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Camera Basics


Camera Basics


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Table Of Contents

Sensor Properties

  • Quantum Efficiency and Spectral Sensitivity
  • Camera Noise and Sensor Temperature
  • Camera Readout

Optical System

  • Field of View
  • Resolution
  • Vignetting

System Integration

  • Camera Interfaces
  • Triggered Operation

Applications

An Introduction to Camera Terminology and Options

This page is designed to introduce terminology that is useful when choosing a scientific camera. It is split into four sections. Sensor Properties and Optical System discuss the various specifications and terms used to describe scientific cameras. These tabs explain how to use the specifications to choose the correct camera for your experiment, and also provide example calculations for our scientific camera product line. System Integration details features that allow Thorlabs' scientific cameras to be integrated with other laboratory instrumentation. Finally, Applications contains sample images and discussions of research enabled by our scientific cameras.

Browse Scientific Cameras
Scientific Camera Catalog PDF
Scientific Camera Capabilities
Contact TSI

If you have any questions about cameras, or would like to discuss a particular application, please click the Contact Us button. 

Sensor Properties

 

Quantum Efficiency and Spectral Sensitivity

A camera sensor, such as a CCD or CMOS, converts incident light into an electrical signal for processing. This process is not perfect; for every photon that hits the sensor there will not necessarily be a corresponding electron produced by the sensor. Quantum Efficiency (QE) is the average probability that a photon will produce an electron, and it is expressed as a conversion percentage. A camera with a higher quantum efficiency imager will require fewer photons to produce a signal as compared to a camera with lower quantum efficiency imager.

Quantum efficiency is dependent on the properties of the material (e.g. silicon) upon which the imager is based. Since the wavelength response of the silicon is not uniform, QE is also a function of wavelength. QE plots are provided below so that the responsivity of different cameras can be compared at the wavelengths of the intended application. Note that the interline CCDs that are used in scientific cameras typically have a microlens array that spatially matches the pixel array. Photons that would otherwise land outside of the photosensitive pixel are redirected onto the pixel, maximizing the fill factor of the sensor. The QE plots in Figure 1 and the table below include the effects of the microlens arrays.

IR Blocking Filter
Various techniques can be used to either limit or enhance the sensitivity at various wavelength ranges. The response of a silicon detector extends into the Near Infrared (NIR) region; in most applications it is important for the response of the camera to closely approximate the human-eye response. For this reason, an IR blocking filter that blocks the signal above 700 nm is typically installed in front of the silicon detector; the transmission of the filter used in Thorlabs' scientific cameras is shown in Figure 2. In Thorlabs' scientific cameras, the IR blocking filter (if present) is removable to allow imaging in the NIR or UV region of the spectrum, or it can be replaced with a different filter to match the specific requirements of the user's application. The filter removal process is shown in Figures 3 through 5.

Quantum Efficiency
Click to Enlarge

Click for Raw Data
Figure 1: An example of a QE curve for our monochrome 1.4 megapixel cameras; the QE curves for all of our scientific cameras are in the table below. The NIR Enhanced (Boost) Mode is available on our 1.4 megapixel cameras and can be selected via the software. The IR blocking filter should also be removed for maximum NIR sensitivity. For more information on Boost mode, please see the Imaging in the NIR section below.
Quantum Efficiency
Click to Enlarge

Click for Raw Data
Figure 2: The IR blocking filter included with all of Thorlabs' scientific cameras except our UV-enhanced cameras. The filter can be removed; optionally it can be replaced with a user-supplied Ø1" (Ø25 mm) filter or another optic up to 4 mm thick. Removal instructions are provided in chapter 4 of the camera user's manual.


Click to Enlarge
Figure 3: Exploded view of a Thorlabs' scientific camera optical and mechanical components.
Scientific Camera Filter Replacement
Click to Enlarge

Figure 5: The lens cap functions as a tool that can loosen the retaining ring holding the IR blocking filter in place. The filter can be replaced with any user-supplied Ø1" (25 mm) filter or other optic up to 4 mm thick. Removal instructions are provided in chapter 4 of the camera user's manual.
Scientific Camera Filter Replacement
Click to Enlarge

Figure 4: The filter housing can be removed by completely unscrewing the C-mount adapter and lock nut with the wrench.

