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Fast Frame Rate CCD Scientific Cameras for Microscopy
Standard Camera Sensor
Standard Camera Sensor
340M-GE Scientific CCD Camera Mounted on a Thorlabs Cerna® Series Microscope
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The Fast Frame Rate Scientific-Grade Camera can be used for Ca2+ ratiometric studies of intracellular dynamics.
Thorlabs' Fast Frame Rate Scientific CCD Cameras (US Patent 9,380,241 B2), which offer up to 200.7 frames per second at 40 MHz dual-tap readout of the full sensor with 640 x 480 pixel (VGA) resolution, are specifically designed for microscopy and other demanding scientific applications. These monochrome cameras are ideal for fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry applications.
Sensors for Visible or UV Applications
We offer two versions of our fast frame rate camera. Our standard sensor is designed for visible applications and has a peak quantum efficiency (QE) of 55% at 500 nm. The UV version of the camera, which has a peak QE of 10% at 485 nm, features a sensor with a quartz faceplate in order to permit higher transmission of UV light and enable applications at UV wavelengths. Please see the Specs tab for plots of the QE for both sensors.
Industry-Standard USB 3.0 or Gigabit Ethernet Interfaces
Thorlabs' scientific cameras are offered with a choice of USB 3.0 or Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) interface. GigE is ideal for situations where the camera must be far from the PC or there are multiple cameras that need to be controlled by the same PC. The GigE cameras are provided with a GigE frame grabber card and cables. Since USB 3.0 is supported by most computers, the USB cameras do not come with a card; however, one is available separately below. A power supply and software are supplied with all cameras. More information on what's included is on the Shipping List tab. Your computer must have a free PCI Express slot to install the GigE interface. For more information on the three interface options and recommended computer specifications, please see the Interface tab.
We offer our fast frame rate cameras in our standard, non-cooled package. Since these cameras are designed for high frame rates and short exposures, cooling the sensor is not required. For applications with low light levels and exposures longer than 1 second, we recommend our 1.4 Megapixel, 4 Megapixel or 8 Megapixel scientific-grade CCD cameras.
Our cameras have triggering options that enable custom timing and system control; for more details, please see the Triggering tab. External triggering requires a connection to the auxiliary port of the camera. Accessory cables and boards to "break out" the individual signals are available below.
Our 340M-GE camera comes with a user-removable IR filter; for details on the transmission please see the Specs tab. If the filter is removed, it can be replaced with a user-supplied Ø1" (Ø25 mm) filter or another optic up to 4 mm thick.
The cameras feature standard C-Mount (1.000"-32) threading, and Thorlabs provides a full line of thread-to-thread adapters for compatibility with other thread standards, including the SM1 (1.035"-40) threading used on our Ø1" Lens Tubes. The front face also has 4-40 tapped holes for compatibility with our 60 mm Cage System. Four 1/4"-20 tapped holes, one on each side of the housing, are compatible with our Ø1" posts. These flexible mounting options make Thorlabs' scientific cameras the ideal choice for integrating into home-built imaging systems as well as those based on commercial microscopes.
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Click for Raw Data for Standard Cameras
Click for Raw Data for UV-Enhanced Cameras
This curve shows the quantum efficiency of the camera sensor. The UV camera has a sensor with a quartz faceplate and no microlens array, which leads to increased sensitivity at UV wavelengths at the expense of performance in the visible. No filter is provided with our UV enhanced cameras; standard cameras include the IR blocking filter with the transmission shown to the right.
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Click for Raw Data
The IR blocking filter (Thorlabs' Item # FESH0700) is only provided on the 340M series cameras. It can be removed from the camera; instructions are provided in the manual. If the filter is removed, it can be replaced with a user-supplied Ø1" (Ø25 mm) filter or another optic up to 4 mm thick.
Thorlabs' Scientific-Grade CCD Cameras are ideal for a variety of applications. The photo gallery below contains images acquired with our 1.4 megapixel, 4 megapixel, 8 megapixel, and fast frame rate cameras.
