Topical Tip: Using the ancillary items from a Moticam microscope camera outfit

by David Walker, UK.


The Moticam x000 series are a popular and versatile range of microscope cameras; the author owns the base model, the 1.3 Mpixel Moticam 1000 and shared his experiences of it in an earlier Micscape issue. Users of one of the models will be familiar with the four high quality camera couplers supplied in each outfit. These are intended to couple the camera with supplied Motic camera relay lens to a wide variety of microscope tubes. These can also be useful for supporting certain consumer digicams on a microscope as shown below. Given the often high cost of model specific camera couplers, adapting the Motic couplers make the Moticam outfit more versatile.

I often prefer not to use the couplers or the relay lens supplied with the Moticam as find the relay lens tends to emphasise dust in the optics train. I prefer to use two alternatives shown above:
Left above: A simple C-mount to microscope tube connector, the sensor crop mag increase can be useful for picking out fine detail e.g. of diatoms. (Many of the older objectives the author uses seem tolerant of use without eyepiece, especially in monochromatic light.)
Right above: When an eyepiece is desired, the Moticam is attached to the microscope tube via a C-mount to 35 mm SLR mount adapter (in my case a Nikon bayonet mount). These adaptors crop up on eBay quite a lot or are available from larger camera accessory suppliers. This adaptor allows a third party 35 mm photo adapter to be used with eyepiece of choice.

So, this releases four potentially useful adaptors. Or if one of the adaptors is only used, three can be released for other purposes. A family consumer digicam that finds a lot of use on both my and my brother's scope for quick but quality imaging is the 7 Mpixel, 3x optical zoom Sony P200 shown below (essentially the same spec as the well regarded Sony W7). With good light, the camera handheld to the eyepiece often suffices but the spare Motic couplers can be used to make an excellent attachment for this sort of camera.

Like many modern consumer digicams, the Sony P200 has a small two section zoom lens with metal mount, but is unthreaded. Shown above (middle) is the Motic 28 mm and 34 mm couplers securely attached face to face with Superglue (can be detached if ever needed with acetone solvent). The adapter was dried thoroughly overnight in a warm place before use near optics; the glue vapours may harm optics.

The 34 mm coupler snugly fits on the zoom lens (above right), the nylon tips on screws preventing any damage to the lens mount. The 28 mm coupler attaches to the microscope tube or larger eyepieces like the Zeiss Kpl range. The two sets of centring screws allow accurate alignment of mount to eyepiece and camera to mount. With care, the camera can be used on batteries with the coupler as long as 3 minutes aren't left without use, otherwise the zoom may try to shut down with potential damage to electronics. With the mains cable / charger attached the camera stays on. Strapping the mains cable to the tube (above right) takes weight off the camera.

The slightest loosening of one centering screw releases the camera lens, so easy to install / reinstall camera without losing centering.

The Motic couplers have thin metal faces so the camera lens is supported a few millimeters above the eyepiece, thus allowing full eyepiece field or optical zoom in with 3x lens to remove vignetting. The zoom needs to be set by loosening a screw off a little so the lens can rotate. I've used the camera successfully at the very highest mags with tungsten lighting with no noticeable camera / shutter shake. Shown below is an old slide of the test diatom Amphipleura pellucida (believe to be mounted in Realgar, unnamed mounter) showing the striae with a Zeiss 100/1.3 Neofluar objective using oblique lighting.

Left: Full image field (3x zoom to remove vignetting) 1/15th sec, ISO 100. Right: crop from image, unretouched. Diatom length typically 140 m. The striae are shown and in places a hint of some 'beading' which precludes punctae resolving. The mount is very yellow hence colour.

Right: The camera / mount was also able to image live organisms that were not too active with a modest shutter speed of 1/125th sec as shown for this freshwater rotifer (Possibly Euchlanis sp.?)


Comments to the author David Walker are welcomed.


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Published in the December 2007 edition of Micscape.

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