Digital Microscopy: low grade industrial cams versus prosumer cameras

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mike.siegel, Jul 25, 2005.

  1. mike.siegel

    mike.siegel Guest

    I've been pricing out various options for a pathology imaging project,
    and I must admit one thing has me a bit flummoxed.

    We're on a limited budget. The two options seem to be: hook up a
    CoolPix with 8MP and a CD adapter, cost about $1200 a unit... or buy
    low-grade dedicated microscope camera with 2MP for about $1500-2500 a

    Why the heck should I buy a 2 or 3MP camera for 2 grand instead of a
    CoolPix? Is there really any benefit other than software? These
    industrial cameras use a .5 inch sensor @ 2MP, A CoolPix 8800 uses 2/3
    inch CCD @ 8MP.

    It seems to me, at first glance if you cant afford a Digital Sight or
    similar, you may as well go with a 'prosumer' camera. Am I wrong?


    Mike Siegel
    mike.siegel, Jul 25, 2005
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  2. mike.siegel

    Darrell Guest

    Wouldn't a Nikon D70s body at CDN $1150 or a D100 body at CDN $1250 not do
    the job better? Nikon does make a microsope camera mount.
    Darrell, Jul 25, 2005
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  3. Kinda, sorta but not completely. Dedicated digital microcope camera start
    at $4,000 and go to about $60,000 so their a bit pricier that you quoted.
    Consumer cameras work well for the purpose you outlined as long as you can
    spend the time to make them work right.

    Most of my customers went for the digital microscope camera because they
    have to use the camera every day. Plus a huge advantage of the really
    pricey cameras is they can take pictures of light a human can't see. There
    are neat things for fluorescence.

    For a short time, limited use camera a consumer is just fine.

    Kevin Cunningham
    Kevin Cunningham, Jul 25, 2005
  4. mike.siegel

    mike.siegel Guest

    Wouldn't the shutter/mirror cause problems with DSLRs?
    mike.siegel, Jul 25, 2005
  5. mike.siegel

    Martin Brown Guest

    There are also digital cameras intended for amateur astronomy that may
    also be of use for some low cost microscopy applications depending on
    whether or not you need low light capability. Consumer grade kit tends
    to struggle o long exposures.

    It all depends what quality and ease of use you need.

    Martin Brown
    Martin Brown, Jul 25, 2005
  6. Yeah, my cousin bought one of the first digital olympus cameras that could
    fit on a microscope, less than 3.5 megapixel, and it cost then an outrageous
    sum, maybe close to 700 euro, with which now you almost get a dSLR with
    cruise control and everything...
    Dimitrios Tzortzakakis, Jul 25, 2005
  7. mike.siegel

    Deedee Tee Guest

    Depends on how often you will use the camera for photomicrography, and
    what you expect in terms of results. I know several people who use
    point-and-shoot Coolpix cameras on microscopes, but you need an
    optical coupler (i.e. a special purpose microscope ocular) for this. A
    reasonably good one (e.g. LM-Scope) may cost you a few hundred $$. The
    coupler you use must be matched to the camera lens, or it will give
    vignetting or (in the worst cases) other problems. In general, the
    wider the front lens element of the camera, the bigger and more
    expensive the coupler will be. So using a prosumer with a large front
    lens will cost you a lot more and give you little or no additional
    advantage. A 3 to 5 Mp point-and-shoot with a small zoom probably is
    adequate for most common uses, especially for stereomicroscopes. Just
    make sure that there is a microscope optical coupler available and
    that the camera can use a remote release cable or infrared remote
    control. You can get around the latter by using the timer function,
    but it is a PITA if you must take a lot of pictures.

    A DSLR body has advantages over cameras with a non-removable lens,
    principally a lower noise and that you may use a good quality
    flat-field ocular instead of a specially designed coupler. It also has
    disadvantages of its own, like mirror vibration that can spoil your

    Specially designed microscope digital cameras, in theory at least,
    should give you low noise and other advantages. However, I have seen
    digital cameras sold for microscope use that are little better than
    webcams but cost 50 times more (which is not to say that all
    microscope cameras are bad, but a really good one may cost you at
    least 5-10 times more than an ordinary consumer camera - much smaller
    production runs explain part of the higher costs). I would not plunk
    down the money without being sure I am getting my worth for it.
    Deedee Tee, Jul 25, 2005
  8. mike.siegel

    Steve Davies Guest

    ___I've been pricing out various options for a pathology imaging project,
    ___and I must admit one thing has me a bit flummoxed.
    ___We're on a limited budget. The two options seem to be: hook up a
    ___CoolPix with 8MP and a CD adapter, cost about $1200 a unit... or buy
    ___low-grade dedicated microscope camera with 2MP for about $1500-2500 a

    We use a CoolPix 4500 ( 4 MP ) and this works fine.

    A higher MP camera would be better though ( Whatever the current Nikon
    offering is ).

    Just need to have the correct 'C' mount for the microscope.
    Our adaptor is made by Olympus ( we use many of their microscopes ( BH

    Basically set the camera to focus on infinity, and set the wide/tele to
    mid range.

    Then use the video output to a regular 34 cm TV.
    Use the microscope to do the focusing, and presto.

    Then USB the images to the Windows workstation

    Ive taken thousands of shots this way and many for scientific

    Tart them up in Photoshop and your done.

    Works well for a basic setup.

    Steve Davies, Jul 25, 2005
  9. Steve:
    I've used a Coolpix990 with a microscope adapter with good results. Zarf
    Enterprises has a wide variety of adapters, etc. for various cameras. Check
    them out on of the virtues of using an SLR on a microscope is that a lens is
    not necessary. You can shoot with the camera connected to the 'scope
    directly and focus with the 'scopes focusing wheels.

    Bernard Saper, Jul 25, 2005
  10. I don't agree that you need an expensive special purpose ocular to allow
    use of a suitable p&s camera. I use a Coolpix 995 by means of a
    29x0.75mm thread (IIRC) which I screwcut on the eye end of a Zeiss KPl
    10x20 eyepiece. It cost me nothing but some workshop time, but if you
    don't have a workshop it should be possible to get it done for a few
    tens of pounds. There are even some eyepieces out there already threaded
    with this exact thread. I find that as long as I set the Coolpix to the
    wide-to-mid part of the zoom range there is no vignetting. It is however
    important to get the eye lens of the eyepiece as close to the front
    element of the Coolpix as possible.

    I think that, as well as matching a coupler to the camera, one would
    need to give attention to matching the coupler to the microscope
    objectives. Some makers put all the optical corrections in the
    objectives, some split them between objective and eyepiece. Using
    mismatched pairs (and of course the coupler here is acting in the same
    way as the eyepiece) will result in serious under- or over-correction of
    the relevant aberrations.
    I also use my EOS 10D on the microscope, and agree it is a mixed
    blessing. More pixels - but these are really mostly wasted, as even 3 MP
    will out-resolve the microscope. Better low noise performance - yes, a
    definite plus, the CMOS sensor low noise, even at ISO 1600, is
    impressive. Shutter/mirror vibration - definitely, but if you use a
    longer exposure (4 sec or more) it disappears. Big disadvantage, for me,
    is the lack of real-time viewing for focussing; most DSLR bodies have
    lousy manual focus facilities, and even with a 2.5x magnification
    right-angle viewer I find it tedious to get sharp focus.
    The advantage of using a consumer camera, of course, is that if it
    doesn't work out quite as you expect, or you get a better
    photomicroscopy camera, you are still left with a nice usable general
    purpose digicam!

    David Littlewood, Jul 25, 2005
  11. mike.siegel

    GTO Guest

    Photomicrography has a hundred pitfalls. A dedicated solution for US$4000 is
    acceptable if you do not want to spend a lot time fiddling around until you
    can make good photomicrographs. Unfortunately, the newer digicams from Nikon
    are getting more and more difficult to adjust for photomicrography. An old
    Nikon Coolpix 990 is a decent choice.

    If you take a DSLR, you will fight at least one more problem. It can be
    solved. But again, it is only recommended for experienced users to try to
    mount a DSLR to a scope.

    Without knowing the type of scope you are using, it is rather difficult to
    tell you whether a DSLR can be easily attached to it.

    GTO, Jul 26, 2005
  12. mike.siegel

    GTO Guest

    GTO, Jul 26, 2005
  13. mike.siegel

    imbsysop Guest

    absolutely correct .. we use a CP99x cam with a commercial eyepiece
    adaptor in our plant research dept. for routine archiving of
    experiments .. works like a charm

    here are 2 picts of 0.2mm diam plant seeds taken with the CP at
    different magnifications
    pictures taken quick&dirty aka no special setup for illumination or
    anything just light coming in through the lab windows :) yanked in a
    green background under the seeds in a vain attempt to ... :)
    imbsysop, Jul 26, 2005
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