Digital Photomicrography

On this page I briefly explain an efficient and powerful solution to obtain high quality digital photomicrographs on a microscope. 

I use two different cameras, one from SONY (DFW-X700, 1024x768 pixels, 15 frames per second, no longer in production) and one from a company called The Imaging Source (DFK 41AF02, 1280x960 pixels, 7.5 frames per second). These are so called c-mount digital video cameras and are primarily designed for machine vision applications. However, they can be connected to any microscope with a standard c-mount camera connector (see pictures), and are excellent for taking pictures and video sequences from a microscope.

trinocular microscope head with camera (with variable tubus magnification)
 Imaging Source DFK 41AF02 c-mount digital video camera 

These cameras are connected to a computer via the FireWire port (IEEE 1394, 400 Mbit) and they usually draw the power from the port itself (e.g. from the standard 6-pin FireWire port on any Apple computer). On PCs (and especially on PC notebooks) there often is only a 4-pin FireWire port (also called iLink), so in that case you would need an external power source (which you can also get from The Imaging Source).

To run the camera and take pictures I use a shareware software called BTVPro that can acquire video from many different sources. It unfortunately has not been updated in quite some time, but there is a beta version that also runs on OSX (including 10.9 Mavericks).

This setup allows to have a full resolution preview window (make sure you have a screen big enough to display the entire image), and pictures are taken at the click of a button. The great thing about these cameras is that the pictures correspond exactly to what you saw on the preview window. I find this by far the most convenient set-up I have seen so far. Some special microscope cameras offer (sometimes considerably) higher resolution and higher sensitivity under low light conditions, but the convenience of a full-size preview at a decent frame rate with a simple software is hard to beat. Most of the pictures in the image galleries were taken with such a set-up, and we also used such pictures to make publication quality pictures.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith