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AKA: Document Camera

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Fig 1: Document camera with flexible 'gooseneck'
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A small video camera that can be used with a projector, TV or PC to show close-up demonstrations.


There are many types on the market but the typical flexcam consists of a camera head mounted on a ‘goose-neck’ that can be connected to a television via video phono-style connectors. They are usually very simple to set up-many just need to be plugged in and connected, although the television may need to be tuned in like you would if connecting a VCR.

Some cameras now connect straight to a PC via a USB cable and may come with software that enables you to record what the camera views and edit it in a number of ways. By using these, you may be able to create a stock of experiment footage.

The flexcam is a great tool when connected through a video projector as the whole class can view something that may be very small, Focusing the camera into the eyepiece of a microscope can truly bring things up to size.

You may have noticed that PC webcam prices have fallen dramatically in recent years. Some of these function in a similar way to that of the flexcam, though video quality may be compromised. Like the flexcam, these are sometimes used to show close-up experiments or go places that are not easily accessible (into a fume cupboard for example).

Many schools have flexcams that are used a few times a year, mainly for microscope lessons. This seems a real waste of a great resource, they can be used in a variety of applications, viewing animal habitats in biology lessons, KMnO4 convection currents, close-up reactions, dissections and many more.

Steam or heat may damage or permanently fog the lens of a flexcam or webcam. Never place the camera too close to heat sources.


 CautionThe contents of this page are for information only. Please refer to CLEAPSS or ASE safety advice and/or publications before undertaking any preparation, practical experiment or using any equipment featured on this site or any other.