Imaging in the NIR
Our 1.4 megapixel monochrome cameras have a software-selectable NIR Enhanced (Boost) mode. While the response of silicon generally limits the use of CCD and CMOS cameras at longer wavelengths, a camera operating in Boost mode can have enough sensitivity up to the 900 - 1000 nm range to acquire usable images for many applications. These include applications such as NIR beam-profiling where the intensity of illumination is often quite bright; in other low-light NIR applications the low noise of the 1.4 megapixel sensor allows long exposures with sufficient signal-to-noise ratio (see below for more details on SNR).

Imaging in the UV
Our Fast Frame Rate Cameras are available in two versions: a standard sensor with peak QE of 55% at 500 nm and a UV-enhanced version with a peak QE of 10% at 485 nm. Since the glass microlens faceplate that is used on the CCD in the standard camera significantly attenuates UV light, it is replaced with a quartz faceplate in order to permit higher transmission of UV light in our UV-enhanced cameras.

Quantum Efficiency Summary

Camera Family Imager Type Peak Quantum Efficiency
(Monochrome Sensor)
Responsivity Plots
Monochrome Color
Compact Scientific Cameras
Quantalux® 2.1 MP sCMOS Camera Monochrome sCMOS 61% at 600 nm QE Graph
N/A
Kiralux™ 2.3 MP CMOS Cameras Monochrome or Color CMOS 78% at 500 nm QE Graph
Kiralux™ 5 MP CMOS Cameras Monochrome or Color CMOS 79% at 600 nm QE Graph
Kiralux™ 8.9 MP CMOS Cameras Monochrome or Color CMOS 71% at 600 nm QE Graph
Scientific CCD Cameras
1.4 MP CCD Camerasa Monochrome or Color CCD 60% at 500 nm QE Plot
4 MP CCD Cameras Monochrome or Color CCD 52% at 500 nm QE Plot
8 MP CCD Cameras Monochrome or Color CCD 51% at 460 nm QE Plot
200 FPS VGA CCD Cameras Standard Monochrome CCD 55% at 500 nm QE Plot N/A
UV-Enhanced Monochrome CCDb 10% at 485 nm QE Plot N/A
  • These cameras can be operated in a software-selectable NIR Enhanced (Boost) mode, which enhances the performance of the sensor as shown in the plot.
  • The UV-Enhanced cameras are not provided with an IR blocking filter.

 

More Information

For a detailed review of camera noise, SNR, and the effects of sensor temperature, including sample calculations, please see our complete tutorial.

Camera Noise Tutorial

Camera Noise and Sensor Temperature

When purchasing a camera, it is important to consider the intended application, and its "light budget." For bright light situations, it is sufficient to choose a camera that has an adequately high quantum efficiency and then consider other factors, such as sensor format, frame rate, and interface. For low light situations, it is important to consider quantum efficiency as well as read noise and dark current, as described below.

Sources of Noise

If several images are taken of the same object under the same illumination, there will still be variation in the signal recorded by each pixel. This "noise" in a camera image is the aggregate spatial and temporal variation in the measured signal, assuming constant, uniform illumination. There are several components of noise:

  • Dark Shot Noise (σD): Dark current is a current that flows even when no photons are incident on the camera. It is a thermal phenomenon resulting from electrons spontaneously generated within the silicon chip (valence electrons are thermally excited into the conduction band). The variation in the amount of dark electrons collected during the exposure is the dark shot noise. It is independent of the incident light level but is dependent on the temperature of the sensor. Since the dark current decreases with decreasing temperature, the associated dark shot noise can be decreased by cooling the camera.
  • Read Noise (σR): This is the noise generated in producing the electronic signal, mainly due to errors in measuring the electrons at the read amplifier. This results from the sensor design but can also be impacted by the design of the camera electronics as well as the gain setting. It is independent of signal level and temperature of the sensor, and is larger for faster CCD pixel clock rates.
  • Photon Shot Noise (σS): This is the statistical noise associated with the arrival of photons at the pixel. Since photon measurement obeys Poisson statistics, the photon shot noise is dependent on the signal level measured. It is independent of sensor temperature. If the photon shot noise is significantly higher than the dark shot noise, then cooling provides a negligible benefit in terms of the noise.
  • Fixed Pattern Noise (σF): This is caused by spatial non-uniformities in efficiency of the pixels and is independent of signal level and temperature of the sensor. Note that fixed pattern noise will be ignored in the discussion below; this is a valid assumption for our scientific CCD cameras but may need to be included for other non-scientific-grade sensors.

