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Yet another newbie wants to buy a scope to take pictures...

 
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dougeng



Joined: 14 Dec 2006
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:29 pm    Post subject: Yet another newbie wants to buy a scope to take pictures... Reply with quote

Hi Everyone -- I can honestly say that I've lost a lot of sleep reading all the great stuff on this forum. When I finally came upon the link to this site I knew I found the "mother load" of information.

This topic has been addressed many times but I'm going to ask my spin to the very basic question of "what do I buy?" I thank all of you in advance for your inputs.

I am an amateur photographer and have been shooting digitally for 2 years. I have a Canon 5D and tons of stuff (as my wife describes it) and would like to venture into this new world. I have a macro lens, extension tubes, and close up filters, and I am ready for the next step (and very excited about it!).

Unfortunately, I am spoiled by the quality of the images I am getting with my equipment, and by seeing all the incredible images on this and other sites. So my expectation level is very high. I understand completely the rule about getting what you pay for, and I am not the type to spend weeks hunting for bargains on eBay. I applaud all of you who managed to build sophisticated systems on a shoestring...wow, that's impressive.

I think I have done all my basic research (very basic that is) and know enough to be dangerous to my bank account. I am not going to buy a $200 scope off of eBay, and I can't afford a $3500 system from the suppliers. So I'm sitting here with some money, a burning desire to spend it, and a very clear expectation of what I want to be able to accomplish.

So here's how my decision process is working:
1) establish a budget ($2500)
2) define requirements (high image quality, extend the range of magnification from my existing equipment, flexibility/expandability to add capabilities later)
3) identify resources (you guys)
4) make decision on system to go with
4) identify components to purchase
5) identify vendors
6) purchase and go

My main concern is image quality. If I cannot meet this expectation with the budget I have established, then I will need to wait until the budget can be increased. I have not confirmed that superior quality images (from the standpoint of sharpness, clarity, color, contrast) can be captured from scopes in my budget range. I'm basically looking for an equivalent Canon "L" lens quality.

I'm learning that the objectives Charles Krebs uses are VERY high quality, so I am very concerned that I will not be able to get the quality of images I am expecting with a stereoscope or a compound scope with standard objectives. The reason all of this is so mysterious to me is that with a camera purchase, you can see photographs produced with exactly the equipment you are going to buy. With photomicroscopy, it appears that there are so many variables in the system, and no one can show me examples of photographs with a given system for sale. Maybe I haven't researched this enough.

For example, if a salesperson could show me a series of images taken with a Meiji EMZ-5TR and they met my approval then I would buy it. So it seems odd that I am purchasing such an expensive piece of equipment not knowing what the final output is going to be.

Next decision, what magnification range is required? This is where I'm in a bit of a quandary. For example, looking at the Nikon Small World Gallery, it looks like all of the images that are of interest to me are from either the lower ranges (10-20x) or really high ranges (400x and up). I am comfortable with the fact that I may eventually buy 2 scopes - one stereoscope, and one compound, and different objectives and eyepieces (just like there are different lenses for the camera).

I also thought a lot about the preparation of slides and although I remember doing a lot of this when I was a kid with my Tasco microscope, my current mindset is to be able to take existing specimens and just view them...much like one does with the camera. Therefore I think that I want a stereoscope. If I commit to this route, then I am looking at a fixed, turret, or zoom, and then choosing the magnification. I would really like to go with the zoom but like I find many times with my camera, I am usually at one end or the other, so 2 magnifications may be sufficient for me to start with.

I will definitely need a trinocular head. I've looked at the various adapters, eyepieces, and connectors, and then I looked at Charlie Kreb's setup, which managed to bypass all of this extra stuff, so I'm a little confused here. Are most people going with the adapters or doing a version of Charles' setup (with bellows and copystand)? The adapters add significant additional cost to the system.

So to summarize my post
1. What are your opinions on image quality for photomicroscopy on a new scope in the 2000-2500 price range?
2. What are the tradeoffs in image quality on a stereoscope vs. a compound scope in the same price range?
3. Do I need a zoom stereoscope?
3. What specific recommendations would you have for vendors and manufacturers?
4. If you had $2500 to start from scratch, what would you buy?
5. Is there anyone using a Canon 5D and what is your setup?

Thanks again for your time and input.

Doug
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Epidic



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
Posts: 137
Location: Maine

PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, if you believe you can spend your way to being a good photographer, then I guess the best photographers would be the richest. It is not the equipment. Having said that, microscopes are not cheap.

