I'll describe two easy ways to take pictures through a microscope, one with a point and shoot camera and one with a cheap webcam.  I'll also explain how to calibrate the sizes of objects in the pictures.

The "afocal" point-and-shoot camera method is easier, the images are brighter and more colorful, but the magnification is significantly lower.  The "prime focus" webcam method will give you a very high magnification, quite a bit higher than your microscope normally provides when you look through it.  The color will be more subdued and resolution will be lower.

Both methods are really quite easy, but I'll go into a lot of detail.

What you need

For both methods:

  • Optical microscope (I use a surplus Spencer)
  • Samples: a number of my photos will be prepared slides that one can buy; some will be micrometeorite candidates which one can collect; some will be bits of plant matter from the yard; and I also have a meteorite sample that I bought
  • Optional: Phone or PDA or other device with backlit LCD screen and known resolution for determining magnification
For point and shoot method:
  • Camera (for many of the photos I used a Sony DSC-W55, and for some I used a Canon G7)
  • Optional (for comfort): PVC tubing or empty film canister, and easily removable tape (e.g., painter's tape)
  • Optional (for photographing opaque objects): Bright LED flashlight
For webcam method:
  • Microscope with removable eyepiece
  • Webcam which you can disassemble (I use a Logitech Chat)
  • Computer (Windows, OS X or Linux)
  • Easily removable tape
  • Optional (for photographing opaque objects): Bright LED flashlight
Note on transmitted and reflected light microscopy

There are two ways of imaging a sample.  One way is you shine a light through it, typically from a light bulb in the base of the microscope.  This produces bright images of translucent objects.  The other way is to shine a light at the top surface of a sample, and then image the reflected light.  Our microscope is built for transmitted light use and so this is more difficult--I would either illuminate with a bright flashlight or a reflection of the sun.  The result isn't ideal, but reflected light is the only way to image opaque samples, such as rocks or micrometeorites.

Step 1: Point and shoot camera, transmitted light

The simplest way to photograph through a microscope is to focus the microscope on the sample, hold the camera right above the eyepiece set to auto focus, and click.  This produces surprisingly good results.  Sometimes setting macro mode helps, but not always.

If your camera's front lens and the microscope eyepiece have the glass recessed you may be able to touch the camera lens to the eyepiece top without the glass on either side touching anything, which provides some support for the camera.  Obviously, you don't want the glass to touch anything to prevent scratching.  If there is a danger of glass touching, putting a plastic washer on top of the eyepiece or making a cardboard ring to put on top of the eyepiece may help.  

For ease of use, you want to make something to hold the camera in place.  In the case of the Sony DSC-W55, it turned out that cutting off the bottom from a film canister produced a tube that snugly fits on the outside of the camera lens and goes around the eyepiece.  For greater stability, for some of the photos I taped the canister in place around the microscope tube that holds the eyepiece.  I used paper painter's tape so it would come off without leaving residue.

If a film canister isn't the right size for your microscope and/or camera, it shouldn't be very hard to come up with something out of PVC or cardboard tubing.

Warning: If the camera retracts its lens while held in place solely by the adapter, like in the photo below, it will fall off.  So keep a hand on its strap if there is any danger of that, and don't leave the camera like that for any extended period of time.  A bit more tape to hold the camera in place if the lens retracts might help.

You may want to play with zoom settings on the camera--I found that normal, unzoomed works better.  Generally, using the microscope with a lower magnification eyepiece produces sharper looking images.  And turn off the flash.

You need to focus with the microscope.  If all goes well, the camera will take care of its own focusing.

