Saturday, 18 September 2010

A Closer Look

Quite some time ago I bought one of the plastic USB microscopes hoping to get some reasonable micro photos. Unfortunately the results were disappointing not least being the annoying way the program provided with it changed to a low resolution monitor screen and moved all my desktop icons about. Also the plastic would stick and jump when focussing, very frustrating. Oh well, you get what you pay for!

Later I bought a used optical microscope hoping to use the same technique as  Phil for some of his excellent shots on his blog Beyond the Human Eye. That is to use a digital camera in place of the eyepiece of the microscope. No joy here. I just could not get the idea to work.

Finally I bought a USB microscope camera which fits in the top of the microscope in place of the eyepiece. Once again I was disappointed with the results. The 5 megapixel camera worked just fine but the depth of field was extremely limited so I packed everything away.

Can you see where this is leading? Enter the program CombineZP. I decided to try again. Not brilliant photos but a vast improvement on past experience. All I could find on scouring the garden yesterday was a discarded feather so I had a go to see what I could see.

First the setup - microscope with USB camera sticking out of the top.

I used my bright LED lamp as light source. I think the camera works about the same as a 10x optical eyepiece so this first photo is at 40x magnification.
Feather 01

Now at 100x magnification
Feather 02

Finally at what is probably 400x magnification.
Feather 03

Each of the above was made with a pile of nine individual photos each focussed slightly differently and processed using the program CombineZP. To give an idea this is one of the nine taken for the 100x magnification showing how quickly parts of the view go out of focus. No further processing of the photos except cropping to remove a small extra reflected area the program adds to the edge of each.

Now I have to experiment more with the lighting as this is quite critical in obtaining clear photos but at last it is worth persevering with my investment.


  1. Sensational! - I had an could run a competition 'can you tell what it is yet?' for your readers! Think of the possibilities, compound eyes, butterflies, wow!

  2. Believe it or not, Matron, I thought of doing just that for this one - small world, or great minds think alike.

  3. You must have the patience of a saint John.
    Great results, from the work you put into it all.

  4. I'm all for a 'guess what this is' puzzle! Somehow with your capabilities, I have a feeling we'd most often be stumped! Great fun seeing how you continue to find ways to search out the micro world.

  5. Great stuff, John. Yes, do try to stump us! That could be lots of fun ...

  6. Hi Keith - stubborn as a mule might be a better description, it's just that my Round Tuits take so long to complete.

  7. Hello Glo - maybe a 'Macro on Monday' with the answer the following week could become a regular feature if I can find enough subjects.

  8. I'm getting convinced Wilma. I'll have a look round for some suitable subjects.

  9. A very clever set-up, John but I will come clean and say I had great fun peeking at the pictures on your wall :) I think I spied the beautiful Bobby and am I right in thinking the other dog is one of your previous pets?

  10. Hi Jan. The photo of Bobby is hidden behind the microscope camera. On the left is Cleo, my last dog. On the right Tramp, the one before Cleo and the one I really miss. So gentle with humans and animals alike. Never growled or barked at anything. If an animal appeared on the TV he would dash over and lick it!


Thank you for visiting. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. Any comment, or correction to any information or identification I get wrong, is most welcome. John

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