Stereo and compound scopes are different animals. What magnifications do you want to work at? What techniques do you want - simple brightfield, phase contrast, DIC, etc. What objects do you want to photograph? Unlike normal imaging equipment that can be applied to many different subjects, landscape, portraits, architecture, etc, microscopes are designed for a limited use. Identify what you want to do with it, then figure out what you need.
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Ken Ramos



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 6997
Location: lat=35.4005&lon=-81.9841

PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Will gave some very good advice there, microscopes are specifically designed for specific applications. If insects, rocks and minerals, macro invertebrates (stream invertebrates), small plants and other hapless small animals that one may get their hands on would be your bane, then I would suggest a stereo microscope with magnifications not exceeding 40X, however most of your better stereos will go a bit beyond that. Depth of field is the biggest problem with high magnifications and stacking software will be a must if you want to really produce some sharp and interesting photographs for display. As for myself I am not so much interested in the photographic techniques as I am the scientific data gathered from my observations, so I personally forego stacking, however for the images that I do take I like to have the best quality optics that I can reasonably afford. I would think that $2500.00 would put you close to a good quality stereomicroscope but the scope only, the photographic adapters and such would have to be added at a later time when funds are or become available. I have a Meiji EMZ-13TR, stock, that microscope will cost you in the range of about $2,160.00US, without an eyepiece or photo/camera adapter for the photo tube of the scope. One of the biggest advantages of the Meiji is the fact that the EMZ-13TR comes with a beam splitter, so there is no prism to move back and forth when one is wanting to take photographs.

If you are looking to do some serious photomicrogaphy at much higher magnifications, I suggest any of the high end scopes from Nikon, Olympus, Wild, Zeiss, and Meiji. Being on a budget of $2500.00US, I would go for the Zeiss Axiostar, not just because I personally have one, but it is a fine beginners scope that can be expanded, the Axiostar is built around a system of optics that can take one all the way from brightfield to EPI fluorescence if they so desire and for the amount you wish to spend, you could very possibly outfit it quite nicely for photography. The Axiostar at my last account was in the neighborhood of $1320.00 stock. Now that scope does not come as a trinocular, a trinocular head will have to be ordered with it or seperately, your decision, the cost of the trinocular head will tack on about another $650.00US to the stock price.

Transmitted light scopes are good for such things as protozoology (looking at pond critters), bacteriology, histology, and cytology just to name a few. If and once you decide as to what scope you desire, I can put you in touch with a Zeiss Technician who can equip you with what you need at reasonable prices and this tech stands behind and services that which he sells. He also carries an extensive line of other high and low end microscope brands as well and can usually get you anything else in between. Just drop me a PM or and email and I will send you the information on how to get in touch with him. There is not a whole lot more that I can add, the decision really lies with yourself as to what you want to do. Hope this info has helped you out. Smile

By the way, in my haste to load you down with information, I just noticed that this is your first post there Doug Very Happy . We now have two Dougs on our forums Laughing Anyway I would like to extend a welcome to you and hope that you will become one of our active participants in the forums. It is always good to have fresh ideas and another set of eyes looking at things. Again welcome aboard. Very Happy
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dougeng



Joined: 14 Dec 2006
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Will -- I hope you didn't get the impression that I was trying to buy my way into being a good photographer. I have been taking photographs for over 30 years and understand that it's the photographer that takes the picture, not the lens. I've also learned that it helps to have some idea of the relationship between quality and cost for any type equipment. Being completely new to this field I was hoping to get this type of information from the forum. I will give your questions some careful consideration.

Ken, thanks for your thorough response. I'm leaning towards a stereoscope and will try to narrow down my choices. It looks like you are very happy with your Meiji scope.

I think the transition from macro camera-based photography to a low-magnification stereoscope will be logical for me. Later I will see how my interests develop. It's hard to talk about all of this without having hands-on experience...maybe I should just buy a cheap $350 scope to build a base of experience, and then move up from there. Any ideas on that?

I look forward to participating on the forum. Once I can get going, I'm sure I can have something valuable to add to the discussions. At least I will have some images!

Thanks and have a great holiday!
Doug.
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Ken Ramos



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 6997
Location: lat=35.4005&lon=-81.9841

PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dougeng replied:

Quote:
Ken, thanks for your thorough response. I'm leaning towards a stereoscope and will try to narrow down my choices. It looks like you are very happy with your Meiji scope.

I think the transition from macro camera-based photography to a low-magnification stereoscope will be logical for me. Later I will see how my interests develop. It's hard to talk about all of this without having hands-on experience...maybe I should just buy a cheap $350 scope to build a base of experience, and then move up from there. Any ideas on that?


