How To Choose A Digital Camera

Rapidly advancing technology has placed digital imaging within reach of every microscopist. There are now so many digital cameras available for microscopy, it’s often difficult to choose the right one. At Martin Microscope Company, we spend lots of time testing new digital cameras in order to be able to recommend the right camera for each customer and application. We sell several carefully selected lines of dedicated microscope cameras, but we are also pioneers in adapting consumer digital cameras for microscopy using our own MM and MDSLR series adapters.

Choosing A Digital Microscope Camera

Martin Microscope began selling digital microscopy systems in 1995, so we have 25 years of experience.  Today, we usually begin the conversation with customers by asking how they want to view and capture images.  This relates to the type of output(s) the cameras feature, and there are 3 BASIC TYPES:


These cameras usually do not provide the best image quality, but they are very convenient and user-friendly for student or clinician use. They pair with any wi-fi enabled device (smart phone, tablet, laptop) to provide a live image, and allow for image capture to the device. There are various ways in which these cameras can connect – some provide their own wi-fi connection, and some connect to an existing wi-fi network. We find that cameras that may be linked to directly are easier to set up and use. We have sold multiple classrooms of student microscopes with the Moticam X wi-fi camera so that students can share a microscope and view and capture images on their own devices. New Canon DSLR cameras also provide wi-fi output. As mentioned, the image quality is typically just okay, and the live output can be choppy at times. The range on these is typically something like 50′.


Cameras that have direct HDMI output are often direct replacements for older video camera systems, and are generally recommended for live video output for classroom instructors or environments when a computer is not desired.  This could be because users don’t want to learn new software or because of space restrictions.  Images and video may be captured to an SD card or USB drive (depending on the camera), and can then be downloaded to a computer later if desired.  These are usually 1080p with at least 30 frames / second live output.  The prime example of this is our M1080HD, which has become our most popular camera.


These cameras require a computer and software to drive them.  In the past, there were a lot of Firewire cameras for microscopy, but as USB2 and now USB3 have surpassed Firewire in data transmission speeds, most current cameras that output directly to a computer use USB-3.  These cameras will come with some software from the manufacturer to control imaging functions like preview, capture, exposure, white balance, and often basic calibrated measuring.  Our Jenoptik Gryphax line of cameras fall into this category.  These are generally preferred for professional / publication quality images or for image analysis applications using more advanced software.  In many cases, manufacturers lock you into using their proprietary software with their cameras, so for instance if you have a Leica camera, you have to use Leica’s software which can get very expensive.  There are times when it is desirable to have integrated microscope, camera, and software so that the entire system functions together, but for routine applications, we like the flexibility of the Jenoptik Gryphax cameras which have drivers for 3rd party imaging software like ImageJ, iSolution, ImagePro, etc.  With USB cameras, the software really makes a difference.  Some software is incredibly complicated and non-intuitive, so get a demonstration of the software before buying if possible.

NOTES: Some cameras can output both HDMI and USB, and a few can output WiFi, HDMI and USB. Canon DSLR’s are an example of cameras that have all three types of output. There are many other considerations such as resolution and pixel / sensor size, and we’ll be glad to have a conversation about those as needed.