If you’re anything like us, you’re not a fan of having to deal with paperwork. We’re a generation of consumers who have grown accustomed to the fact that we can have any piece of information we want with just a couple taps of our fingers. If only there was a way to curate our lives as well as the internet is!
Believe it or not, we already have the technology to digitize our personal lives. The most obvious solution would be a portable document scanner, which takes the mountains of paperwork that seems to accumulate out of nowhere and turns them into a searchable digital database. But they are far from the only option
A document camera performs the same task, but in a very different manner. Instead of forcing you to flatten and feed all of your documents, a document scanner takes a simple image of them as they lay on your desk. For many people, this is a much easier way to do things.
For example, let’s say that you’re a student. You open your textbook every day and study your chapters. Instead of having to spend the time scanning every page individually, why not just place your document camera above the textbook while you read through each day? This takes virtually no extra effort on your part, and you’ll have an always up-to-date PDF with all of the information you’ve studied so far.
Other times, document cameras will be used for presentation purposes. Much like an overhead projector, the document camera sits above your desk and takes real time video of the documents you want to share so that everyone you are presenting to can see it in full high definition resolution. There is much more that these cameras can be used for, so he possibilities are virtually endless. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the three best document cameras on the market. We’ll help you understand what the differences are between them so you can find the one that’s right for you.
Epson DC-21 Document Camera (HDMI)
When it comes to high end imaging equipment, Epson is one of the best names in the business. Their DC-21 Document Camera isn’t the cheapest model on the market, but it’s a great example of what’s possible with a high-end product.
The Epson DC-21 is a high-end document camera that’s specially designed for presentation purposes. It uses an easy to adjust arm and pairs of with a powerful image sensor and delicately assembled optics to create something truly universal. It can be used to present almost any part of any document, and blow it up onto the big screen. If the built in optical system isn’t quite powerful enough for you, you can pick up one of the readily available add-ons that can turn it into a wide-angle lens or even a microscope. For this reason, you’re not just buying a document camera, but the foundation of an entire presentation ecosystem.
If you’re looking for ease of use, the camera can plug directly into your projector to create real time video without any fiddling necessary. But if you’re willing to take the time, there are a ton of great settings built right into the projector that can make your images easier to view. This type of operation procedure means that the camera is a great choice for almost anyone, since it can be as advanced or as simple to use as you like.
You need two things to make a clear image. First, you’ll need a high-quality image sensor. This is the piece of hardware that takes light and converts it into digital images. The DC-21 has a high quality 1080p image sensor that does a great job of capturing crisp and clear images. The best thing about this particular image sensor is the fact that it has a very low signal to noise ratio, and a very high contrast. This means that the images are free of noise, grain, and distortion. As for the contrast, this is generally not something we’d want to see on a photographic camera, but for a document camera it’s a huge benefit. This makes text especially clear, as the edges come across as sharp.
But an image sensor is only half the battle. Even if you have the best image sensor money can buy, if you use a disappointing optical system it can hold the entire thing back. Fortunately, Epson didn’t skimp in this area. They used an all-glass 12x optical zoom system. When it’s zoomed all the way out, it can view documents of up to 11.7 x 20.7 inches. But by adjusting the zoom ring, you can enhance any part of the image. Even though the image sensor only captures images at 1080p, the fact that you can zoom in so easily means that you’ll rarely see blocky or distorted images.
At first glance, the camera looks a bit like something you’d see in a lab. Perhaps that’s because it has a lot in common with analytical equipment. The long arm has no less than three pivot points. This means that no matter what you’re trying to display, it will only take one smooth hand motion to position the camera exactly where you’d like it.
Once it’s on the screen, you might want to adjust the visual appearance. This is easy to do with the built-in image options on the base of the light. It might seem like there is a lot of buttons, but they’re intelligently laid out so you can get exactly the image you want with just a few button presses.
Ipevo Ziggi-HD Plus (USB)
If you haven’t heard of Ipevo before, then you must not have been shopping for USB document cameras for very long. This niche brand specializes in one thing and one thing only. Today, we’ll be taking a look at their mid-level USB document camera to see how this affordable option stacks up against the competition.
Unlike the Epson model, the Ipevo Ziggi-HD Plus is designed to be used to take photos. This is great for anyone who wants to take archival photos of their documents, or create a digital reference of hardcopy material. Even though it’s not the highest priced model in the Iziggi line, it does have the highest resolution images of them all. Operating it is simple. You plug it into your computer over USB, and keep your eyes on the real-time video feed. When you’ve got the document positioned where you want it, you simply hit the button on the included software to take a shot. This makes it easy to take quick shots while you’re flipping through a book, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about your composition.
With an 8-megapixel image sensor, you’re getting some very detailed images with the Ziggi-HD Plus. The final resolution ends up being 3264 x 2448. This is more than enough to perform actions like OCR (optical character recognition) which can take printed words and convert them into machine searchable text.
With higher resolution comes higher color accuracy as well. If you’re capturing documents that have a lot of imagery, this additional resolution will help to preserve the level of detail included in the original printed document.
The layout of this document scanner is a lot like a desk lamp. You’ve got multiple pivot points so it’s easy to position, and the camera stays in place firmly. It does require a little effort to adjust. The ideal way to use this scanner is to position it where you want, then leave it there as you turn pages or shuffle documents around. There aren’t many buttons on the device. Ideally, you’ll want to control it entirely from the included free software. It does take a moment to get used to the layout, but within minutes you’ll be snapping images naturally and easily.
Hue HD Pro (USB)
HueHD was formed with one goal in mind: to make document scanning easy and accessible. This is very much a no frills product. They’ve covered all the basics of document scanning, and packaged it up in an simple and easy to use product.
The Hue HD Pro is a combination device. It works great for doing live presentations, capturing video, or even snapping reference pictures. Imagine that you’re preparing for a presentation. You sit down at your desk and work through your material. When you go to give the real presentation, you can structure it exactly the same. There is no more craning your neck to see what’s made it to the display. What you see is what your viewers see.
The way you interact with the Hue is no different from how you interact with a webcam. It’s completely compatible with software like Skype, although the included Hue HD software has a ton of great features that are specific to presentations. You even have the ability to record video to your PC, and play it back for your own personal revisions.
Although this is a very affordable device, the image quality can be excellent if you use it in the right conditions. Really, it’s only weakness is low lighting. But as long as you’re working at a well-lit desk, you’ll get clear, grain-free images. This is especially important for presentation purposes. When images are blown up on an HD projector, distortion and loss of details become apparent. When using a proper LED light, we found the image quality to be on par with many higher end models.
A lot of focus is being placed on real time use. For that reason, you want something that is designed to be adaptable. The flex tubing that connects the camera to the base is a brilliant way to accomplish this. You’re no restricted to certain movements, you can position the camera exactly where you want, whenever you want to.
Which Document Scanner is Right for Me?
Even though all of these devices look very similar, they are actually quite different from each other. You’ll want to think carefully about how you intend to use the camera. If you’re looking for something that operates more like a scanner, the Ipevo Ziggi-HD Plus is, by far, your best option. Instead of streaming video, it’s designed more for archival type images.
If you’re doing live presentations, you’ve got a couple options. The Epson DC-21 is the crème of the crop in this area. When you’re on the go, you can simply plug it into any HDMI enabled projector and go live right away. Or, you can connect it via USB and use Epson’s powerful presentation software to tweak your image to get something that looks like it was filmed professionally.
If you’re not doing presentations all the time, you might be better off just to go with the Hue HD Pro. This document camera is sold at a rock bottom price, but when used correctly can produce an image generally reserved for items many times its price.