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Connecting a camera to a microscope



Connecting a camera to a microscope can be somewhat of a science in itself. There are several solutions. Some of the solutions are quite low-cost, others are DIY home-made solutions, while still other commercial options can be more costly (but may also give you the least problems). Each approach has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Over the past years, I have tried out several approaches and would now like to give you a short overview of the possibilities.

Some basics first

There are several options for connecting a camera to a microscope. The camera system can either be connected via a dedicated photo tube on a trinocular head, or can be connected to one of the microscope’s eyepieces. Depending on the set-up, there can be either intermediate optics between the camera and the microscope’s objective, or not.

  • The image produced by the microscope objective can be directly picked up by the sensor of a camera, without an eyepiece or other intermediate optics. Here objective of a microscope produces a real image directly on the camera’s sensor. The objective produces a relatively large image, compared to the small sensor of many cameras. Unless the sensor is large, there may be quite much empty magnification and the brightness of the image is low.
  • The image produced by the microscope objective can also be passed through a reduction lens before reaching the camera sensor. This way the image produced by the microscope objective is reduced in size to better match the small sensor size of the digital camera. The reduction lens produces a real image on the camera sensor. Without the reduction lens the image would be magnified too much. The reduction lens also results in a brighter image. This is an improvement to the first point from above. Eyepiece cameras for microscopes use this system. The reduction lens is not a compensating photo eyepiece and therefore does not correct lens errors produced by the objectives.
  • The image produced by the microscope objective is first passed through a regular eyepiece. A virtual image is produced this way, which can not be used to directly make a picture. A camera (with its own objective) then picks up the virtual image and projects it on the sensor. The camera works like the eye, which converts a virtual image to a real image. This system is used in afocal photography, in which a regular compact camera (with its own objective and all) is attached in front of the eyepiece.
  • The image produced by the microscope objective is passed through a photo projection ocular (photo eyepiece), which then projects a real image on the sensor of an SLR camera. There are no camera objectives involved. The projection eyepiece corrects optical errors which are produced by the microscope objective. These photo projection eyepieces are compensating optical elements. This means that they are designed to correct various lens errors that the objectives produce, including field curvature and chromatic aberration. These projection oculars are therefore manufacturer dependent and must correspond to the objectives of the manufacturer. Besides image quality, another advantage is, that parfocality is maintained between the camera and the eyepieces (i.e. both images are in focus at the same, and there is no focus deviation).

Let’s now have a look at a few real life applications:

Connecting a webcam (home-made solution)

This was one of my earlier attempts of connecting a camera to a microscope. I completely dismounted a webcam and removed all of the optics. Leaving the webcam optics in place (used in afocal photography) would result in a too small image because most webcams have wide-angle optics. I then placed the electronics with the attached sensor into a separate plastic box and attached a short metal tube to the box for easy placement on the trinocular head. There were no intermediate optics involved and the image was directly projected from the microscope’s objective. Make sure that the blue filter is still in pace in front of the sensor (they are quite red sensitive), otherwise you have to use a blue “daylight” filter (for photography) on top of the halogen lamp of the microscope.

DIY webcam mounted without intermediate optics to the microscope.

The webcam sensor.

The electronics are held in place with some foam material.

The sensor is mounted directly to the main board.

Advantages:
  • This was a low-cost solution and worked reasonably well. The plastic case was not expensive at all and the short metal tube I obtained from an old discarded telescope. I was lucky that the diameter was just right.
  • The webcam produces a live image on the computer screen, which can be easily focused.
  • The webcam was released through the computer and therefore there was no camera shake, resulting a steadier image.

Disadvantages:

  • The resolution of the camera was quite low (640×480 pixels), but this can be resolved by using a different webcam.
  • The far bigger disadvantage was, that the objective generated a relatively large image and the sensor of the camera was quite small. For this reason there was much empty magnification. Intermediate optics (reduction lenses) would have reduced the size of the image and would therefore also have made a brighter and sharper picture. These optics were not available to me, however.
  • Some lack of parfocality can also be a problem. The focus of the camera and of the eyepieces are not the same. The objectives produced an image 10mm down in the phototube. This place was of course not accessible by the webcam. If the deviation is too large then this can become a problem for the objective to slide distance during focusing.
  • Webcams often have a blue filter covering the sensor to reduce the effect of infra red light, which gives the whole image a reddish hue. If you remove this filter with the optics, then you need to add a blue filter over the microscope illumination or into the condenser

Connecting an analog video camera (home-made solution)

The principle here was the same as in the webcam solution. I ordered a color surveillance camera module, without case, only the electronics, and mounted this into an aluminum case, which a friend of mine made for me using the appropriate tools. I connected the camera both to a VCR recorder and a TV. Advantages and disadvantages were quite similar to the webcam solution.

A surveilance camera in a case made of aluminum. No intermediate optics.

The camera body is made of one piece.

The camera sensor can be seen.

The main board (with sensor) is held in place by teflon rings (white ring inside).

Advantages
  • Fast video display on a TV is possible. This makes it suitable for use in classrooms that have TV screens. There is no need to convey the signal over a computer.
  • The speed is in real time and faster than when using slower webcams.

Disadvantages

  • Unlike webcams, a separate power supply is necessary.
  • Analog video is now somewhat outdated and the resolution is lower than with modern webcams.
  • The surveillance camera must be compatible with the TV system (NTSC, PAL or SECAM).
  • Capturing still images on a computer (or simply viewing the images on a computer) requires an analog video input, which not every computer has.

Connecting an SLR

“Big name” microscope manufactuerers all have dedicated imaging solutions for their microscopy systems. This one was the most expensive solution, but also the one giving the best results. The image from the microscope’s objective is further processed by a special photo-projection ocular, which then projects it directly on the sensor of an SLR (single-lens-reflex) camera. The projection eyepiece corrects all remaining lens errors from the objectives. I have worked a lot with this system, and the resolution of the pictures is very high. I now have an 18 megapixel SLR camera and this resolution is much higher than the resolution produced by the microscope and specimen.

The photo eyepiece adapter is mounted on the phototube of the trinocular head and holds the photo ocular.

The Canon EOS 600D has a swing-out LCD screen. This makes it possible to focus while sitting.

Advantages:
  • The best image quality is produced. The projection ocular corrects chromatic aberration and also generates a flat field of view (so that the sides of the image are not out of focus).
  • SLRs have a high dynamic range (both bright and dark areas can be captured at the same time, without much information loss).
  • Some SLRs allow for the capturing of RAW images. These are able to capture an even higher color depth for a high dynamic range.
  • SLRs have a high resolution, often much higher than dedicated microscope cameras (for the same cost).
  • The sensor of SLRs is quite large, therefore the signal to noise ratio is high. This makes it suitable for low-light photography or high ISO photography and very short exposure times.
  • It is possible to couple the SLR with a flash system for the microscope, for microflashing. I never tried this, though.
  • The SLR can also be controlled from the computer for automatic photography (called tethered shooing).
  • Some modern digital SLRs also allow for video recording. This is a major advantage, if needed.

Disadvantages:

  • Generally a high cost of both SLR camera and associated adaptor tubes, projection oculars, etc. The projection eyepiece and phototube are manufacturer specific and can be relatively expensive, especially when the components are not manufactured anymore. I read somewhere, that there are also non-manufacturer specific adapter tubes available for SLR cameras, but one has to do some research for this. For best results, the projection ocular must match the objectives and sensor size of the camera.
  • A dedicated trinocular head with phototube is necessary. It is not possible to connect the SLR and phototube in front of an eyepiece tube (which extends 45 degrees horizontally), due to its weight.
  • Camera shake during the release can be much higher than with other cameras and can blur the image a bit, but there are solutions for this (long exposure time, using mirror lock up).
  • Live-view on the computer screen is not always possible, this depends on the SLR.
  • The photo projection ocular should be from the same manufacturer as the microscope objectives, otherwise lens errors are not properly corrected.
  • My system uses a photo projection ocular which was designed for analog 36mm film cameras. My current digital camera has a smaller sensor size and therefore there is extra magnification and the field of view is not as wide. Stitching images together with panorama software can be necessary. The field of view is much wider than in the webcam and analog video solution (from above), however. Different projection oculars for smaller sensors do exist, they are not manufactured anymore, and are thus relatively expensive.
  • SLRs can not be used for focal photography, the lens diameter is too large.
  • Not every microscope manufacturer may offer SLR adapter tubes and corresponding compensating photo eyepieces and it may be necessary to use manufacturer independent products. These may not deliver the highest image quality, however.

Connecting compact camera (afocal photography)

Fortunately it is possible to make good quality pictures by using regular digital compact cameras as well. This solution is more cost effective. The front lens of the compact camera must be sufficiency small, which is usually the case. The camera is mounted on a tripod and the picture is taken through the eyepiece of the microscope. It is necessary to zoom in and it is also necessary to adjust the camera-eyepiece distance properly. There are some adapters available, which allow one to clamp a compact camera to the base of the eyepiece, without any modifications to the camera. These clamps use the tripod connector of the camera.

The triplod holding the camera can either be placed on the table or on the floor.

Proper centering and correct camera to eyepiece distance is important.

Advantages
  • No trinocular head needed and one can use a camera that one already has.
  • It is also possible to take pictures freehand, without tripod, if there is sufficient light for short exposure times (but this is a bit difficult sometimes).
  • Due to the high resolution of compact cameras, much image information can be captured.
  • It is also possible to zoom in and out.
  • Many modern compact cameras also allow for the recording of (HD) video clips!

Disadvantages

  • There is the possibility of vignetting if the system is not properly set up. For proper photography one also needs to use a tripod, which takes space.
  • The theoretically best image quality can not be achieved (compared to connecting an SLR with projection eyepiece), but often the quality loss is irrelevant. The reason for this is because there are simply more lens elements in the light path (camera objective) and because the regular eyepieces are not designed for photography.
  • The suitability of the compact camera for microscopy has to be tested first, not all compact cameras may work equally well (depends on diameter of camera objective). If the camera objective is larger than the exit pupil of the eyepiece, then there is the possibility of vignetting (solution: zoom in more).
  • Field curvature may possibly be a problem. In this case the side of the image is out of focus, while the center is in focus. This effect can be reduced by zooming in.
  • The set up with tripod is not very convenient. It is possible to make an adapter tube which is connected directly to the camera. This tube then can be inserted into the microscope like an eyepeice. It is possible to use compact cameras that have a filter thread and connect the adapter tube to this thread.

Using a mobile phone camera

Yes, this too works! The objective lens of the mobile phone is smaller than the image produced by the eyepiece, so this works. The camera focuses to infinity.

Shaky, a bit improvised, but possible. The correct eyepiece to camera distance is critical.

Advantages
  • Fast, simple, no extra cost and no microscope adaptations are necessary.
  • There is a microscopy iPhone app which calculates magnification, it is worth checking out.
  • The pictures can be directly sent from the phone, if this is needed.

Disadvantages:

  • Very steady hand needed to hold the camera at the correct distance from the eyepiece. A wrong camera to eyepiece distance will result in vignetting.
  • The camera is usually wide-angle and covers the complete field of view. The image is in a circle. For this reason pixels are wasted.
  • The solution is somewhat improvised (having to hold the mobile phone by hand) and I have not used it on a regular basis.

Connecting a dedicated microscope camera

This is my favorite solution, because of its high convenience. It is possible to do microscopic observations without looking through the eyepiece, only the computer monitor. This can be more relaxing at times. These cameras are connected directly to the computer and are controlled entirely over the computer. Full manual control is possible with the camera that I have. This is absolutely essential (especially when one wants to make panoramic images). There are reduction lenses in front of the camera, so the brightness of the image and field of view are increased (compared the the DIY webcam solution from before). And for those of you who do not have a trinocular head: these cameras can be mounted instead of an eyepiece!

