Powerful Digital Microscope on the Cheap!

Introduction: Powerful Digital Microscope on the Cheap!

About: I am a stone mason. My hobby is making new solar cooking and gardening stuff. I have used solar heat to cook soil for a couple of years. In mother earth news in January, i read that their compost expert does...

I did not do many still pictures yet because I mostly watch protozoa, rotifers, etc. and they move QUICK! Looking back, video actually shows MORE than the naked eye sees under the microscope!
Check out the videos! Video shows far more detail of the reality than any picture can!   You can see the currents that the cilia make, you can see smaller protozoa sucked in by the swirling current made by the predator ones.  Looking back at a video, you can see lots of stuff which you missed as you narrated!
The big difference between this instructable and all the others is video with sound. You can narrate what you see AS you see it. Because instructables is about sharing, this narration as it happens vastly increases your productivity. 

I used the microscope in the foreground but the one in the background also works (it is just in poor condition).

Step 1: Chosing a Webcam

I decided to get a webcam to skype with my family. 
I use linux so I was happily surprised to find one that supported it.  Even more happy that it was the cheapest webcam in the store at  $19.95. 
And even more happy when it works in everything immediately. It even works in my old aspire netbook.
So it is the facecam1000 for windows mac and linux.  It works with windows xp  sp2 and higher. A vital think that it has is a focus ring.  I very much doubt that a fixed focus cam will work. I just focused it on something the length of the microscope barrel away and it worked great.  Another great feature is automatic adjustment to the light levels.  You go from 40X to 100X and it takes a few seconds to adjust to the weaker light but then it is perfect again.
So once again.  Focus ring is vital.

Step 2: Equipment List

1. I used the white microscope in the foreground. I got it second hand at value village. It has 40X 100X and 400X which I feel is perfect for hobby microscopy. Another great feature of this little cheapie is that the objectives are extremely well adjusted. You turn from 40 to 100 and it is still almost perfectly focused. 100 to 400 and the same thing. Very slight adjustment is necessary.
A 3rd super feature is that the stage goes up and down, not the turret.
2. clamp (It goes on the turret or in my case, it can also go on the metal attachment below) .
3. one of those tools with magnifier and 2 crocodile clips from radioshack
4. Webcam
5. Light source
6. piece of not fully see through plastic. (This is to diffuse the light from the light source)
7. Computer or laptop or netbook. (To record the video)
8. Microscope slides and coverslips

Step 3: Connecting It Together

First thing is to connect the webcam to the computer and adjust the focus ring so that something is clearly focused about the length of the microscope barrel away.
Then fire up the light and microscope and get your webcam close to where it works.
Attach the clamp. Attach the crocodile clips to the webcam and to the clamp.
Tighten the nut when you are happy with position and your webcam picture and it should be good to go.
You might have to focus up or down a little on your slide for a perfect picture.

Step 4: Software Tips and Tweaks (linux) and Windows Suggestions.

In linux (ubuntu) I use the cheese webcam program and it works great. It can be small or full screen and takes pictures but it has major issues with video. It misses frames (lots of frames)!
To get round this, I used the record my desktop program to record the video. You can set this to one area of your screen (over the webcam window) and just record video from that window. And it drops no frames!
AND it does pretty nice audio too from the microphone!
Unfortunately I am not familiar with windows use. Perhaps you can record your webcam window directly? With sound?
If not I think CamStudio will work. It is free.
Another really neat thing is that the files are so small with record my desktop. My youtube video shown below is just 6.2 megabytes in the ogv format and I think it is pretty clear. See for yourself!

Step 5: Issues and Problems.

I am concerned about the possibility of scratching my eyepiece lens. (actually the webcam has a plastic focus ring just painted metal colour) but I still do not know if the eyepiece is glass or not)
Also, the clamp has a plastic cover and therefore the crocodile clip can very gradually slip on it. It hasn't been a big issue but it is there.
Another issue is that it is a bit harder to move the slides slowly when you are looking at a computer screen rather than looking through the eyepiece.
I have only tried stuff from my backyard so far. Dull! I know that there are much more interesting samples in any bog nearby.
And basically that is it.
Thanks Brian

Step 6:

Here is dome video of protozoa eating

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