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:
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.