A Home-made, Light-weight Field Microscope

by Chuck Huck, USA



My previous article on a field microscope (see the February Micscape) dealt with a standard-size microscope that was far from light weight. The other day I unearthed a portable, light-weight field microscope that was hidden away in a closet—out of sight, out of mind. I developed this system several years ago from “scrap” photographic items I had laying around in a box.

The parts for this light-weight instrument include an old Asahiflex screw-mount bellows unit, a screw-mount extension tube piece, an internal sleeve from a 50mm Bell and Howell 16mm projector lens, a small mini-tripod, a spare 1-in. f2.5 Wollensak 16mm camera lens, a plastic eye cap from a pair of binoculars, and a spare 15X microscope ocular.

The 1-in. camera lens was cemented to the Bell and Howell sleeve, which in turn was cemented to the Asahiflex screw-mount extension tube and then screwed onto the bellows unit. A hole was cut out of the plastic binocular cap to accommodate the 15X ocular and cemented to the camera end of the bellows unit. The ocular was inserted into this opening. The alignment is not absolutely perfect, but it is close enough to yield a good image. By racking the bellows unit back and forth, magnifications from approximately 20 to 75X are possible. For maximum sharpness, I usually keep the f/stop at about f4. If conditions are very bright, then I use about f8 or f11.

The tripod was acquired about 30 years ago and consists of the tube shown in the first photo with the legs screwed into the tube. When unscrewed, the legs are spread and then screwed back into the tube to form the tripod (see second photo). The third photo was taken through this system with a hand-held digital camera. The Turtox microscope slide shows a small spider mounted in balsam. Lighting was via an angled flashlight (see first photo). This system may be used either hand held or with the tripod to yield steadier images. It is small and light enough to be carried in a jacket pocket or a back pack. Now that I have rediscovered this gadget, I will have to take it with me on hiking and bicycle trips when the weather turns warmer.

Many photographers and microscopists have bits and pieces of equipment stored away over the years that could be utilized to make something useful. Such was the case with this field system. A little ingenuity can go a long way. Take a look around in all your stuff.

 Comments to the author, Chuck Huck, are welcomed.  


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Published in April 2005 Micscape Magazine.

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