Do Thorlabs' scientific cameras need an adapter?
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Figure 1: An adapter can be used to optimally position a C-mount lens on a camera whose flange focal distance is less than 17.526 mm. This sketch is based on a Zelux camera and its SM1A10Z adapter.
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Figure 2: An adapter can be used to optimally position a CS-mount lens on a camera whose flange focal distance is less than 12.526 mm. This sketch is based on a Zelux camera and its SM1A10 adapter.
All Kiralux™ and Quantalux® scientific cameras are factory set to accept C-mount lenses. When the attached C-mount adapters are removed from the passively cooled cameras, the SM1 (1.035"-40) internal threads in their flanges can be used. The Zelux® scientific cameras also have SM1 internal threads in their mounting flanges, as well as the option to use a C-mount or CS-mount adapter.
The SM1 threads integrated into the camera housings are intended to facilitate the use of lens assemblies created from Thorlabs components. Adapters can also be used to convert from the camera's C-mount configurations. When designing an application-specific lens assembly or considering the use of an adapter not specifically designed for the camera, it is important to ensure that the flange focal distances (FFD) of the camera and lens match, as well as that the camera's sensor size accommodates the desired field of view (FOV).
Made for Each Other: Cameras and Their Adapters
Fixed adapters are available to configure the Zelux cameras to meet C-mount and CS-mount standards (Figures 1 and 2). These adapters, as well as the adjustable C-mount adapters attached to the passively cooled Kiralux and Quantalux cameras, were designed specifically for use with their respective cameras.
While any adapter converting from SM1 to 1.000"-32 threads makes it possible to attach a C-mount or CS-mount lens to one of these cameras, not every thread adapter aligns the lens' focal plane with a specific camera's sensor plane. In some cases, no adapter can align these planes. For example, of these scientific cameras, only the Zelux can be configured for CS-mount lenses.
The position of the lens' focal plane is determined by a combination of the lens' FFD, which is measured in air, and any refractive elements between the lens and the camera's sensor. When light focused by the lens passes through a refractive element, instead of just travelling through air, the physical focal plane is shifted to longer distances by an amount that can be calculated. The adapter must add enough separation to compensate for both the camera's FFD, when it is too short, and the focal shift caused by any windows or filters inserted between the lens and sensor.
Flexiblity and Quick Fixes: Adjustable C-Mount Adapter
Passively cooled Kiralux and Quantalux cameras consist of a camera with SM1 internal threads, a window or filter covering the sensor and secured by a retaining ring, and an adjustable C-mount adapter.
A benefit of the adjustable C-mount adapter is that it can tune the spacing between the lens and camera over a 1.8 mm range, when the window / filter and retaining ring are in place. Changing the spacing can compensate for different effects that otherwise misalign the camera's sensor plane and the lens' focal plane. These effects include material expansion and contraction due to temperature changes, positioning errors from tolerance stacking, and focal shifts caused by a substitute window or filter with a different thickness or refractive index.
Adjusting the camera's adapter may be necessary to obtain sharp images of objects at infinity. When an object is at infinity, the incoming rays are parallel, and location of the focus defines the FFD of the lens. Since the actual FFDs of lenses and cameras may not match their intended FFDs, the focal plane for objects at infinity may be shifted from the sensor plane, resulting in a blurry image.
If it is impossible to get a sharp image of objects at infinity, despite tuning the lens focus, try adjusting the camera's adapter. This can compensate for shifts due to tolerance and environmental effects and bring the image into focus.