_______________________________________________________________________ The ledlyt and photomicrography - introduction

Living copepod nauplius taken with 30 year-old Zeiss Winkel 10X achromat objective. Ledlyt illumination. Nearly all these photos are taken on a 25 year-old Olympus GB40 monocular microscope. All photos are full-frame, that is 960 x 1280 pixels.

It is possible to do microscopy and photomicrography with simple gear, such as the traditional 'microscope adaptor', fixing a single-lens reflex or digital camera on the top of a high-school microscope. The results, although educational, fall a long way short of what can be achieved.

State of the art photomicrography is portrayed, by the major microscope manufacturers, as spending roughly the price of a luxury car on a fully-automated system, including the latest in cameras and computer screen displays. Yes, you will get the very best in photomicrography, but a bored or unskilled lab assistant will still not be able to produce world-class work at the push of a button, since unless the focus is accurate, the picture will be second-class. Correct focusing requires concentration and skill. A familiarity with the instrument develops, that is lost all too quickly. The first fifteen minutes or so of the next session will rebuild it. Even if your budget will stretch to buying the gear, just like a luxury car, the service bills will send you broke.

It cannot be stressed too highly, to those who have done some photomicrography, that the assumption a good photo will always show a little less than the eye can see, is wrong. Photos correctly made on a solid-state imager, and optimised for magnification, colour and contrast, will show more on the computer screen than the eye can see through the eyepiece. Photos of algae taken here are used as a working tool when detail really needs to be examined. What does become obvious as soon as a system starts working as it should, is the remarkable difference in photo image quality directly attributable to the quality of the objective. Unlike a world-class microscope, a world-class objective is worth every penny, and there always has to be some 'making do' when these cost a minimum of 2000 US dollars each, assuming you can find one.

What we have done with the ledlyt illuminator, and associated camera, is to provide a means for a skilled user on a low budget to equal a high-cost photomicrography installation, within the limitations of affordable objectives. The ledlyt can be retrofitted to a wide variety of binocular microscopes for eyepiece and camera use. If all that matters is photomicrography, most single-tube microscopes from a generation before the binocular models, are just as good or better. All you need is weight, rigidity, and top-quality focus and X-Y movements. Photos taken on an old Olympus GB-40 monocular with the ledlyt illuminator and camera, are indistinguishable from those taken on much more impressive binocular microscopes, unless the Olympus objectives are used!

It is impossible to sell, or even describe a technical system, without getting technical. All I know on the subject is down here, and hopefully understandable. E-mail me if it is not.