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Microscope Cameras vs Astro Cameras

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#1 HydrogenAlpha

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Posted 21 June 2020 - 12:36 PM

Hi everyone,

 

I've been a deep sky astrophotographer for many years and I've recently decided to enter the world of microscopy. I've just ordered a trinocular system from Amscope (specifically model T490A-LED, though probably not entirely relevant to my question) and would like to do some imaging with it. 

 

I've been looking at some generic models from aliexpress like these below, which are pretty affordable:

https://www.aliexpre...0879719932.html

https://www.aliexpre...2951515327.html

 

However, I am a mac user and the software seems to be something difficult to puzzle out. On the flipside, if I consider astro cameras like ZWO and QHY, camera control software is quite well established on the mac OS. Additionally, I might one day try out planetary imaging as well, and would rather do it with an OSC than mono cams (which are all I have now). 

 

At the same time, I notice that the image resolutions on planetary astro cams (such as the ASI120MC,  ASI224MC and ASI290MC) are pretty low (~2 MP) whereas the cameras on aliexpress are typically in the range of >10MP with comparable sensor dimensions. Would it therefore be feasible to use these much lower res astro cameras in lieu of microscope cameras, or should I just get a dedicated microscope cam and do my best to puzzle out the software? 

 

Apologies for the long post, and thanks in advance! 



#2 AstroBrett

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Posted 21 June 2020 - 01:08 PM

Resolution is mainly determined by the pixel size of the camera. The number of pixels would pertain more directly to the field of view.

 

Brett



#3 starbob1

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 06:54 AM

Most of the pros use DSLR to image though microscopes'  I use my Canon 450d and it works great. Don't waste your money on those cheap cameras..  Watch Forensic Files. You will see almost every scope with a DSLR on top. Their is a reason' Larger FOV. Better resolution. 



#4 HydrogenAlpha

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Posted 22 June 2020 - 01:41 PM

Most of the pros use DSLR to image though microscopes'  I use my Canon 450d and it works great. Don't waste your money on those cheap cameras..  Watch Forensic Files. You will see almost every scope with a DSLR on top. Their is a reason' Larger FOV. Better resolution. 

I was considering the DSLR route, but the reviews on DSLR adapters seem rather shoddy. Do you have any recommendations for that? 

 

Seems like having plan objectives would help in that regard as well. 



#5 starbob1

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Posted 23 June 2020 - 07:01 AM

First if your want to image though a microscope using a DSLR a trinocualr head is a must. Also a DSLR with live view is a must for focusing. The Amscopes are excellent. I would suggest the T490-B-DK.  The adapter are cheap. Just get one that just has a nose only no lens, I use the Gosky T-T2 . 23.2mm which is standard. 


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#6 j.gardavsky

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Posted 23 June 2020 - 12:56 PM

Hello Ivan,

 

the easiest way to get started with the microphotography is an afocal capturing behind an eyepiece in the tri-tubus.

I take my microscopy pics for publishing on the web with a 4/3 Lumix Panasonic camera (16Mp) behind the eyepiece on the tri-tubus,

 

 

Star of Betlehem final 3,5mm width.jpg

 

This is a core of a fossil Permian Psaronius root, picture width 3.5mm

Click on the pic to see the resolution,

 

JG

 


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#7 thompsonstar

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Posted 27 June 2020 - 12:17 PM

As mentioned above, afocal imaging technique (via eyepiece projection) can yeild excellent results especially with brightfield, stereo or phase microscopy. It is fast, easy and convenient.

 

A modern smartphone with a decent camera or even a compact digital camera work surprisingly well.

 

Just remember, the quality of the objective is also very important in determining the quality of the image. Some objectives (ie. high numerical aperture Plan Apochromat) are more expensive than an entire microscope.

 

You may find the following YouTube video helpful:

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=cfd9ViHBlR4

 

Good luck.


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#8 j.gardavsky

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Posted 27 June 2020 - 01:39 PM

Hello Ivan,

 

your Amscope looks like having a similar concept to that of my Leitz Dialux 20.

Depending on the compatibility, you can find the fluoride and APO objectives from Leitz, Leica and Zeiss, and the mated eyepieces on the eBay for the prices which don't break the bank.

