Mini Doc Cams Capture the World Up Close

Small document cameras, or mini doc cams, are making inroads into many classrooms due to their low cost, USB power, small size, and adaptability. It is the latter feature that makes them especially attractive to science teachers.

One camera in particular is the IPEVO Point 2 View USB document camera. Since the camera connects to a computer, the full projection capabilities of the camera are only limited by the computer it is connected to. Unlike large tabletop document cameras, the IPEVO camera weighs about 60 grams with two thirds of that being the USB cord.

The tradeoff of low cost and light weight often disproportionately hits performance and resolution, but with a few tips and minor concessions, the advantages of the mini doc cam outweighs the disadvantages. But the strongest advantage of the mini doc cams are their portability and simplicity of operation, which in turn can give it an teaching adaptability that tabletop doc cams can only dream of.

As evidence of this, a magnifying lens designed for the Point 2 View camera has been released and for less than $20, students can use a flush surface-focus 2x lens with built-in lighting on mini doc cam.

While 2x might not sound like much given magnifying lenses and loupes are often 4x-20x and microscopes usually begin at 40x, the 2x is a big deal given the lens is almost touching the object under study. Further, when magnifying objects, the technical complications are also magnified including focus, lighting, and stability that in turn can become insurmountable obstacles to usable photography.

For conventional document projecting uses, the mini doc cams can attach to stands that allow them to mimic their tabletop brethren while maintaining their Superman-like ability to morph into a tiny, fast, mobile camera. And the mobility of a laptop is actually accented, not compromised, with a mini doc cam taking microphotography to a new level and into the field.

Here are a couple examples and applications for the camera outside my classroom. Enjoy.

Leaf close up

The veins of the leaf are easily visible, and the rich color and good-enough resolution outweighs most shortcomings of a mini doc cam.

 

The camera/computer setup

Because the camera is USB-powered, portability is limited only to the environment to which you would subject your laptop.
A camera mount included with the Point 2 View was drilled out in order to fit on a tripod adding to the options students have for holding this camera.

Camera with 2x lens

The add-on lighted 2x lens allows the camera to focus as close as the surface of the lens housing. That allows the camera to be in contact with the object being photographed adding to the stability of the system.

 

Modified mount with tripod screw

The adapter designed to hold the Point 2 View on a laptop or desktop monitor was drilled out so it would screw onto a tripod allowing the IPEVO Point 2 View camera to be mounted onto any standard tripod. The mount on the left has been drilled, and the one on the right is unmodified.

 

Camera with add-on lens

The camera with additional lens can be pressed against the subject of study adding stability and simplifying the work the camera/software has to do focusing the image.

 

Bark close up

This tree bark shows the texture and has depth which is something that a magnification greater than 2x would have missed. The higher the power, the narrower the depth of field, not to mention the sensitivity of movement.

 

Pine needles close up

The flexibility of the camera allows it to be hand-held. You can snap a picture using a camera button, or a mouse-click on the computer side. The images are date stamped and dropped into a folder. This picture also highlights both the limits of the depth of field as well as the sharpness of what is in focus. The camera seems to have a center-weighted autofocus preference so the composition of the above image was done through cropping.

 

Simple, flexible, and small

Portability is one of the mini doc camera’s greatest assets. The USB power, simple stand, and extendable USB cable makes the camera open to classroom and field applications by both the teacher and the students.

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2 Comments

  1. Courtney Castaldi
    Posted June 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I was very interested to read your article on Document Cameras in the classroom. One of my favorite parts of the school I taught Kindergarten at few years ago was the document camera. With the rising class sizes, it is difficult to show students examples of leaves, berries, etc. without them all crowding around you. Even then, you still have some students that do not get to see them close enough. With the document camera, I was able to zoom in to the specific parts I wanted the children to see. The children were able to stay at their seats, and participate in the discussion. When we were talking about leaves, we made a KWL chart. The students listed the facts they knew about leaves and what they wanted to learn. We then took a nature walk outside and the students were allowed to gather as many leaves as they could in a ziploc bag. When we returned to the classroom, we placed some of the leaves on the table and, with the document camera, were able to discuss the characteristics, as well as the similarities and differences. Technology as a whole is an “attention-keeper” for children and the document camera, as simple of an idea, follows this trend.

  2. Brianna Gillin
    Posted July 5, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Document cameras have changed the education world in the last 5 years! Document cameras can be used in so many different ways and in any content area. With rising class sizes, document cameras can be used during experiments and other lessons to engage all students. Teachers can use them to display an experiment they want the whole class to see at one time. They also can use document cameras to walk through an intricate math problem. Personally, I love letting the students use the document camera to show and explain to their peers how they performed a math problem or experiment. When students can stand in front of their peers and share their logic, it really empowers them and allows them to show off their skills. Also I believe that students respond well to each other and using a document camera allows students to communicate in a structured and purposeful manner.

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  • By Cameras in the Classroom « Impact on October 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    […] it may be cost prohibitive to many teachers. This week, an affordable alternative was presented in an NSTA blog post by Martin Horejsi. Instead of using a tablet to replace microscopes, consider using a low-cost USB camera instead. […]

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