photomicrography

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How to Take Pictures through a Microscope

I enjoy looking tiny things with microscopes. I want to keep a record or share it with friends. Taking digital photos from Microscope is a good way to do it. I want to show you four different ways to take photos from microscopes.

about the title picture: This is a mouth part of house fly. The picture was taken with Tucsen microscope camera at 100X with Ample Scientific Nexcope CM304H.

Method 1. Using a Snap Shot Camera

The easiest way to take photos from microcope is to use your snap shot camera. You don’t need to purchase additional equipment. Before taking the photo, set your flash light off. If you plan to take the photo with the widest view and crop it with image software, set your telescope lens to wide angle. If you want to take the photo without the circle of eye piece, press the telescope button (or zoom in). Place your camera as close to the eye piece as possible. You may want to move away or closer a little bit to the lens if necessary. You may have to experiment with the ISO, whitebalance and exposure compensation. I will just set it to auto. It will usually come out OK.

Just like take any photo, hold you hand still and gentle press the shutter. That’s it! Download the picture and share it with your friend.
*In the picture is my son, Alan Huang. He is a 7th grader at Crews Middle School.

A Better Way to Take Photos with Snapshot Cameras

If you have difficult time finding the right place to set the camer or holding the camera still. You can take pictures with better quality with a digital camera adapter. The picture showing here is a Celestron Universal Digital Camera Adapter that I use to take photos. Attach the camera’s tripod socket to the adapter then attach the adapter to the eye piece of the microscope. There are serveral screws that you can more the camera left / right, up / down and closer/away. With the adapter, you can set the timer on so that the camera won’t move when you press the shutter button. You can also set low ISO and longer exposure time to get better picture quality.

Photos Taken with Snap Shot Camera

Prepared slide of human skin at 400x with Ample Scientific Nexcope CM304H. Photo was taken by Nikon S200 with wide angle shot.

Prepared slide of human skin at 400x with Ample Scientific Nexcope CM304H. Photo was taken by Nikon S200 with wide angle shot then croped with Paint Shop Pro software.

Prepared slide of human skin at 400x with Ample Scientific Nexcope CM304H. Photo was taken by Nikon S200. The camera was zoomed in with telescope setting. No crop was taken.

Prepared slide of a mouth part of a house fly at 400X with Ample Scientific Nexcope CM304H. Photo was taken by Nikon S200 with wide angle shot then croped with Pait Shop Pro software.

Prepared slide of a mouth part of a house fly at 40X with Ample Scientific Nexcope CM304H. Photo was taken by Nikon S200. The camera was zoomed in with telescope setting.

Method 2. Using SLR Camera

SLR cameras are usually high end cameras used by professional or enthusiastic hobbyists. If you have a quality SLR camera, you can take better photos with SLR than snap shot cameras. However, SLR camera’s lens are very large compared to the snap shot. It is difficult directly taking pictures from microscope or attached to an eye piece. You can purchase a specializd SLR camera adapter then attach the SLR to the microscope. You have to purchase different camera adapters for different brands since different SLR camera has different locking structure for their lens. To use those adapters, remove the lens from SLR camera and attach the adapter to the camera then remove the eye piece from the microscope then drop in the camera adapter into the eye piece socket. If you have a trinocular, simply drop the adapter into the trinocular socket. For high end microscope, it usually come with the removable lens, you can just pull the eye piece from the microscope. For student microscopes, you may have to use screw driver to loosen up the little screw that lock the eye piece to the microscope.

Be sure to set the camera to manual so you can have all the flexibility to change different settings. Try to use lower ISO and longer exposure time to maximize the quality of the picture. Sometime, you may have to set it to more than a few seconds to get enough exposure. Just like snap shot camera, use timer to minimize the shacking. If your SLR camera come with a remote control function, go ahead and use it. You can preview your picture on much large computer screen rather than the small view finder. Be prepare to take a few more photos with different exposure time, the brightness of the picture on the screen may look different from the actual photo.
*The photo: I use a microscope adapter attached the Canon EOS Rebel T1i to Ample Scientific Nexcope CM701 microscope .

Taking Microscope Photos Using SLR Camera

Microscope camera adapter for Canon EOS camera.
Model: A14CanonSLR

The Canon 18-55 mm lens was removed and replaced with the camera adapter. The adapter can be dropped into the eye piece.

Attach the camera adapter to the eye piece socket

Connect the comera to the USB port of your computer.

Canon EOS utility that can be used to see live video and remote photo shot.

Problem with Canon EOS utility. The brightness of the preview screen is darker than the actual photo taken.

The mouth part of the house fly from a prepared slide. Taken with Canon EOS T1i at 100X with Nexcope CM304H.

The mouth part of the house fly from a prepared slide. Taken with Canon EOS T1i at 400X with Nexcope CM304H. The surface structure of the cuticle is clearly visible.

The mouth part of the house fly from a prepared slide. Taken with Canon EOS T1i at 400X with Nexcope CM304H.

