Weighing in at one pound and 10 ounces, thanks to its dense base that keeps it planted on your flat surface, the Ziggi HD Plus’ small but solid footprint keeps its rail-thin boom very 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 when its at its tallest.
The Ziggi HD Plus’ has an 8.0-megapixel camera with a Sony CMOS sensor. At full-HD (1080p), the camera shoots at 30 frames per second, and switched to its highest resolution (2448p), it slows to 15 FPS, which means fast moving objects will look like they’re waving in front of the camera — not a big deal because you can always dial down the resolution.
The lens can be swiveled left, right, and upside down to get your image or video positioned the way you want it onscreen. Using the boom, it can be turned face-down to hang over an object or pointed forward to broadcast a stream. I can confirm that the Ziggi HD Plus can double as a web cam — in Skype’s options, it was recognized as a camera and gave me a nice preview. In case you were wondering what good the Ziggi would do during a Skype session if there’s no audio — next to the lens is the document camera’s microphone, which is a great feature if you need to broadcast a lecture or communicate on a conference call. At this point, calling it a document camera is like calling a Swiss-army knife a blade — it does so much more than the average document camera.
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 because it only requires one hand for operation.
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. Desktop users with not a lot of room to spare will really appreciate the smallness of the device, though some might have to opt for an USB extension cable to get it onto the conference table.
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, and the device comes packaged inside of a solid cardboard box that would please the environmentally-conscious and the customer having it shipped to their office or home. The 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 incredibly simple and quick for anyone who knows a little bit about computers. It’s also worth pointing out that drivers are available for PC, Mac, and Chromebooks.
If the Ziggi HD Plus is the eye, the IPEVO Presenter software is an amazing brain that’s quick and snappy. Once it’s downloaded, installed, and opened — a process that took me a few minutes total — I was able to play with the controls and take some photos of things I had lying around my desk.
Before we jump into all of the controls — if you’re a plug-and-play user worried about being possibly 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 finicky will also delight in having the chance to do so.
If you do need to change a setting or two, the interface for the software is simple and very easy to use. Dropdown menus at the top of the screen control everything from magnification to exposure, giving users precise controls over what’s being displayed on the screen. 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 simply move it manually or swivel the lens on the document camera. If you’re too lazy to get out of your seat, or you’re stuck at the computer, you can also rotate or flip the image on the screen using the Presenter by mirroring or turning the image.
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 1920×1080 (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 lacked saturation (something I discuss in the section below).
Changing to a new resolution takes only as long as it takes for the camera to reset and auto-focus, a process that takes a second or so as soon as you click the new setting. It’s not something users will fiddle with much during operation, but it’s nice to at least have the option in case the occasion calls for it.
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 screen captures. 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 a grid, removes the top bar and leaves the grid, and removes the grid altogether. These are great for aligning things or creating blocks to organize beans if you’re teaching 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.
To showcase the performance of the Ziggi HD Plus, I’ve created some digital photos using the document camera and some items with text — large and small.
The first set of pictures shows a packet of index cards lit with a white LED lamp coming in from the side about three feet away. In the first picture, I did not touch the manual focus, white balance, or exposure controls and let the software do its thing. The index cards were sealed in clear plastic wrap, and there wasn’t much glare from the lights — at least to the human eye. The picture was taken in 1080p mode.
The second picture was taken after I used the manual controls to display something closer to what I was seeing in person.
The first picture captured by the Ziggi HD Plus looks sharp enough to read even the fine print. You can see the folds of the plastic at the corners, and there’s a bit more detail in first photograph because it dialed down on the lighting to reduce glare.
To produce something more accurate to what I was seeing, I changed 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.
Now, before anyone jumps to the conclusion that the Ziggi HD Plus failed this test — I have to point out several things. First, this test is more than a pass/fail sort of test, and that’s due to the second point: cameras don’t have the dynamic range of the human eye. That means it’s harder for a camera to capture the wide range of darks and lights that we’re used to seeing, which is why a typical image may look flat, underexposed, or overexposed depending on what a camera lens is trying to focus on.
In the case of the Ziggi HD Plus, what matters is why it does what it does — what makes it inaccurate in displaying exactly what I’m seeing here in real life. In the automatic image, the picture is darker, but we can see more details in the plastic folds. The software isn’t concerned so much with getting the lighting perfectly correct as it’s trying not to wash out the picture due to the hot white spot near the logo in the second picture.
While any camera, especially in this price range, would struggle to create an accurate picture, the Ziggi HD Plus manages to capture a sharp image incredibly quick.
The next set of pictures were changed slightly, and they’re more intended to show how well small items like text can be displayed. The first picture is of a Magic: The Gathering card with a heavy dose of sharpening. Check out the details in the art and the text of the card. For the second image — fine print from a comic book — I used the 2448p mode.
In the first picture, the Pilgrim’s Eye card is about twice as big onscreen as its original. The name Dan Scott, which is very tiny in real life, can be easily read.
Same goes for the second picture which manages to even capture the texture of the thin paper. I’m near-sighted and can see the text fine without the Ziggi HD Plus, but seeing the high quality of the text from a picture taken with decent lighting makes me quite impressed with the camera’s capabilities.
At just $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.
Because it’s a multi-tool, there are so many things one can do with the Ziggi HD Plus. Reviewers and chefs can use it to create YouTube videos, businesses can consult with clients, and stop-motion artists can create movies. Again, looking at the price, it almost begs you to think of a reason for getting this device.
If you have any notion of creating a YouTube channel or a webpage for a hobby, interest, or repair tutorials, this is an awesome investment. If nothing ever comes of your dreams to be the next FunToyzCollector, you’ll at least have a great webcam for Skype, Twitch streaming, or video blogging.
In terms of build and construction, it’s nice to look at, though you wouldn’t hand it to young students — holding the device by the boom feels haphazard because of the base’s weight and boom’s thinness — but it’s a great fixture for your table, desk, or conference room table. IPEVO sells sturdier document cameras, but none of them perform as well as the Ziggi HD Plus.
Future improvements to the device would include a 60 fps version — which might be overkill — and a ring light for situations when lighting is a problem. Neither of these would be critical as the camera’s ability capture pictures in low light is functional, and upping the frame rate isn’t essential to the quality of the image.
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.
Disclaimer: I was given a free product by the company to test and review.