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Quantalux™ sCMOS Camera
Monochrome sCMOS Camera
Merged triple emission fluorescence image of FluoCells® prepared BPAE cells. Click Here to download the full-resolution image.
Thorlabs' Quantalux™ Scientific CMOS (sCMOS) Camera offers extremely low read noise and high sensitivity for demanding imaging applications. The compact housing has been engineered to provide passive thermal management for the sensor, reducing dark current without the need for a cooling fan or thermoelectric cooler. These features makes the Quantalux camera ideally suited for low-light imaging applications such as fluorescence microscopy.
A FluoCells® mouse kidney fluorescence slide imaged with our monochrome Quantalux camera.
Click here to view the full-resolution image.
The Quantalux sCMOS camera is available with a monochrome sensor. It features a USB 3.0 interface for compatibility with most computers. Included with the Quantalux camera is our ThorCam software for use with Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 operating systems. We offer support for LabVIEW, MATLAB, µManager / ImageJ, and .NET. Developers can leverage our fully featured API and SDK.
The Quantalux camera features a clear window that can be removed and replaced with any Ø1" (Ø25 mm) optic up to 4 mm thick. The aperture features SM1 (1.035"-40) threading for compatibility with Ø1" Lens Tubes; an adjustable C-Mount (1.000"-32) adapter is factory installed for out-of-the-box compatibility with many microscopes, machine vision camera lenses, and C-Mount extension tubes. Four, 4-40 tapped holes provide compatibility with our 30 mm cage system. Two 1/4"-20 tapped holes on opposite sides of the housing are compatible with imperial Ø1/2" Posts. These flexible mounting options, and compact size, make the Quantalux camera the ideal choice for integrating into home-built imaging systems as well as those based on commercial microscopes.
Camera Back Panel Connector Locations
TSI-IOBOB and TSI-IOBOB2 Break-Out Board Connector Locations
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Auxiliary (I/O) Connector
The camera and the break-out boards feature female connectors; the camera has a 12 pin Hirose connector, while the break out boards have a 6-pin Mini-DIN connector. The 8050-CAB1 cable features male connectors on both ends: a 12-pin connector for connecting to the camera and a 6-pin Mini-DIN connector for the break-out boards. Pins 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 are each connected to the center pin of an SMA connector on the break-out boards, while pin 4 (ground) is connected to each SMA connector housing. To access one of the I/O functions not available with the 8050-CAB1, the user must fabricate a cable using shielded cabling in order for the camera to adhere to CE and FCC compliance; additional details are provided in the camera manual.
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CS2100M-USB Package Contents
In Addition to the Camera, the CS2100M-USB Includes the following:
ThorCam is a powerful image acquisition software package that is designed for use with our cameras on 32- and 64-bit Windows® 7, 8.1, or 10 systems. This intuitive, easy-to-use graphical interface provides camera control as well as the ability to acquire and play back images. Single image capture and image sequences are supported. Please refer to the screenshots below for an overview of the software's basic functionality.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) and a software development kit (SDK) are included for the development of custom applications by OEMs and developers. The SDK provides easy integration with a wide variety of programming languages, such as C, C++, C#, and Visual Basic .NET. Support for third-party software packages, such as LabVIEW, MATLAB, and MetaMorph, is available. We also offer example Arduino code for integration with our TSI-IOBOB2 Interconnect Break-Out Board.
Click the Highlighted Regions to Explore ThorCam Features
Camera Control and Image Acquisition
Camera Control and Image Acquisition functions are carried out through the icons along the top of the window, highlighted in orange in the image above. Camera parameters may be set in the popup window that appears upon clicking on the Tools icon. The Snapshot button allows a single image to be acquired using the current camera settings.
The Start and Stop capture buttons begin image capture according to the camera settings, including triggered imaging.
Timed Series and Review of Image Series
The Timed Series control, shown in Figure 1, allows time-lapse images to be recorded. Simply set the total number of images and the time delay in between captures. The output will be saved in a multi-page TIFF file in order to preserve the high-precision, unaltered image data. Controls within ThorCam allow the user to play the sequence of images or step through them frame by frame.
Measurement and Annotation
As shown in the yellow highlighted regions in the image above, ThorCam has a number of built-in annotation and measurement functions to help analyze images after they have been acquired. Lines, rectangles, circles, and freehand shapes can be drawn on the image. Text can be entered to annotate marked locations. A measurement mode allows the user to determine the distance between points of interest.
The features in the red, green, and blue highlighted regions of the image above can be used to display information about both live and captured images.
ThorCam also features a tally counter that allows the user to mark points of interest in the image and tally the number of points marked (see Figure 2). A crosshair target that is locked to the center of the image can be enabled to provide a point of reference.
Third-Party Applications and Support
ThorCam is bundled with support for third-party software packages such as LabVIEW, MATLAB, and .NET. Both 32- and 64-bit versions of LabVIEW and MATLAB are supported. A full-featured and well-documented API, included with our cameras, makes it convenient to develop fully customized applications in an efficient manner, while also providing the ability to migrate through our product line without having to rewrite an application.