Image quality (as represented by the Signal-to-Noise [SNR] ratio) is the ratio of:

  • The number of signal electrons, which may be estimated to be the product of:
    • The light level, represented by the photon flux in photons/sec,
    • The duration of exposure (seconds),
    • And the Quantum Efficiency (QE).
  • To the number of noise electrons, which may be estimated to be the quadrature sum of:
    • The photon shot noise,
    • The read noise,
    • And the dark shot noise.

Photon-derived signal electrons cannot be distinguished from the noise electrons that are generated during image formation, readout, and digitization. SNR is a convenient "figure of merit" to evaluate how well the signal electrons overcome the noise electrons in the system under a particular set of conditions. It provides a way to quantitatively compare the images, because a higher SNR usually correlates with an observable improvement in image quality. Complete details on calculating SNR can be found in the Camera Noise Tutorial.

Exposure Camera Recommendation
<1 s Standard Non-Cooled Camera Generally Sufficient
1 s to 5 s Cooled Camera Could Be Helpful
5 s to 10 s Cooled Camera Recommended
>10 s Cooled Camera Usually Required

The general "rule of thumb" recommendations related to cooling considerations based on the exposure requirements of an application. Please keep in mind that some applications are more sensitive to noise than others.

Bright Light Imaging
Bright light conditions are considered "shot-noise limited," which means that photon shot noise is the dominant source of noise and dark current is negligible. Due to this, the SNR is proportional to the square root of the signal, as shown in the complete tutorial, and therefore increasing the exposure will not have as large an effect on image quality. In this case, one can use any sensor with sufficiently high QE. Other considerations such as imager size, package size, cost, interface, shutter, trigger, accessories, and software may be more significant to the selection process. TE cooling is usually not required because the exposure duration is short enough to ensure that dark shot noise is minimal.

Low Light Imaging
Low light conditions may be considered "read noise limited," which means that photon-generated electrons have to overcome the read noise in the sensor, all other sources of sensor noise being negligible under these conditions. In this case, the signal-to-noise ratio will have a linear relationship with the exposure duration, and therefore low-light images taken with longer exposures will look noticeably better. However, not all applications can tolerate long exposures; for example, if there are rapid changes of intensity or motion in the field of view. For low light images, it helps to have an imager with low read noise, high QE, and low dark current. It is for these reasons we recommend our Scientific CCD or sCMOS Cameras for low light applications. TE cooling can be beneficial when the duration of exposure exceeds approximately 3 to 5 seconds.

Other Considerations
Thermoelectric cooling should also be considered for long exposures even where the dark shot noise is not a significant contributor to total noise because cooling also helps to reduce the effects of hot pixels. Hot pixels cause a "star field" pattern that appears under long exposures. Sample images taken under conditions of no light, high gain, and long exposure can be viewed in the tutorial.

 

Camera Readout Diagram
Click to Enlarge

Figure 6: Schematic showing the process for charge transfer and readout of an interline CCD.

This animation details how charge is accumulated on the pixels of an interline CCD, how those charges are shifted and then read out as the next exposure begins.

CCD Camera Readout

Our scientific CCD cameras are based on interline CCD sensors. This sensor architecture and readout is illustrated in Figure 6 as well as the animation to the lower right. An interline CCD may be visualized as a device that develops a 2D matrix of electronic charges on a horizontal and vertical (H x V) pixel array. Each pixel accumulates a charge that is proportional to the number of incident photons during an exposure period. After the exposure period, each element of the charge matrix is laterally shifted into an adjacent element that is shielded from light. Stored charges are clocked, or moved, vertically row-by-row into a horizontal shift register. Once a row of charges is loaded onto the horizontal shift register, charges are serially clocked out of the device and converted into voltages for the creation of an analog and/or digital display. An advantage of this architecture is that once the charges are shifted into the masked columns, the next exposure can immediately begin on the photosensitive pixels.

