Taking pictures through a Microscope - on a shoestring.

I have achieved, what I consider to be, good pictures using helicon focus stacking software and second hand equipment. Some of the hints and tips are easily transferable for people with more money, complex cameras and fancy microscopes.

Firstly my set up


Nikon Coolpix 995 (good lens and 3.34 mega pixels - which is plenty) with PC lead, video lead and tripod. – camera cost £60 – you can still pick these up – other suitable cameras –Nikon Coolpix 800,900,950,990,995 and 4500

Microscope adapter – look on ebay these are still made – new mine cost £50 from America including postage.

Microscope – I have an old PZO – but any compound where the stage moves when focusing would do. What you need is to be able to fix the Camera into the eyepiece socket so that will not move - hence the tripod. You should be able to purchase one for around £100. If you are thinking of taking pictures through a microscope, then you probably have one already. Most cheap microscopes will take a good lens as the objective, you are not using the ocular, so a solid cheap microscope will do - you might have to buy a decent objective.

Software Helicon Focus - £96 – plus your computer!

A good quality slide of something like an insect leg – make sure you clean the glass properly.

Set the lighting on the microscope – I use Köhler illumination – good lighting of your microscope specimen is crucial.

As you can see with my set up the camera is fixed with the tripod and into the eyepiece so it does not move. I also attach the camera via a video lead to a small TV so I can check the focus on that, rather than the small camera screen.

The focusing knob has markings on it (like a micrometer) so I can move it a very small amount in-between taking pictures. I use a remote shutter release – although using the shutter release on the camera is ok – as everything is solid I have not had a problem with movement even when not using the remote shutter release.

Set up for the camera is Focus set at infinity – this also disables the flash. Otherwise I leave the settings as standard. The crucial part seems to be getting the object lit properly.

I then focus on the top most point of the object using the microscope – take a picture – and slowly focus down the object taking pictures. The example of the end of the leg of a bee (Apis Mellifera) has 13 pictures stacked. Magnification is about 125X through the microscope – eyepiece x10 head x1.25 Objective x10 – final image then enlarged on computer screen.

I then put this into Helicon Focus – and let it do it’s magic – Wow!

I hope this article is useful, and shows that even with a fairly small budget (around £300 including microscope, camera, software) you can take fantastic pictures through a microscope.

Brian Norman

contact me about this page - brian at ftfarm.co.uk (retype without spaces and replace at with @ - reduces spam!)