So, I'm a geek girl who lies to tinker with electronics, but I'm also a cheapskate, and my vision isn't the best. Add the fact that SMT soldering is a really hard without magnification, and I decided to buy one of those crappy 14$ USB microscopes on ebay, and it was kinda disappointing. The lens mechanism and focal distance was pretty nice, but the sensor is only 640 by 480 and has really poor light characteristics.
I also however have an old lifecam studio that picked up on sale a while back, and I never use it. I looked around online to see if the lifecam had been converted to a microscope, and it has! There is a kit out there you can buy, but the lens cost $50!!! And its only fixed focal distance! Jeez, what a rip off. After taking apart the crappy microscope, I noticed that it would be possible to Frankenstein the two together and create the exact thing that is being sold, a fixed focal distance microscope that gives you plenty of room to get soldering tools under, and has a full HD picture with excellent response time!
Step 1: Making It Work
I first disassembled the crappy usb microscope, and removed the lens. The lens is held in a brass tube that is mounted in a plastic base. I removed the plastic base from the brass, and 3d modeled and printed a new base for it that would adapt it to fit in the body of the lifecam with the original lens removed. You can get the 3d models on thingiverse here or download the files below.
Step 2: Adapting the Lifecam
After the new lens was installed with its adapter, I wanted to mount the camera to the original base. I 3d modeled an adapter that would hold the camera body.
Step 3: Other Mods
You could also install the original light ring inside the lifecam, it fits perfectly! I however have external light sources that I use.
Step 4: Before and After
The first image is a spider from the 14$ USB microscope, but the subsequent images and video is from the lifecam. The lifecam has excellent color reproduction with nice defined edges and a fast update rate.