The camera has a reduction lens and can be mounted on the phototube.

The camera can also be attached in place of an eyepiece.

The camera can also be attached in place of an eyepiece – another view.

Advantages
  • Most convenient, relatively small (compared to connecting an SLR).
  • The image sensor (in combination with the reduction lens) also covers a wide field of view but does not make the image appear in a circle (like when using mobile phone cameras).
  • The camera can stay on the microscope and I do not have to detach it like I had to for my SLR.
  • There is no shutter release shake and all of the pictures are stored on the computer’s hard disk. It is therefore possible to take many images for time-lapse photography, without having to worry about the memory card becoming full.
  • No trinocular head needed! These cameras are light enough to be used instead of an eyepiece.
  • These cameras often have a C-mount or CS-mount to which the reduction lens is connected. It is therefore possible to exchange the reduction lens to obtain a different magnification. Unfortunately, these reduction lenses are difficult to obtain alone, without camera.

Disadvantages

  • Compared to the camera resolution, these systems are quite expensive (but not unaffordable). I paid over $260 (EUR 200) for a 3.1 megapixel microscope camera with reduction lens. For my uses, a higher resolution is not needed, however.
  • It is also necessary to have a computer around and running for taking pictures, as the camera is not able to store images.
  • Another disadvantage is that the USB cable connection is too slow to allow for high-quality video recording. Movements are not recorded smoothly. Using a lower resolution may resolve the problem.
  • The reduction lens can not be compared to a compensating photo projection eyepiece, which corrects lens errors (and is manufacturer specific).

Other possibilities, which I did not try

  • Using a camera system which was specially designed for the microscope. Bigger microscope companies offer these solutions. The camera has a mount which fits only to the microscopes of a particular manufacturer. Often the optics of the camera are also match the optics of the remaining microscope (compensating lens errors etc.). Sometimes these cameras also have other features that are not commonly found on digital cameras, such as stand-alone operation (no computer connection needed), LAN connectivity, or even a separate camera control panel. I would guess that these cameras are interesting for research institutions, who want to have a solution, which works out of the box.
  • Removing the objective of a compact camera and attaching a custom-made adapter (with or without reduction lens) to the body of the camera. These adapters may need to be designed specifically for the camera. You may be interested in this link: Making Digital Camera Microscope Adapters
  • Attaching a custom adapter to a compact camera for easy afocal photography. The camera’s objective stays on the camera. The adapter goes over the camera’s objective and can be connected to the eyepiece without the use of a tripod.
  • Using a clamp to hold the camera for afocal photography. I have found one German shop specializing in amateur astronomy (!!) selling these holders for microscopes and telescopes. The holder is clamped to the tube of the microscope and also holds a compact camera. Check the following links to see what I mean (I am not affiliated with this shop): Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3 | Amazon also has them

Do you have any further suggestions on how to connect a camera? USe the comments section below to share your thoughts!

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65 Comments

  • Tony T says:

    Excellent account.

    For connecting a SLR you do not need expensive adapters. Just mount the camera body on a stand that holds the camera above the trinocular tube.
    No need to, and probably best not to, connect the SLR to the microscope. You do need the special photo eyepiece
    (a NFK for the Olympus, Nikon have a similar system).
    The camera sensor has to be about 125 mm from the NFK, any make of SLR will work. Cover the gap between the camera and the photo eyepiece with a tube lined with black light-absorbing material. Very nice to have a camera that has Live View as then you can use a TV to see what the microscope sees.

  • Oliver says:

    Tony,
    Yes, it may be possible to connect the camera body with the microscope over a bellows. Having the SLR attached to a separate stand (and not to the microscope itself) also reduces vibration.

    On a different note: Most large microscope manufacturers changed their system and now produce infinity corrected microscopes. It can be difficult to obtain photo eyepieces that are made for the older finite system.
    Oliver.

  • Tony T says:

    J have a Nikon D90 with attached bellows that I position over the NFK photo eyepiece of an Olympus BH2, not touching. My images can seen in the magazine,
    plenty of Olympus NFK photo eyepieces on ebay; but don’t buy anything higher than 2.5x.
    If you have Nikon CF objectives you do not need a photo eyepiece. These objectives are ‘Chromatic Aberration free’ and all corrections are in the objective. Older objectives from other manufacturers do the final corrections in the photo eyepiece – thus you should match objectives and eyepieces from the same maker.

  • Avidor says:

    Oliver,

    I have a dedicated microscope camera (3.0 MP) recently purchased in a package with a new stereo microscope. Regarding your comment:

    “Another disadvantage is that the USB cable connection is too slow to allow for high-quality video recording. Movements are not recorded smoothly. Using a lower resolution may resolve the problem.”

    How can one use a lower resolution? Is that something that can be selected inside the software, or do you mean one must use a different camera with, say, 1.6 MP? Would a 5.0 MP camera be even more of a problem for video recording?

    Thanks ~ Avidor

  • This is more of a suggestion than a solution and i was wondering if anybody has done this. A few of the new compact digital cameras have removabale objectives and one of them, the Sony NEX-5N (and probaly all of the NEX series) sem to be able to operate without specific objective lenses connected to the camera. There seem to be adapters avalable at a few £ whiuch allow the conection of old manual objectives.
    The benefit of this solution would be that the camera has a large (APS-C) size sensor with 16MP and streams video at 1080p HD. This would give a good image quality for live work and focussing and an even beter image quality for still shots.

    Any comments ??

    I am happy to exchange private e-mails for further discussions.

  • Tony T says:

    That is a standard technique with digital SLRs. One can use any camera lens with the correct lens-to-camera coupler. But also, perhaps more useful, is that one can use Nikon CF microscope objectives rather than a camera lens.
    Such objectives have to be CF (chromatic aberration free). My camera has live View and a HDMI connector, I can see images (before and after capture) on a HDMI TV – makes for great focusing and looking. I use 2x-60x objectives on my system, although beyond 10x requires experience and some luck to get a decent image.

  • Sarah C says:

    If you would like to save the time and aggravation of building a coupler yourself, we manufacture a line of camera to microscope couplers for digital SLR cameras. Our couplers are very well designed with high quality optics, and they provide a wide field of view. They are available for a wide range of current and legacy microscope models.

  • slider says:

    I have a dedicated 9.0 megapixel camera that I am trying to use with my trinocular microscope. Unfortunately, when the object is in focus to my eyes, the camera is not. The trinoc tube is adjustable up and down, but not enough (down) to compensate. I would like to shorten this tube, but fear damaging it due to my “all thumbs” technical abilities.
    Any suggestions? I only need to shorten the tube about 1/2 cm.

    • Oliver says:

      This difference in focus is nothing unusual. I would not start cutting the tube – the focus may be different for different objectives (if you get it sharp with one objective, it still may be out of focus with the other ones). Unless the difference in focus is big, I would probably leave it. Instead of moving the whole camera, try to move the photo eyepiece (if you use one) up or down to focus.
      Oliver

  • There is an easier way to connect a digital camera to the microscope without having to use a tripod. I used my old rusty universal 2-way clamp to hold my cannon camera in place. One other end is than mounted close to the eye piece of the microscope. This works wells as long as your microscope has a sturdy base otherwise it will tip over. With a 12MP camera the images are pretty good. Be careful though not to accidently scratch the lens of your camera which nearly happen to me.

  • Zibbe says:

    Very good account ! What is the brand/type of the dedicated 3.1 MP camera if i may ask ? Could not find it on the net.

    • Oliver says:

      The camera is a UCMOS03100KPA
      camera from the company ToupTek.
      The web address is: http://www.touptek.com/product/showproduct.php?lang=en&id=23
      Software is included, but the driver also works with other webcam programs. I use the free program WebcamViewer V1.0 to take the images. First you adjust all of the camera settings (exposure time, white balance etc.) in the supplied program ToupView. The settings are then remembered when the program is closed, and then it is possible to use other programs as well to take the pictures (but of course it is possible to use the supplied program as well, but I like the simplicity of WebcamViewer, which allows me to take quick pictures by simply clicking on the displayed live image).

      My camera is round, the one shown on the company website is square, but the camera designation is the same, so I guess that it contains the same electronics. Mine also came with associated optics, and I bought the camera from a local telescope shop, which imported the camera (there are adapters included for telescope as well).

      Oliver.

  • Jugo Ilic says:

    After purchasing a cnscope 2M pix camera, and scope photo software I notice that the image field of view is considerably reduced, and appears at higher magnification than the image seen directly via the eyepieces i.e. there is a need for a reduction lens. Prior to purchase I requested information about the the lens, but to no avail no response was obtained. I bought the camera anyway an sure enough there is no reduction lens.
    Is there anything that can be done simply? to lower the mag and increase the field of view?
    Jugo

  • Oliver says:

    Jugo Ilic,
    a. Cameras should not capture the whole field of view, otherwise the image appears in a black circle and many pixels are wasted. The magnification is therefore always higher, because the camera captures the central part of the field of view. This also eliminates the possibly blurry sides of the image in case you do not have plan objectives (not a big problem when viewing with the eye, but evident in photographs)
    b. if your camera is without reduction lens and you use the objective of the lens to project the image directly on the chip, then there is indeed much extra magnification. A solution would be to somehow decrease the distance of the camera to objective.
    c. if there is a reduction lens added but you are still not satisfied with the field of view, then you can can try to attach a different reduction lens. C-mount cameras usually allow the exchange: http://www.meijitechno.com/cmount.htm
    Oliver.

  • Jugo Ilic says:

    Thanks Oliver,
    I was expecting the camera to capture the central field of view, and for that reason it should have a reduction so that the view is comparable to that seen with direct observation.
    The camera (2.0MP USB Live Video Eyepiece Digital Camera) does not have a reducer as it images directly from the objective. I have tried to reduce the distance but it is difficult without significant modification of the tri-head.
    I look at micro-sections of wood and usually work with relatively low power – 40-100x. I thought I could try a low power objective (1.2x), but it is not really suitable for use with the standard compound microscope. it has a long working distance just outside the range of the stage adjustment.
    I’ll have a look at the link you suggested – sounds like a reduction lens might be the best option.
    Regards,
    Jugo

  • Zibbe says:

    Thank you very much for the detailed info !

  • Scott says:

    A little better than holding the mobile phone in your hand is to mount it with http://www.skylightscope.com/

  • Doli Panggabean says:

    Do you have website or link to buy the connector for compact camera (afocal photography) to microscope and also for SLR camera? Could you give it to me? Thanks before

  • Field Yu says:

    The camera is made by us and anyone has any problem can be solved by ToupTek Engineer.

    We design the optics , electronics and software by ourselves.

    If the speed is too slow, we suggest to use our USB3.0 Camera. The USB3.0 camera can be found here
    http://www.touptek.com/product/product.php?lang=en&class2=57

  • Field YU says:

    Hi Oliver

    The fast speed can be found here
    http://www.touptek.com/product/product.php?lang=en&class2=52

    It’s USB3.0 CMOS camera with 27FPS for 3.0 MP

    Best wishes

    Field

  • Jon Aronson says:

    I have purchased a Labophot T head for my Nikon Labophot microscope. I already have a D90 Nikon camera. Can anyone suggest whatattachment I will need for the T head?

    drjon4u2@verizon.net

    Thanks,

    Jon

  • David Sterrett says:

    I have a Biolam Russian Microscope and have recently used a low cost 12 mpixel web cam I bought a a computer fair cheaply -th results are very good but the X80 lens magification is a bit fierce, so I will either look for a lower magnification lens or a reduction lens to overcome this. I also have experimented with different coloured light sources from different angles, when looking at various rock and gem samples -one gets some interesting effects! I also intend to use mixtures of different coulour light colours, including ultra violet and infra red (LEDs) from different angles as well. Infra Red provides interesting effects as well

    Regards
    David Sterrett

  • Ibrahim says:

    Hello,
    Excellent account , i really have two questions and hope you can help;
    First , I have an optika B350 microscope to which a phototube is attached to the trinocolar tube…to this a compact canon powershot camera is attached , the thing is the picture percieved by the camera show horrible focus on the edges while the center maintains focus whatever i make …i don’t think a photo projection ocular is in place , should i purchase one or there is another solution.
    my second question is regarding taking a photo through the eyepiece in a FLOURESCENT microscope (where the room is obviously dark) , i need this badly . it’s an olympus B61 flourescent microscope and it’s a part of an automated FISH system so only the eyepiece show the picture i want to capture (software does FISH modifications) , would a dedicated microscope camera work? and is it the same for different eyepiece tube sizes?

    • Oliver says:

      Hello,
      Phototube and projecton ocular issue: this is not so easy to answer. While a specific projection ocular might indeed improve the situation (if they are compensating optical errors), they have to be specifically made for the objectives/microscope. So you should get one from the manufactur of your microscope/objective. I think that this could be not so cheap. I consider dedicated usb microscope cameras (with incluoded reduction lens) the most cost worthy solution, even if the image quality is not as high as with regular cameras. But at least you avoid other adaptation problems this way.

      Oliver

  • LKOLTON says:

    Hi Oliver,
    First, Thanks for the excellent review !
    I have recently obtained a used Zeiss Axiostar Plus Trinocular Microscope with a dedicated PixelLinK PL662A digital camera.
    The system works great for taking video and stills but I am not absolutely happy with the resolution and quality of the c9olor images.

    Since I already have canon DSLR Bodies ( a 40D and a 6D) I was thinking that maybe I can use these cameras for obtaining better resolution and higher sensitivity than the PL662A ( which is somewhat outdated by now).

    The problem is, I have no Idea how to connect the Canon DSLR to the Trinoc Tube. The PDF manual for the Axiostar Plus shows several different adapter tubes for SLR cameras but none for Canon DSLR cameras like the 40D ( APS-C sensor) and the 6D ( Ful frame sensor).

    Is there a commercial ready made Adapter to hook up an EOS (EF) Type canon DSLR to the Trinocular Tube of the Axiostar ? or to one of the available adapters which are found in the Axiostar Manual ?

    Thanks for your help

  • Jay Roland says:

    Excellent article. My problem is that my digital compact camera (Fuji Finepix A370) has the annoying habit of retracting the lens back into the camera housing if no buttons are pressed within several seconds so I am limited to holding the camera up against the ocular and hoping for the best!

  • pooja Bansal says:

    Hello sir,

    My problem is that i want to connect camera with microscope , camera is having image sensor of 1/2 inch and image format is 2048*1536 using it as a eyepiece . the working distance is 210 mm and my particle with i want to see is of size 1 micron . I want to know how to calculate the lens that i need to use in microscope for good image. waiting for your reply asap.

  • Jacob M says:

    I am quite new to microscopy and had the good fortune to stumble on to this informative page. When you say, “The image produced by the microscope objective can be directly picked up by the sensor of a camera, without an eyepiece or other intermediate optics,” does this apply exclusively to finite objectives? I ask because I’m building microscope with an infinity corrected objective and need to use a camera for alignment. I’m wondering if I will need an infinity corrected tube lens between the objective and the camera.

    Thanks!

  • Chris Walter says:

    Oliver,

    I’m thinking of making a microscopic attachment for a Hasselblad medium format digital camera. The sensor is 33mm x 44mm about twice the size of a 35mm sensor.
    Reading your excellent account above I’m left with the impression that using just the camera body with a tube to a non-infinity objective would produce an image and the large sensor would remove the problems you had with webcams. Would this work and if so, which objectives would you recommend? If not, what other solution do you suggest?
    thanks

    Chris

    • Oliver says:

      Chris,
      difficult to say if it would work. Probably it would work, but the question is always if the quality is sufficient. I see several issues.
      1. in order to get a sharp image, the objective to slide distance might have to be different than for normal observation. If this distance happens to be shorter than normal, then you might crash the objective into the slide.
      2. Normaly one would use a photo projection eyepiece to compensate all the lens error (color frinnges) produced by the objective.
      3. Especially for large sensors, there is the possibility of having a picture sharp in the center, but out of focus on the side (field curvature). Plan objectives would help here.
      4. the light rays do not strike the sensor at a right angle, but more from the side the further they ar from the center of the sensor. some sensors are not able to pick up these light rays as effectively and the sides of the images appear darker.
      5. if the camera is too far away (large image), then there is also the possibility of havivg empty magnification. the benefit of a large sensor is then defeated.

      There are so many parameters, that I would say it is best to try it out and experiment. before making an expensive adapter, I would try to mount the camera with a tripod over the microscope and project the image directly on the sensor, using different distances and objectives. I would then compare the images directly. i would use dark cardboard or cloth to block out external light which migt reach the sensor from the side (or make the room dark). I would also try to project the image through an eyepiece on the sensor and compare that result as well. For resolution comparison, it is best to use Diatoms as thy have very fines structures.
      Oliver.

  • Chris Walter says:

    Oliver,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that some experimentation is a good idea! However, as I’m new to microscopy, i don’t have a microscope to play with. What would you recommend if I were to spend a few hundred pounds on something with optics good enough to make it worthwhile.

    thanks again

    Chris

  • Chia-Da Hsu says:

    I use Nikon D5200 connect to my microscope. However, it seems using “mirror lock up” doesn’t help a lot on preventing image blur. I have noticed that you mentioned both “using mirror lock up” and “long exposure time”. I am wondering why do you suggest long exposure time rather short exposure time?
    Thanks

    • Oliver says:

      Both long exposure time and very short exposure time work. Exosure times that are about at the time of the resonance frequency of the microscope-camera system (0.2s) are the worst. For long exposure times the system will vibrate for a short time and then vibrate out. The system is then steady for most of the exposure and the short initial vibration is not noticable. For example, if you have an exposure time of 5s, then the system will capture a blurry image only for about 0.2s and 4.8s is steady. This works only for non moving specimens, however. The theoretically best image is possible by not having any vibrations at all, which can be done by opening the shutter of the camera with the lights turned off and then controlling the light without vibrations (by removing a cover of the lamp, such as cardboard etc). Oliver.