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Figure 1: A timed series of 10 images taken at 1 second intervals is saved as a multipage TIFF.
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Figure 2: A screenshot of the ThorCam Software. The tally function was used to mark three locations in the image. The line to the lower left was added using the measurement function, with the distance between the points in pixels displayed just above it.
Please note that system performance limitations can lead to "dropped frames" when image sequences are saved to the disk. The ability of the host system to keep up with the camera's output data stream is dependent on multiple aspects of the host system. Note that the use of a USB hub may impact performance. A dedicated connection to the PC is preferred. USB 2.0 connections are not supported.
First, it is important to distinguish between the frame rate of the camera and the ability of the host computer to keep up with the task of displaying images or streaming to the disk without dropping frames. The frame rate of the camera is a function of exposure and readout (e.g. clock, ROI) parameters. Based on the acquisition parameters chosen by the user, the camera timing emulates a digital counter that will generate a certain number of frames per second. When displaying images, this data is handled by the graphics system of the computer; when saving images and movies, this data is streamed to disk. If the hard drive is not fast enough, this will result in dropped frames.
One solution to this problem is to ensure that a solid state drive (SSD) is used. This usually resolves the issue if the other specifications of the PC are sufficient. Note that the write speed of the SSD must be sufficient to handle the data throughput.
Larger format images at higher frame rates sometimes require additional speed. In these cases users can consider implementing a RAID0 configuration using multiple SSDs or setting up a RAM drive. While the latter option limits the storage space to the RAM on the PC, this is the fastest option available. ImDisk is one example of a free RAM disk software package. It is important to note that RAM drives use volatile memory. Hence it is critical to ensure that the data is moved from the RAM drive to a physical hard drive before restarting or shutting down the computer to avoid data loss.
Triggered Camera Operation
Our scientific cameras have three externally triggered operating modes: streaming overlapped exposure, asynchronous triggered acquisition, and bulb exposure driven by an externally generated trigger pulse. The trigger modes operate independently of the readout (e.g., binning) settings as well as gain and offset. Figures 1 through 3 show the timing diagrams for these trigger modes, assuming an active low external TTL trigger.
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Figure 1: Streaming overlapped exposure mode. When the external trigger goes low, the exposure begins, and continues for the software-selected exposure time, followed by the readout. This sequence then repeats at the set time interval. Subsequent external triggers are ignored until the camera operation is halted. For the definition of the TTL signals, please see the Pin Diagrams tab.
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Figure 2: Asynchronous triggered acquisition mode. When the external trigger signal goes low, an exposure begins for the preset time, and then the exposure is read out of the camera. During the readout time, the external trigger is ignored. Once a single readout is complete, the camera will begin the next exposure only when the external trigger signal goes low.
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Figure 3: Bulb exposure mode. The exposure begins when the external trigger signal goes low and ends when the external trigger signal goes high. Trigger signals during camera readout are ignored.
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Figure 4: The ThorCam Camera Settings window. The red and blue highlighted regions indicate the trigger settings as described in the text.
External triggering enables these cameras to be easily integrated into systems that require the camera to be synchronized to external events. The Strobe Output goes high to indicate exposure; the strobe signal may be used in designing a system to synchronize external devices to the camera exposure. External triggering requires a connection to the auxiliary port of the camera. We offer the 8050-CAB1 auxiliary cable as an optional accessory. Two options are provided to "break out" individual signals. The TSI-IOBOB provides SMA connectors for each individual signal. Alternately, the TSI-IOBOB2 also provides the SMA connectors with the added functionality of a shield for Arduino boards that allows control of other peripheral equipment. More details on these three optional accessories are provided below.
Trigger settings are adjusted using the ThorCam software. Figure 4 shows the Camera Settings window, with the trigger settings highlighted with red and blue squares. Settings can be adjusted as follows:
In addition, the polarity of the trigger can be set to "On High" (exposure begins on the rising edge) or "On Low" (exposure begins on the falling edge) in the "Hardware Trigger Polarity" box (highlighted in red in Figure 4).
Equal Exposure Pulse (EEP) Mode
The Equal Exposure Pulse (EEP) is an output signal available on the Quantalux camera's I/O connector. When selected in the ThorCam settings dialog, the STROBE_OUT signal is reconfigured to be active only after the CMOS sensor's rolling reset function has completed. The signal will remain active until the sensor's rolling readout function begins. This means that the signal is active only during the time when all of the sensor's pixels have been reset and are actively integrating. The resulting image will not show an exposure gradient typical of rolling reset sensors. Figure 5 shows an example of a strobe-driven exposure, where STROBE_OUT is used to trigger an external light source; the resulting image shows a gradient as not all sensor rows are integrating charge for the same length of time when the light source is on. Figure 6 shows an example of an EEP exposure: the exposure time is lengthened, and the trigger output signal shifted to the time when all rows are integrating charge, yielding an image with equal illumination across the frame.