Yes I am quite happy with my Meiji considering what I have paid for it but there are much better stereos out there starting at around $3,000 dollars, which I would love to have too but the Meiji works great for my purposes. Since a stereo microscope is more of what you are interested in and I find them to be more useful actually, since one can view a wide varity of subjects using them, you might be interested in a starter scope from this site. They seem to have good equipment and one of our members I know has purchased a scope from them, a transmitted light scope as a matter of fact, the Revelation III and from his photographs it seems to work quite well. http://www.greatscopes.com/ Here is the link to a scope in particular that I once considered ording a long time ago before I got my Meiji. http://www.greatscopes.com/zoom.htm Just under $1,000.00 it might be a very useful scope to get you started with and it is a trinocular. Stereo microscopes are for the most part, not as critical as transmitted light scopes and it is sometimes hard to tell much difference in them as to what you may or may not be able to resolve with much clarity. So this particular scope I am guessing should get your feet wet and give you pretty good service in getting you started. Very Happy
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Charles Krebs



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 5762
Location: Issaquah, WA USA

PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doug... welcome aboard!

It's good to see that you are really doing some research on this. I can offer a few opinions, but they are based solely on my experience, and there is a huge amount of good hardware out there with which I have no experience.

I also use much Canon equipment, and the 5D is the camera I use for the bulk of my non-microscope work. On the compound microscope I use an 8mp Rebel. The few times I have done comparisons with the 5D on the microscope I saw no real image quality advantage. In the normal magnifications range used with compound scope it is easy to "do the math" and see why that might be the case. At these magnifications the resolution, and thus the amount of detail you can record, is limited due to diffraction. (There's a spread sheet on my krebsmicro.com site that will show this). An 8mp (or even 6mp) properly set up will pretty much do the job of capturing what is there to be seen. Don't get me wrong though... if I had several 5D's I would probably use one on the microscope. But I only have one and I prefer to keep a camera permanently on the microscope. If I felt the images would really be better with a 5D I'd use it, but the Rebel has worked well for me for this usage. In some ways it it easier to set up a 5D because the relay optics to accommodate a "full frame" (24x36mm) sensor are more readily available if you go with an older, used microscope.

Quote:
I've looked at the various adapters, eyepieces, and connectors, and then I looked at Charlie Kreb's setup, which managed to bypass all of this extra stuff
Some people think my arrangement is far to cumbersome, complicated, and expensive... with a big copy stand, bellows and all. This was done primarily to avoid the vibration issues of a SLR camera, something that must be addressed one way or another. (And I had all this stuff already before I even bought a microscope, so it cost me nothing additional!)

First though, I think you need to continue to examine your intended subject matter and magnification range. If your interests are truly "all-encompassing" your sense that this may require two microscopes... a stereo and a compound ... (or at least two different equipment approaches) is probably well founded. Personally I would love to have a good stereo or macroscope, but I have opted to putting my resources into the optics and lighting I want on a compound microscope. I "cover" the magnifications ranges that could be done with a stereo in two ways. The first is using low power objectives (2.5X, 3X, 4X) on the compound scope. The working distance is much shorter than would be available with a stereo, which is a pain, but I've managed. The second method bypasses the microscope, and consists of photomacrography lenses (12.5mm, 20mm, 35mm) along with tubes, bellows and such.

I suppose my thinking was that if I could not afford to put together both a stereo and compound microscope, I could "cover" the stereo magnification range with the photomacrographic equipment I already owned (plus a couple low power objectives on the compound).... but there is no way to get around the need for a compound scope if you really want to work with in the higher magnifications it provides.

I know this reply only touches upon a few of your concerns. My online access is limited for a few days... when I get time I'll try to provide some additional thoughts if desired.

Charlie
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Epidic



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
Posts: 137
Location: Maine

PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dougeng wrote:
Hi Will -- I hope you didn't get the impression that I was trying to buy my way into being a good photographer. I have been taking photographs for over 30 years and understand that it's the photographer that takes the picture, not the lens. I've also learned that it helps to have some idea of the relationship between quality and cost for any type equipment. Being completely new to this field I was hoping to get this type of information from the forum. I will give your questions some careful consideration.


Well, since I did not know your background, I just wanted to clarify that the results has more to do with the photographer's skill than the equipment. Microscopy is by its nature is driven by technology and many who enter the field can get caught up in the equipment aspect. Many of the members here are working with modest (but yet still expensive) equipment. What makes the images shine are the photographer's skill. As far as what is good equipment, it is about the same as other camera equipment - the manufacturer and cost tend to be good indicatiors. Olympus, Zeiss, Meiji, Leitz, and Nikon are good bets and there may be a few I have missed. Chinese, Indian, and Russian manufacturers are making less expensive equipment, but I am not sure of what you are not getting for the lower price. However, there seems to be happy Lomo (Russian) scope owners here.

My entrance to this was to buy secondhand from ebay. I reasoned that old research scopes would still work pretty darn well, but the price would be very good because they are not the latest technology. I don't recommend doing that for everyone, but that is one way of stretching the dollars. I picked up an Olympus Vanox Universal with DIC, Episcopic (vertical) illumination, fiber optic light, and a 4x5 camera for about $1,500 including shipping to Japan. I think I got a good deal because I did not mind that the seller had painted it green. I updated the mechanical camera to an electronic metered shutter for $100 (and got a 35mm body as well).

