Scoping out endoscopy

I know some naturalists have used these low cost devices (the kind you plug into a smart phone and are generally used for more mundane tasks like plumbing and car repairs) in the field for various situations and I’m thinking of playing around with them myself.

What I would like to get my hands on before I do though, is some actual sample shots to see what I can get out of them with my digital tweaking tools.

If you have some endoscope created images that I could play with, I’d be grateful if you would share them here for me. If possible, I’d like the actual original file to evaluate. And if you have any tech details (camera model, shooting mode, etc.), even better.

Thanks very much!


I was confused when I saw the topic. To me an endoscope is a medical thing. It goes into the bowel, or down the oesophagus to look for stuff. I thought you were looking for tapeworms!


I think @ broacher is talking about the low end/personal endoscopes that you can get for $20-100 on amazon or at a car parts store, etc. They are used for things like going in home plumbing pipes or down into valves in car engines to spot problems (and I’m sure for many other uses).

I don’t have any images to share, but I have used a version of this for research. When I was a research tech, we used an oil well camera with a sort of VR headset to scope gopher tortoise burrows (up to 7 m depth). Pretty cool! Lots of other organisms down there, so it was a like a grab bag in each burrow (plenty of nothings, but plenty of interesting things too!)


Now you got me wondering. Has anyone actually submitted photos of their personal parasites (internal and/or external) as observations?

Wow. Bet there’s a special award for that.


I’m glad you brought up this topic, because I too have been hoping to get something like the USB microscope that I used to use for checking kids’ hair for lice. :scream: However those little microscopes have very low resolution. I see that the one @brian_d has shared above is only 1920x1080 pixels, which I resume is the full size. And that is smaller than photos submitted in iNaturalist, isn’t it (did I read that the images get resized to 2,000px?). Was hoping there would be something similar but with a higher resolution that could be used in the field.
I’ll wait and see if anyone else has a good idea.

Thanks brian_d for that very richly detailed account of using the desktop microscopes. And that’s another device I’m considering – but only for at home study.

The cable-mounted endoscopes I’m more interested in because I can see them as a potential field observing tool, especially for macro/super-macro work.

And also, to be honest, as a hopeful relief to my old knees, and fewer visits to my physiotherapist!

Yes, thanks cthawley, that’s exactly what I"m talking about.

I think that they may have great potential for field observing. Especially the newer models. I’m looking an Amazon unit that’s around $50 (USD) that has a much higher resolution camera chip than what is the ‘standard’ 1280 (HD video) resolution. It’s also a wider tip (12mm (half inch) vs. 7-8mm for most of the older units) which may curtail some situations, but the images look promising. Plus, these new units have auto-focus features – with some caveats. Like their predecessors, the viewing angle is about 60 degrees, and about a 3/4 inch minimum focal distance (to infinity).

This unit seems to actually live up to the description – at least after reading many of the more local reviews.

I combed those same reviews for a biological image sample submitted by a purchaser, but because these are principally purchased by mechanics and plumbers, all I got was stuff like pipes and carbeurator valves.

FWIW, here’s a cropped clip from one of the samples that the company included in the product description that at least shows a biological sample:

And if these are samples from the full screen, they were presented at roughly one third of their actual full resolution. I could work with that!

There is also a sample video to view on their product page-- it’s the bottom button on the left sample menu. It looked pretty good!

A frame grab from that video:

There are models that don’t need a smartphone (and an Android or Windows smartphone – doesn’t do iOS) to work, but I think from a field standpoint, the less gear, the better.

Anyhow, if anyone has tried this, or other endoscope for nature observing, I’d love to hear more details of your experience.

It seems to me that the manufacturers are missing out on a whole potential market vein with nature lovers. This was the ONLY model I could find that included a nature shot.

In my mind I can see rigging up some kind of ‘video probe’ that would get my eyes down to near ground level without stooping.

And if that doesn’t work, I can always tell my tolerant wife I needed an endoscope to check out the main external sewer air vent on the roof which I believe is now clogged by leaves and stuff. :wink:

Hi caroltelfer! Your concern about resolution is exactly why I gave up a few years ago on explloring these devices for observation work. What’s changed recently is the introduction of new models with much higher res. If you look at my other reply () you’ll see the link to what I’m talking about.

But that’s just half of the story. The other big advance in resolution solutions is the advanced ‘AI’ neural network apps that do an amazing job.

For instance, here’s a crop of the ‘sample’ I posted in that other post at its original resolution of 671 pixels:

So I took that and ran it through a product I have (Topaz Lab’s Gigapixel) to magnify it 3 times. Here’s what came out:

Pretty impressive.

Now if I take that ‘upsampled’ image and downsample it back to the original image size, check out the detail gained:

This is why I’m thinking that the resolution question has shifted significantly in regards to observring hardware.

Has anyone actually submitted photos of their personal parasites (internal and/or external) as observations?

This reminds me of something interesting I saw a while back that I’ve been waiting for a chance to share here. One user deliberately allowed themselves to be infected with human botfly larvae and documented their development in a series of iNat posts. Despite my initial gut reaction being an aversion to this idea, I would be lying if I said I was unimpressed by the dedication to a good observation!


Wow. That’s out of my payband, for sure. Though I have to admit that the observation notes seemed to lean heavily on the ‘freak show’ side of things.

And I also wonder about both the ethics and possible legal implications of this stunt. Wilfully introducing non-indigenous human parasites? I don’t know enough about this creature to know, but could the pupae that escaped in the Walmart still be a viable infection threat?

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Check out a post I put up earlier today:

That depends on whether the right kind of mosquito is around. Botflies have a very unusual means of infecting new hosts: the female botfly will capture a female mosquito and glue her eggs to its feet, then let it go. When that mosquito lands on a warm-blooded host, the body heat triggers the botfly eggs to hatch, and the larvae burrow in.


Is it this particular species or a bigger group? Because usual horse/dog botflies just lay eggs on their host and larvae then migrate to the place that fits them, it’s interesting those human ones use mosquitoes, as if the latter weren’t enough of a threat already.

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That sure is impressive!

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