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An affordable high-resolution digital microscope camera

We have developed for in-house use at q.e.d. labs a high resolution digital microscope stage for crystal observation. We  use the same optics for a fully automated proprietary crystallization observation system, and offer the design now in a manual version. The digital system is less expensive and more capable than commercial stereo microscopes normally used for manual crystal observations. Ideal also for classroom and crystallization course work demonstrations.

Due to the modular design, all CrysCam systems are available with (or can later be upgraded with) a motorized x-y stage and become a fully automated, low cost crystal observation station including automated image acquisition software. The x-y stage was developed in collaboration with Art Robbins Instruments and complements the reliable and proven Phoenix crystallization robot.

All CrysCamTM systems are now distributed and manufactured by Art Robbins, the inventor of the Hydra dispenser and manufacturer of the Phoenix crystallization robot. Please contact Art Robbins directly for pricing and quotes of standard CrysCam systems.

Advantages    Standard System   Options  Manual (PDF)  Example images and Videos

Advantages of the digital CrysCamTM system:

A combination of high resolution digital camera and quality optics together with a non-heating LED lighting platform and included image capture and analysis software provides an ideal instrument for crystal observation, on-line documentation, and production of time lapse crystallization movies.

  • Optics: the Japan-made quality 0.75-3x (1:4) zoom optics provide nominal magnification of 144x exceeding the magnification of most stereo microscopes. In addition, an adjustable iris lens allows for optimal image contrast and depth of field adjustments. Working distance of ~60 mm (>2 inches) allows comfortable crystal harvesting even at maximum resolution.

  • Lighting: the digital CMOS CrysCam works with any non-fluorescent top lightning, and also includes a low heat, adjustable white LED (warm or cool white as option) lighting base. The power consumption is so low, that for lecture demonstrations no external power supply is needed and 4 AA batteries provides days of backlighting power (AC adapter is also included). Alternatively, any basic halogen desk lamp or a USB laptop LED light provides ample lighting for crisp crystal images. A linear polarizing base insert and analyzer attached to the optics is included in the standard system.

  • Digital imaging: a 2.0 Mpix 1/2" CMOS color camera with 1600x1200 pixel resolution provides crisp images at a low minimum illumination of 3 lux and six different capture resolutions from 160x120 to 1600x1200. Software driven auto-exposure allows live video observation, time-lapse image capture, and capture of high resolution images, exceeding the resolution even of expensive CCD cameras. The time lapse capture allows easy recording of crystallization movies (see examples).

  • Simple connections: Laptop or desktop - your choice. CrysCams do not need any external power supplies, making them also ideal for live lecture and workshop presentations. The low power CMOS camera can be powered from any USB 2 laptop port (laptops usually provide sufficient power to drive the USB camera). A special USB 2 card for desktops (older ones may not  deliver sufficient power for the on-board USB 2 ports) is included - just in case. The LED base light can be operated from battery without the AC adapter.

  • Image capture software: Included professional Windows-based image capturing software makes capturing and enhancing images a breeze. Varying resolution ranges let you choose between optimal quality and minimum disk space requirements. Auto-exposure and auto-enhance features in the capture module and time lapse capture allow you to import perfect image sequences into Windows Movie Maker (distributed with Windows XP) to create time lapse movies of crystal growth. Measuring features and markers allow annotation on the image if desired. 

Example images and videos:

Standard System Specifications (Feb 2006):

  • Optics: high quality, Japan-made manual 4:1 zoom ratio optical system with optional manual iris provides a working distance of 60 mm and a nominal magnification of about 144x, sufficient to image and detect crystals as small as ~5 microns. Fine and coarse manual z-adjustment for easy focusing. With custom designed linear polarizer assembly.

  • Camera: 1.3 Mpix CMOS color camera with resolution of 1600x1200 provides crisp images at a low minimum illumination of 3 lux, needs only USB2 connection. Windows USB 2 drivers included. Works with full USB2 compliant laptop ports. 1600x1200 maximal image resolution,  six different capture resolutions from 160x120 to 1600x1200, and live motion video at 640x480 resolution and 30 frames per second.  At higher resolution, live motion frame rate drops to 10-20 frames per second.  Software allows easy time-lapse image capture.

  • Base: solid machined, anodized aluminum base with 4 dampening cushion feet includes low power, adjustable white LED lighting with 25 mm diameter frosted acrylic diffuser inserts, and a linear polarizer. Four AA batteries under the base of provides days of backlighting power. Alternatively, any basic halogen desk lamp or USB laptop LED light (available in office supply stores) provides perfect top lighting for crisp crystal images. AC power supply included.

  • Image capture software: Included professional Windows XP based image capturing software. Resolution settings let you choose between optimal quality and minimum disk space requirements. Auto-exposure and auto-enhance features in the capture module and time lapse capture allow you to import perfect image sequences into Windows Movie Maker (distributed with Windows XP) to create time lapse movies of crystal growth. Measuring/calibration features and markers allow annotation on the image if desired.

UPGRADES: Due to the modular design, if you decide to upgrade your microscope at a later date, we will gladly provide a quote for component exchanges.

System requirements for computer:

  • Laptop or Desktop, Windows XP SP2, Pentium 4, 1 GHz or above processor (or AMD Athlon 2600 XP), 256 MB RAM, 400 MB free disk space, USB 2.0, 32 MB video card and CD-ROM drive.  For some older desktop computers, you will need to install a USB 2.0 card as your computer may not be able to supply sufficient power to drive the camera. Please email your computer specifications if unsure.

Options:

  • Optics: High magnification, manual 6.4:1 zoom ratio optical system optional manual iris provides a working distance of ~90 mm and a nominal magnification of  214x sufficient to image and detect crystals as small as ~3 microns. Motorized zoom optics for automated image acquisition stages are available. Please contact us for specific quotes.

  • computer interfaced x-y stage: High resolution, precise X-Y stage easily mounts to the CrysCam base. The stage can be purchased with the CrysCam or easily added on later and turns the CrysCam into a fully automated crystallization observation station. The included software automatically captures and stores images to disk in less than two minutes. Captures an entire plate or a single well. The stage has a resolution of .00013 inch. Please see ontact Art Robbins for quotes on all x-y stage equipped systems.

Warranty:

There are absolutely no user serviceable components in this practically indestructible instrument. Each instrument is test-run and shipped with a set of images recorded with it during quality assurance testing. If something breaks, or you cannot install the software, its is probably because you did not follow the instructions. Please read the instructions, all of it, in the right sequence.

  • Optics: 90 days warranty. If an optical component breaks, you have dropped it, stepped on it, or thrown it at somebody, all of which voids the warranty.

  • Lighting: 30 days. That is about the time it takes until someone figures out a way to improve the circuit, power it with solar cells, replace the LEDs with light bulbs, or put the CrysCam into a acid filled sink.  All of which voids the warranty. We ship cheap spare modules in that case. But they should last forever under normal use.

  • Camera: 90 days. A CMOS color camera can be destroyed by a variety of hostile actions, like poking into the chip, zapping a laser into it, dropping it, tapping on it with hard objects, or using it as a missile. All of the above and even remotely associated actions, including detaching it from the optics, void the warranty. There is UV fluorescent Loktite on all optics threads. A few bright background/dark current pixels visible at extremely low lighting are normal for CMOS chips.

  • Base, post and Z-drive: One year warranty. These sturdy metal pieces can only be destroyed by willful abuse, which voids the the warranty in any case.

  • Image capture software: 30 days original manufacturer warranty, limited to media replacement. Sold as is.

 

   

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