  • dr neeraj narang says:

    Thanks for the info….i made a camera with webcam, a cheap one to try first. It is working well. However pic quality is not so good. Buying some expensive webcam will help or not?
    From where you got this box? I searched but didn’t find anything like this. Any other idea?
    Thanks again

  • judy radovsky says:

    hi,
    i wanted to ask your advice: i had a cheapo 3MP amscope camera attached to my trifocal port and was not happy with it — (video/movement was impossible, slow exposure times to get enough light into the camera, etc) but also, mainly this was my problem: i would adjust the image in my eyepieces, using 10x (the microscope came with 10x and 20x eyepieces) and i want to say the camera had a 4x adapter. inevitably one image was out of focus and i’d just have to roughly adjust it and then look to my live feed on the computer to make minor adjustments to the camera image that i wanted to capture.
    now i’m getting a nikon d3200 and looking into adapters for it. (probably going to return the cheapo one). i was thinking to try to find a 10x adapter to alleviate this issue, but without spending loads of $$ it seems like the readily available ones are 4x.
    what is more, it sounds from your article like this all shouldn’t matter, because it is the objective lens doing the all the work, and the 10x/4x of the eyepieces/camera mount are extra magnification, so to speak.
    so then a) why was i having issues with the janky camera being off (aside from the obvious reason of it being janky), and b) what would you recommend as far as the nikon d3200?
    thanks!

    • Oliver says:

      i’d just have to roughly adjust it and then look to my live feed on the computer to make minor adjustments to the camera image that i wanted to capture.

      This is a known issue. The camera image often does not correspond to the actual image through the microscope.

      10x/4x of the eyepieces/camera mount are extra magnification, so to speak.

      No, the intermediate optics actually reduces the magnification, which would be too much otherwise (the eyepieces bundle the light).

      a) why was i having issues with the janky camera being off

      You need to adjust the distance of the reducing optics 1. between the optics and the cameras sensor and 2. The distance of the reducing optics to the objective. This requires experimentation. This is one reason why many microscope manufacturers started to make infinity corrected systems, which eliminate these problems.

      To connect an SLR camera to a microscope is not easy. You need a separate adapter, which probably costs as much as the whole microscope, and specialized photo projection eyepieces, which correct the aberrations of the objective. SLR cameras also have a large sensor, so the problem is that the image will not be sharp at the edges (and you are losing quality there), if you do not use a special photo projection eyepiece. You need to contact your microscope manufacturer for this, and hope that they offer appropriate products. In this case you have to be prepared to spend quite a bit. The resolution of an SLR is also much higher than the resolution that the microscope produces.

      If you are interested in doing some amateur filming or for education, then I have to say that filming using a smartphone (!) really works well. This is by far the cheapest solution and produces quite remarkable results. You can also use the digital zoom of the smartphone. Of course you need a smartphone, which pushes the price up again. My students do this in school. We use the SkyLight adapter (http://www.skylightscope.com/). I also wrote an article about this adapter some time back (http://www.microbehunter.com/2013/03/07/microbehunter-magazine-february-2013/)

      Oliver

  • hryazdi says:

    hi sir,

    please let me know how I can make an adaptor for connecting a CCd on the trinocular head of microscope .

    kind regards
    yazdi

    • Oliver says:

      There is no standard way. Too much depends on your camera. You might need intermediate as well and I think that the making of an adapter will not be much cheaper than buying a low-cost microscope camera.
      Oliver.

  • Jon says:

    Could I use one of the above adapters with a canon G15?
    Thanks in advance and great article.

    • Oliver says:

      Hi, The Canon Powershot G15 does not seem to have a detachable lens and therefore it is necessary to use “afocal photography”. Hold the camera in front of the eyepiece and try to get a sharp picture (use a tripod or other support for help).

      Making a specific adapter for the camera requires some tinkering on the camera (lens removal, or gluing an adapter tube around the cameras lens etc) but this is not something that everyone wants to do.

      If you are specifically referring to the Olympus OM adapter for SLR cameras, then the answer is probably “no”. This adapter is specifically made for SLRs and you need a T2 adapter ring, which does not existt for the G15, because it is not an SLR. It is also one of the more expensive solutions. The adapter costs way more than a digital SLR camera (and is not easily available anymore).

      If you are not into making adapters then I would get a USB microscope camera, which you can insert instead of an eyepiece. These will probably cost less than an adapter. You can also observe a live picture on the screen. Here is a description of mobile phone adapters:

      http://www.microbehunter.com/2013/03/07/microbehunter-magazine-february-2013/

      Oliver.

  • Rajan says:

    I want to connect my Nikon 1 v1 camera to my getner compound microcope eye piece
    please advice
    Rajan
    Ph.D Scholar

  • Carl says:

    Hello:
    I have a Labomed CxL monocular microscope I would like to connect to a Canon 5D MkII DSLR.
    I have tried the $24.00 T-mount-23mm adapter with so-so results. The 2x and 4x objectives cannot be used due to limited focus travel.
    There is an adapter sold on eBay that uses the microscope eyepiece.
    http://www.ebay.ca/itm/221086177589?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2649
    This is a very inexpensive version of the Olympus and other adapters that use a photo eyepiece.
    I have not found a photo eyepiece for the Labomed CxL, but have found several others with a 23mm diameter.
    The question boils down to: Will I get less than, equal to, greater than, results using a non manufacturer’s photo eyepiece than the Labomed eyepiece.
    The Labomed CxL has Semi Plan objectives, 170mm tube, and a 10x 18mm wide field eyepiece.
    Carl
    P.S. The article, comments and replies are very informative.

