Microscope Camera: Software & Video Function
Published on August 23, 2016 by TIS Marketing.
Originally published in Mikroskopie in January 2016, this article was written by J. Piper and M. Torzewski. The English translation, written by Amy Groth, was serialized into: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
The software downloads which can be found on the manufacturer's website (Driver, Capture, Presenter) were easily downloaded and installed; all of the parameters and functions worked perfectly and gave no cause for complaint. The function 'vignetting' which can be activated from the 'Effects' menu is especially useful as it effectively reduces the brightness drop off at the image periphery.
When black-and-white images are needed, color saturation need only be set to 'zero' (Fig. 4 slider bar 'Saturation' in the toolbar window below left between 'Zoom' and 'White Balance Red').
It should be mentioned, however, that the HDR function used in the software only substantially lightens dark areas of the image moderately well, but nevertheless does not significantly improve overexposed areas of the image. Regarding this, specialized HDR software offers a much wider variety of contrast correction possibilities.
In order to test the video function, the camera was tested on a 'gamer' laptop (Dell XPS M 1730) which in 2008 was considered to have a 'high-end' performance standard and consequently was still a high performance computer but which was no longer considered to be state-of-the-art. This choice of computer should reflect real-world conditions since by far most operators will not continually purchase the newest generation computer; the camera should, therefore, function on a somewhat older system if it should be of interest to a larger group of potential users. In order to ensure compliance with the required USB 3 standard, the laptop was fitted with a USB 3 ExpressCard Adapter. The IC Capture software allows one to choose from 16 different video codices which do not all work on the aforementioned computer.
When one wishes to capture moving objects on video, it is advantageous to be able to follow the microscopic live image in real time on the monitor since such objects must, when necessary, be followed and their movement adapted to by adjusting the slide.
At full HD resolution (1920 x 1080) and maximum frame rate (30 FPS), only the use of a video codec enabled fluid observation of the live image on the above-mentioned laptop during the real-time recording: Y800, a codec for black-and-white videos. At full resolution and frame rate, its data volume amounts to around 34 MP per second. So whoever would like to capture detail-rich black-and-white videos at 30 FPS with full HD resolution while maintaining unrestricted real-time tracking of the live image is well served by this video codec.
An additional video codec for black-and-white (Microsoft RLE) delivered a smooth, trackable live image during live recording after the resolution was reduced to 1600 x 1200 pixels and the frame rate to 15 frames per second. The reduced data load at this setting, however, corresponded to only a 19 MB reduction per film second.
For color videos, on the other hand, there is no codec which would, at maximum frame rate (30 FPS) and full HD resolution (1920 x 1080), enable parallel recording and smooth live-observation via the monitor. At 30 FPS, only the 'unspecified' mode delivered a smooth image in real-time when the resolution was reduced to 1280 x 720 pixels (data volume: 45 MB per second). At a lowered frame rate (15 FPS), the following codices enabled real-time observation via monitor during video recording (information given for resolution and data volumes): 'unspecified' (1280 x 960, 39 MB/s), RGB 24 (1280 x 720, 43 MB/s) and Microsoft Video 1 (1280 x 960, 1.7 MB/s high data compression!). 'Unspecified' and 'RGB 24' largely comparable and usable results. Because of its high data compression and resulting pixilation (or more specifically, the spotty image artifacts appearing in homogenous areas), 'Microsoft Video 1' shouldn't be used if a lot of importance is placed on high image quality. A short video clip (full HD, codec 'unspecified') of the epithelial cell phase contrast specimen from Fig. 10 taken using a student microscope Leitz HM-Lux 3, Periplan-GF-Eyepiece 10x and Phaco L 32/0.4 objective can be found on the internet. This clip illustrates the realization of a video sequence using simple microscope equipment. The phase contrast produced on the student microscope used was created without Köhler illumination but instead with simple annular phase rings which were inserted in a brightfield dry condenser. Using the lens-free tube, the camera body (without the included eyepiece) was, as described earlier, placed directly over one of the Leitz-Periplan eyepieces.