Digital Cameras, etc.

Tim White tim.white at YALE.EDU
Wed Jun 5 14:52:49 CDT 2002

Hi all, I am forwarding this for a colleague of mine at Peabody, Eric
Lazo-Wasem, who has spent a fair bit of time exploring digital microscopy.
Contact him directly at eric.lazo-wasem at if you have


Following is my response to Fabio Moretzsohn's inquiry into digital camera
setups (I restrict my answer to cameras, and not scanners).

I would like to offer my comments on digital photography, having
encountered virtually ever difficulty taking pictures over the years, and
only recently started getting great results after I abandoned my old systems.

Unfortunately, one of the better products out there does not get much
"airplay" because it is a stand alone, and not "married" to any particular
microscope manufacturer.

Specifically, I use the KODAK MDS 290 macro/micro imaging system, which
uses software to give "preview" and complete image control while taking
pictures under a microscope or while using the macro lens.  The software
resides as an Adobe Photoshop plug-in, so image acquisition is a snap, and
you end up with one or a series of pictures already active in Photoshop,
ready for further manipulation.

The enhancement features of the KODAK software are what separate this
system from other digital setups (Nikon, Olympus) I have investigated. Once
the software is activated via photoshop (camera on, connected via USB
cable, and you are set to go) you immediately get a "preview" image similar
to what is seen on the LCD screen of a digital camera, but much larger and
sharper.  At this point you can choose and adjust exposure (1/100, 1/60,
etc.) and zoom (65, 77, 88, 100, 115) until your image is perfect.  Fine
control over focus is recognizable on the preview window also.  At this
point you capture an image, make other necessary adjustments.  When you are
satisfied you close the software are left in Photoshop with your open
images (I have taken up to 10 at a clip).  Since focus is relative to how
flat the object is, you examine the pix and choose that which best reflects
the image you want.  Macro imaging is similar, only you don't use a
microscope, but instead have the camera on a stand.

The problem I see with traditional digital setups is that you take what are
apparently good pictures, but then when you view them in Photoshope, etc.
the image quality is poor.  This is in part because the LCD readouts on the
back of a camera are not large enough, or of a high enough quality to
really see what you are getting - let's face it, reduce any image and it
looks pretty darn good!  Also, what looks good to the "eye" is not
necessarily what is picked up by the camera - talk to a "real" photographer
about why this is so.

The only "setup" time needed beyond software, was in obtaining the proper
adapter (C mount) for your particular microscope.  I have old stuff, an
ancient Wild M5 and an Olympus CH-2 (compound scope).  The camera system
works with both scopes once I ordered the proper adapter.

To conclude: I can now sit down with a dozen micro/macro specimens and rip
off print quality images or web stuff in as long as it takes to manipulate
the critters and make the lighting/zoom adjustments.  I have completely
ABANDONED my Nikon film setup, which produced dozens of useless images.
One thing to note: having a variable intensity light source, when combined
with the software exposure possiblities (1/325..... 2, 4.0) gives infinite
possiblities, very important when you start using higher magnifications.

Also, there are time lapse options and all sorts of other possibilities
that I haven't explored - I use the simplest default settings for image
size (1792 x 1200 pixels) and save as a TIFF image (6.1 mb) directly on my
laptop (DELL 800 latitude, Windows ME).
Good luck.  Eric LW

Eric A. Lazo-Wasem
Senior Collections Manager
Division of Invertebrate Zoology
Peabody Museum of Natural History
Yale University
170 Whitney Avenue, P.O. Box 2028118
New Haven, CT 06520-8118

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