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What is a Portable Document Camera?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet

A portable document camera is a transportable presentation tool that allows the user to project real-time images onto a screen, interactive whiteboard, other large-scale display device. These cameras make it possible for many people to simultaneously view an image or object in detail, and are thus useful to teachers as well as those making presentations to large audiences. Compared to standard document cameras, a portable document camera is generally compact in size and can therefore be set up in small spaces and easily stored. Many models have special features, such as image capture capability, microscope connectivity, and lighting adaptation, which make them more functional than older forms of presentation technology.

In most cases, a portable document camera has three main components: a downward-pointing webcam, a movable neck on which the camera is mounted, and a base to which the neck is anchored. Usually, the device’s output port is built into its base. Some portable document camera models can be connected to a computer via USB cable. These models are often powered through this connection, eliminating the need for a separate power cable. Models without computer connectivity generally require their own power source, which is fed to the camera through a port in its base.

Many portable document cameras can be linked to a computer with a USB cord.
Many portable document cameras can be linked to a computer with a USB cord.

To use a portable document camera, the presenter simply places it on a flat surface such as a table or desktop, connects it to his desired display device, and powers up both components. He can then place an item on the work surface in range of the camera’s lens, and a live image of the item will be projected onto the display screen. The items he can display may be two-dimensional or three-dimensional. A literature teacher might use the camera to make a page of lecture notes easily readable, for instance, or a biology instructor may use it to display a large-scale image of a flower. The device’s movable neck allows the user to manipulate the camera position to show three-dimensional objects from multiple angles.

One of the primary benefits of the portable document camera as compared to standard document cameras is its compactness. This allows the user to carry the camera easily and to set it up even in locations with minimal workspace. Many models can even be folded up, providing for easy storage between uses.

Frequently, portable document cameras have special features that make them more effective presentation tools than older devices such as overhead presenters. Some models have an internal image capture feature that allows the user to photograph an image and then return to it later in the presentation. Others allow for microscope connectivity, a valuable feature for science instructors and presenters who wish to share a microscopic image with multiple people at once. Finally, some models have a built-in lighting adaptation device, allowing for a clear, sharp image even when venue lighting is poor.

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    • Many portable document cameras can be linked to a computer with a USB cord.
      By: michaklootwijk
      Many portable document cameras can be linked to a computer with a USB cord.