USB or WiFi Microscopy

This is probably a red herring but a friend sent me a link to an amazing photo of a wasp. I don’t know how it was taken - obviously not with an ordinary point-and-shoot camera. But I thought it was worth sharing…

There is some basic physics (optics) to deal with here. With close ups you need a wide aperture to avoid diffraction and other problems but that gives a tiny depth of field so you then have to stack images to show anything other than a tiny slither in focus. Cheaper optics tend to have smaller apertures so can appear to give slightly better depth of field but in reality the overall image becomes increasingly soft.

The wasp picture is clearly stacked i.e. made up of several images with just the sharp parts of each used. If you look closely you can see lots of artifacts that are the telltale sign, the better the software and operator (and with better luck) the fewer artifacts. This is because the software has to choose some completely out of focus images for the background but select which of the infocus ones to use for the subject. then the transitions between out of focus and in focus become very difficult and eventually need human intervention - think of the hairs on the legs of insects and indeed how many legs the insect has. if the software gets it wrong then the insect ends up with extra legs or strips the hairs from the legs.

Am not saying you should not use stacking but that you just need to be careful and very critically review the result to make sure it is not saying anything that is not correct.

I’ve not tried stacking yet… I’m still trying to master lesson 1!

Lots of food for thought here. But I’d like to say we should not get too excited about Microscopy in iSpot.
There are quite a few Observations that RELY on Microscopy for an ID and have very few agreements or comments.
I have often remarked that iy should be used as an aid and that most users would find whole morphology in 3 photos (never just one) and habitat of much more use in Observing and IDing. Of course some users will poo-poo that.
I will illustrate stacking, below here within the hour. Mike is right to suggest caution but MANY of my Observations feature unremarked stacking, used to HELP ID or enhance the Observation. Let us get not too far from USB digital microscopes in this thread.

The photos are taken seconds ago.
The scene is dried seaweed on which Spirorbis worms have made their homes and a small colony of Bryzoa has settled. The round Spirobis worm homes are about 2mm across.
The photos are BOTH taken at the same time via my Olympus TG3 (pocket cam) It is rare for a camera to have in-house stacking. Otherwsie you might have to take 30 photos of the same thing and use magic software.
30 photos are taken in a burst, each frame with a slightly different focal point. Photo A is the first in the burst, Photo B is a combined photo of 30 frames - in-camera software does it immediately and retains the first frame for interest
If you know anything about photography you will know about depth of field. The better the lighting the batter the depth of field (speaking generally). This stacked photo is taken in poor light so each frame has poor depth of field, imagine then what good lighting can do.
Many of the very best Stacked phots are taken in a light tent Foldable DIY Photography Light Tent | Boost Your Photography

Does the TG3’s focus stacking work for handheld shots, or does it require the additional stability of a tripod or other fixed support?

generally no. Camera shake and perspective movement normally ruin everything.
Subject movement also tends to ruin stacking. I have beetle photos that have 12 sets of antennae
I will do a field photo for you today, it takes skill and a grounded camera.

my current USB microscope is £70 from Amazon.

It is MUCH better that all previous ones, as these results show and I may retain it.
It is NOT difficult to manipulate but I needed different software to that which came with it.
It plugs straight into a USB port on a WIN or Mac based device (that has USB) and is NOT a WiFi version
I began this trail at £19.00 and have gradually increased my stake to this amount.
I have tried those that ‘go’ to x1500 and honest, for iSpot, they are probably no gos.
This one is max x250 BUT it takes 5MP photos that can be cropped and enlarged to the max as seen. possibly to x1000 via photo software cropping.
Pictures are a little ‘noisy’ and. at maximum mag., can be distracting, judge for yourself in my first proper test below. I have left the Microphotos at full resolution here, so you may be able to enlarge them further on your screen - one certainly shows noise!
More of this stuff will appear in some of my Observations. I may add a tag USB. I do not know the ID of the crusty Bryozoa colony

Here then is aged Bladderwrack with Spirorbis worm homes. The worms are not at home

@lavateraguy The camera is resting on the hand, the whole subject is shaking but so is the camera (in shake-synch). get it?
It is bad here and too late for a better test but I do have some spectacular photos stacked and handheld.

