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: Sony Alpha 9 II (ILCE-9M2) / Sony Alpha 9 / Canon EOS R with Canon Adapter EF-EOS R / Canon EOS Ra (Astro) with Canon Adapter EF-EOS R / Sony Alpha 7R IV / Canon EOS RP with Canon Adapter EF-EOS R / Sony Alpha 7S II / Sony Alpha 7R III / Nikon Z6 with F-Mount Adapter FTZ / Sony Alpha 7R II / Nikon Z7 with F-Mount Adapter FTZ / Sony Alpha 7S / Nikon Z50 with F-Mount Adapter FTZ / Nikon D850 / Canon EOS 1D X Mark II / Sony Alpha 7III / Nikon D5 / Sony Alpha 6600 / Sony Alpha 6400 / Sony Alpha 6100 / 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 / Sony Alpha 6300 / Sony Alpha 6500 / Nikon D500 / Nikon D810 / Nikon D800 / Nikon D800E / Nikon Df / Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 / Nikon D610 / Nikon D600 / Canon EOS 250D / Canon EOS M50 / Canon EOS 6D / Sony Alpha 99 II (SLT-A99 II) / Canon EOS 5DS R ( without low-pass filter) / Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II / Canon EOS 80D / Canon EOS 5DS / 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 / Nikon D3S / Canon EOS 750D / Rebel T6i / Canon EOS 760D / Rebel T6s / Canon EOS 5D Mark II / Nikon D7100 / Pentax K-5 / Canon EOS 1D Mark IV / Nikon D7000 / Canon EOS 7D Mark II / Canon EOS 600D / Rebel T3i / Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i / Canon EOS 700D / Rebel T5i / Canon EOS 2000D / Rebel T7 / Canon EOS 7D / Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i / Kiss X4 Digital / Canon EOS 1300D / EOS Rebel T6 / Canon EOS 4000D / Canon EOS 100D / Nikon DS-Ri2 (Microscope Camera) / Canon EOS 50D / Canon EOS 1200D / EOS Rebel T5 / EOS Kiss X70 / Canon EOS 1100D / Rebel T3 / Olympus E-5 / Sony Alpha 68 / Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 / Canon EOS 1D Mark III / Canon EOS 40D / Canon EOS 60Da for astrophotography / Nikon D7500 / Sony Alpha 99 (SLT-A99) / Sony Alpha 7II / Pentax K-3 II / Olympus E-3 / Olympus E-30 / Olympus E-620 / Sony Alpha 6000 / Pentax K-500 / Canon EOS M100 / Canon EOS M6 /