    • Oliver says:

      Hello Carl,
      Generally you should always use the photo eyepieces from the same manufacturer for best quality. But I would try it out. The photo eyepeices are also made for specific projection distances, and therefore the size of the adapter introduces yet another uncertainty factor. It could be that the adapter is designed to be used without intermediate optics and that addition of a photo projection eyepiece will still not be able to produce a sharp image. I would simply try it out. The large sensor of the Canon 5D is also able to capture the peripheral parts of the image, which are more difficult to correct. A good correction is therefore necessary. Manufacturers compensate various lens errors in both regular eyepeices and in photo-eyepeices. The objectives produce an image with certain errors (field curvature etc.) which must be corrected. The tube length of the objective (160mm or 170mm) is only a physical standard, but says nothing about the optics. The eyepeices must compensate the objectives, and for this reason the brand of the microscope itself is not relevant, the objectives are.

      Oliver.

      • Carl says:

        Thank you for the comments.
        I have a 5MP microscope camera that works, but the frame rate at 5MP is only 2fps making focusing a miss-hit-miss affair. Switching to 640×480 resolution to focus and back again is not a very good option.
        The no-optics adapter for the 5D gives a round image that is a tad small. When cropped, the image is approximately 8MP.
        With Live View on the 5D the focusing is near instantanious at 30fps.
        For $20.00, the adapter on eBay is worth a try.

        Carl.
        I will post a reply about my results when the adapter comes.

  • Pedro says:

    Hi,
    We have an Axiovert 40 Microscope, the C-mount is 1/3″ but we have the magnifier goes from 0.32 to 0.8, the digital camera is U-eye 1540-C, the question is what is real magnification on the monitor, what kind of calculation we need to do.
    The objectives that we have are 5X, 10X, 20X & 50X
    Thanks
    Pedro

  • David says:

    Hi!
    I connect my compact camera to a cheap digital microscope.
    I do this disconnecting the sensor from the lenses and putting it on the optic of the microscope, instead of original small sensor. But i have a problem, when i shoot a photo the picture show an array of small white pixel’s lines. If i shoot a photo with original lenses or take a video the problem disappears. (the sample image of the taken video is a small image , and is good without problems)
    I think there is a sync within sensor and sensors inside lenses to manage the refresh rate artifact or something like that.

  • mohan says:

    does point and shoot cameras like canon ixus and sony cybershot be used for taking photomicrographs?if so,what are specifications should i look for?
    P.S-i have budget only for a point and shoot camera.
    do reply thank you

    • Oliver says:

      Yes, compact cameras can be used and are used. The objective of the camera should not be larger than the eyepieces. Therefore SLR cameras are not so suitable. The problem is the connection of the camera to the microscope. One possibility is using a tripod. I would choose a camera which allows for manual exposure setting. Otherwise the camera might have problems adjusting bright specimens on a dark background (darkfield microscopy). The camera will then overexpose the bright specimen, thinking that the overall image is too dark.

      Try the following links
      http://www.microbehunter.com/the-beginners-guide-to-microscopy/photography-through-the-microscope/how-can-i-connect-a-camera-to-the-microscope/

      The PDF contains an article describing the connecting of a compact camera.

      http://www.microbehunter.com/microbehunter-magazine-february-2011/

      Oliver

      • mohan says:

        i was hoping u would give me some idea about specifications like megapixel,optical and digital zoom etc.that i should look for when buying a digital camera .

        • Oliver says:

          Megapixels: almost irrelevant, because compact cameras are able to resolve more than what the microscope is able to deliver. My microscope camera has 3MP and this is sufficient. It is also possible to use panorama software to combine images, so the megapixels produced this way are practically unlimited. A shaky image will immediately reduce image quality, so that many megapixels become irrelevant.
          Optical zoom: yes, this good to have in order to make a frame-filling pictures (without having the image inside a circle).
          Digital zoom: totally irrelevant. You might as well crop the picture using Photoshop. Digital zoom does not provide extra image information.
          You can also take pictures using a mobile phone camera.
          Oliver.

          • mohan says:

            sir,
            if i take photos with such a camera say 10 megapixel or more and optical zoom of 4x or 8x will there be any problem if i send it to publications?some journal s have some specifications so which camera will be best for taking photos for a standard journal like for eg JMM?what is macro mode ?is it relavant while taking photograhs from microscope.?

          • Oliver says:

            Take a 10MP image but without digital zoom (optical zoom is OK). Digital Zoom does not produce more image information. It simply crops the image, and this can be done also with the original picture. 10MP is much more than the image quality that the microscope is able to produce. As a rule of thumb, pictures are printed at 300dpi (dots per inch). A higher resolution can not be seen by the human eye at reading distance. If the final image in the publication is 2 inches wide by 2 inches tall, then the resolution should be 2×300=600 pixels tall and wide. Zoom in as much as you have to using optical zoom and then take a picture at maximum resolution and lowest JPG compression (gives highest quality). Then let the journal do the cropping of the image. Do not forget that a shaky camera and badly prepared specimen are probably bigger factors reducing image quality than the megapixels.

            Macro mode is totally irrelevant. It allows you to focus at a closer distance (without microscope etc). But if you take a picture through the microscope, then the camera focuses at infinity (so we are at the completely other end of the range).
            Oliver.

  • ss says:

    i tried i phone and could get a good image, but it took about half an hour, steady hand and proper distance of eye piece and lense of camera is needed.

  • Neil says:

    I think it’s important to note, that to fit a photo ocular (photo eyepiece) to a camera lens, there are Step Down Ring adapters available.

    I’m experimenting with using a JVC GZ-EX515 True HD video camera to a cheap hobby store microscope, and I was able to purchase 40.5mm to 37mm and 37mm to 25mm Step Down ring adapters, to attach a 25mm photo eyepiece.

    The camera weighs 255g or a bit over half a pound, and a bit heavier with the battery, so I would recommend using a tripod to support the weight of the camera.

