Microscope camera

Discussion about cameras, microscopes, stains, and gadgets, along with useful tips for preparation of fungi samples
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Re: Microscope camera

Post by adampembs » Fri Aug 14, 2015 7:27 pm

Yes, I'm using a 12V main transformer (old router/phone charger) - your idea about the 12V battery is good. I'll buy one.
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Re: Microscope camera

Post by adampembs » Fri Aug 14, 2015 8:07 pm

Chris Yeates wrote:I had very similar problems with a GXCAM 9MP camera on a Brunel SP200 'scope (the earlier version compared with the current one on sale, but fundamentally the same microscope). That was using quartz halogen 6v 20 watt illumination (Kohler). I think that basically the GXCAM and the Tucsen function very similarly. I resolved the problem by tweaking the settings of the camera software. That said I haven't had the problem with the Tucsen: the Nikon 'scope dates from the mid 1990s (that's when they came into production), again using halogen illumination.
Chris
Tried "gain", "gamma" and "exposure" but I think Mike is right, the LED is strobing due to low frequency waveforms from the AC/DC conversion: invisible to the naked eye, but like when you see video cameras filing TVs. I understand the rheostats used in modern commercial microscopes are more sophisticated than my budget dimmer.
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Re: Microscope camera

Post by adampembs » Fri Aug 21, 2015 4:31 pm

All sorted! Visited our local micrscope expert and there were a few issues.
The dimmer switch (PCM) was causing strobing, even with a 12V battery. Now using a pcm working at ~ 50 KHz so not seeing any strobing.

My LED also had a built in pcm, so that has been removed. I'm also running off a 12V battery.
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LED lighting for microscope
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New pcm device
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Re: Microscope camera

Post by Sheffield Lass » Sun Oct 18, 2015 3:35 pm

I've just bitten the bullet and bought myself a new microscope camera as my old one was getting more and more problematic as it got increasingly difficult to connect at USB2 speed.

Due to budget constraints and the way I use my microscope and camera I opted for a 5Mp Amscope MU500-ck model, which should now be winging its way to me from USA courtesy of Ebay, for a mere £152 incl all import taxes, postage etc. This is about £60-80 cheaper than similar capability / same model I could have bought in the UK. If budget had not been an issue I'd have gone for a 5Mp USB3 camera, probably the Touptek U3CMOS camera (which is £375+)

As I did plenty of research before I opted for it, thought I'd share the results of my research of what is available.

Seems there are 3 main camera manufacturers in the budget market that we can get in the UK. Scopetek, Tucsen and Touptek. There are plenty of very expensive manufacturers also available, if you've got £1000s to spare!

Scopetek and Touptek do a very basic range (DCM for Scopetek, SCMOS for Touptek), which are usually shipped without measuring software. Absolute minimum resolution needed for fungi microscopy is 1.3Mp. Very cheap and cheerful at c£60+. For those on a very tight budget they just about scrape through as usable for fungi id - I know, my old one was a 1.3Mp Scopetek with measuring software - but make sure that they have measuring software or that you can use 3rd party measuring software with it, otherwise they're useless, But for £100, you can get into a better quality range if you keep your eye open for bargains (ebay, Amazon)

Economy Camera range for USB2:
Touptek and Tucsen do a very similar range of cameras, often using the same sensors (Aptima / Micron), but in their own bodies and they come with their own different software (drivers and image capture/manipulation).
Touptek range is the UCMOS range (from 1.3Mp-10Mp) http://www.touptek.com/product/product. ... &class2=98
Tuscen is the ISH range (3Mp-10Mp). http://www.tucsen.com/products/ISH1000_ ... SH300.html

Brunell Microscope cameras are Touptek, those supplied by Nicks Science Supplies are Tucsen. Amscope repackage Touptek and Tucsen under their own name, and you can get some through Amazon UK and Ebay UK. Their MU range is Touptek, their MA and MT ranges are Tucsen. The difference between the MA and MT is the software. The MA range has much more limited usability with 3rd party software, the MT range makes this much easier - but can cost £20-30 more, but the MA/MT hardware is the same.

Looking at customer reviews, the software packaged with Touptek seemed more user friendly than Tucsen's. There is also an issue with Mac and Linux compatibility with both - generally appears that capability of the software is much more limited than if used on Windows. Touptek seems to be TWAIN compatible, but Tucsen needs closer scrutiny - the MT version has it, I believe, but the MA version does not. So do your research on those. I'm Windows only, so I only skimmed those details.

Camera ranges for USB3:
Touptek do USB3 ranges from 3Mp up to 18Mp.
Tucsen do as well, but under different range name.

I'll do a second post on some of the things consider.

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Re: Microscope camera

Post by Sheffield Lass » Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:16 pm

cont.

