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TechLab: 5 Document Cameras, $800 or less

The best in classroom doc cams for $800 or less; two models for when you need to specialize.

 Scholastic Administrator TechLab puts the latest in educational technology-from document cameras to projectors to interactive whiteboards to tablets-through their paces at our top-secret proving grounds. Our rigorous evaluations rely on a mix of benchmark tests, comparative measures, and subjective assessments.

The Challenge: From a cast of five document cameras, pick the model that best puts physical objects onto the big screen and fits into the digital classroom.

Click here to download & view the PDF.

Boutique Cams
When you need a doc cam that can go small, look to Celestron and Elmo for distinctive options that do a lot with a little.

Celestron Amoeba
While any of the document cameras in our roundup can put a sheet of paper or a small object on the big screen, the Amoeba is the one to call on when you need to do things like zoom in on an insect's head or a postage stamp.

Easy to set up, the Amoeba can be used with its stage or as a handheld device. It comes with a USB cable and software (Mac and Windows compatible) for displaying the images on a computer for small groups. You can't connect it to a projector, but images can be projected via computer.

The microscope has a 1.3-megapixel imaging sensor and 1,024 by 1,280 resolution. It can zoom in at 10X, 60X, and 200X when used with a 14-inch monitor. There are built-in LED lights from above and below. It'll take about 10 minutes to set up for the first time, and less than a minute after that to fire up a lesson.

The Amoeba worked well with all sorts of objects, from a sample of pond water to a moth's wings to Andrew Jackson's portrait on a $20 bill. Removed from the stage, it can be used as a portable field microscope, great for looking at tree bark or cracks in concrete. The package includes eight prepared and four blank glass slides, as well as tweezers, an eyedropper, and a probe.
The best part is the price tag. At $90, it is a genuine bargain that every science classroom should have.

Elmo MO-1
Unlike other doc cams, the MO-1 easily fits into a jacket pocket and weighs just over a pound. The 5-megapixel camera is mounted on an articulated arm that has a maximum height of 14 inches, and it's quick and easy to set up, with buttons for focus, brightness, zoom, lighting, image rotation, and screen grab via an SD card.

It's the rare doc cam that can connect with USB, HDMI, and VGA ports. On the downside, it makes do with an 8X digital-only zoom and a single LED light that puts out a puny 96 lux.

At $400, the MO-1 is a classroom bargain with a five-year warranty, but it really excels at being the most portable document camera around.


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