Using a Digital Camera As a Second Pair Eyes and Magnifying Glass.




I discovered recently while doing a small electronic project that my eye sight was not up to scratch as I first thought.
Unfortunately, I thought I could work past my short comings and I proceeded with putting my project together.
This resulted in my project not working as well as I wished and also caused me to have to delve into some simple diagnostics. Such as searching for bridged solder joints and dry joints. But as I was already having trouble with my eye sight I ponder how I was going to resolve this problem. I tried a magnifying glass but the magnification was not up to spec. All the other device I had to help with my eye sight was rather fiddly and hampered my ability to resolve the issues I had at hand. Then it came to me to use my Digital Camera. Please don't point out how my electronic skills suck - I am too aware of this and it is very obvious.

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Step 1: What You Will Need..

- A computer - with a photo editing software application.

- I am using Windows Vista Photo Gallery. It comes with Vista.

- One Digital Camera - I am using a cheap 4Mega Pixel Camera with 3 x optical zoom.
  **It must be capable of doing macro photography.

- And a well lighted area to take your picture.

- And some props or supports to hold your circuit or what ever you are going to magnify. I didn't build any special device to hold the camera. All I used was what was available at the time.

Step 2: Camera - Circuit - and Action

As you will see from the image - there is nothing fancy about my preparation. All I used was a solder reel and my Digital Camera.

Step 3: Adding the Circuit and Taking the Picture.

I placed the circuit I wish to examine in front of the soldering reel. As in the image. I then placed the camera on the spot marked camera.
Using the macro function on the camera. I used the auto focus to make the best fit focus of the circuit and then took the picture.
Simple as.

Step 4: The First Image Taken.

This is the first Photo of the circuit as seen from the Camera.

Step 5: Transfering the Photo to Computer.

I then transferred the images from my camera to my computer. I suggest you refer to your camera instruction to get a better understanding how to do this as it varies from camera to camera.

Step 6: Viewing You Photography in Your Favourite Photo Editor.

I choose to use Windows Vista- {Windows Photo Gallery}- It has its own zoom function built in.
You will find this function at the bottom of the screen as a magnifying glass with a plus sign in it.

Step 7: First Image in Windows Photo Gallery 1:1 Ratio

Within the application Windows Photo Gallery - I have opened up the image that I took of the initial circuit. It is not bad - but you can not see clearly any obvious mistakes.

Step 8: Image Zoomed

As you will see as you zoom in on the image you will see more and more of the nasty little mistakes that you have incurred.
This zoom shows a dry solder joint and some nasty solder spatter. All very poor on my behalf. But I would not of been able to see this clarity using just my naked eye. Or the magnifying glass I had.

Step 9: This Is an Even Closer Zoom Before It Loses Resolution.

You can see that you have an amazing ability to get up close and personal. In the middle of this circuit you will notice what looks like a hair or fiber. That in fact is a solder bridge caused by me pulling the soldering iron away incorrectly. This, if crossed over on to an adjacent circuit could of destroyed my sensitive IC components if I applied power. Thankfully I didn't. But you can see that a digital camera and some software and a computer can be invaluable as a second pair of eyes to uncover these defects. I suggest that you never ask me to build you a electronic project. I am getting to old and my eye sight sucks. I am of to the optometrist to get my eyes checked and some glasses. I bid you all farewell.

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    11 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I've been using a similar technique for a while now - using my digicam to read faraway billboards (like the phone number on the pizza joint 3 blocks away from 19 stories up at my friend's house, support 'local' business)...

    Uuber zoom is good.

    Noteworth mention:  Digital zoom is crap for taking good photographs, BUT, with jpeg compression accounted for, it actually makes for BETTER close-up shots!  I don't have sample images around here, but I did a zoom shot from about 10 feet of my laptop power supply, full zoom + digital zoom, and it saved a crystal clear shot with wonderful readable text, at 'full' interpolated resolution.  I did another shot at full optical no digital zoom, and the supply took up about 5-10% of the target image.  The text was small enough that even at 12 megapixel, the jpeg compression turned it into a big goobery block of barely readable white and dark blocks.  Repeat experiment at full wide angle and crop/zoom = completely unreadable.

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I am amazed at the potential use for the humble digital camera. Thanks for your helpful suggestions with regards to the digital zoom. You must have a more expensive camera than myself.

    Lance Mt.spiderfurby

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    If your camera is capable, there is a neat trick i've been u8sing for a while now.

    I use the camera, and zoom in to 5.5x Zoom, taking a photo. I then go and view the photo, and using the same button to zoom i can zoom in to a further 10x zoom.

    Although its only a 6megapixel camera (Antique old thing), i can effectively see some detail at 15.5x zoom.

      Gooooood stuff.

    For Photography,

    That is an issue - but if you turn of your flash which I presume you already have done and take the picture in natural diffused light you shouldn't have a problem. The beauty of digital cameras is that you can take as many photo's as you like until you get it right. Just remember to take notes on what you did to achieve the final outcome as all the effort will be in vane otherwise.

    For Scanning,
    This is a bigger issue as the shine is produced because the item is not flat against the scanner and being 3D it allows for reflection. All depending on what you wish to achieve. You could try inverting the colors so that it looks like an x-ray or removing the RGB channels - saturation or tint etc.  The concept is not for clarity of color but for crispness of the image so that you can see the imperfections. Another concept is and I haven't tried this is to use different color plastic sheeting similar to overhead clear sheeting to minimize the light reflection. You could try blue or red or green to see if this reduces the glare. It might even be a case of using clear plastic such as the stuff used for overhead projectors. It worthy of an investigation.  Surely, photographers use some method to stop glare when taking pictures of water etc. My knowledge is limited when it comes to this area.

    I am going to utilize that idea. I have an engineering back ground and that would serve as a useful tool.

    "What are you going to do tonight brain", "the same thing I do every night Pinky, plan to take over the world"