ThorCam, our camera control and image acquisition software, allows users to switch freely between combinations of readout parameters (clock rate, number of taps, binning, and region of interest) and select the combination that works best for the particular application. These readout options are described in the following sections.

Readout Clock Rate
In Figure 6 a simplified CCD pixel array is shown as a 3 x 5 grid. The simplified horizontal readout register is therefore 1 x 5. The triangle at the end of the horizontal shift register represents the "sense node" where charges are converted into voltages and then digitized using an analog-to-digital converter. The physics of the device limit the rate at which image frames can be "read out" by the camera.

Our scientific cameras operate at 20 or 40 MHz readout, which is the rate at which the pixels are clocked off of the shift register. The readout rate determines the maximum frame rate of the camera. Going from 20 MHz to 40 MHz will nominally double the frame rate of the camera, at the expense of slightly higher read noise, assuming all other parameters remain the same. There will be slightly higher read noise associated with the 40 MHz readout, but if there is plenty of light in the field of view, then the image is shot-noise limited, not read-noise limited. In shot-noise limited cases the 40 MHz readout mode results in a speed increase without any penalty.

Multi-Tap Operation
One way to further increase the frame rate is to divide the CCD into sections, each with it's own output "tap," or channel. These taps can be read out independently and simultaneously, decreasing the total time it takes to read out the pixels, and thus increasing the total frame rate. Many of the chips used in our cameras can be operated as single-tap (illustrated in the animation), dual-tap (shown in Figure 7), or quad-tap (shown in Figure 8) operation.

Single Tap Readout
Figure 6 and the animation to the right show the horizontal readout register at the bottom of the CCD. Horizontal clocking of charges out of the horizontal register at a sense node, followed by charge to voltage conversion using an analog-to-digital converter are rate-limiting steps, and thus limit the maximum frame rate of the camera.

In conventional (single tap) readout mode, each row of charges is loaded onto the horizontal register and clocked out towards the sense node, at a rate determined by the readout clock rate of 20 or 40 MHz.

Dual Tap Readout
As shown in Figure 7 the sensor (and the horizontal shift register) has been split in two and there are two sense nodes, one on either end of the shift register. During readout, each row of charges is loaded onto the horizontal register (just as in the conventional single tap case). However, half of the pixels in each row are clocked out towards the left and the other half are clocked out towards the right towards the sense nodes and their respective analog-to-digital converters. This allows the charges to be clocked out in half the time of the single tap mode. The image halves are digitally reconstructed, so that the viewer sees a normal image, reconstituted from the two half images. Since the charges go through two different sense nodes and analog-to-digital converters there can be a slight mismatch between the two halves; this can be dependent on the image content and camera exposure, gain, and black level settings. Although there are methods implemented to mitigate the effect of this mismatch over a wide operating range, there can be a vertical "seam" that is discernable in the center of the image.

Quad Tap Readout
As shown in Figure 8, the sensor has been split in four quadrants; there are now two horizontal shift registers, one at the top and one at the bottom of the chip. The vertical charge transfer is split with the top half of rows shifted upwards and the lower half of rows shifted downwards. During readout, each row of charges is loaded onto the horizontal registers, each of which has a sense node and A/D converter at each end. As in the case of dual-tap readout, half of each row of pixels are clocked out towards their sense node and onto their respective analog-to-digital converter. This allows the charges to be clocked out in a quarter of the time of single-tap mode. The image quarters are digitally reconstructed, so that the user sees a normal image reconstituted from the four quarter images. Since the charges go through four different sense nodes and analog-to-digital converters there can be a slight mismatch between the four quarters. The mismatch can be dependent on the image content and camera exposure, gain, and black level settings. Although there are methods implemented to mitigate the effect of this mismatch over a wide operating range, there can be vertical and horizontal "seams" that are discernable in the center of the image.

The summary table below the figures details the number of taps for USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and Camera Link models for each camera family. Each camera family webpage has a table with the maximum frame rate specifications for each readout rate and tap combination. The number of taps is user-selectable in the ThorCam software settings.

Dual-Tap Camera Operation
Click to Enlarge

Figure 7: Dual-Tap Camera Illustration
Quad-Tap Camera Operation
Click to Enlarge

Figure 8: Quad-Tap Camera Illustration

Multi-Tap Readout Operation Summary

Camera Family Available Taps with Gigabit Ethernet Cameras Available Taps with USB 3.0 and Camera Link Cameras
1.4 MP Scientific CCD Cameras Single Tap Only Single Tap Only
4 MP Scientific CCD Cameras Single or Dual Tap Single, Dual, or Quad Tap
8 MP Scientific CCD Cameras Single or Dual Tap Single, Dual, or Quad Tap
200 FPS VGA Scientific CCD Cameras Single or Dual Tap Single or Dual Tap

Region of Interest (ROI)
In sub-region readout, which is also known as Region of Interest (ROI) mode, the camera reads out only a subset of rows selected by the user and achieves a higher effective frame rate. In the ThorCam application software, this area is selected by drawing an arbitrary rectangular region on the display window. The unwanted rows above and below the ROI are fast-scanned and are not clocked out, while the desired rows are clocked out normally. Unwanted columns are trimmed in the software. While the spatial resolution of the image is maintained, the field of view is reduced.

Since changing the ROI affects the number of CCD rows read out (not columns), only the vertical ROI dimension affects the frame rate; changing the horizontal ROI dimension will have no effect on the frame rate. The resulting frame rate is not a linear function of the ROI size since there is some additional time involved to fast-scan the unwanted rows as well as to read out the desired ROI.

Binning
In Binning mode, a user-selectable number of adjacent horizontal and vertical pixels on the CCD are effectively read out as a single pixel. Increasing the binning reduces the spatial resolution but increases the sensitivity and frame rate of the camera as well as the signal-to-noise ratio of the resulting image. While the speed, sensitivity, and SNR are improved, the spatial resolution of the image is reduced.

Binning and ROI modes can be combined to optimize readout and frame rate for the particular application.

Optical System

 

Camera Sensor Format Comparison
Figure 9: An illustration of various camera format sizes, referenced to a Full 35 mm Frame. Please note that the sizes and aspect ratios shown are approximate and can vary for specific sensors.

Imager Size and Field of View

In the following discussion, we will focus on calculating the field of view for an imaging system built using microscope objectives; for information about field of view when using machine vision camera lenses please see our Camera Lens Tutorial.

In a microscope system, it is important to know how the size of the camera sensor will affect the area of your sample that you are able to image at a given time. This is known as the imaging system's field of view. It is calculated by taking the sensor's dimensions in millimeters and dividing it by the imaging system's magnification. As an example, our 8 MP CCD sensor has an 18.13 mm x 13.60 mm array; at a 40X magnification, this corresponds to a 457 µm x 340 µm total area at the sample plane.

Choosing the imager size must also be balanced against the other parameters of the sensor. Generally, as sensor size increases, the maximum frame rate decreases.

Camera sensor sizes are given in terms of "format." The format designations are expressed in fractional inches, and represent the outer diameter of the video tube that has an imaging diagonal closest to the diagonal of the digital sensor chip. These sizes are not completely standardized, and therefore some variation exists between the exact sizes, and occasionally even aspect ratios, with the same format from different manufacturers. Figure 9 shows the approximate sensor size for several formats scaled to the standard 35 mm film frame.

The summary table below lists the format and sensor size for all of our scientific cameras in pixels and millimeters.

Imager Size Summary

Camera Family Format (Diagonal) Resolution Pixel Size Size
Fast VGA CCD 1/3" (5.92 mm) 640 x 480 7.4 µm x 7.4 µm 4.74 mm x 3.55 mm
1.4 MP CCD 2/3" (11 mm) 1392 x 1040 6.45 µm x 6.45 µm 8.98 mm x 6.71 mm
Quantalux® 2.1 MP sCMOS 2/3" (11 mm) 1920 x 1080 5.04 µm x 5.04 µm 9.68 mm x 5.44 mm
Kiralux™ 5 MP CMOS 2/3" (11 mm) 2448 x 2048 3.45 µm x 3.45 µm 8.45 mm x 7.07 mm
Kiralux™ 2.3 MP CMOS 1/1.2" (13.4 mm) 1920 x 1200 5.86 µm x 5.86 µm 11.25 mm x 7.03 mm
Kiralux™ 8.9 MP CMOS 1" (16 mm) 4096 x 2160 3.45 µm x 3.45 µm 14.13 mm x 7.45 mm
4 MP CCD 4/3" (21.4 mm) 2048 x 2048 7.4 µm x 7.4 µm 15.16 mm x 15.16 mm
8 MP CCD 4/3" (22 mm) 3296 x 2472 5.5 µm x 5.5 µm 18.13 mm x 13.60 mm

