With so many choices, it’s hard to decide – which camera system is best suited to my microscopy application?
For most users, the wide range of cameras on the market makes it difficult to get a perspective and to evaluate and compare the individual models. It soon turns out that the seemingly simple question of which camera yields the best results at an affordable price has more than one answer. We, the MICRO TECH LAB team, support our customers in the process of making this decision. Since we do not sell cameras ourselves, but instead specialise in LM digital adapters for a variety of different camera types, our advice is guaranteed to be objective.
In recent years, the range of cameras available on the market has virtually exploded. There are now thousands of different digital cameras available for taking photographs and recording video sequences. Even for the tiny microscopy/macroscopy market, specialised cameras are being developed and marketed.
The most significant developments, however, take place in the market segment that offers the most profits. The development costs for camera sensors are now running in the billion dollar range. In this sector, a small number of semiconductor manufacturers and camera companies compete against each other in selling their components (sensors) to camera manufacturers.
In microscopy, the requirements placed on cameras vary widely, depending on the area of application. In many cases, lower-priced cameras (below € 500) are more suitable than expensive professional models. Accordingly, the price is not a reliable indicator of a camera’s quality. Due to the small size of the microscopy/macroscopy market and the correspondingly low number of special-purpose cameras sold, the prices of those cameras are generally high, since they need to cover both development costs and customer support by sales representatives.
As a general rule, conventional DSLR cameras are very well suited for most microscopy and macroscopy applications. Because they are sold in greater numbers, they are also significantly more affordable than special-purpose microscopy cameras.
The advantages of DSLR cameras are obvious:
- Sensor: all DSLR cameras have large sensors (22.2 x 14.8 mm, 36 x 24 mm or 17.3 x 13 mm)
- High resolution due to high pixel numbers
- Extensive dynamic range (range of light intensities that can be captured simultaneously), making subtle differences in brightness and colour visible
- Light sensitivity (ISO): high light sensitivity reduces exposure times and is essential in low-illumination techniques such as fluorescence microscopy
- Colour depth: DSLR cameras typically have at least 14 bits per RGB channel (42 bits per pixel RGB)
- Live View display in full HD quality and in real time, digital video output for TV monitors and projectors, HDMI output with full HD or even 4k, ideal for discussions and presentations
- Extremely short exposure time (1/8000 of a second): at sufficient light intensity, even fast-moving live objects can be captured with pinpoint clarity thanks to the mechanical shutter
- Can be controlled via PC/Mac, thus enabling a highly efficient workflow
- Full HD video function for the recording of videos; some cameras even offer 4k video capabilities (resolution four times greater than full HD)
- High pixel number: especially at low magnifications, more details can be reproduced
- Separate display for image control
- For stationary operation, dummy batteries are available, thus allowing the camera to be powered through an AC wall outlet
- Camera can also be operated without PC/Mac connection as it can work as an autonomous system
- Because of the high sales volumes, there is a huge second hand market in DSLRs
Microscope companies often give poor ratings to cameras from third-party manufacturers and avoid recommending them. This is partly because they advertise only their own products, and sometimes also because they lack the expertise needed to select the camera that is best suited to the customer’s needs from the hundreds of models available on the market. We have been working with DSLRs for many years, and we regularly test the latest models and publish test reports to give our customers the benefit of our experience. To assist in the decision-making process, we have put together a set of guidelines for choosing a DSLR camera which is available on our website.
Disadvantages of DSLRs:
- Not many software bundles are available, and the few that are offered must be put together by the user himself/herself
- No interoperability with motorised microscopes
- Manufacturers rarely provide information on spectral sensitivity
- No cooling (Peltier system), which is particularly important in the case of extremely faint objects (e.g. photon counting)
We offer LM digital adapter solutions for DSLR and system cameras, as well as special-purpose microscope cameras (C-mount and USB cameras). We also have adapters for compact cameras in our product range, but as a rule we do not recommend using consumer cameras for microscopy applications. For more information, please visit our website.
New LM Digital Adapter for: Nikon Z9 / Nikon Z8 / Sony Alpha 7R V / Sony Alpha 1 / Sony FX3 Cinema Line / Sony Alpha 9 II (ILCE-9M2) / Sony Alpha 9 / Nikon D6 / Canon EOS R3 / Canon EOS R6 Mark II / Canon EOS R8 / Sony Alpha 7R IV / Canon EOS R5 / Sony Alpha 7S II / Sony Alpha 7S III / Sony Alpha 7R III / Canon EOS R6 / Nikon Z6 / Nikon Z6II / Sony Alpha 7R II / Nikon Z7 / Nikon Z7II / Canon EOS R / Canon EOS Ra (Astro) / Nikon Z5 / Sony Alpha 7C / Canon EOS RP / Sony Alpha 7S / Canon EOS R7 / Leica SL2-S / Canon EOS R10 / Canon EOS 1D X Mark III / Nikon Z50 / Nikon Z30 / Nikon Z fc / Nikon D850 / Canon EOS 1D X Mark II / Nikon D780 / Olympus OM-1 / Sony Alpha 7III / Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III / Canon EOS R100 / Sony Alpha 6700 / Nikon D5 / Sony Alpha 6600 / Fujifilm X-H2S / Fujifilm X-S10 / Fujifilm X-E4 / Fujifilm X-Pro3 / Olympus OM-D E-M1X / Sony Alpha 6400 / Sony Alpha 6100 / Sony ZV-E10 / Canon EOS 1D X / Nikon D4s / Olympus OM-D E-M5 III / Canon EOS 90D / Canon EOS 5D Mark IV / Nikon D4 / Nikon D750 / Canon EOS 6D Mark II / Fujifilm X-T4 / Fujifilm X-T3 / Sony Alpha 6300 / Sony Alpha 6500 / Nikon D500 / Nikon D810 / Nikon D800 / Canon EOS M6 Mark II / Nikon D800E / Nikon Df / Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 / Nikon D610 / Nikon D600 / Canon EOS 250D / Canon EOS 850D / Rebel T8i / Canon EOS 6D / Sony Alpha 99 II (SLT-A99 II) / Canon EOS M200 / Canon EOS 5DS R ( without low-pass filter) / Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II / Canon EOS 80D / Canon EOS M50 Mark II / Canon EOS 5DS / Canon EOS M50 / Sony Alpha 77 II / Canon EOS 70D / Nikon D7200 / Pentax K-1 Mark II / Canon EOS 200D / Canon EOS 800D / Rebel T7i / Canon EOS 77D / Canon EOS 5D Mark III / Canon EOS 60D / Sony Alpha 7R / Sony Alpha 7 / Nikon DS-Qi2 (Microscope Camera) / Olympus OM-D E-M5 II / Nikon D3x / Olympus OM-D E-M1 / Pentax KP /