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What are the differences between brightfield, darkfield and phase contrast?

Found in: Techniques

These are three different microscopic techniques.

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  • Bright field microscopy is the conventional technique. It is suitable for observing the natural colors of a specimen or the observation of stained samples. The specimen appears darker on a bright background.
  • Darkfield microscopy shows the specimens bright on a dark background. Brightfield microscopes that have a condenser with a filter holder can be easily converted to darkfield by placing a patch stop filter into the filter holder. The specimens appear brigh, because they reflect the light from the microscope into the objective.
  • Phase contrast microscopy requires special phase contrast objectives and a special phase contrast condenser. This technique is useful for observing unstained specimens that lack a color (eg. bacteria). The optics will convert the differences in refractive index of the specimen into brightness differences.
  • Polarization microscopy also produces a bright specimen on a dark background. It can also be easily improvised with a brightfield microscope. A polarizing filter is placed above the lamp and another one is placed between the specimen slide and the objective. Parts of the specimen will then light up. optically active crystals on the slide will produce nice colors.
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