Instead of a dedicated document camera costing $500 or more, Tablet Stage can transform an existing tablet into a powerful document camera. It’s a little more involved than using the less expensive Juststand tablet holder, but it is so easy to put Tablet Stage together that you probably won’t even need to read the directions; figure it’ll take 5 minutes to assemble. After that it takes a moment to reattach the tablet to the stand.

There’s a weighted 13- by 15.3-inch base with a stage big enough for a good sized book, a page from an atlas or a calculator for demonstrations. It has rubber feet and can be screwed into place on a tabletop for a permanent installation. There's a vertical aluminum column and adjustable tablet swing arm along with places to stash cables to keep them out of the view of the tablet’s camera.

The key is that the swing arm has an innovative tablet holder with padded adjustable jaws to grip the device. It works with a variety of tablets that have between 7- and 11-inch displays, although it’s too big to hold an iPhone and too small to accommodate Acer’s Iconia W700P.

I used Tablet Stage with a full size iPad as well as a Mini, a Samsung Tab2 and a Lenovo S2110. It can work with many still in their case and hold them securely in place. Unfortunately, the holder’s jaws are able to only loosely hold the iPad Mini in place. I ended up using a rubber band to secure it in palce.

Stage bAt any time you can adjust the arm up or down (to zoom in and out) or rotate it to get to a better view. The camera arm can even be angled from horizontal to vertical orientation to get the right view, say of an art project. This can also replace an articulated tablet holder and allow the slate to be for small group work, video-conferencing or taking pictures.

For use in a darkened room, such as a lights-off lesson with a projector, Tablet Stage comes with a three-element LED light that runs on three AAA batteries that are included. It’s mounted on a gooseneck arm to make it adjustable. It works well, but, like standalone doc cams, you need to adjust its angle carefully so that it doesn’t produce a hot spot.

Because you’re working with a tablet that is horizontal, the screen is free and perfectly positioned for writing, drawing or annotating. This makes augmenting and highlighting the image much easier than is possible with a PC, but Tablet Stage allows the slate to wobble while tapping or using your finger on the screen.

Stage aThe stand really comes into its own with Belkin’s free Stage app. It’s only available for iPads, so Androids can only use the device to hold the slate in place and capture images or video. The app lets you add labels, annotate in several colors and line widths, erase items and point out an area of interest. At any time you can snap a screen shot, but to capture audio and video you need to pay an extra $2 for Belkin’s upgraded software; the add-on makes it easy to upload of videos to YouTube’s EDU section or other sites.

Good for displaying everything from a chemistry lab to the details of an antique map, Belkin’s Tablet Stage put learning material front row, center by turning any tablet with a camera into a visualizer.


Belkin Tablet Stage

Price: $200

+ Replaces an expensive document camera with a tablet

+ Easy set up and use

+ LED lighting

+ Works with variety of tablets

+ iPad app

+ Can hold tablet at a variety of angles


- Doesn’t hold some slates securely

- No Android annotation app

- Tablet wobbles




Seeing is Believing

Rather than telling the class about something or maybe drawing a diagram on the board, there’s nothing like showing them something real with a document camera. From watching a chemistry reaction to showing a map of Napoleon’s march to Moscow, visuals can be the difference between an attentive interactive lesson and boredom. These four document cameras can turn anything into a visual lesson.

TT-12-main-2With Elmo’s TT-12 doc cam, the class can see everything in full 1,920 by 1,080 HD resolution. The camera head can rotate 300 degrees to get a good view of just about any small object, including insects and small sculpture. It has a sharp 7X optical zoom, its own LED lighting and there’s a wireless remote control. The document camera costs $720.

Qpc30-book-smallBy contrast, Qomo’s QMO-QPC30 costs $525 and is portable enough to be able to move from classroom to classroom as needed, but it tops out at 720p resolution. Its 2 megapixel camera is mounted on an articulated arm, there’s an LED lighting bar and a 7X lens to zoom in on any subject.

Ipevo Ziggi HDIf you’ve never heard of Ipevo document cameras you probably will, because the company’s Ziggi-HD USB Document Camera costs just $94 yet offers high-end features and abilities like a 5-megapixel camera. There’s a built-in microphone, the system can work with Evernote or Skype for lesson sharing and it comes with the company’s Presenter program.

JustandMaybe you don’t really need an expensive dedicated document camera, after all. You can use an iPad and the Justand. The red stand securely holds an iPad and swings out, allowing its camera to capture what you want to put on the classroom’s big screen. The bonus is that you can see and adjust what’s being projected on the iPad’s display. It’s a bargain at $89.


Stage Set

Belkin TabletStageWith Belkin’s Tablet Stage stand, you can turn just about any tablet into a sophisticated document camera. Unlike most tablet stands, Stage can work with the iPad, iPad Mini as well as a variety of Android slates in either portrait or landscape orientation. The key is that it lets the slate sit exactly where it can best take in the document or science experiment and project it for the whole class to see. It has an adjustable LED light, will cost $200 when it becomes available next month.

Mzl.nvhqgnex.480x480-75There’s also an iPad Stage app that Belkin has created to allow teachers to do everything from sketch an item to annotate what’s on the screen. The free version that’s available now works with still images and videos for a one-two classroom punch. Version 1.1 is coming at the end of the month and will cost $1.99. It adds the ability to record videos and upload them to an online repository.

FETC 2013: Smart Cam

Smart doc cam 450The latest classroom doc cam comes from Smart Technologies and has a thing or two to teach. The Document Camera 450 can not only grab images and videos from a wide variety of physical objects – from a magazine article to a melting ice cube. Like earlier Smart doc cams, it supports mixed reality technology that allows a 3-D model to be manipulated via an included cube. It works with all of the company’s projectors and whiteboards and will sell for $800 later this spring.



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