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Vintage microscopes and the M42 thread as a universal helper (III)

Modern digital cameras can serve as tremendous tools once they are fitted to your microscope. The following procedure is working for microscopes with standard 25 mm tubes - no matter whether your microscope has straight or inclined tubes, whether it is monocular, binocular or trinocular (but you will need an available, non obstructed 25 mm diameter tube).

The animation below is illustrating the necessary steps for a vintage Olympus microscope. It should work for most other microscopes as well.

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Spot on part

Additional comments


Microscope with straight 25 mm foto tube

Starting point of our camera adaptation.

In case of a missing dedicated eye-piece in the tube you should be brave and experiment with other eye-pieces. Of course brand specific, dedicated eye-pieces will show the best performance but many others might work as well. This is just a matter of taste and personal preferences.

Please note: Only the distance between microscope objective and eye-piece will determine the focus, whereas the distance between eye-piece and camera will decide about the post-focus magnification (zoom) of your image.


(foto eye-piece extracted from the tube)

Normally the eye-piece has to be removed and replaced once the adapter is in place.


"Mikrozwischenstück" (intermediate adaptation piece)

This one was produced in the former German Democratic Republic (IHAGEE, Dresden). Marvelous mechanics, no external screws, hidden rotate-in-order-to-fix-mount (cf. fig. 1 below).


Foto eye-piece

has to be replaced after the "Mikrozwischenstück" is in place.


Distance tubes and adapter to a standard 42 mm thread

The length of this distance tube combination is defining the zoom factor of your image. It can be determined by trial and error (different tube length combinations). Sometimes complete IHAGEE M42 "Zwischenstück" systems are offered on Ebay.


Dedicated camera adapter

And yes, finally you will need a dedicated adapter in order to build the mechanical joint to your camera. These are available for a wide range of cameras on Ebay as well.


Cammera body

A "system camera" (without objective) will be best suited. We are using an old Sony Nex-5N camera body. It is important that the camera body has an electronic shutter which is able to capture images without any vibration. In case of the Sony cameras the NEX-5 doesn't have this type of electronic shutter whereas the Sony Nex-5N does have it.


Monitor in upright position.

Take you picture by means of a remote control.

Let's have a closer look at the magical IHAGEE "Zwischenstück":

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Fig. 1: The legendary "Mikrozwischenstück" by IHAGEE, Dresden. The microscope fitting is directed to the back, the camera adaptation to the front. The knobs marked with "1" help to rotate the fixing ring adapter in order to tighten the interior tube "2" around your microscope 25 mm tube. Keep in mind that anything broader than 25.4 mm will not work in combination with this IHAGEE adapter.

We are sure that you would like to know now whether all this is actually working for practical photomicrography and in particular for tardigrade photomicrography. Well, it does. First we took a photograph of an object micrometer (a tiny calibration scale) with the adaptation as shown above:

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Fig. 2: Object micrometer scale, photographed through the Olympus microscope (E-series) as shown above. Image width 0.2 mm. Microscope objective: Olympus achromatic objective 40x/N.A. 0.65; Olympus projection eye-piece FK 2.5x; the photomicrograph was taken in camera RAW format and subsequently optimized by fully automatic software procedures.
The image shown is a 0.2 mm crop from the actual 0.45 mm wide field of view thus cutting out some minor aberration and color fringing.

But of course we are interested in tardigrade photomicrography (fig. 3). You will notice some minor flaws and color fringing but we think that this result is quite okay for most amateur needs.

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Fig. 3: Eutardigrade eggs from a Munich backyard with some part of the remaining cuticula of the mother tardigrade in the background. Image taken with the adaptation as shown above: Olympus microscope, Olympus 40x objective, Olympus FK 2.5x projection eye-piece and mechanical camera adaptation by means of the IHAGEE "Mikrozwischenstück".Sony NEX-5N camera, image width 0.2 mm (crop from the actual 0.45 mm field of view diameter).

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
The Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of the German language monthly magazine  Bärtierchen-Journal . Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.

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