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What is an Elmo® Document Camera?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

An Elmo® document camera is a device typically used for making presentations. It captures images on paper or other formats and can then be used with various other devices to display the captured image. These types of devices are often used with projectors to project an image to a large screen, typically for business meetings or in a classroom. An Elmo® document camera is made by Elmo USA®, a company established more than 80 years ago and, though not the only maker of document cameras, is something of a leader in the industry.

Document cameras are devices specifically made to capture document images, often text or photographs, and then allow those images to be displayed in a number of ways. This can often include the use of a projector, though the image can also be sent to a monitor, computer system, or television screen. Document cameras have replaced older devices such as overhead projectors in many respects, since the document camera can capture any type of image and does not rely on the use of transparent documents. There are numerous manufacturers of document cameras, including Samsung® and Epson®, and an Elmo® document camera is simply one specific type.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

An Elmo® document camera can have a number of different features, depending on the model and the intended purpose of the unit. Many of these devices are designed to be used with a projector to display the image captured by the camera onto a large screen. Some are even packaged with a projector included as a single purchase. Most have an adjustable arm with the camera mounted on it, allowing the user to move, rotate, and adjust the device in a number of different ways.

The camera on an Elmo® document camera usually allows a user to zoom in and out to focus on specific items during a presentation, often without losing visual clarity. Since the document camera is capturing the image in real time, a user can write on the document and make other changes, which will show up on the image as it is being seen. Some document cameras are also designed to work with a user’s computer, allowing him or her to open a program on the computer and manipulate the image as it is being projected onto a screen. This allows technical demonstrations or additions to be made to a presentation in a way that is interactive and goes beyond handwriting.

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Discussion Comments


My company is on a pretty limited budget and we still use overhead projectors from time to time.

I give many presentations and would love to have a document camera. I have been encouraging my boss to include one of these in the budget for the coming year.

I have spent some time doing some price comparisons and reviews and have narrowed it down to an Elmo or a Lumen document camera.

Both of them have the features I would use most often and both have good reviews. I think the auto focus feature would be really helpful. I get tired of constantly trying to keep the transparency sheets in focus. It would probably come down to price on which one to eventually buy.

When I have talked to friends who use document cameras on a regular basis, they say there is no comparison to using an overhead projector.


I remember the days of overhead projectors and transparencies. While they are still used today and get the job done, I prefer using a document camera.

If you have to lug around an overhead projector very long, you soon learn how awkward it can be.

One of the things I love best about using my Elmo document camera is how lightweight and portable it is.

When I am giving presentations, I like the option of using a remote control and the ability to zoom in on a particular area.

There are several online places and office supply stores where you can buy a document camera. Depending on the features that you want, they are not too expensive compared to the portability and flexibility you have with them.


@SkyWhisperer - I don’t know. The article says you don’t lose visual clarity, but I would agree that the text does get rendered as a bitmap. I’m not really sure if that compromises your visual resolution a whole lot.

Since this is a real time device, you could probably keep tweaking the image. You could do that live, while you’re doing your presentation, until you get an image that you were satisfied with.

In my opinion, it still beats using old fashioned overhead projectors which are limited to transparencies. Nowadays computers are used for most projection technologies of one sort or another anyway.


I only have one reservation about a digital document camera like this, regardless of the manufacturer. My understanding is that when you capture a digital image of a document, you lose some resolution in the quality of the text.

That’s because all of the text now becomes one big picture. It’s not the same thing as throwing up a PowerPoint slide where you have text rendered as fonts or something like that.

Typically when text becomes a picture, it’s harder to zoom in on it without losing some of the resolution. I’ve never used the device so I don’t actually know, but this would be one reason I would stick to some other technology that renders the text using actual fonts.


This is one of those things that's nice to have, but just not one hundred percent essential. I'm a teacher and at my school we have a few fancy technology items that can be checked out, like smart boards. An overhead document camera would certainly be handy - I could project textbook pages, etc. - but I get by with just the old trusty overhead projector.

You can do more with transparency sheets than people realize. If you write on one with permanent marker, you can then mark it up with dry or wet-erase markers as you discuss it. You can also project onto a whiteboard and write on the whiteboard.

They are expensive, but you can also get special transparency sheets for ink jet printers as well as for copy machines so you can print color or black-and-white documents or images onto a transparency sheet. The only disadvantage there is that you can't write on these special sheets.

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