What's the Point?
A grain of sand or a star, where do we want to go? Choose the proper instrument
and the exploration begins. The difference is a star remains a point source of light,
while the grain of sand is transformed into a magnificent assemblage of crystalline
whatever. That is the point!
Photography through a microscope is virtually identical to that used with an astronomical
telescope. All one needs is a method to marry the camera to the microscope. For decades, the 35mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR)
camera was the choice for microphotography. Thus for SLR types, a plethora of microscope adapters are available. But we live in a digital camera age now, where computers and instant gratification rule. The result is exit 35mm SLR's, enter digital camera's. Regardless of the type of digital camera selected, the theory is the same. The following description uses the Olympus C2000/C2020/C3030/C4040Z digital camera family as a basis. Also, the Nikon Coolpix fixed lense (e.g. CP950, 995, 4500), Panasonic LX3, Apple iphone 3GS, and Nikon D70 digital SLR will be discussed for applications.
Olympus Accessory Tube
The Olympus C*0*0Z series digital camera has a 41mm internal thread on the camera body.
In order to use accessories (e.g. filters, add-on lenses), an adapter tube is required. The Olympus model
CLA-1 tube has a 43mm internal thread on the receiving end. An alternate tube design has a 37mm internal
thread. Several factors favor the latter tube design (or the Tiffen 41 to 43mm tube):
- Uniform diameter across its length, making it easier to couple to homemade adapters.
- Thicker wall, thus less prone to damage if mis-handled.
- Uses the more versatile 37mm thread; the standard for Sony 8mm Handycam's.
- Availability of a 37mm to T-thread (42mm x .75) adapter, allowing
the use of T-thread accessories; the standard thread size for many scientific instruments.
- Allows using filter accessories directly, due to its slightly longer length (29mm) compared to the CLA-1.
...Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Pipe ____ a staple for amateur instrument makers...
Using PVC plumbing pipe fixtures, adapters are easily made using minimal shop tools. If you have a
lathe (e.g. Unimat, Sherline, Chinese 7 x 10), drill press, or a Dremel tool, the fabrication is facilitated. The adapter's pictured were modified on a Unimat lathe. These plastic pieces have sufficent wall thickness that they can be drilled and tapped. The photo shows a couple of 1/4-20 plastic screws used to secure the tubes after telescoping to position. These adapter's will work (with appropiate design modifications) for most microscopes, telescopes, and spotting scopes. Spending hundreds of dollars on adapters is unnecessary. That money is better spent on buying a small Sherline tabletop lathe, or finding a used Unimat Lathe on Ebay. The point to remember is the camera must be coupled afocally due to the inability to remove the camera lens. When the parts are completed, the interior should be coated with flat black paint to ward off reflections that destroy image contrast. The webcam or PC Camera can also be used with a microscope.
Here the 3Com PC Camera is described,as its removable lens makes it very adaptable for this purpose (note: the Philips ToUcam Pro webcam is an equal performer). The video camera body has a 12M x .5 metric thread. With a small piece of 1/2 inch diameter aluminum, a 12M x .5 die was used to make a small nipple to thread into the camera body. A hole was drilled into the nipple, and the piece was mounted inside a PVC 3/4 x 1 in. reducer as shown in the picture. With this camera, the image is projected directly on the CCD, as there is no camera lens in place. The following table provides a sample of some microphotography taken with a low power (up to 100X) microscope, and the 3Com video camera.
Digital SLR Microphotography
The DSLR camera has finally become affordable for the average hobbyist. This is good news, as all those 35mm SLR attachments in the pipeline, can be used on these DSLR's. The key to adapting the DSLR to microscope photography is the T-adapter. This adapter uses the same bayonet mount as the camera (e.g. Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Canon), and has a female metric screw thread (M42 x .75) on the other end. T-mounted accessories are plentiful from places like Edmund Optics.
Here a Nikon D70 DSLR is used for illustration. The D70 is a 6.1 megapixel camera (has a 15.6 x23.7mm CCD sensor). When fitted with a T-adapter, a microscope photo adapter will allow positioning the D70 in the trinocular port as shown. a microscope with a trinocular port enables the camera to rest over the base for a stable hookup. One could also directly project an image from the eyepiece, or remove the eyepiece for a prime focus hookup. However, this arrangement is less stable for a camera the size of the D70 (body weighs 595 grams).
This photo shows a typical D70 hookup on a stereo microscope with a trinocular port. The magnification of the D70 is 1.5x that of a 35mm (24 x 36mm) frame. So 80x on 35mm would show as 120x on the D70 CCD. This image show a single kernel of Oatmeal at 120x. Note the shallow depth-of-field, which can be enhanced by combining images as shown by the link below.
||Panasonic LX3 digital camera afocal to microscope using Panasonic LA4 adapter tube (46mm), 46-T step ring, Scopetronix Adaptaview coupler, Franiec cable release bracket.
Links Related to Digital Microscopy
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