To download some of these images as high-resolution, 16-bit TIFF files, please click here. It may be necessary to use an alternative image viewer to view the 16-bit files. We recommend ImageJ, which is a free download.
The video to the right is an example of a multispectral image acquisition using a liquid crystal tunable filter (LCTF) in front of a monochrome camera. With a sample slide exposed to broadband light, the LCTF passes narrow bands of light that are transmitted from the sample. The monochromatic images are captured using a monochrome scientific camera, resulting in a datacube – a stack of spectrally separated two-dimensional images which can be used for quantitative analysis, such as finding ratios or thresholds and spectral unmixing.
In the example shown, a mature capsella bursa-pastoris embryo, also known as Shepherd's-Purse, is rapidly scanned across the 420 nm - 730 nm wavelength range using Thorlabs' KURIOS-WB1 Liquid Crystal Tunable Filter. The images are captured using our 1501M-GE Scientific Camera, which is connected, with the liquid crystal filter, to a Cerna® Series Microscope. The overall system magnification is 10X. The final stacked/recovered image is shown below.
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Final Stacked/Recovered Image
Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot within a blood vessel that will impede the flow of blood in the circulatory system. The videos below are from experimental studies on the large-vessel thrombosis in Mice performed by Dr. Brian Cooley at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Three lasers (532 nm, 594 nm, and 650 nm) were expanded and then focused on a microsurgical field of an exposed surgical site in an anesthenized mouse. A custom 1.4 Megapixel Camera with integrated filter wheel were attached to a Leica Microscope to capture the low-light fluorescence emitted from the surgical site. See the videos below with their associated descriptions for further infromation.
In the video above, a gentle 30-second electrolytic injury is generated on the surface of a carotid artery in an atherogenic mouse (ApoE-null on a high-fat, “Western” diet), using a 100-micron-diameter iron wire (creating a free-radical injury). The site (arrowhead) and the vessel are imaged by time-lapse fluorescence-capture, low-light camera over 60 minutes (timer is shown in upper left corner – hours:minutes:seconds). Platelets were labeled with a green fluorophore (rhodamine 6G) and anti-fibrin antibodies with a red fluorophore (Alexa-647) and injected prior to electrolytic injury to identify the development of platelets and fibrin in the developing thrombus. Flow is from left to right; the artery is approximately 500 microns in diameter (bar at lower right, 350 microns).
Reference: Cooley BC. In vivo fluorescence imaging of large-vessel thrombosis in mice. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 31, 1351-1356, 2011. All animal studies were done under protocols approved by the Medical College of Wisconsin Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
Camera Back Panel Connector Locations
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340M-USB and 340UV-USB Back Panel Layout
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340M-GE and 340UV-GE Back Panel Layout
TSI-IOBOB and TSI-IOBOB2 Break-Out Board Connector Locations
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The cameras and the break-out boards both feature female connectors; the 8 megapixel cameras have 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.
ThorCam is a powerful image acquisition software package that is designed for use with our cameras on 32- and 64-bit Windows® 7 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#, Python, and Visual Basic .NET. Support for third-party software packages, such as LabVIEW, MATLAB, and µManager* is available. We also offer example Arduino code for integration with our TSI-IOBOB2 Interconnect Break-Out Board.
*µManager control of Zelux and 1.3 MP Kiralux cameras is not currently supported. When controlling the Kiralux Polarization-Sensitive Camera using µManager, only intensity images can be taken; the ThorCam software is required to produce images with polarization information.
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 showing some of the analysis and annotation features. The Tally function was used to mark four locations in the image. A blue crosshair target is enabled and locked to the center of the image to provide a point of reference.
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.
