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How do I build a more stable setup?

 
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cube-tube



Joined: 10 Oct 2017
Posts: 30
Location: Durham, NC

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 7:53 pm    Post subject: How do I build a more stable setup? Reply with quote

Hello,

I have a background in macro photography, so I'm used to setting up a shot with clamps, rails, and tripods. I have been using tripods to hold my camera and specimens for 1-10x magnification, but I'm struggling to keep the system stable for 20-50x magnification. Between frames, my subject can shift slightly forward or back or side to side, which leads to messy stacks. I'm guessing that the motion is due to vibration or maybe even air currents.

I have seen some people build a rig around aluminum rails, wood boards, or a microscope base.

Where should I start if I want to build a more rock-solid setup?

Thanks
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rjlittlefield
Site Admin


Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 18253
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are lots of viable options. Look through the posts linked at http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=55311#55311 to see a good variety.

How are you stepping focus for 20-50X?

What sort of budget are you looking at?

--Rik
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cube-tube



Joined: 10 Oct 2017
Posts: 30
Location: Durham, NC

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for showing me that that's great!

I have a pretty unconventional method of stepping focus. My specimen is on top of a lubricated rail that can slide back and forth with some friction. I have a micrometer attached to the base of that rail to push the rail forward. The micrometer is coupled to a stepper motor driven by an Arduino, which also controls the timing of the shutter and flashes.

It's tough to give a set budget because it really has to do with the cost/benefit ratio... If I were investing in a nice microscope I would think around $500 or more depending on the value of the optics it comes with... If I'm just looking at some aluminum rails that I would have no other use for then less than $100.
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Chris S.
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Joined: 05 Apr 2009
Posts: 2850
Location: Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cube-tube,

The key element most stable rigs have in common is some way of mechanically coupling the camera and subject, which greatly reduces relative motion between them. On a microscope, this coupling mechanism is the microscope's frame. In macro rigs, it is usually a flat plate to which both the subject and camera are securely mounted. Removing your tripods from the equation, and replacing them with some form of rigid plate, is likely your low-hanging fruit.

There has been debate over what material such plates are best made out of, but this probably matters little compared with the presence/absence of such a plate. My personal preference is steel. Others may prefer aluminum, granite, cement, or wood. A sturdy piece of wood can be cheap and easy to work with--suggest you consider such a thing as your next step.

--Chris S.
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 18253
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the info about your focus-stepper. That sounds like it'll work great.

I agree completely with Chris's recommendation. You want the linkage between camera and subject to be as short, stiff, and energy-absorbing as possible. A sturdy base of wood is a great place to start. Over the years I've gradually migrated from a wood frame made of 2x4's and 3/4" plywood, to an optical breadboard. The later setups are much more adaptable and easier to work with, but for just making clean stacks I don't feel much difference.

--Rik
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cube-tube



Joined: 10 Oct 2017
Posts: 30
Location: Durham, NC

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Chris. That's a very helpful tip.
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Chris S.
Site Admin


Joined: 05 Apr 2009
Posts: 2850
Location: Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cube-tube, you're very welcome. Very Happy

You and Rik posted at almost the same time--don't miss his post!

Do let us know how this works out for you, will you?

Cheers,

--Chris S.
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cube-tube



Joined: 10 Oct 2017
Posts: 30
Location: Durham, NC

PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2017 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh thanks Rik!

I really like the idea of an optical breadboard. I'll keep my eye out for a good deal.
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Beatsy



Joined: 05 Jul 2013
Posts: 911
Location: Malvern, UK

PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think nearly everything has been said already and you'll see there's many ways to skin this particular cat. I recently posted a question regarding vibration reduction at high mag and got plenty of useful feedback. It left me in a bit of a quandary though - I couldn't decide whether a steel or concrete base would be better. I like steel for attaching magnetic stands, but the "deadness" of a slab of concrete appealed too. So I used both (with different-sized sorbothane feet under each layer). The optical rail is bolted into tapped holes in the 10mm plate. It worked a charm - now vibration free up to 50x, yay!

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cube-tube



Joined: 10 Oct 2017
Posts: 30
Location: Durham, NC

PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! That's a killer setup Beatsy! I really like the use of the portable monitor as well. I have tried shooting tethered to a computer, but that's almost as awkward as looking at the camera's screen.

I'm surprised that you don't use speedlights. I guess being able to use hotlights is a testament to how stable that setup really is.
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cube-tube



Joined: 10 Oct 2017
Posts: 30
Location: Durham, NC

PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Update: I bought an optical breadboard and I LOVE it. Wish I had done it sooner. I'll post my setup on here one of these days.

Thanks guys!

The breadboard:
http://www.baselabtools.com/4-in-x-24-in-Solid-Aluminum-Optical-Breadboard_p_25.html
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