The cameras usually need a C-mount adapter, which includes a lens which brings the camera image view similar to what you see down the eye piece. This most usually is a 0.5x lens - but go on the recommendations of the camera manufacturer. Its other purpose is to make the focal point of the camera very similar to that of the eye. If you are using a trinocular, and the camera for photo capture more than live view, then this is important, as the least amount of refocussing the microscope from the eye view to getting the camera in focus to take a sharp photo the better. Some of the adapters are focusable, some are fixed. So for a trinocular a focusable might be a good idea, as this can be set at the optimum position which minimises the need to refocus the microscope. If like me you only have a monocular, and use the camera all the time for live view, and eyepiece never, then fixed is fine. ToupTek have a choice of fixed and focussable. I'm not sure which Brunell Microscopes supply, so you need to ask. The Amscope ToupTek packages seem to have the fixed. I don't know which the Tucsen ones are.

Again, check your microscope tube internal diameter size - you may need some additional adaptors which may or may not be included in the kit you buy.

Some also come with a calibration slide, others do not. A calibration slide is necessary to set up the camera software to do accurate measurements. They can be expensive if bought separately, though some from China through Ebay can be had for as little as £10.

cont.

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Re: Microscope camera

Post by Sheffield Lass » Sun Oct 18, 2015 6:48 pm

cont:

Resolution v frame per second

This is especially important if you use live view a lot.
1.3Mp (1280 x 1024) @ 11 frames per second (fps) is the minimum you can get away with for sufficient detail using a x400 lens for typical fungi id, and acceptable lag between focussing and image on the screen.

The higher the resolution the lower the fps. Below 10-11fps makes live view problematic - due to time lag. Check the manufacturers / suppliers data for the camera for the resolutions that it can offer.
For the 5Mp USB2 camera I've chosen I get: 5@2592x1944, 18@1280x960, 60@640x480.
The 2592 x 1944 would be too slow for live view, but gives me the option to do a still photo at the higher resolution. The 18@1280x960 gives me good speed and sufficient detail for live view, and fits my screen well.

If I'd gone for a 5Mp USB3 camera with USB3 computer I'd have got 14.2@2560x1922, 38.3@1280x960, 101.2@640x480. So I'd have good speed at 2560x1922, though I'd only seeing part of the view on my screen as my screen is not that size! Yes, I'd have liked that camera!

If you use the camera mainly for stills then higher resolutions (8Mp, 10Mp) may have advantages, but there are also other limitations with larger resolutions.

At greater magnification the microscope lenses tend to be the limiters of quality of view, so greater resolution doesn't necessarily improve detail. At high magnifications the resolving power of such high resolution camera can higher than that of the optical system. The image produced would be larger, but not better. Instead of resolving additional detail, the camera just produces more data! x40 lens generally gives a better quality than x100. Sometimes using a lower microscope magnification with a higher camera resolution can give a more detailed picture than a higher magnification with a high resolution.

Light dynamics. As resolution of camera increases, light sensitivity can decrease. Higher resolution ones can struggle at lower light levels. The dynamic range of a camera specifies the ratio between the brightest and darkest part of a specimen that it is still capable of capturing. Dynamic range should not be confused with the contrast of the picture. Cameras with a low dynamic range have a problem of accurately recording both bright and dark parts. The brighter parts of the specimen, such as fine structures that blend in with the background lit, will disappear completely. A reduction of the exposure time would make these bright structures visible, but now the darker parts of the specimen will be reproduced as completely black. It does not matter how we adjust the exposure time or light intensity, there will always be some loss of information either at the bright or at the dark end of the spectrum.

Light dynamics depends on a few things such as pixel size - the smaller the pixel, the less light reaching it. A 3Mp Toupek USB2 camera has pixel size 3.2x3.2um and light sensitivity 1.0 V/lux-sec, The 5Mp has pixel size 2.2x2.2um, and light sensitivity 0.53 V/lux-sec, 10 Mp has pixel size 1.67x1.67um and light sensitivity 0.31v/lux-sec. By comparison their 5Mp Toupek USB3 camera has pixel size 2.2x2.2um and light sensitivity 1.76v/lux-sec - so their newer technology is better, more sensitive for the same pixel size! Another reason for going for the USB3 model over the USB2 model.

Hope this helps a bit in making decisions on which camera will suit use and budget best. My choice was based on live-view use and a small budget. It would have been the same if it had been for quality stills (not live view) and small budget - as the budget was the limiter. But a bigger budget would have steered me towards USB3 rather than higher resolution, as live-view is more important for me.

Melanie

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Re: Microscope camera

Post by JennyS » Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:18 pm

Hello Melanie, I read your posts with interest and am very tempted by the AmScope MU500-CK 5MP USB Microscope Camera.
As you've been using it for the last year I'd be interested in any further comments on it, and (million dollar question) would it also capture good quality still macro images from my dissecting microscope at x10?

