Polarized light imaging has been used to detect the borders of skin cancer and facilitate assessment of cancer boundaries. A design for an inexpensive handheld polarized camera is presented and clinical images acquired with this prototype are shown. The camera is built with two universal serial bus (USB) color video cameras, a polarizing beamsplitter cube, and a 4× objective lens. Illumination is provided by three white LEDs and a sheet polarizer. Horizontal and vertical linearly polarized reflected images are processed at 7 frames/s and a resulting polarized image is displayed on screen. We compare the performances of cheap USB camera and a 16-bit electronically cooled camera. Dark noise and image repeatability are compared. In both cases, the 16-bit camera outperforms the USB cameras. Despite these limitations, the results obtained with this USB prototype are very satisfactory. Examples of polarized images of lesions taken prior to surgery are presented. © 2004 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.