What is a Digital Document Camera?

Mary Elizabeth

A digital camera is a camera that takes photographs or video and records them to a digital format, rather than on film. A document camera is a device to capture images in real time and display or project them — images that, despite the name, may be of documents or of three-dimensional objects, and that may be captured on a computer for future use. Document cameras are known by several names, including digital visual presenters and visualizers. Digital document camera is simply another name for them because, although analog video output was used when the cameras were first being developed in the late 1980s, digital output is now standard.

A digital document camera might be used to capture the intricate folding of origami.
A digital document camera might be used to capture the intricate folding of origami.

A digital document camera may seem similar to an overhead projector, but it actually differs in several significant ways. One ability the digital document camera has that the overhead projector doesn’t is the ability to show a three-dimensional object where an overhead projector would project a shadow. It can be used without transforming documents into transparencies or other similar formats. The image that it shows can be captured, with the capture ability including video.

Document cameras may be used in lecture halls.
Document cameras may be used in lecture halls.

A digital document camera can be used in educational settings, as well as in business, industrial settings, and law enforcement. In education, the digital document camera can both be used to allow students sitting in the back of a classroom or lecture hall to be able to see a projected item clearly, as well as be used for output during distance education. They can also be used for in-person business presentations, as well as to capture images that can be sent over a network. In a courtroom, LCD panels for jurors can facilitate evidence presentation with a digital document camera, which can also streamline pretrial preparation of exhibits.

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Since three-dimensional objects can be shown and video can be captured, a shared view of items that would have been difficult to capture before become possible. For example, this could include demonstrating any art technique involving fine movements, like origami, or the use of mathematics tools, such as a compass or ruler. Alternatively, it could project the progress of an experiment using fruit flies or some other suitably small specimen type. To a certain degree, the digital document camera can be used as a microscope, zooming in on objects to show them in more detail. It can also project onto a white board, as well as onto a projection screen.

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