Thanks a lot,
Jenny
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Re: Microscope camera

Post by Pitufo » Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:23 am

Hi Jenny

I hope you don't mind me pitching in. I've just been testing a few cameras, so you might find this useful. I haven't tested an Amscope.

http://www.themushroomlog.co.uk/microscope-camera-test/

Also, this was a quick test some of our group did also.

http://www.themushroomlog.co.uk/microsc ... lr-review/

My own experience of taking images with a stereomicroscope has not been very successful but some people seem to manage it. I think you will get images good enough to document your finds and share but not as good as a dedicated macro set up.

Kind regards,

John

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Re: Microscope camera

Post by Leif » Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:34 am

Some people might be interested in my own experiences using a DSLR.

I used to use a Nikon D600, and before that a Nikon D200. The results were good but when using the x100 immersion objective, the ISO had to be shoved up to 1600 or 3200, and even then the results were not always optimum. The problem of course was that even using mirror lock up, the shutter introduced vibrations degraded the image quality. And neither camera is optimal from a user's point of view. I had to stand on a chair to look down at the rear LCD, or look through the viewfinder, although right angle viewfinders are available.

A few months ago I bought a Nikon D500 which, like the Nikon D810, has an electronic front curtain shutter. The upshot is that I can take exposures at ISO 100 even with the x100 immersion objective. And since it uses a Sony CMOS sensor, it has about 12 stops of dynamic range, and 21MP which is more than enough resolution. I suspect a dedicated microscope camera would struggle to match it. And if that wasn't enough, it has an articulating rear LCD, so I no longer need to stand on a chair in the kitchen leaving the neighbours to wonder what I'm up to. The LCD is a God-send as I can achieve a precise focus in live view, before I trigger the electronic shutter.

So, if you do go for a ILC (interchangeable lens camera), I recommend one with an electronic shutter. Apparently quite a few of the u4/3 cameras have this feature, and they do make rather nice 'happy snappy' (general use) cameras too. I have no idea if Sony, and Canon DSLR's have this feature, although I suspect many of the mirrorless ones do such as the Canon M3.

I also have a 5MP microscope camera which I do not use, and which I should sell. I was not impressed with the IQ. (There goes my ability to sell it here ... :lol: ) Sigh.

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Re: Microscope camera

Post by Pitufo » Wed Nov 23, 2016 1:06 pm

My brief experiences with an SLR on a microscope have not been good ones, but I haven't given up yet.

The Canon 70D has electronic shutter, Live View mode and Wifi which means I can control it directly from my laptop, eliminating some of the SLR problems Leif mentions.

White balance (WB) was the first issue. To set custom WB using the background colour with Live View you need to pick a spot with a dropper. This only covers a very small area and varies greatly depending of the spot you pick. The Toupview software lets you draw a square to take an average WB which works very well.

The second issue was software. The Toupview software is easy to use and lets you make small fast stacks (and save them as you go) making it much quicker in day-to-day use (and as you only need to save the stacks rather than all the images,it doesn't fill your disks so quickly). Canon software is not built for use on a microscope and feels a bit laboured.

I think overall image quality might still be better with SLR's than cams if you are prepared to put the work in. However, the higher-end Touptek models also now have Sony Exmor CMOS sensors and the prices are coming down. I should be testing the new 20MP Sony Exmor sensor in the next couple of weeks which will close the pixel gap with SLR's a bit more. I am also hoping to see what Tucsen has to offer.

I agree that mirrorless 4/3 cameras are good potential candidates for the future if we can get suitable adapters.
I was not impressed with the IQ
Leif - what do you mean by IQ in relation to cameras? Ah, IQ = Image quality. Google works :)

Kind regards,

John

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Re: Microscope camera

Post by Leif » Wed Nov 23, 2016 3:29 pm

John: I don't bother setting custom WB in camera, although Nikon do allow that. I use Nikon NXD to process my files. Although the UI is not ideal, it produces excellent results. I use auto WB and then manually adjust the colour temperature in NXD to get a quite acceptable result. And it's quick. The reason I like using my Nikon D500 is because it is so quick to use and the results are excellent.

I'm sure you can get adaptors for u4/3 cameras. At the worst you buy a Nikon to microscope adaptor, and a Nikon to u4/3 adaptor. :shock: Since you don't need any electronic coupling, cheap ones should suffice, unless I've missed something. Hopefully a u4/3 user can chime in.

Incidentally, my microscope camera - a ScopeTek DCM510 - was bought a fair few years ago, from Brunel I think, and its shortcomings include 8 bit output (JPG), a lot of digital noise, and a rather harsh looking tonal curve. It is very usable but 'unsophisticated' in comparison to a decent DSLR.

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Re: Microscope camera

Post by Pitufo » Wed Nov 23, 2016 6:54 pm

Thanks Leif

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