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Microphotography Setup Page

Photomicrography Setup for Polarized Light Imaging

To do polarized light microphotography one would ideally have a trinocular head polarizing microscope with designated camera. However hobbyists, such as myself, are fortunate to have a binocular white light microscope and a decent camera. It is possible to make polarizing filter and camera adaptors from common materials allowing the hobbyist, on a budget, to achieve reasonable quality polarized light microphotography.
The following is how I converted my AO clinical scope to use polarized light and utilize my Nikon Coolpix S570 :

Here is the microscope before additions:

The system below cost a few dollars in materials. Different microscope and camera styles will vary how one approaches these adaptions.
First obtain some polarizing filter material that can be cut to size. I obtained mine from a lighting company that makes stage and theater lighting setups. Since I only needed a few square inches they gave me some project scraps for free. You will need two pieces of filter. One above the specimen slide and one below.

Here is the first filter installed in an adaptor I made of card stock paper and glue. This fits over my light condensor below the sample.

Here are the objectives and light condensor removed and the adaptors with filters I made for them. They fit by snug friction fit.
The paper adaptors are loose enough to rotate easily but snug enough to not fall off.

Condensor with filter adaptor in place:

Condensor placed back in microscope:

Here you can see the condensor filter racked up to just below where the specimen will go: The objectives still need their filter adaptors installed:

Objective filters are slid onto the corresponding objective.
Just need a specimen slide to look at.

The polarizing filters should be turned relative to each other so as to block most light transmission. The crystal sample will show the strongest color saturation when the filters are set that way. Take some time getting use to looking at slides and trying different chemicals and rotating the filters.

Now for the camera adaptor:
To take pictures one can place the camera lense near the microscope eyepiece. This position will need to be steady so a tripod can work. Stray light will need to be avoided by turning out room lights or using black felt. However if you plan to do a lot of camera work it is much better to take the time to make an adaptor.
If you have an SLR you can remove the camera lense and mount the camera near the eyepeice. The microscope and eyepiece will act as the lense. If you can not remove the camera lense you can still get an image but will probably need to zoom the camera to avoid vignetting.

Here is the adaptor I made years ago for my SLR film camera.

You can see the camera ring I built into the mount. The black mount is made of a small cardboard jewelry box, some paper tubing that fits snugly over the microscope eyepeice, and triangular Balsa support struts. It was put together with wood glue.

It mounts onto the eyepeice with a very snug friction fit:

In place and ready for the SLR to be mounted into the ring.

But my new digital camera is a point and shoot. What to do?
I found a soft plastic ring that let's me snugly friction fit my camera into the ring portion of my adaptor:

Placing the camera with ring into adaptor:

Camera ready to go.
I set the camera to not turn off as the snug fit could damage the lense gears when they try to recede on auto turn off

Camera not zoomed showing bad vignetting:

Camera zoomed and ready to photograph or video:

You can see from this that you will want a camera that gives a live through the lense view. This is needed to compose and focus. If you do have an SLR for still photography it helps if it has a mirror lockup feature to reduce vibrations. For my camera the only vibration problem is my fingers on the shutter so I use the 10 second delay feature for still photography.

Below is a resized image of xylitol crystals captured with this setup:

Have fun enjoy

If you have any questions you can contact me by email at the Email Us link at the top of the page.

Created ... November 2003

Updated ... March 2012