 

Resolution

It is a common misconception to refer to the number of pixels (H x V) as the resolution of a camera. More accurately, the resolution is the optical resolution: the ability to resolve small features. In the following discussion, we will focus on imaging systems which use microscope objectives; for information about building a system with machine vision camera lenses please see our Camera Lens Tutorial.

Calculating the Resolution of an Imaging System
In an imaging system, there is a finite limit to how close objects can be in order to be distinguished. Within an imaging system designed to limit aberrations, such as a high-quality microscope, the only limit on the resolution will be due to diffraction. The image at the focal plane can be thought of a collection of independent, overlapping diffraction patterns from each point on an object. Two adjacent points can be thought of as resolved when the central maximum, or Airy disk, of one diffraction pattern is in the first minimum of another. This condition is known as the Rayleigh Criterion, and can be expressed as:

R=1.22λ/(2NA),

where R is the distance between the two Airy disks, λ is the wavelength of light, and NA is the numerical aperture of the microscope's objective. For example, with a 0.75 NA objective, the resolution for 550 nm light will be (1.22*550 nm)/(2*0.75) = 0.45 µm.

Determining Necessary Camera Pixel Size
The microscope objective will also have a magnification; this value indicates the amount of enlargement of the sample at the image plane. For example, a 2X objective will form an image that is twice the size of the object. If you are using a 0.75 NA, 40X objective, the resolution limit at the sample for 550 nm light will be 0.45 µm (as calculated above). A feature with a length of 0.45 µm in the sample will be magnified by a factor of 40 in the image, so that the feature at the image plane will be 17.9 µm long.

In order to accurately represent the image on the discrete imaging array of the CCD or CMOS camera, it is necessary to apply the Nyquist criterion, which states that the smallest resolvable feature of the image needs to be sampled by the sensor at twice this rate; put another way, there needs to be (at least) two pixels to capture each optically resolvable feature. In the 0.75 NA, 40X objective example, this means that the pixel size needs to be less than or equal to 8.9 µm so that there are at least two pixels to accurately render the image of the smallest resolvable feature.

In the last example, the imaging optics were the limiting factor to the resolution of the imaging system; however, with some objectives, particularly those with lower magnification values, the smallest feature resolvable by the objective may be too small to be imaged by the camera. For example, with a 4X, 0.13 NA objective, the smallest feature resolvable by the objective at 550 nm is 2.58 µm long, which requires a camera pixel size of 5.2 µm. Since the smallest pixel size of our cameras is 5.5 µm, the camera is the limiting factor in this imaging system; the smallest sample feature that can be imaged is 3.7 µm.

The tables below give an overview of the minimum resolvable feature size for various objectives at 550 nm, and indicates which of our cameras can image that feature.

