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

As illustrated in the most recent issue of our e-zine vintage Leitz dissecting microscopes (so-called stereo microscopes, microscopes with low magnification and true stereoscopic view) can serve perfectly well, even today and even for photography - as long as you are not expecting A4 prints and international rewards.

A fascinating pathway to bargain microscope photography

As already explained previously we are big fans of 42 mm thread extension tubes for microscope photo adaptation. There were times when those extension tubes were quite expensive. But nowadays, when asking for it at your local photographer's shop (in case it should still exist ...) the shop owner might tell you: "I will offer you a big bundle of those tubes for a bargain price". The reason behind is that most macro photographers are not using those tubes any more and that nowadays most smarthphones are able to provide some kind of macro focusing capability.
A little bit later, at the moment when you will be the most extension tube rich person all over your neighborhood, you will be able to experiment with your microscope(s) and cameras. And you will notice that the results can be quite competitive. It is not a big problem to bridge from the M42 tube world to your DSLR or digital system camera with a dedicated adapter readily availabe via internet - or via your local dealer if he shouldn't have closed his shop.

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Fig. 1: The image is illustrating a typical, purely mechanical microscope camera adapter. You will notice four extension tubes ("Zwischenringe") in this case but of course you could use any number and combination of tubes resulting in the optimum overall length depending on your needs.The camera specific M42-camera adapter is shown mounted on top. As a rule of thumb the extension tube distance between eyepiece and camera chip should be ca. 5 cm (or possibly up to 7 cm). The idea is simply to catch the image above the eye-piece in a way that the microscope field of view is optimally filling the camera chip without any vignetting (i.e. shadow edges).

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Fig. 2: Once more, just as a reminiscence and example, the vintage Leitz stereo microscope used for the camera adaptation.

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Fig. 3: ... funny enough it is sufficient in this case to lower the tube construction on the microscope body until it fixes by itself. Remember that the eye-piece is still in place thus preserving the optimal objective-eyepiece combination. As this is working within seconds you can easily switch between visual inspection and photography. And honestly, it is fine to be able to make use of a camera. But even the avid microscope amateur will concede that most of the time the camera will merely be a nice-to-have (in case should encounter some marvel and want to document it). You will not use it as often as one might think when looking - with envy - at more expensive trinocular microscopes (microscopes with a dedicated photo tube).

"Stop!". Some among you might argue that a Greenough type stereo microscope won't perform well for photography as both tubes are looking slighty inclined at the object (ca. 7.5). As a consequence the plane of focus will never be perfectly horizontal. But in many cases you will be able to incline your object disk a little bit in order to get the geometry straight. By means of this tweak your Greenough microscopes might even perform better than the much more expensive single main objective stereo microscopes:

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Fig. 4: An inclined black object base plate - dancing and looking funny? Yes, agreed but a perfect solution.

The following photographic results might convince you that this will be sufficient for most routine photographic documentation work:

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Fig. 5: Detail of a European 10 bill. Photograph taken with the Leitz microscope and an adaptation as shown in the figures above. Illumination with an IKEA-"Jansjö" LED light, and a table tennis ball as a diffusor. Image width 4.5 mm.

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Fig 6: Detail of a European 2 Cent coin, measuring a few millimeters in width.

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Fig, 7: And yes, finally, an Echiniscus tardigrade in the dry state, in its natural moss habitat.

© 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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