 

Don't forget, some of the premium Leica and Zeiss eyepieces may also find a very good use on your telescopes,

 

https://www.cloudyni...my-microscopes/

 

Best,

JG



#9 HydrogenAlpha

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 04:46 AM

First if your want to image though a microscope using a DSLR a trinocualr head is a must. Also a DSLR with live view is a must for focusing. The Amscopes are excellent. I would suggest the T490-B-DK.  The adapter are cheap. Just get one that just has a nose only no lens, I use the Gosky T-T2 . 23.2mm which is standard. 

I have a FF DSLR at my disposal, since that's my usual daytime photography cam. I'm quite confused about whether the adapter needs to have optics within them. I see quite a number for sale with correcting optics, and they cost quite a fair bit more. Do they do anything useful (or worse, degrade the image quality) or am I better off doing what you mentioned? I don't mind cropping the FOV on my DSLR. 

 

 

Hello Ivan,

 

your Amscope looks like having a similar concept to that of my Leitz Dialux 20.

Depending on the compatibility, you can find the fluoride and APO objectives from Leitz, Leica and Zeiss, and the mated eyepieces on the eBay for the prices which don't break the bank.

 

Don't forget, some of the premium Leica and Zeiss eyepieces may also find a very good use on your telescopes,

 

https://www.cloudyni...my-microscopes/

 

Best,

JG

Thanks JG for the suggestions. And nice image of the Psaronius root. I suppose this is with a stereo rather than compound? 

 

I had a look at apo/fluorite objectives on ebay, and while they aren't exactly cheap ($300-$400), would it be worthwhile if I just bought one (say a 20x or 40x) for photography? 


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#10 j.gardavsky

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 05:30 AM

I have a FF DSLR at my disposal, since that's my usual daytime photography cam. I'm quite confused about whether the adapter needs to have optics within them. I see quite a number for sale with correcting optics, and they cost quite a fair bit more. Do they do anything useful (or worse, degrade the image quality) or am I better off doing what you mentioned? I don't mind cropping the FOV on my DSLR. 

 

 

Thanks JG for the suggestions. And nice image of the Psaronius root. I suppose this is with a stereo rather than compound? 

 

I had a look at apo/fluorite objectives on ebay, and while they aren't exactly cheap ($300-$400), would it be worthwhile if I just bought one (say a 20x or 40x) for photography? 

Hello Ivan,

 

the capture of the Psaronius root is with the Leitz Dialux 20 in incident light, the light source Varta LED lamp inclined for shadows casting.

 

On your place, I would start with the low magnification factor APO or Fl objectives to get the lessons learned faster.

I am using the old Leitz FL and APO objectives, which typically cost below $100.

They are mounted with the RMS thread. The new Leica objectives have the metric 25mm thread, and they are more expensive, but optically not better than the old Leitz.

 

Here is the list of my Leitz Fl and APOs:

Leitz Pl Fl 4x/0,14 170

Leitz PL APO 6,3x/0,20 170

Leitz PL FL 10x 0,30 170

Leitz APO 12,5x/0,30

 

the number 170 is the microscope tube lengths.

 

The mated eyepieces are the Periplan GF series.

For the afocal photography I am using the Leitz Periplan 10x/18 Red Dot, item # 519 749, which is CVD corrected (Red Dot), visible as the red/orange fringe at the field stop.

Anything and whatever you will be using for the afocal photography, you have to fine tune the distance of the eyepiece to the microscope objective to get the best contrast and resolution. This tuning is within a few mm. Otherwise you take the risk, that the camera optics will add some lateral chromatic aberration.

 

And here is my microscopy equipment,

https://www.cloudyni...919-microscopy/

 

Best,

JG



#11 HydrogenAlpha

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 02:42 PM

Thanks JG. Very nice equipment there. 

 

On your place, I would start with the low magnification factor APO or Fl objectives to get the lessons learned faster.

Do you mind elaborating a little on this statement? Do you mean that it is better to image at low magnification?

 

I'm thinking that many optical systems today are already sampling at the wavelength limit of visible light, so it might be preferable to simply shoot at lower magnification since the additional resolution doesn't add detail, and the lower mag will give more FOV. 

 

Also, do you recommend afocal over prime focus? I understand that the eyepieces do some additional correction, as you mentioned, but prime focus would be more convenient for me since i don't have any eyepiece adapters and my phone camera isn't too fantastic. 


