Document cameras are big business in the education field. With technology moving swiftly away from overhead projectors, teachers need something that works the first time, every time.
IPEVO’s Ziggi HD Plus is an affordable document camera that’s bang for the buck — it’s got so much bang for the buck, you might be tempted to buy two.
Weighing in at one-pound and 10 ounces, thanks to its dense base that keeps it planted on a flat surface, the Ziggi HD Plus’ small but solid footprint keeps its rail-thin boom steady without forcing you to push everything else off your desk or table. The boom bends easily at its three joints, and the lens reaches a height of 15 inches at its tallest.
The Ziggi HD Plus has an 8.0-megapixel camera with a Sony CMOS sensor. At full-HD (1080p), the camera displays items on your screen at 30 frames per second. At its highest resolution (2448p), it slows down to 15 FPS, which means fast moving objects will streak across your screen.
The lens can be rotated left, right, and upside down. You can also raise the boom to position it to your eye level if you want to blog or broadcast. I was able to use it in Skype, and the document camera’s microphone can be used for voice communications.
Behind the lens, a push-button gives you manual control over the exposure. Another button switches on auto-focus, and the last button resets the focus. They’re easy to reach and don’t require much force to activate, which is great for operating it with one hand.
The Ziggi HD Plus interfaces with PCs and Macs with a USB cable that can be tucked into the back of the boom to show off the device’s silhouette. The cable measure five-feet long, which is enough with a laptop.
When not in use, the Ziggi HD Plus can be folded and tucked away, though you can leave it out without giving up too much space. Its very low center of gravity and weight will keep it from toppling over or flying off your desk.
Setup is quick and simple. T
he Ziggi HD-Plus doesn’t come with any discs or software — a decision likely made to minimize on packaging and keep costs low — but you’ll find a Quick Start sheet that points you to IPEVO’s website where you can download a zip file that contains drivers and the Presenter program.
Installing the software is simple and incredibly quick. Once it’s finished and the program is opened, connecting the camera into a USB port suddenly brings up an image on the screen.
It’s very simple, and anyone who isn’t a complete rookie with a computer should be able to get it working. It’s also worth pointing out that drivers are available for PC, Mac, and even Chromebooks.
If you’re a plug-and-play user worried about being overwhelmed by the sliders and options in this section, you’ll be happy to know the Ziggi HD Plus is designed to automatically set itself for the best picture. The options are more for fine tuning, so you shouldn’t think of it as a microscope that needs a lot of dial twisting and turning, though the options are there if anything goes wrong.
If you do need to change a setting or two, dropdown menus at the top of the screen control everything from magnification to exposure. It’s actually very incredible how much power you’re given. For example, if whatever you’re trying to display is upside down on the screen, you can rotate or flip the image on the screen.
The camera’s resolution can be switched on the fly from 640×480 all the way to 3264×2448 — great for users with Mac Retina screens. At 1080p, the image looks crisp, and text is easy to read. As for the quality of the image’s colors — with a bit of sunlight through the blinds and one room lamp, I was able to get a very clean image though the colors look a bit washed out.
Exposure controls brighten or darken the image — great for working around glare on glossy prints or errant light coming in from a window. White balance can be changed just as easily by moving the slider from overcast blue to yellow indoor bulbs to offset whatever’s lighting the room or space you’re in.
The last option at the top allows you to tweak the focus of the camera for something more particular or if it’s caught on a focus point and creating a blurry picture. For example, if you’re looking at a three-dimensional object as opposed to just a piece of paper or a Magic card, you might want to change focus to bring up a minor detail, like a recess or indent on a computer chip rather than the top of pin or transistor.
At the bottom of the Presenter interface, you’ll find a dropdown on the bottom left that displays the name of the document camera currently displaying whatever’s onscreen. You can hook up multiple document cameras to Presenter with a feature that allows for split screen, which would be great for showing something like a scientific experiment with varying results or the opposing cards being played in a Magic: The Gathering tournament.
In the middle of the bottom bar, you’ll find a snapshot button for capturing screenshots and a record button for capturing video. Attached to the snapshot button is a stop-motion button that lets you set the intervals and number of shots.
The last of the buttons are Freeze and Display Mode. Freeze is self-explanatory — it just freezes the screen until you unfreeze it. Display Mode toggles an onscreen grid, which are great for aligning things or creating blocks or count beans if you’re teaching elementary-school math.
The tabs to the left of Presenter lead to different modes — Review shows you all of the videos and pictures ever taken, and Split Screen allows you to control multiple document cameras at the same time with controls for layout.
I lit up a packet of index cards with an LED lamp coming in from the side about three-feet away.
I did not touch the manual focus, white balance, or exposure controls, and I just let the software do its thing. The index cards were sealed in clear plastic wrap, but there wasn’t much glare from the lights.
The first picture captured by the Ziggi HD Plus looks really sharp. You can see the folds of the plastic at the corners, though the overall lighting was dialed down to reduce glare.
In order to produce a more accurate picture, I fixed the hue to accurately reflect the green of the up&up logo, increased the gamma to get the white of the index card to pop, and upped the sharpness.
Both pictures are fine, if you’re trying to display something on a projector for students to see. Even with the lighting automatically turned down in the first picture, everything is sharp and readable.
Switching to 2448p mode, the quality of pictures goes up. I was able to capture the texture of comic book paper, and the fine print which looks super small in person is easily readable.
At $99, you’re looking at a document camera with a built-in microphone that also doubles as a webcam. The company advertises it as education’s premier document camera, and it’s hard to argue that point given the many functions, great performance, and the low cost. If the colors were only better, this would have received a full five stars, even if the build is a bit flimsy.
It’s a multi-tool that will work hard as long as you take care of it. In addition to being a great education tool for teachers, I can see product reviewers and professionals using the Ziggi to create YouTube videos, consul with clients, and create stop-motion movies.
So if you’re looking for something affordable and created with and for a purpose, you’ll be glad to spend so little on something that offers so much. The Ziggi HD Plus is a great sidekick that will make you and your work look like superstars.
IPEVO Ziggi HD Plus
This review is based on a review-sample document camera provided to us from the company.