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Equipment

Flexcam
AKA: Document Camera

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Fig 1: Document camera with flexible 'gooseneck'
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Summary

A small video camera that can be used with a projector, TV or PC to show close-up demonstrations.

Operation

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.

Safety

 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.