Nearly identical to the Epson DC-12 Document Camera in most ways, the Epson DC-20 Document Camera ($699) offers one key difference that makes it far more impressive. Where the DC-12 is limited to a strictly digital zoom, which lowers the resolution for the part of the image you’re zooming in on, the DC-20 offers a 12x zoom lens, letting you zoom in while maintaining the camera’s full resolution. The difference won’t matter for most mundane document camera applications, but if you want to see the actual fine detail in the image the camera hands off to the projector, the DC-20 is the document camera you want.
Other than the lens, the DC-20 matches the Epson DC-12 almost point for point, starting with its 1080p resolution and its physical description. Like its near twin, and unlike the Elmo MO-1w Visual Presenter that I recently reviewed, the DC-20 isn’t particularly portable. Even with the document camera arm folded to rest on top of the base, it measures 4.9 by 14.9 by 4.8 inches (HWD) and it weighs 6 pounds 10 ounces.
Unfolded, the arm comes up to as much as 19.6 inches high, with the camera head parallel to the ground. You can also rotate the camera head, complete with built-in LED lights to illuminate the field of view, by 90 degrees to the left or right. One obvious difference from the Epson DC-12 is that the zoom lens on the DC-20 extends about three inches perpendicular to the camera head.
Setup is essentially identical for the two cameras, including being easy if you know how, but complicated by having several choices, with some not working the way you would expect them to.
As with the Epson DC-12, the DC-20 offers several connectors in the camera base, including an HDMI port, a USB-B port, and two VGA ports, labeled Display Out and Computer In. In addition, there’s a USB-A port and an SD card slot which let you connect a USB memory key or SD card to supplement the 1GB internal memory and let you save image and video files to memory, as well as read them directly from memory. There’s also a miniplug jack for an external microphone to record audio as part of the video files, although you can simply rely on the built-in mic in the camera head.
You can set up the camera to show live images at resolutions up to 1080p by connecting it to a projector using either an HDMI or the included VGA cable. You can also show images from a computer by connecting a VGA cable between the PC and the Computer-In port on the camera and then use the Source button on the control panel or remote to switch between the PC and live images. Somewhat surprisingly, you cannot connect by HDMI to the projector and by VGA to the computer and still be able to switch between the two sources. You have to connect the camera to both the PC and projector by VGA.
Another setup choice is to connect your PC to the camera’s USB-B port, connect the projector to the PC, and then use the program that comes with the document camera to control the camera from the computer. For my tests, however, I used a direct connection between the DC-20 and the projector.
Sources of Confusion
The DC-20 suffers from the same minor issues in the menu system and controls as the Epson DC-12. For example, you can show images from two sources at once, using a live image or a file stored on an SD card, USB key, or internal memory. If you try to set the split screen up with a live image and a video file, however, you get an error message saying that you can use only one movie.
That can be confusing in this case, since you’re only using one video file. What the message really means is that you can use only one source with full-motion video, which translates to movies or live images. The other image has to be a still.
Another potential source for confusion is the difference between controls on the remote and on the camera’s control panel. The remote offers separate buttons for capturing a picture and for freezing a frame from a live image, with both buttons clearly labeled. The control panel offers the same two features, but combines both in one button, with a quick press for freezing the frame and holding the button down for taking a picture.
Using the button on the camera for both functions is easy. However, there’s no hint on or near the button for how to make it work. Unless you take the time to look up the feature in the PDF file that serves as a manual, you could use the camera for months and still think that the only way to snap stills is with the remote. Issues like these are minor in the long run, but they can be highly frustrating when you’re first trying to learn how to use the camera.
The good news for the DC-20 is that it works as promised, with features that include both automatic and manual focusing, automatic brightness adjustment, manual control for exposure, and the ability to record video as well as stills. The fine detail you can get with the zoom lens is all the more impressive because of the 1080 resolution.
Two other features that the DC-20 shares with its near-twin are the ability to annotate images and the inclusion of a microscope adapter that lets you attach the camera to a microscope’s eyepiece.
To annotate, you simply connect a mouse to the USB A port, and then use the annotation toolbar that pops up. Note, however, that the feature is limited to working with a live image, and you can’t save the annotations as part of a snapshot or video. The microscope adapter will obviously be of more interest for use in education than in business, but it’s another nice touch in any case.
Comparing the DC-20 with the Epson DC-12, zooming in on the same image isn’t even a contest. Using a printed magazine cover, for example, the 12x optical zoom on the DC-20 (with digital zoom turned off) clearly showed the dithering patterns from four-color printing. With the DC-12′s 16x digital zoom, the only details in sight were the individual pixels, blown up so much they were visible as tiny squares.
As with the Epson DC-12, I’d like this document camera more if it were easier to get started with. Once you learn how to use it however, there’s a lot to like. In particular, the zoom lens can show fine detail that simply isn’t visible with most document cameras. If you have an application where showing fine detail matters, that can make the Epson DC-20 your document camera of choice.
|Native Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA|
|Video Interfaces||HDMI, D-Sub|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc