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USB Microscope Camera – turn your computer into a digital microscope for cheap

Updated on August 29, 2010

USB microscope cameras hit the market several years ago after the USB 2.0 system made plug-and-play USB accessories extremely user friendly.  In the beginning they were just an elaborate electronic toy for gadget lovers to play with.  Nowadays a USB microscope camera has come up in quality and produce exquisite video and image stills of microscopic subjects.  Many of these digital microscope cameras are used in the forensic industry because of their ease in portability and high quality.  They’re also used in electronics, semi-conductor, and materials industries because they provide a convenient method of searching the surface for flaws or defects in the materials.  However, since many of them cost under $100 it makes an affordable science tool for you and your kids.  But how do you find the right one for your needs?

There are several types of USB microscope cameras and each one will be different in both quality and price depending on the end use.  Some people are looking for portability in their digital microscope.  For forensics engineers and materials inspectors it may be important to have a small and light digital camera microscope.  This is where the USB microscope camera comes into play.  Because it’s a USB accessory, it plugs directly into the computer and gets its power from the computer.  This means that you’ll only have one cord to worry about and it powers everything from the microscope to the light.  Many times these types of digital microscopes will come with a stand that allows for hands free use which allows the user to position the camera at several angles to get the best shot.  These portable hands free USB microscopes are generally under a $100 and will magnify up to 100x.  They’ll come with software that allows you to digitally control the focus making it easier than trying to hold the camera still while playing with a focus.  The movie mode is incredibly helpful in producing high quality microscopic videos that can be used for research or testing.  The biggest issue with digital microscope video is that the size of the files can take up a lot of hard drive space which will require a large hard drive and memory to go with it, or frequent downloading of the microscopic movies.

Another type of USB microscope is the digital camera microscope adapters. Basically these are eyepiece cameras that can either be installed into the third port in trinocular microscopes or directly placed into the eyepiece of the stereomicroscope. These USB digital microscope cameras tend to be a little better quality as they rely on the microscope for magnification. The microscope adapters are built right into the microscope with a c mount adapter which is made for attaching a CCD microscope camera that takes high resolution video. Both Nikon and Olympus make excellent microscope cameras but they tend to be a little pricier. The other downside to the digital camera microscope adapter is that they are not portable; you sacrifice quality of picture and flexibility of options for lack of portability. Because the camera is built right into the microscope they are best suited for research purposes such as if you wanted to video the flow of a fluid through a microscopic channel, or you wanted to see how an electronic board would survive a fluid being spilled onto it or cleaned for that matter.

So which is the best microscope camera for you? If you are looking for portability and ease of use such as in field testing and microscopic analysis then a simple USB Microscope video camera would do the trick. If you’re looking to capture detailed video of scientific experiment or industrial research then a quality ccd microscope camera will capture the video you need to examine things in detail. If you want a simple microscope that allows you to examine things like bugs, hairs and fibers with your kids and to introduce them to the fun of nature and science you should be able to find a digital USB microscope camera somewhere online anywhere from $40-100. These types of digital microscopes are also handy for looking at skin and examining in detail any abnormal skin issue that may arise or to assist in removing splinters. No matter what type of USB camera that you get, the price you pay will reflect the quality of the images and video it captures as well as the number of features that it offers. To find the best price on a USB microscope camera will require a little research at some of the major online retailers. Check with places like Amazon and walmart to find the type of microscope you’re looking for at an affordable price.

Other Microscope Resources

Microscopes for Kids - Getting your kids interested in science at a young age has proven to make them more successful and better educated.  Getting a microscope for your child can make science fun and more interesting.  This article can help you find the right one for you child.

Dissecting Microscopes v. Stereo Microscopes - knowing the difference can save you lots of money.


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