for photomicrography


History of a near-failure, or a semi-success

Walter Dioni                                                                               Cancún, México




Many microscopists commonly use very successfully "consumer cameras” (Nikon, Olympus, Sony, etc) without direct screen monitoring capacity, or USB connection to computer (except for downloading images). Microscopists generally focus with the electronic viewfinder or LCD preview panel of the camera, for that a camera with large display is needed, or, as in the great installation of Charles Krebs, they parfocalize the camera so that the image can be captured while observing directly with the binocular microscope. The valuable technical guidelines, methods, and results, of Krebs MUST be read at

003.a - Krebb's  instalation

An image provided by Charles Krebs of his impeccable facilities

Those who read his articles would be divided into two groups:

1) those who can acquire the necessary equipment (high quality optics for their microscopes, cameras with the desired sensor size, with adequate number of photodiodes to produce images of a high number of pixels, relay lenses carefully calculated, and professional adaptors, etc.) which can therefore effectively use the quality of their facilities in their photomicrographs, and ...

2) those that do not, and who, forced by the circumstances, must try to adapt their cameras, to their personal microscopes, with the sensor size and pixel size they have, to obtain the best possible images.

Of course it is only for the latter that these lines are written.


In my case, I wish to maintain the advantages of the Motic DC-3, although surpassing the capture size limitations. It is clear that my choice of camera will depend, fundamentally, on whether it is commandable by the computer.

If you want to monitor the image on the screen, making there a first adjustment, and capture it with a click of the "mouse", but to also have the option to easily capture video of moving subjects, this limits the choices to webcams, or ... to certain Canon cameras. (A70, A75, ...., A520, A540, A620, etc) that have included software ( "Remote Capture") for monitoring on-screen,  mouse capture, and image download to your computer via a USB-2 port. With their 10 Mpx pictures and easy connection to a computer, the A620 Camera has won the prestige of being recommended by Zeiss as a good photomicrography camera.

Note: Currently, software is offered online for "remote capture" (PSRemote, eg.) which can be adapted to various other cameras. But I have not seen any microscopist who describes its use. The remote capture eliminates any mechanical maneuver for shutter release of the camera and thus avoids most of the vibrations that affect the quality of the image. (the program costs $95.oo)

The Canon Powershot A70 and A540 are used by Howard Webb, in his contributions to MICSCAPE. The Canon S50 (which also allows remote capture) is used by Michel Verolet from the French forum MIKROSCOPIA, who has obtained remarkable rotifer pictures using it on the eyepiece. His images are available in the Encyclopedia of the Forum, after a simple registration. Thanks to their kindness many of his images can also be seen in MICSCAPE, by reviewing the following works



Post processing of the images. 

Of course it is very difficult whatever the camera used, to create an image that is flawless and perfect. So not only is it important to choose the recording camera, but also the software used to post-process the images.

Motic program "Images 2000, v. 1.3" which is the one I used, or Images Plus 2.0 which I use now, only works with Motic cameras, for capturing snapshots and video. Also they support the minimal processing (brightness, contrast, color, lighting, sharpness) and the easy addition of text, and lines. They also allow amalgamation** of photos, which is helpful in cleaning up stray shadows in the image.
Images 2000 allows the taking of longitudinal and surface measurements, after a simple calibration. Additionally Images Plus also measures angles. (And counts particles?)

 ** I refer you to the "AMALGAMATION" Topical Tip, that clearly explains what amalgamation can do.

I do not extend the discussion nor add illustrations on this subject because my information differs only in details with those provided by D. Walker to whose article I refer again, and whose magnificent illustration describes the program in detail.

 However, because they are a lot more versatile, I usually use (as should do all who not have a Motic microscope) even for images of the DC3, other commercial programs.

I own these, with which I perform the following functions:

a. Inclusion of scales (CbZP, PhotoPaint, Photoshop)
b. Take measurements on the image (idem)
c. ** Amalgamation of images, for cleaning backgrounds (Motic, PhotoPaint, Photoshop)
d. Stacks merging to increase depth of focus (CbZP)
e. Processing for adjusting light, contrast, color, sharpness, noise removal (PhotoShop, ACDSee, NetImage) (in some cases I use the HDR facility of PhotoShop)
f. Elimination of moiré (especially in large reductions in size), PhotoShop, PhotoPaint

g. To trim in various proportions (ACDSee, Photoshop, PhotoPaint)
h. Cleaning blurring or replacing undesirable backgrounds (PhotoPaint, PhotoShop)
i. Combining mosaics (Photo Paint, PhotoShop)
j. Adjustment of the edge of mosaic images with the “cloner” (ACDSee, PhotoPaint, PhotoShop)
k. Resizing with Lanczos for enlarging step by step (ACDSee)
l. Ditto for size reduction (ACDSee)
m. Including lines, text and drawings on the image, with control of size and color (PhotoShop, PhotoPaint), ACDSee (text))
n. Overlapping grids over the images for drawing from the screen (PhotoPaint, PhotoShop). An important, even if most of the time forgotten, feature.