Edited by HydrogenAlpha, 28 June 2020 - 02:44 PM.

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#12 j.gardavsky

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 03:20 PM

Hello Ivan,

 

I have no experience with the direct photography on the camera chip, but there are certainly adapters microscope-to-camera with some lenses inside.

Leitz has for the Dialux a photo 'eyepiece' for the imaging on film, with ZEISS it is the S-Pl (super planar) eyepiece.

 

With the afocal photography behind the eyepiece, it is for me the easiest way, as next to my classic Leica R equipment, I have just a low cost Lumix Panasonic 4/3, and using it for the afocal.

When doing the afocal with the Lumix/Panasonic, I mount the Lumix Leica Elmarit f=45mm macro lens (or for wide field the Olympus f=25mm), and count on the oversampling the microscope resolution on the chip. And I can also take a shorter focus Leitz Periplan eyepiece to do it. The rest is then done with Photoshop - curves, color balance, Gamma, ..., and extrapolated from 3x8bit up to 3x32bit for the mask unsharp and/or interpolation between the pixels.

 

Finally, the photos resolve details down to the numeric aperture resolution of the microscope objectives.

 

When you want even more resolution, then it can be achieved on the short blue wavelengths with the passband filters and with a b/w camera chip.

 

And then it is better to mount on the microscope body the modern Leica, Olympus or Zeiss lenses, designed for the blue light and UV microphotography.

 

On the budget side of experimenting, you can take the 470nm blue astronomy filter on the microscope as you already have, and look if there will be any improvement worth of investing more money in the hobby.

 

Best,

JG


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#13 HydrogenAlpha

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Posted 01 July 2020 - 01:33 AM

Thanks JG. 

 

That has been very detailed and informative. I'll try out your suggestions and some different configurations to see what works best. Cheers! 


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#14 starbob1

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Posted 01 July 2020 - 07:08 AM

The adapter I use on my Canon 450d has no optics in it. Works great. Its just a t mount with a 23mm nose.



#15 HydrogenAlpha

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Posted 08 July 2020 - 11:04 AM

Some updates:

 

I cancelled my original order for the Amscope T490A since the waiting time was too long. I ended up ordering the Amscope T720A rebranded by TS, which arrived within just 2 days of me placing my order. It didn't cost much more, and yet featured infinity plan objectives and koehler illumination. 

 

I also got a DSLR adapter for it, though I wasn't too happy with the results with my Nikon (though some tweaking/additional optics may be needed). However, I decided to use a cheap 5MP microscope camera with a 1/2.5" APTINA sensor which seemed to have pretty good results. Here's a 12-panel mosaic I did of it using the 40x objective:

 

50090762431_50ac6289f6_o.jpg

 

And here's a timelapse of cytoplasmic streaming using 40x and 100x objectives: https://www.youtube....h?v=ALCtrFa25Y8


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#16 PatrickVt

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Posted 23 July 2020 - 11:12 PM

I found that using a camera with a full frame sensor was more trouble than it was worth.  When using prime focus, there is tons of vignetting.  This is why some of the adapters come with a 2x lens in it.  The 2x lens gets you past the severe vignetting.  I never tried one of those adapters because I was afraid that after spending all the money on one, I would be unhappy with the quality of that 2x lens.  I feared getting blurred edges.  I didn't spend extra money on Plan objectives just to end up with blurred edges due to a cheap lens for the camera.  

 

APS-C sensors also vignette pretty severely but I found that using the camera's 'intelligent zoom' resolved that issue quite well.  I have a 24mp camera so cropping a bit is also no problem.  I really like using the in-camera zoom though.  

 

I tried a camera with a 4/3 sensor and this actually worked best as far as the vignetting issue but my 4/3 cameras are quite old.  My APS-C sized camera is far newer so less noise, better color, better resolution.  I couldn't justify purchasing a new 4/3 camera just for microscopy.  

 

I also went the route of a Celestron microscope camera.  I have the 5mp one which I believe has the 1/2" Aptina sensor.  It works but I was left unimpressed.  If the software was better and less quirky, I probably would be happier with that camera.  It is just really awkward and quirky.  And, since I'm really picky about image quality, I wasn't all that impressed with that old Aptina sensor.  

