Reviews of digital microscopes for insects

That is at least partly due to the higher resolution of the camera compared to the zoom-tube. If you want more resolution, you’ll run into the same problem with whatever equipment you use … or you just don’t have the resolution even though you have more pixels.

1 Like

Recently for educational and curiosity purposes I acquired a new type of microscope, apparently not evidenced here so far, which is basically an industrial camera with VGA and HDMI output linked to a focusing tube mounted on a stand.

I bought the microscope in a kit (first option here) which included only the industrial camera, the optics and the stand itself. No stage, no condenser, no backlight but it came with a very nice downward facing LED ring light. I believe the major market for this grade of gear is electronics inspection. Cost was only around USD$150 and the results are to my mind really great output to a big screen, which is ideal for shared exploration/education.

If you want to buy only the optics, which will be cheaper than buying a kit with stand and industrial camera, the part number used appears to be SHL-0745-0.5X which provides a 24mm screw-mount at the top and can be acquired directly at Shunhuali (顺华利) option two over here along with some more expensive models offering higher magnification optics at double the cost.

I am pretty sure the optics are not top of the line - it’s hard to tell what is a CCD encoding artifact and what is an optical artifact once you get right in there - but to what extent that is due to the CCD and what extent glass I am unsure. Nominal resolution sales claim for the CCD I have is “38 Megapixels” but as you only get 1920x1080 HDMI out with compression artifacts I’d napkin-consider it’s more like 1.8-2MP (accounting for compression loss). Nominal max magnification is alleged to be 135x, but I have no idea how this accords with the markings on the optics which are 0.5x (camera end) + 0.7-4.5x (sample end).

It came without a stage so we had to build one out of lego, which works fine. I will acquire or fabricate a better one in due course. I’ve also ordered an aftermarket condenser with built-in diaphragm (USD$10) described as “30-series” with 1.25 N.A and an aftermarket LED light (USD$8).

The main purpose of getting a new stage is accurate (or at least repeatable) mounting of the condenser and the image plane to ensure they align with the sample.

Other stuff acquired includes blank slides, reference commercially prepared slides and razor blades to try the so-called Neuberg Slicer method.

In short this ~USD$200 setup gets full HDMI output with reasonable visibility at magnifications that allow clear inspection of microscopic features, with a stage if you build one. If you have a large TV and want to explore with others I would consider this a really great price point.

If you spend a bit more you can get better industrial cameras with USB interfaces or with built-in photo and video storage support (typically they output to an SD card and provide a remote control for triggering capture). I opted not to do this on the logic that with HDMI output you can always add recording with an HDMI recorder if you have a PC nearby.

On a commercial note, my findings while searching were that basically the world center of miscroscopy component production appears to be the town of Shangrao (上饶) in Jiangxi (江西) province, China. If you order parts from Shangrao they are super cheap. They probably simultaneously service the educational market, multiple industrial imaging markets including bio-imaging and fabrication related process engineering, plus low-end commercial and enthusiasts.

Here’s a cross-section from a pine root, commercially prepared slide, on a dodgy lego stage with no through-light, ~120x magnification, on an HDMI 55" TV in real time video.

3 Likes

Here are some unmounted observations made with the supplied light ring only today. No sample preparation, focus stacking, or similar. Just photos of the TV.

… continued next post due to ‘new users can only place 5 media items per post’.

2 Likes

Proboscis detail:

I would also add one thing that is good about these single tube type setups is that you get continuous zoom through the entire range so you don’t have to re-center/find the subject after changing objectives, which is really of benefit if the subject is live.

Today I had a tiny creature on a fern leaf, a fraction of the size of the sori, notably yellow hue. I was able to follow it walking around for quite awhile. At the enthusiasm of the Romanesque audience it has since been alcohol-infused until suitable supplies arrive for attempting a slide mount.

2 Likes

Today’s insect exploits only included following a really tiny thrip nymph for awhile. (Got some great videos but iNat doesn’t allow upload.) Just how tiny? Well this setup doesn’t really tell you, however this was near @ 135x maximum magnification so an estimate could be made.

Also got a bright red Anystis (Whirlygig mite).

2 Likes

Has anyone used tools to display measurements for photographed subjects in photos, such as to measure insects, as part of a usb microscope, camera, and/or computer software?

I can’t access the website link that you provided. Is this something similar?
https://www.amazon.com/Digital-Industry-Monocular-Microscope-C-MOUNT/dp/B01JCUF0CG?th=1

And then these caught my eye:
https://www.amazon.com/TOMLOV-Microscope-50X-1300X-Soldering-Ultra-Precise/dp/B08MVKKSLY/ref=pd_lpo_3?pd_rd_i=B08MVKKSLY&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/Digital-Microscope-50x-1200x-Magnification-Microscopes/dp/B08R5KDZLH/ref=pd_sbs_37/137-3133707-1977720?pd_rd_w=5q5qe&pf_rd_p=cd718a0c-f7e0-41b6-9f23-6496d85d1998&pf_rd_r=WTS85X84JXP4R8BANRV4&pd_rd_r=6ad39775-4519-4bd3-b774-91c541bc1574&pd_rd_wg=Eg4N6&pd_rd_i=B08R5KDZLH&th=1

I’m also trying to find a good model similar to that but available through Amazon. In reading reviews, some think the best Dino-Lite is overpriced for what it can do, and recommended Celestron as cheaper but similar. I’m looking for higher resolution than either of those though (even if expensive, if a fair price), so will check the links you added and any others I can find.

Unfortunately, many usb microscopes have unclear or inaccurate descriptions of their resolution and related aspects, which combined with few reviews and customer photos makes them almost impossible to compare and evaluate. So far it’s been a process of trial and error and I had to return at least one. Amazon should just require accurate descriptions. The next best thing is checking customer reviews which sometimes explain the (actual) resolution, so I’m weary of any that only have few reviews.

Here’s my setup. The microscope has been replaced with a new model, which explains why it was 50% off. I just got lucky with my timing.
https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/pfau_tarleton/32250-dissecting-scope-and-focus-stacking

All of my tiny beetle photos were taken with this setup
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?verifiable=any&place_id=any&field:Similar%20observation%20set=Tiny%20beetle%20club%20(<%3D%203%20mm%20long)

3 Likes

I can’t access the website link that you provided.

Sorry I think Taobao needs an account these days, especially if you are outside China.

Is this something similar?
https://www.amazon.com/Digital-Industry-Monocular-Microscope-C-MOUNT/dp/B01JCUF0CG?th=1

Yes. This is the same structure. It appears to have the same LED ring light attached to the end of the tube. However, it advertises as having a higher magnification level (180x vs 135x) and appears to have a slightly better industrial camera (allows storage to cards).

The other links you provided are different in that they include a small screen and unidirectional spot lights. I would not personally look far in to these as large screens are cheap and usually already available, and even light is very useful.

If you are after finished image quality I think pfau_tarleton’s setup is much better, but I don’t think it’s as interactive. As part of my motivation was to get kids involved I think the whole real time video output thing is critical and so the two setups really diverge on that point: if you are teaching/exploring in video and only require low magifications, the industrial camera setup zoomtube is cheaper and more effective. If you are a serious entomologist/scientist/pixel pusher interested in still images for high magnifications and making very high quality observations, then a scope with a traditional squint-through-the-hole microscope image path plus an attached camera image path sounds good. I suppose such a bifurcated image path would potentially allow for both systems (industrial camera plus phone/DSLR) on the same subject by replacing the squinting eyehole with a second camera.