o. Editing videos. Extraction of selected frames (Avidemux)

 Normally I start treatment with ACDSee, refining afterward with PhotoPaint or Photoshop. Of course there is no room in this article to discuss the programs or techniques used. But those who have the programs would learn to do so.
I have an ample supply of programs because my grandson is specialized in the use and sharing of software. But whoever does not have that facility could use the ACDSee system that I recommend enthusiastically, and three other free programs: PaintNet, CombineZ and NetImage demo.




The Logitech as a webcam, or as a normal camera (1.3, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 8.0 Mpx).


The following is a preliminary test I made to decide whether the camera complied with the manufacturers promises of image quality. There are some comments on this subject posted to the net, but none very critical, because almost all refer to the normal use as a webcam for live video, a task for which their behavior is outstanding.

The pictures were taken by successively graduating the camera for each reported capture size. Then I cut a "manageable" rectangle of a similar area from each image to be compared here.

004 - combined pictures

  This series was easy to do. The camera and the subject were immobile, the camera and lighting parameters did not vary in the short time of collection, focusing was automatic and the whole process of changing the size of capture and shoot was done with just two centimeters simple movements of the mouse.

For a webcam, acting as a consumer one, I found the results were excellent. But it also became evident (which the company does not hide at any time to those who can read and understand the advertised features on the camera) that what Logitech calls 1.3, 3, 4, and 8 Mpx are actually the product of a digital resizing (enhancement).

The sensor is a CMOS sensor that produces images of 2 Mpx, and any increase or decrease of that size should be done by removing pixels, or interpolating pixels, with the risk of distorting the fine detail of the picture.

 I must admit that in a test for assessing the quality of the pictures, performed by third parties, almost all chose the output size of 3 Mpx as the most desirable. Nobody found problems of loss of detail, distortion, color or pixellation. The internal resizing program is obviously of very good quality.




Removing the camera lens also means eliminating the infrared filter it has attached.
The digital sensors are very sensitive to infrared (IR). To capture normal colors IR filters are routinely attached in factory to the camera lens. But, when removing the objective, the infrared filter is lost, and the sensor loses its ability for accurately recording the colors.


012.1 - image through IR filter

012.2 - picture without IR filter

                             Logitech 9000 - Image with the IR filter in position.                                                                            Logitech 9000 - Image once the IR filter removed

 Both pictures were taken by amateur astronomer Gary Honis, and may be seen at full size and with the relevant information at the following address:

Without other facilities the webcam does not record what photographers really know as infrared photographs. To achieve this (something that rarely interests the photomicrograph amateur) it is necessary to filter the remaining visible light, which amateurs get using one or more color filters prepared with completely veiled color negatives. If some one is interested, methods and results can be viewed at the following website:  with two fine examples (pictures of a Lake) at the end of the article.


To counteract the effect of the removal of IR filter there are only two solutions:

1) reinstall an IR filter in the light path. Probably the best place to put it is over the front lens of the illuminator. The filter is expensive. If you have an old 35 mm slide projector, these have a large IR filtering glass, built-in to prevent burning the slides with the lamp heat. Place the filter over the lamp, at the foot of the microscope.
install in the microscope "white" LEDs based illumination (that emits no IR)

Although the choice depends a little on the used microscope and camera, more useful modern LEDs, are the 3W, lambertians, with 50-60 ° aperture of the cone of light, which work on 1.5A, and consume 10V. A well-known, widely used mark is Lumiled.

 014 - LED 3 w

They emit enough heat and need to be mounted on heat sinks generally especially built and ventilated if possible, and connected to a voltage regulator independent of the microscope system.

There are commercially available microscopes equipped in the factory with LEDs. 

 Dozens of amateurs have tried successfully the installation of them in traditional microscopes, old and new articles are mainly available on MICROSCOPIES, because members of the FORUM MIKROSCOPIA use them from 10 years ago, and in MICSCAPE (a search with the word LED, in the library browser, displays nearly 40 articles on various uses, in various microscopes, and complete systems in selected microscopes).

 But before adopting this method of working, the microscopist must be prepared to do so efficiently. This implies some knowledge of electronics. The most important needed knowledge has been summarized by Jean-Marie Cavanihac in


But it also requires the possession of some tools, good eyesight, and sufficient manual skills.

One example of a complete installation on a Swift microscope, with an extensive discussion of the LED's characteristics and operation can be found in


Comments to the author, Walter  Dioni , are welcomed.

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