This morning I tried to install my microscope USB camera on the laptop but Windozy 7 threw a tantrum and would have nothing to do with it. Tried searching for an up to date driver - no joy. Humph! What to do - buy a more up to date model? Nah. Too expensive for a decent quality camera. Think - painful but useful exercise. Last week I bought a couple of cheap USB web cameras. I was hoping to use one to monitor the bird bath while I had the laptop in the summer house. That idea was a complete flop as they are not designed to work in bright lighting conditions and the software I have couldn't make a usable compensation. Complete and absolute over exposure.
But - the USB webcams are focusable and I had already experimented to see just how close they could be made to focus. Almost down to zero - the only limit, leaving enough room between the camera and the object to let light in.
So - how to mount one of the cameras solidly to give it a chance of reasonably clear pictures? Simple - hack an old hefty microscope and mount the camera on that. Both cheap cameras worked well but the clincher was the one which had the cable emerging from the centre of its back. That meant it would be easy to route the cable up through the middle of the focussing tube once all the microscope lenses had been removed.
That was followed by a long session playing with the set up to see how it performed. As I said, the webcam hates bright light which is ideal for this job as it can be pretty dull right under the lens. Here are some of the items I tried:
And here the actual photo grabs made using the free version of Debut Video Capture Software, warts and all - no cropping or tweaking:
The circular mat
It was difficult to get full colour shots - too much light could wash out the colour so even in the shade of the summerhouse I sometimes had to add extra shading right next to the microscope. Watch out - I could be finding this set up useful for the Monday Macros.
Instead of £50+ this cost me £4.99 (free p&p) for the webcam from eBay. I was lucky, they are now £5.79 (free p&p) If you are a tinkerer like me and interested the camera I ended up using was
2 hours ago