Digital photo- microscopy

Photo-microscopy can be a sophisticated method of imaging microscopic specimens. None-the-less here is a simple method for making images sufficient to capture useful information. It leads to the discovery of the complexity and beauty of everything around us.

The two most important pieces of equipment of this device are first a monocular microscope with lenses. You may purchase one on ebay as shown here one for less than $100. The second item is a cell phone with a camera which most people already have. The rest is made from scraps of plastic and plastic plumbing and some resin adhesive. The camera lens must be positioned at the center of the focal point above the eye piece. Here is how to make a holder for the cell phone camera.

Finished assembly
Voila ! A digital microscope is born !

Use a piece of 1/8 inch flat stock plastic a bit larger than the area of the cell phone. You can purchase a plumbing plastic coupling with an internal diameter slightly smaller than the microscope eyepiece diameter. On one corner of the plastic sheet trace the outline of the coupling OD and the mark center of the circle. At that center drill a hole to accept the aperture of the phone lens. The coupling minor diameter was intentionally selected to be a bit too small to fit over the eyepiece. The ID of the coupling was evenly enlarged to slip over the eyepiece to a very specific depth. The depth of the ID enlargement was determined by trial sighting the focal point of the objective. Using a rough estimated and later refining by repeated trial grinding the depth and diameter were carefully shaped. The interior was shaped with a Dremel hand-piece rotary sanding drum. Just before final shaping the coupling was glued to the flat sheet where the through hole matched the coupling OD and the location of the focal point. With the activated camera placed on the flat surface, camera through the hole, coupling engaged onto the eyepiece, the final trial grinding adjustments were made to get the exact point of focus in the camera sensor plane. Rubber bands were used to stabilize the camera on the flat surface. Here is a note of caution. Don’t get grinding debris inside inside the microscope!

I’m sure that you can invent all sorts of variations of this device to include adjustable focal length modifications and retaining set screws. This can have substage and top stage lighting as necessary. If you wish it may even adjustable to include polarization and color filters as well as florescent and dark field microscopy.

The subject to be examined can be almost endless and include live, dry and wet specimens. If you wish there is a world of sectioning and staining as well as preservation. I learned and practiced these techniques while I was in college and working for the pathology department as a certified histology technician.

See our blog page on ‘Monarchs’. There are photomicrographs of wings, antenna and claws of the insects. Also check out our Field Note on Birth of a Monarch.

You will also need some microscope slides and cover slips to hold or mount the subject in place while viewing it. These are readily available from AmScope. The slides including cover slips for cost about 50/$12. Their site is at this location

Monarch butterfly wing image captured with home made digital microscope. 100X magnification

#digital microscope #photo-microscopy #microscope #cell phone adaptor

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