If your eyepiece has a pointer and/or measurement scale, you may want to remove it or keep it, as you wish.
<p>I want to build electronics microscope. For tracking surface mount circuit boards. Is this article good enough or more modifications required. Image processing probably will require. Webcam are good enough for having high resolution images? I would like to try this article with 25MP webcam. Will it work fine?</p><p>Thanks :-)</p>
do u think this could work if one just has a couple of microscope lenses? i have a lens and an eyepiece lying around and no actual microscope<br><br>other than this I can't think of any other uses for the lens
It should, if you find a way to mount the lens and eyepiece securely enough. You'd basically be building your own microscope. Maybe you can take a PVC or aluminum tube and mount the lens at one end and the eyepiece at the other. The objective might say on it how far the focal plane is from the objective (standard numbers range from 170mm to 210mm). If not, you can play around with around 180mm length.<br> <br> Then you need to suspend the tube and lens securely in such a way that you can move them up and down to focus. If I were doing it, I would consider something like my wooden&nbsp;<a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-wooden-Crayford-style-focuser/">telescope focuser</a>. &nbsp;This works better with an aluminum tube than PVC, since PVC will bend under the pressure. &nbsp;You'd need a fair amount of pressure to hold the weight of the camera in that focuser (I didn't design the focuser for holding a camera). &nbsp;There are other options, like maybe some version of <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Airline-portable-8-Dobsonian-telescope/#step7">this</a>. &nbsp;Alternately, you might find some way of keeping the tube fixed and moving the sample up and down.<br> <br> If you use an objective and a lensless camera (webcam or a point-and-shoot with lens removed) in place of the eyepiece, that'll reduce weight a bit.
Good point, though the newer DSLRs have such high resolution that even a small image circle is fine.<br><br>Still, maybe the best thing would be a point-and-shoot with lens removed (actually, hanging off to the side, or else the camera will think it's broken and not work), like some people use for astronomy but without the complications of timed exposures. The image sensor is bigger than on the webcam but small enough to nicely fit the image circle. The webcam's image sensor is so small that it makes for a little too much magnification (I suppose one could put in a focal reducer, though).
There are two problems I've read about with using a lensless SLR on a normal microscope. First is that typically the image sensor is way to big for the image circle that the microscope projects. Second is that it may not be possible to focus because the image sensor is set way back in the camera behind the mirror. <br>Micro 4/3 cameras may work, as they have smaller sensors as well as a shorter flange focus distance (no mirror.) I don't think I've looked into this since the micro 4/3 system was out though.
I like it very cool.<br>The first part involving the camera on the microscope is quite similar to something I have been doing for a few years for wildlife photography; I'll be entering an 'ible about it as soon as I have selected a few pictures to accompany the text.<br>Oddly my better half said she unpacked a really nice microscope in the charity shop she volunteers at today, guess who is going to buy it in the morning? ;-)<br>
I assume you mean that you've been hooking up the camera to the eyepiece of a spotting scope? Yes, I've been finding that what what works for telescopes tends to work for microscopes. I've done it with the last total <a href="http://prussastro.blogspot.com/2010/12/lunar-eclipse.html">eclipse of the moon</a>&nbsp;and <a href="http://prussastro.blogspot.com/2010/11/clavius.html">Clavius</a>&nbsp;and a <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pruss/3399046722/">crescent moon</a>&nbsp;(and Venus and Jupiter, but the results were poorer), though I think most of these are with the camera hand-held.
I just posted the 'ible I mentioned if you are interested take a look here:-<br> <a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Close-Up-Wildlife-Photography-Without-Hi-Tech-Equi/">http://www.instructables.com/id/Close-Up-Wildlife-Photography-Without-Hi-Tech-Equi/</a><br>
Not exactly..... :-)<br>I will be posting the 'ible soon you will see what I mean then.<br>I do like the idea though, now all I have to do is get hold of a suitable scope.
I wonder if you would get even better results with stacking and a webcam if you had the sample on a slowly movable stage and moved it slowly, the way astronomical images on a non-tracking telescope do.
I must say, this is actually a very useful and informative Instructable. Very well done and lots of description and photos to back it up! There's so many instructables coming out now that are pure BS.
Cool method and great photos!
I am from Argentina. I will try your method. Its awesome, thanks.

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