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.