Anyway, that is my experience.
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Doug,

Here are some thoughts from a different viewpoint.

Like you, I have a bunch of camera equipment. I grew up doing macro work in the mid-1960's using film SLRs, then switched over to DSLR (Canon 300D) in early 2004.

Since the early 1970's I've also owned a Bausch & Lomb StereoZoom 4 dissecting scope (10-45X). Sometime in the 1980's I added an aus-Jena high power scope (32-1000X). I would characterize these as reasonably good "student-grade" scopes. They're not designed for photography (no camera ports), but they work OK with point-and-shoot still and video cameras aimed through ordinary eyepieces.

My personal obsession seems to be for fine detail on small subjects. That's tempered by the limits of physics and frustration.

Traditionally the physics limit has been very shallow DOF that comes along with high resolution and high magnification.

For some subjects, the recently developed techniques for stacking images with software have greatly relaxed the DOF limit. In the last couple of years the big expansion in my equipment and technique has been to take advantage of stacking.

That equipment -- mostly using bellows, short-focus lenses, and a screw table for focus stepping -- works very nicely at the full range of magnifications covered by most stereo scopes (up to 100X equivalent, somewhat higher if pushed). In terms of image quality, I'd wager that it does better than any stereo scope I'd be willing to pay for. It's also more flexible although certainly less convenient. For that magnification range, I would be distressed if somebody proposed to take away my current equipment and swap in a stereo scope.

For much higher magnifications, though, there's no substitute for a compound microscope. At the least, you'll need its condenser to pump enough light through transparent subjects, and you'll need its fine-focusing mechanism to handle the extremely shallow DOF. Illuminating opaque subjects at high magnification is a special problem, best dealt with by special epi-illumination setups. And many of the best pictures in the forum are taken with specialized optics, notably DIC (Differential Interference Contrast). The prices for these things add up quickly.

Worse, stacking only works with specimens that don't move. It's no help at all in dealing with moving specimens. At the very highest magnifications, it doesn't work very well even with specimens that don't move, since the behavior of light that's being strongly diffracted doesn't match the models that are used by the stacking software.

That's a problem, since (to my liking) the most interesting microscopy subjects either move like gangbusters, or are tiny, or both. Live video feed from a microscope looking at a good protozoa culture beats an aquarium all hollow!

So, I've come to think of small world subjects as being like oranges and ants. The "oranges" are relatively large critters, say a couple of millimeters long, that don't move. They're relatively easy to illuminate and are amenable to stacking with short-focus lenses on bellows. The "ants" are smaller, say a millimeter or less, and they move fast, so you can give up on stacking and think seriously about using flash. A dead housefly is an "orange"; a live Paramecium is an "ant".

It's really hard to imagine how frustrating "ants" are to photograph, until you've tried it. In my experience (and many other people tell the same story), it's largely a matter of luck and ruthless editing. You're trying to navigate in three dimensions, while the subject moves so quickly that frequently you have to anticipate rather than react.

Video helps a bunch -- not so much to get a single clear snapshot as to present both motion and an occasional clear and well focused still image that can be annotated and studied at leisure.

You can see some examples of this in my microscopy posting tonight (here). Many earlier postings, mostly macro, are linked here.

What's the point of my ramblings?

Well, I think it's this. If you're only going to work with low power microscopy, then I suspect you'll find it pretty familiar. So familiar, in fact, that I question whether buying an expensive stereo microscope is the right way to approach. On the other hand, if you're going to work with high power microscopy, then I suspect you'll find it pretty strange. So strange, that I'd recommend getting some experience before deciding to drop big bucks into it.

Being in my shoes, and trying to imagine myself in yours, I'd definitely recommend pursuing the high power scope. But I would strongly recommend to do that by borrowing or buying an inexpensive one to play with -- for quite a while -- before plunking down a lot of money only to find out that specimen prep and tracking just isn't your cup of tea.

I see that many of these thoughts are touched on by other people posting earlier today. (This post has been sitting in draft for a while.) But perhaps the slightly different spin will be useful anyway.

Hope this is helpful -- and I'm sure you'll do the right thing, whatever that is!

--Rik
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Ken Ramos



Joined: 27 Jul 2006
Posts: 6997
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 3:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rik does bring up some good points. I have seen images taken through macro rigs that rival many stereo microscopes and dSLR macro set ups are much more versitile in that you can taken them most anywhere, where a microscope has to stay put on your desk. I assume you have tons of camera equipment as it is and if you do not have this lens, might I suggest it, the MP E 65, I believe it is. I have seen many a shot taken through that lens, that puts my Meiji to great shame. Sad Laughing Maybe Santa will bring me one for Christmas Surprised However, if your heart is set on stereo microscopy, go for it. Even if I had that lens, I would not forsake my Meiji. Wink
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