USB 3.0 Contents Example
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Item # Shown: 340M-USB
In Addition to the Camera, Each USB3.0 Item Includes the following:
Gigabit Ethernet Contents Example
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Item # Shown: 340M-GE
In Addition to the Camera, Each GigE Item Includes the following:
Thorlabs offers two interface options across our scientific camera product line: USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet (GigE). Once other camera decisions, such as field of view and frame rates, have been made, for many of our camera types it is necessary to choose one of these interfaces. It is important to confirm that the computer system meets or exceeds the recommended requirements listed to the right; otherwise, dropped frames may result, particularly when streaming camera images directly to storage media.
USB 3.0 is a standard interface available on most new PCs, which means that typically no additional hardware is required, and therefore these cameras are not sold with any computer hardware. For users with PCs that do not have a USB 3.0 port, a PCIe card is sold separately below. USB 3.0 supports a speed up to 320 MB/s and cable lengths up to 3 m. Support for multiple cameras is possible using multiple USB 3.0 ports on the PC or a USB 3.0 hub.
GigE is ideal for situations requiring longer cable lengths, as well as for systems that require using multiple cameras with one computer. GigE supports a speed up to 100 MB/s and cable lengths up to 100 m. It also uses fairly inexpensive cables, but does require the use of a computer with a GigE card installed. Support for multiple cameras is easily achieved using a Gigabit Ethernet switch. However, the GigE card supplied with the camera is recognized as a public connection to the network; institutions with strict policies only allow registered devices and trusted connections. For any questions regarding using our GigE card at your institution, please contact your IT department.
Scientific Camera Interface Summary
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., 20 or 40 MHz; 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.
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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.
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 "HW Trigger Polarity" box (highlighted in red in Figure 4).
Example Camera Triggering Configuration using Scientific Camera Accessories
Figure 5: A schematic showing a system using the TSI-IOBOB2 to facilitate system integration and control.
As an example of how camera triggering can be integrated into system control is shown in Figure 5. 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.
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.
Thorlabs offers four families of scientific cameras: Zelux™, Kiralux®, Quantalux®, and Scientific CCD. Zelux cameras are designed for general-purpose imaging and provide high imaging performance while maintaining a small footprint. Kiralux cameras have CMOS sensors in monochrome, color, NIR-enhanced, or polarization-sensitive versions and are available in compact, passively cooled housings; the CC505MU camera incorporates a hermetically sealed, TE-cooled housing. The polarization-sensitive Kiralux camera incorporates an integrated micropolarizer array that, when used with our ThorCam™ software package, captures images that illustrate degree of linear polarization, azimuth, and intensity at the pixel level. Our Quantalux monochrome sCMOS cameras feature high dynamic range combined with extremely low read noise for low-light applications. They are available in either a compact, passively cooled housing or a hermetically sealed, TE-cooled housing. We also offer scientific CCD cameras with a variety of features, including versions optimized for operation at UV, visible, or NIR wavelengths; fast-frame-rate cameras; TE-cooled or non-cooled housings; and versions with the sensor face plate removed. The tables below provide a summary of our camera offerings.
Please note that On Semiconductor has announced that the CCD sensors used in Thorlabs Scientific CCD cameras will be discontinued in June 2020. Thorlabs will continue to manufacture these cameras into 2021. While these sensors are still widely available, we do not recommend these devices for new designs. Please see our expanding line of compact sCMOS and CMOS cameras for alternatives or contact our Scientific Cameras Team for help finding the best option for your application.
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A schematic showing a TSI-IOBOB2 connected to an Arduino in a custom camera system.
These optional accessories allow for easy use of the auxiliary port of our scientific CCD, CMOS, and Quantalux™ sCMOS 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)
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)
A USB 3.0 PCIe card is also provided for computers that do not offer USB 3.0 connectors with an integrated Intel USB 3.0 controller. However, since most newer computers offer several USB 3.0 connections, a USB 3.0 PCIe card is not included with the purchase of a USB 3.0 camera. The card has two type A USB 3.0 ports.
*The 8050-CAB1 is not compatible with our former-generation 1500M series cameras.