Friday, October 31, 2014

Epson ELPDC12 Document Camera Review

Document cameras save lives.  Ok, this might be an overstatement, but when I think about the tech my teachers used when I was in school to to show a book to the whole class, it rings true.  Mrs Arthur in 2nd grade would roll in the opaque projector, a noisy and hot behemoth that resembled a sinister character in Dr. Who.  What I remember most is that we could not use it for too long because the book inside the projector could catch fire.  This was before overhead projectors and the ability to photocopy onto transparency.
 In the old days, tech could catch fire.  
Thank goodness the current tech for sharing books, experiments, and other desktop work is safe, easy to use, and powerful.   While I love the simplicity of cameras like the Ziggi by Ipevo, I was blown away when I test drove the Cadillac of document cameras, the Epson ELPDC12.  The Epson has been designed to help teachers deliver and capture awesome lessons in almost any tech configuration.  
As I unpacked the unit, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the base.  If you want to grab this camera by the head and adjust it? No trouble it is all about the base.
The next thing that amazed me was the variety of configurations the camera is built to accommodate.  The camera can connect directly to the projector via VGA or HDMI.  In either of these configurations you can connect a USB mouse directly to the camera and do live digital annotations without connecting to a computer.  So even without running the signal through a computer teachers can capture lessons using the camera and save it to an SD card in the unit itself.
The "Smartest" configuration is when you use HDMI to connect the camera to an Epson projector.  Even when I used a 5 input HDMI switch, the camera automatically took over the HDMI signal to the projector.  I turned on the projector and powered up the camera and my desktop was almost instantly projected onto the screen.  There was no switching inputs, no selecting, it just worked.
The camera also works well through the desktop interface.  I connected the projector to the computer via USB and used the desktop camera software to record and annotate.  there are two examples below, the first is a review video I made.  


The second video was created by one of our science teachers in class.  She loved how easy it was to clearly show the detailed work.  Her reflection was "It was soooo much better than asking the kids to gather around the table and try to make sure they can see."  The camera allowed her to make the small desktop chicken wing dissection visible in large scale in clear detail projected to the whole class.


My big take away is that the Epson ELPDC12 has many great capabilities and a quick basic learning curve.  I gave my science teacher 5 minutes of training and she successfully created a recording in class.  I showed her how to turn it on, how to focus, how to annotate, and how to start the recording.  So if you are looking to increase your ability to share desktop content with kids with a tool that does not require specialized knowledge or training, this camera might be just what you are looking for.
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