Please note that EEP will have no effect on images that are constantly illuminated. There are several conditions that must be met to use EEP mode; these are detailed in the User Guide.
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Figure 5: A timing example for an exposure using STROBE_OUT to trigger an external light source during exposure. A gradient is formed across the image since the sensor rows are not integrating charge for the same length of time the light source is on.
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Figure 6: A timing example for an exposure using EEP. The image is free of gradients, since the EEP signal triggers the light source only while all sensor rows are integrating charge.
Example Camera Triggering Configuration using Scientific Camera Accessories
Figure 7: A schematic showing a system using the TSI-IOBOB2 to facilitate system integration and control. While the diagram shows the back panel of our Scientific CCD Camera, our Quantalux sCMOS camera can be used as well.
As an example of how camera triggering can be integrated into system control is shown in Figure 7. In the schematic, the camera is connected to the TSI-IOBOB2 break-out board / shield for Arduino using a 8050-CAB1 cable. The pins on the shield can be used to deliver signals to simultaneously control other peripheral devices, such as light sources, shutters, or motion control devices. Once the control program is written to the Arduino board, the USB connection to the host PC can be removed, allowing for a stand-alone system control platform; alternately, the USB connection can be left in place to allow for two-way communication between the Arduino and the PC. Configuring the external trigger mode is done using ThorCam as described above.
About Thorlabs Scientific Imaging
Thorlabs Scientific Imaging (TSI) is a multi-disciplinary team dedicated to solving the most challenging imaging problems. We design and manufacture low-noise, high performance scientific cameras, interface devices, and software at our facility in Austin, Texas. In addition, we are leveraging the engineering experience across Thorlabs, a vertically integrated photonics products manufacturer, to bring to market a line of integrated imaging systems, including our forthcoming, patent-pending system for whole-slide scanning.
A Message from TSI's General Manager
As a researcher, you are accustomed to solving difficult problems but may be frustrated by the inadequacy of the available instrumentation and tools. The product development team at Thorlabs Scientific Imaging is continually looking for new challenges to push the boundaries of Scientific Cameras using various sensor technologies. We welcome your input in order to leverage our team of senior research and development engineers to help meet your advanced imaging needs.
Thorlabs' purpose is to support advances in research through our product offerings. Your input will help us steer the direction of our scientific camera product line to support these advances. If you have a challenging application that requires a more advanced scientific camera than is currently available, I would be excited to hear from you.
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Camera Housings of Our Compact Scientifc and Scientific CCD Cameras
Our scientific cameras utilize high quantum efficiency, low noise sensors, which make them ideal for multispectral imaging, fluorescence microscopy, and other high-performance imaging techniques. Our Compact Scientific Cameras, including the Quantalux™ sCMOS camera, are housed in compact, passively cooled housings. Our Scientific CCD cameras are available with TE-cooled and non-cooled housings. See below for more details on the camera packages offered.
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A schematic showing a TSI-IOBOB2 connected to an Arduino to trigger a compact scientific camera.
These optional accessories allow for easy use of the auxiliary port of our compact scientific (sCMOS & CMOS) or scientific CCD cameras. These items should be considered when it is necessary to externally trigger the camera, to monitor camera performance with an oscilloscope, or for simultaneous control of the camera with other instruments.
For our USB 3.0 cameras, we also offer a PCIe USB 3.0 card and extra cables for facilitating the connection to the computer.
Auxiliary I/O Cable (8050-CAB1)
*The 8050-CAB1 cable is not compatible with our former-generation 1500M series cameras.
Interconnect Break-Out Board (TSI-IOBOB)
Interconnect Break-Out Board / Shield for Arduino (TSI-IOBOB2)
The image to the right shows a schematic of a configuration with the TSI-IOBOB2 with an Arduino board integrated into a camera imaging system. The camera is connected to the break-out board using a 8050-CAB1 cable that must be purchased separately. The pins on the shield can be used to deliver signals to simultaneously control other peripheral devices, such as light sources, shutters, or motion control devices. Once the control program is written to the Arduino board, the USB connection to the host PC can be removed, allowing for a stand-alone system control platform; alternately, the USB connection can be left in place to allow for two-way communication between the Arduino and the PC. The compact size of 2.70" x 2.10" (68.6 mm x 53.3 mm) also aids in keeping systems based on the TSI-IOBOB2 compact.
USB 3.0 Camera Accessories (USB3-MBA-118 and USB3-PCIE)
Cameras with USB 3.0 connectivity may be connected directly to the USB 3.0 port on a laptop or desktop computer. USB 3.0 cameras are not compatible with USB 2.0 ports. Host-side USB 3.0 ports are often blue in color, although they may also be black in color, and typically marked "SS" for SuperSpeed. A USB 3.0 PCIe card is sold separately for computers without an integrated Intel USB 3.0 controller. Note that the use of a USB hub may impact performance. A dedicated connection to the PC is preferred.