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02-01-2015, 03:53 AM   #1
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Can microscope damage DSLR matrix?

Hello

I'm a new user of Pentax K-50, as well as I'm in the beginning of my journey with microscope photography. So, I'm experimenting a lot, trying to find the best way to connect my camera to microscope.

As my microscope has trinocular head, I started from removing objective from DSLR, attached T-2 / 30mm adapter (like that one - simple tube, no optics inside) with pentax-k ring to the camera body and put that directly into trinocular head.
Don't know if it matters, but microscope is using LED light (not sure power - 1-3W perhaps?) and its optics is corrected to infinity.
I'm trying to make some pictures, example of fruit-fly, with microscope 4x-10x magnification using reflected light, coming from "external" 3W led flashlight, highlighting specimen from top.

My question is - is the long (let say half an hour), direct exposure of DSLR matrix for the same, not moving picture (for stacking), with quite a bright light, can cause some damage to it? Obviously I do not beam the light directly to the matrix, but...
Yesterday, when I've removed camera from microscope, for some seconds after I saw on preview the picture of fly - not sure though if I didn't accidental click some button or mode to hold it :-/

Best regards and thank you for replays

02-01-2015, 04:57 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Why would you need a half hour exposure if you have good light? Or do you mean half hour of taking photos?
I would only worry if you are using live view the whole time and the light is bright. If you take photos with normal EV (as in, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture) then it should be fine. If you are using live view and bright light (not stopped down aperture), then the shutter speed and ISO cannot help much, so the whole thing might get hot. In that case, I would suggest you turn the camera off and let it cool down, work in a cool room, or maybe just not use live view the whole time.

Sounds like an interesting project though. I would like to see a sample photo or two
02-01-2015, 06:13 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Why would you need a half hour exposure if you have good light? Or do you mean half hour of taking photos?
You're right - my question might not be clear. I mean the second option - half an hour is a time that camera is attached to microscope, with the same image. During that time I make photos, change camera settings, try to set focus with live view, do so things on the computer - but all that without removing or turning off the camera. Anyway, it might be a good idea to turn it off more often.
02-01-2015, 07:49 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Is the light stronger than daylight? Anyway, the mirror and shutter should protect the sensor, unless in live view (this is why i mentioned it). The other parts, metering and focus module, should be able to sustain bright light. But you are right, the lens is.. well, a lens. it concentrates light onto a certain area, and over time this can heat up any camera. Its a small box, with many heat-generating electronics inside, and a lens on one end that supplies in extra light.
I think Pentax cameras will show you a thermometer on the back LCD when the camera gets too hot.

But your question is specifically if the image is unchanging. I am not sure about that. I don't think modern cameras are like those old TV sets where an icon can get burned in, but maybe someone else can chime in.

02-01-2015, 11:32 AM - 1 Like   #5
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I would recommend getting a way from on camera live view. Either use a separate monitor, or If your camera will work with it, a tethering cable, use it to connect to a tablet or laptop. this will reduce the heat produced by the camera. Unless you're using a really bright LED light, it should not hurt your camera. If you can look through the eyepiece without damaging your eyes, The camera will not be damaged. Also, try using polarized light to illuminate the subject. it can bring out details and colors that you may not expect. also a second polarized filter at the camera can isolate certain elements on wings and other surfaces that react to polarized light. You can simulate this effect by adjusting your LCD monitor to a solid white background and placing a clear plastic cup in front of it. Look at it through a polarized filter. Rotate the filter until the screen is dark. The cup will seem to glow. this happens because LCD monitors use polarized light. it is a very interesting affect.
02-01-2015, 04:17 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I am interested in your setup and what you find successful and see if I can adapt it to my microscopes. The only advice I would like to contribute is to pickup any old cheap secondhand pentax body and use it excursively for your microscope. I use to have one setup on mine, but I can't get good results as I seem to have permanently stained my objective lens.
02-01-2015, 10:47 PM - 1 Like   #7
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I'm going to make a generalization and say that you shouldn't worry about it. I mean it's your gear, but if it were mine, I wouldn't worry about it. I'm no expert on sensor technologies, but I've seen and used various microscope setups. Mostly Nikon microscopes with some kind of digital sensor hooked up to it. Never a dslr, so I can't really attest to the differences. But I've never heard of anyone warn about burning ghost images, even with bright mercury lamps as a light source. I would think the only thing to worry about is heat, but your dslr should warn you about it. We've had a $10k sensor replaced and the technician said it's cooled to something like -30 degrees so it was better to leave it on and chilled.

One of the commonly used brands for general microscopy is Spot, and they sell adapters for dslrs themselves. It looks like their sensors are cmos. I mean, it could be that the sensors they sell are optimized to prevent damage for very high intensity light. I don't really know. It sounds like your setup is very indirect though.

The only instance I've encountered where I'm told to be careful about burning a sensor is with X Ray diffraction, where a sample is shot with X Ray beams and the diffraction pattern is recorded on digital sensors (sometimes ccd, sometimes custom sensors that range from a couple thousand to million dollar sensors). In this case, a small metal (lead?) is placed in the center where the X Ray beam is direct.

My vote is good luck and have fun! Besides polarizing filters, you can try some ND filters too if you have some.
02-02-2015, 12:01 AM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by marcinj Quote
is the long (let say half an hour), direct exposure of DSLR matrix for the same, not moving picture (for stacking), with quite a bright light, can cause some damage to it?
I would say, No. However this depends on makeup of the light source, it is possible that UV could be generated by the LED and continued exposure to UV output could potentially bleach the CFA* and eventually the colour sensitivity of your camera will be**permanently degraded. Though you would probably encounter other problems long before the bleaching became an issue.

* Colour Filter Arrray
** Actually, if you want a monochrome camera this isn't a bad way to do it - usually converting a DSLR to monochrome involves physically ablating the CFA off the sensor, unfortunately this process takes the microlenses along with it. Though now that I think about it, the polymer microlens array would probably be damaged by the high levels of UV exposure, oh well...


Last edited by Digitalis; 02-02-2015 at 12:08 AM.
02-02-2015, 10:38 AM   #9
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Thank you all for your answers.

So, I understand there is nothing to worry about.
Anyway, I've decided to buy some used, cheap DSLR body only for that - this rank was very helpful. Canon EOS 1100D seems to have good parameters / value factor - I've found rarely used, 1.5 year old camera, even with kit lens, for about 200$ on local auction.
In addition, it offers very handy computer control (which I miss very much in my K-50) and probably mirror lock-up, that prevents microscope shaking, that was a bit problem with Pentax. Especially computer control may be handy from time to time.

Once again thank you for answers!
Best regards
02-02-2015, 03:37 PM - 1 Like   #10
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Good idea!
Btw, the K-50 has mirror lockup with the 2sec timer, to help with button press and mirror slap shake
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