  • Iqbal Musani says:

    Hi Oliver ,

    Have a dental operating microscope with a beam splitter and c mount, looking for a camera dedicated to the microscope. would like to take images and videos both and project them…. can you please suggest what camera should I purchase. Am reading your post is very helpful. Have shortlisted two companies Amscope and Touptek. What should I buy a 3 MP or 5 MP or 8 MP or 10 MP….
    Can you please throw light on implications of higher MP .

    Thanks in advance…..
    Iqbal

    • Oliver says:

      Hi,
      About the MP: it all depends on what you want to do, but generally I would say that anything over 3MP or 5MP is probably not needed, as the microscope itself is not able to produce a sufficiently high resolution. If you want to project the image on a screen, then be aware that video projectors often have a relatively low resolution of 1024*786 pixels, and this would mean 0.8MP. Full HD resolution is about 2MP. If you want to project live videos, then there is a different, much more important issue to consider than MP. The USB 2.0 tansfer rate is comparatively slow and so the image will look jerky when you want to send live video (of high resolution) over the USB 2.0 cable. If video is really important, then I would have a look at USB 3.0 cameras, but they are much more rare and much more expensive. Considering the fact, that 3.0 MP USB 2.0 cameras are not too expensive, I would simply buy one and try it out, which resolution is best for you. You should also get a reduction lens with it (usually they come with these anyway, if they are specifically made for microscopes). About the brand, I can not say much, especially because different companies sometimes sell the same/similar cameras under their own brand name (same chipset, etc). I guess it depends more on the specific camera than the brand. I myself have a 3.0MP touptek, and it is fine for me. If I wnat to make videos, then I connect my SLR camera, which can capture full HD at full frame rate (but the adapter was horribly expensive). In this case you might want to experiment with a cheaper pocket camera and record videos over this. Some of these cameras have an analog output for TV display (lower quality), maybe this is also a possibility.
      Oliver.

  • Ruby says:

    Hi, Oliver:

    The lab I work in is interested upgrading our +10-yr old Nikon Coolpix 5000 to a DSLR for our Olympus CKX41 Microscope for stem cell culture in the hood.
    Right now we use U-TV1X-2 + U-CMAD3 + Nikon Adaptor attached on to the dovetail (I think that’s what it’s called).

    The adapters themselves are pushing $1000 (at least the ones I Googled), much more expensive than the camera we thought of (Canon 600D). In terms of user friendliness and image quality, is it worth to shell out the $$$ for the adapter + dslr. OR, just buy a dedicated/made-for Microscope camera??

    I wanted to say that we do have a 5MP Microscope camera for free from a cheap microscope purchase, no one really use that since it seems to be always blurry, and no automatic focusing. Is it just because that particular camera sucks??

    THANKS!!!

    • Oliver says:

      Hi,
      Your questions are difficult to generally answer, because it depends on so many different factors. Generally a dedicated SRL with adaptor and a proper photo projection ocular will probably give the best results, but this is by far the most expensive solution. This is not only a question of resolution (number of total pixels), but SLRs often also have a significantly greater color depth (dynamic range) and are more light sensitive (shorter exposure times possible), but maybe these advantages are not always needed. I have both systems, an SLR and a dedicated microscope camera. The megapixels from the SLR are far more than needed, the microscope can not even deliver sufficiently high resolutions. The SLR has the advantage, that it is possible to make HD videos, which is not possible with dedicated microscope cameras, due to the slow USB 2.0 connection. USB 3.0 is again expensive. Disadvantage of the SLR is that there is camera shake when taking the picture and that it is more cumbersome to download the images, a microscope camera transfers it directly to the computer.

      If the image of the dedicated microscope camera is blurry, then this could be due to the fact that the focus of the camera is different than the focus of the eyepieces, which is often the case. You have to adjust the camera distance. Focusing over the microscope camera should always be on the computer monitor anyway. Even if you connect an SLR, then there will NOT be any autofocus. Focusing is always done over the microscope itself, regardless of the camera attached (unless you connect a compact camera to the regular eyepiece).

      Concerning convenience, I find a dedicated microscope camera much more convenient than an SLR, because it gives you the possibility to watch a live image on the monitor. Some SLR cameras are also able to do this, but I think that you might have to rely on separate (non-microscopy related) software to do this. If you get a dedicated microscope camera, then sometimes there is also a microscopy software included.

      And: a free 5MP camera included? Almost difficult to believe, considering the fact that a 5MP microscope camera is already quite expensive. Could it be, that it is actually of much lower resolution, and that the software then “blows up” the image to 5MP? Dedicated microscope cameras contain also optics, which reduce the image size, so that there is not too much empty magnification.

      My suggestion: buy a relatively cheap 3MP camera, and test it, if it suits your purposes. If not, try to return the camera.I think that for most purposes 3MP is sufficient (this is what I have) also because the microscope is often not able to produce a higher resolution anyway. 5MP gives a lot of flexibility, anything much more, I think might be wasted resources, but then again, I am open to be contradicted. If You want to connect a dedicated SLR, then you should talk to the manufacturer of the microscope to get an adapter and projection eyepiece (which also corrects the lens errors for the objectives and produces a flat field of view for the flat camera sensor, so that also the edges are sharp). Smaller microscope manufacturers might not have these, though.

      Oliver

  • Du Cheng says:

    I designed this iPhone-microscope adapter and has been used to produce high quality images for publication purposes. The adapter is precisely calibrated, all you need to do is slide it into the eyepiece slot and take high quality image, no adjustment needed. You can order it on Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/iDu-Professional-iPhone-Microscope-Adapter/dp/B00KK8JC9W/ref=aag_m_pw_dp?ie=UTF8&m=AD1BAUKBOBN1I

    http://www.amazon.com/iDu-Professional-iPhone-Microscope-Adapter/dp/B00L6FSSQ6/ref=aag_m_pw_dp?ie=UTF8&m=AD1BAUKBOBN1I

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