That is impressive, could you stick that scale bar on the last image E too, might also be an idea to have some text or other reference things in addition to the biological object as it is sometimes possible to see artifacts and think they are part of the cell structure or whatever.

yes, it surprised me. And I have had some external mail about the process (two unregistered users).
This is only a Forum Item, whilst I agree that annotation, particularly scale, is an essential ingredient, watch now for the occasional use of USB Microscopes in Observations. It is there that scale is crucial but not just with Micrographs. I’ll fix scale in the above quite soon
I will have more to add here about USBscopes on Wednesday

It is PROBABLY going to be necessary to crop and possibly enhance raw images from the USB device.
Noise reduction is probably out of the question, but lowering contrast and increasing mid tones seems desirable. Do NOT let this put you off liking the scope. Such things are easy in nearly all Photo-handling software. Even the mobile-phone software does everything (including adding hearts and sparkles)

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I am 124.7% more experienced and pleased this morning, than a day ago.
I’d say that this USB 'scope is worth the £70 IF you think low-to-mid level of microscopy will enhance your Observing and IF you have time and patience to get it right - I do and have. It’s going to be good for me.
A review will come tomorrow
Alder and Membranipora membranacea - Marine Life Encyclopedia

I love the close-up of the alder flower catkin. I noticed some yesterday and how colourful they are.

Smaller than you think.

This is a summary of my experience with USB close-focus cameras (called Microscopes)
These devices range from £15 to £800 and plug into a USB port OR can be used wirelessly beteen phones, tablets or PC-style host devices.
Some have their own mini display attached. I did not test one of those.

A host monitor is needed to SEE the subject for focus and alignment. Photos are stored and can be enhanced in the host device.
The camera can be used in the field, as they are powered from the host device. I attended a workshop when the device was connected to a large screen in a darkened tent and the DIFFERENCES between the target species and another were clarified
It was a powerful and necessary presentation.

Look upon this device as being an interesting tool for Observing. It is the electronic camera version of an eye glass. But optically they are rather poor.
It behaves very similarly to the eye glass - you have to move the camera to view different parts of the organism. You often cannot view the whole with ease owing to focal resolution and limited focus zone.
A whole moth for example would be better photographed with a camera and close up filter. The segments of its antennae are going to be interesting BUT they need to be still - get it?

This is a close-up (micro) device that captures low-quality photos.
I have tested 4 versions from £17 to £75 - NONE were perfect, all had limitations, each was slightly challenging to use effectively. The £75 was significantly ‘better’ than the others.
Two things drove me to that conclusion - better and more stable engineering and a better (more MPx) camera. It is not true that the higher the MPx the better the camera but resolution (clarity) of photos is linked.

My results speak for themselves - to be frank, what I can produce is not much (maybe NO) better than my £300 camera which, incidentally, fits in my jean’s back-pocket.
See USB or WiFi Microscopy - #26 by dejayM
A few things

Excuse me BUT I used Amazon to great advantage. I opted for a return-if-unsuitable service that had nothing to do with faulty goods. Return within a month.
Over a 3 year period I did that 5 times. All but one device worked well. The quality of construction or results were not what I required.
This one is OK. A few things then -
Give it a little time and a few tries before you decide to keep

• Consider trying a couple of Software packs - there are a few.
• Daylight, not sunlight, is better than the fierce onboard lights
• Do not mix the onboard lighting with a nearby (tungsten) lamp - the processor struggles with light temperatures
• Use black card on the highly reflective base (sometimes)
• Try it with your phone as a light table but use thin tracing paper to avoid pixels or moiré
• Subjects in a water-dish are OK
• regularly record a scale see

If you try one, share results in Observations with links in this thread - please?
A few photos (more USBs will come) Colour rendering is no issue, it can easily be ;corrected)
I will respond to questions here of in any relevant Observation

This may well do for a well behaved moth


All the above discussion has been interesting and I’ve now got a microscope called Plugable USB 2.0 Digital.
My first attempt at an observation is of moss, which I thought was suitable as I find it difficult to the detail in situ and my camera doesn’t do its form justice in closeup. See particularly the first 4 photos here:

I used the mouse for the pics as the microscope is lightweight and shifts too easily when touched. Using the focus is simple enough. I used blu-tack to stop the base moving on my desk.

There’s a limit to what I expect to get out of it. Using it isn’t rocket-science and I’m not a scientist, so it will probably suit me :smile:

PS This is the product link:

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Nice addition J. I was beginning to think no-one was very interested and was holding back on my Cell-Phones for close ups Item
This has a 2Mpx processor so I am interested in a ‘best picture so far’ addition here sometime. Photos added here have a edit-life of 28 days, so you can replace or delete as the month goes by.
I really like the scaled stand and the whole idea of using the USB for mosses

My very cheap USB microscope has its limitations. But it is still better than my TG-5 camera for really detailed studies of inconspicuous ladybirds.
For example, this epaulet ladybird was taken with the USBM:

This is the best I’ve managed (so far) of the same species with the Olympus…
Inconspicuous ladybird | Observation | UK and Ireland | iSpot Nature although I think it makes for a more attractive picture!
the biggest problem I have with the USBM is that the ladybirds won’t stay still. That seems to be less of an issue with the Olympus.

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I’ve now tagged all my USBM photos with ‘USB camera’. I think it will be quite interesting if more people can do so.