 

I've thought about trying my QHY5III 178MC astro camera.  The first problem I encountered in this exercise was finding suitable software to control this camera fluidly at my desk with the microscope.  Did I really want to use astro software?  Then I remembered that these cameras are really better suited for very low light situations and stacking.  This route also seemed to have more difficulties than it was worth so I abandoned this idea before even trying it. 

 

After all that experimenting, I decided to just use my small Sony a6000 with its nice APS-C sensor.  Sometimes I tether it, sometimes I just use the LCD screen.  I prefer the options available in the menus when using this camera and I definitely prefer the quality this provides for me.  It is just as easy to shoot some still images as shooting some video too.

 

Patrick


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#17 PatrickVt

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Posted 24 July 2020 - 08:11 AM

Since we are all here in an astronomy forum and, therefore, are probably more well-versed in all things related to telescopes and astronomy, here is another way to look at using a full frame camera sensor on a microscope. 

 

When doing astrophotography, even some 2" focusers have difficulty accommodating the larger full frame sensor.  The diagonal of the full frame sensor is at around 43.2mm.  A 2" focuser is at around 50mm but, because of the length of the focuser tube running into the wider part of the light cone (forward of the focuser), you end up with a bit of vignetting at times.  A 2.5" or 3" focuser gives a bit of extra room for full frame and medium format sensors.  The light path is actually a cone so it is easy for that 2" focuser tube to infringe upon the cone of the light path.  

 

Now, back to microscopes, the optical tubes in microscopes are 30mm or even 23mm.  Trying to image using a full frame sensor that is 43.2mm across will result in significant vignetting.  You will actually see almost the entire optical tube within the frame.  30mm is only around 1 3/16" so that is comparable to a 1 1/4" focuser tube and we know from astronomy that 1 1/4" focusers are not used for full frame sensors.  What compounds this vignetting problem, however, is that this 30mm optical tube is fairly long on a microscope so that adds to the vignetting issue.  A 23mm optical tube (like I have in my microscope) is around 0.9" so smaller sensors are needed to eliminate significant vignetting.    

 

One way around all this vignetting is cropping but then that is the same as just using a smaller sensor.  If you have the number of pixels of a recent full frame sensor (in the 24mp to 42mp+ range), you probably have the ability to crop effectively making the sensor an APS-C sized sensor or a 4/3 sized sensor with no perceivable loss in resolution.  

 

Another way around all the vignetting is using a 2x lens in your adapter for mounting to the microscope.  Unfortunately, then you often end up with blurry edges due to the 2x lens being not-so-great.  Another option is eyepiece projection.  I haven't tried that yet but common sense is telling me a full frame sensor will still vignette significantly with eyepiece projection.  Playing with spacing between the eyepiece and the camera might help though.  

 

Video is a little tricker.  If you can shoot in 4K, it may sound like a lot but you are starting at only 8mp.  Cropping that 4K video to Full HD drops it to only around 2mp.  My computers are all displaying at 4K and the same holds true for my televisions.  HD video or 2mp images are what I refer to as thumbnails on my screen.  They are actually difficult to view.  If you stretch them to fit the screen, you only end up with hollow magnification like trying to use too much magnification in your telescope.  So, for video, a smaller sensor is preferred rather than trying to crop.  

 

Newer cameras have more options and larger sensors so they are more easily adaptable to circumstances like this.  Older cameras are not so easily adaptable.  The same really holds true for newer microscope cameras but it gets trickier figuring out which of the microscope cameras have newer sensors unless you follow the sensor business.  

 

Patrick


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#18 EJN

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Posted 27 July 2020 - 09:35 PM

First if your want to image though a microscope using a DSLR a trinocualr head is a must. Also a DSLR with live view is a must for focusing. 

 

Not true at all. 1950's B&L Dynoptic monocular. Canon 400D, no live view.

 

IMG_7726p1.jpg

 

daphnia-df.jpg


Edited by EJN, 27 July 2020 - 10:14 PM.

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#19 EJN

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Posted 27 July 2020 - 09:37 PM

Continued...

 

para-cr2-2.jpg

 

cyc-df.jpg


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#20 EJN

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Posted 27 July 2020 - 09:39 PM

More...

 

para-cr2-df.jpg

 

hydra-df.jpg


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