Photo taken at 400Xa of human skin from a prepared slide.

Method 3. Microscope Camera

These are cameras made specifically for microscope. There are two types of chips inside microscope cameras – the CCD (charged coupled device) chip and the CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) chip. A CCD chip generally produces higher quality images in low-light conditions and is better for publication quality images. Cameras with CCD chips generally cost more than those with CMOS chips. Unlike the SLR or snap shot cameras which have many buttons and settings. These cameras typically controlled by computers using USB connection.
*The photo here is a Tuscen CMOS 3.0 microscope camera. This camera kit is well equipped with adapters and software. My test results have been mixed. It seems to perform will with LCD light source while having trouble picking up Tungsten light.

Microscope Camera

Microscope cameras usually come with attachment adapter to your microscope. The Tucsen 3.0 MP CMOS camera comes with a standard 23 mm, 30 mm and 30.5 mm adapters. It also includes a calibration slide and image/video capturing software.

Complete set up of Tuscen microscope camera. You can use the included software to capture the images.

An Image of human skin at 100X using Nexcope CM701 microscope. The camera seems to have difficult time picking up Tungsten illumination. I have to manually adjust the contrast, saturation, RGB... The adapter seems to have a very small area within focus.

Image of the mouth part of house fly taken at 100X with Nexcope CM304H.

Image of an heavenly bomboo leave. The vibrant colors of the leave are captured by the camera perfectly. The photo was taken from <a href="http://www.onfocuslaboratories.com/product.php?id_product=13"> Ample Scientific SM7T stereo microscope</a>.

Image of an heavenly bomboo leave. The green color of the leave is also very accurate. The photo was taken from <a href="http://www.onfocuslaboratories.com/product.php?id_product=13">Ample Scientific SM7T stereo microscope </a>.

Method 4. Build-in Microscope Camera

These are microscopes with build-in camera. In most cases, these are simply trinoculars with camera attached to the third port. It might have multiple output port, USB, build-in memory card reader and writr, AV or S-Video terminal. You can take pictures from PC using remote control or shutter on the camera and stored in the memeory card. The AV or S-Video can be outputed to TV or projector.
These ditigal cameras typically offers good photo qualities that are suitable for research purposes although the resolution is not necessarily higher than the consumer cameras.
* The photo shows Nexacope CMD-504 biological microscope .

Build-in Digital Camera Photos with Nexcope 504D

The mouth part of a house fly at 100X. Photo was taken by the build-in camera of Nexcope 504D research microscope.

The mouth part of a house fly at 400X. Photo was taken by the build-in camera of Nexcope 504D research microscope.

The mouth part of a house fly at 100X. Photo was taken by the build-in camera of Nexcope 504D research microscope.

Taking videos

In addition to taking photos, you can take videos with your camera. In the video, a vorticella is waving the ciliates to move the water around to feed itself. The vacuoles is circulating inside of the vorticella is clealy visible.
Vorticella at 400X Taken with Tucsen Microscope Camera Using TSView with Xvid Compression 2:30
by kuanhhuang | video info
4 ratings | 2,873 views
curated content from YouTube

Final Thoughts

I presented four different methods to take pictures from microscope. Each methods has pros and cons and suitable for different purposes. If you are a reasercher, you want to look for quality images. You want to consider a quality microscope that come with a build in camera or a high quality CCD camera plus adapter. If you are a hobbyst or a student, you want to take a picture for school projects. A snap shot or SLR camera with a camera adapter might work for you.

Other things to consider. You want to take into account the required resolution. For on screen display, Your monitor resolution is an important factor. The HD monitor is 1920 x 1080 so you need to consider at least 2 MP. A cheap 640 x 480 microscope camera won’t do. It will only occupy one quarter of your screen. What size of picture do you want to print out? Here the general guide line for printing out photos:
2 megapixels = 1200 by 1600 pixels = 4 by 5 inches
3 megapixels = 1536 by 2048 pixels = 5 by 7 inches
6 megapixels = 2400 by 3000 pixels = 6.5 by 10 inches
10 megapixels = 2592 by 3872 pixels = 8.5 by 13 inches
12 megapixels = 4368 by 2912 pixels = 9.7 by 14.5 inches
This should also apply to taking pictures from microscopes – You might be able to get away from printing posters with 6 MP cameras since people are looking at your poster several feet away. They will probably not going to notice the pixelization. You should also consider the field of view. The picture should be as close to your actual view. This is some what difficult to achieve since most digital camera’s sensor area is much smaller than the sensor area of your eyes. It is inevitable to have some areas being cut off. The adapter will also affect size of your viewing area.
Taking photots from microscope is a skill that requires some patience and practice. You are basically taking pictures from “unatural” condition. You might have to tweek the settings on camera and microscope. Don’t feel disappoint if your picture does not come out as good as you look at them in the microscope (The two cameras that your mom gave you are the best). Just keep experimenting with different setting, you will find out the best combination. Happy snapping!

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