Compact Scientific Cameras Resolution
Objectivea Smallest
Resolvable
Feature Size
@ λ=550 nm
Smallest
Feature
Projected
on Image
Plane
Nyquist-Limited
Pixel Size
Quantalux® 2.1 MP
sCMOS Camera
(Monochrome,
1920 x 1080
5.04 µm Square Pixels)
Kiralux™ 2.3 MP
CMOS Cameras
(Monochrome or Color,
1920 x 1200
5.86 µm Square Pixels)
Kiralux™ 5 MP
CMOS Cameras
(Monochrome or Color,
2448 x 2048
3.45 µm Square Pixels)
Kiralux™ 8.9 MP
CMOS Cameras
(Monochrome or Color,
4096 x 2160
3.45 µm Square Pixels)
Item # Mag. NA Meets
Nyquistb
Sample FOV
(H x V) (mm)
Meets
Nyquistb
Sample FOV
(H x V) (mm)
Meets
Nyquistb
Sample FOV
(H x V) (mm)
Meets
Nyquistb
Sample FOV
(H x V) (mm)
TL2X-SAP 2X 0.10 3.36 µm 6.71 µm 3.36 µm - 4.84 x 2.72 - 5.67 x 3.56 - 4.25 x 3.55 - 7.09 x 3.75
RMS4X 4X 0.10 3.36 µm 13.4 µm 6.7 µm Yes 2.42 x 1.36 Yes 2.84 x 1.78 Yes 2.13 x 1.77 Yes 3.55 x 1.88
RMS4X-PF
N4X-PF
4X 0.13 2.58 µm 10.3 µm 5.2 µm Yes 2.42 x 1.36 - 2.84 x 1.78 Yes 2.13 x 1.77 Yes 3.55 x 1.88
TL4X-SAP 4X 0.20 1.68 µm 6.72 µm 3.36 µm - 2.42 x 1.36 - 2.84 x 1.78 Yes 2.13 x 1.77 Yes 3.55 x 1.88
RMS10X 10X 0.25 1.34 µm 13.4 µm 6.7 µm Yes 0.97 x 0.54 Yes 1.13 x 0.71 Yes 0.85 x 0.71 Yes 1.42 x 0.75
RMS10X-PF
N10X-PF
10X 0.30 1.12 µm 11.2 µm 5.6 µm Yes 0.97 x 0.54 Yes 1.13 x 0.71 Yes 0.85 x 0.71 Yes 1.42 x 0.75
RMS20X 20X 0.40 0.84 µm 16.8 µm 8.4 µm Yes 0.48 x 0.27 Yes 0.57 x 0.36 Yes 0.43 x 0.35 Yes 0.71 x 0.38
RMS20X-PF
N20X-PF
20X 0.50 0.67 µm 13.4 µm 6.7 µm Yes 0.48 x 0.27 Yes 0.57 x 0.36 Yes 0.43 x 0.35 Yes 0.71 x 0.38
RMS40X 40X 0.65 0.52 µm 20.7 µm 10.3 µm Yes 0.24 x 0.14 Yes 0.28 x 0.18 Yes 0.21 x 0.18 Yes 0.35 x 0.19
RMS40X-PF
N40X-PF
40X 0.75 0.45 µm 17.9 µm 8.9 µm Yes 0.24 x 0.14 Yes 0.28 x 0.18 Yes 0.21 x 0.18 Yes 0.35 x 0.19
RMS40X-PFO 40X 1.30 0.26 µm 10.3 µm 5.2 µm Yes 0.24 x 0.14 - 0.28 x 0.18 Yes 0.21 x 0.18 Yes 0.35 x 0.19
N60X-PF 60X 0.85 0.39 µm 23.7 µm 11.8 µm Yes 0.16 x 0.09 Yes 0.19 x 0.12 Yes 0.14 x 0.12 Yes 0.24 x 0.13
RMS60X-PFC 60X 0.90 0.37 µm 22.4 µm 11.2 µm Yes 0.16 x 0.09 Yes 0.19 x 0.12 Yes 0.14 x 0.12 Yes 0.24 x 0.13
RMS60X-PFOD 60X 1.25 0.27 µm 16.1 µm 8.1 µm Yes 0.16 x 0.09 Yes 0.19 x 0.12 Yes 0.14 x 0.12 Yes 0.24 x 0.13
N100X-PFO 100X 1.30 0.26 µm 25.8 µm 12.9 µm Yes 0.10 x 0.05 Yes 0.11 x 0.07 Yes 0.09 x 0.07 Yes 0.14 x 0.08
RMS100X-O 100X 1.25 0.27 µm 26.8 µm 13.4 µm Yes 0.10 x 0.05 Yes 0.11 x 0.07 Yes 0.09 x 0.07 Yes 0.14 x 0.08
Scientific CCD Cameras Resolution
Objectivea Smallest
Resolvable
Feature Size
@ λ=550 nm
Smallest
Feature
Projected
on Image
Plane
Nyquist-Limited
Pixel Size
1.4 MP CCD Cameras
(Monochrome or Color,
1392 x 1040
6.45 µm Square Pixels)
4 MP CCD Cameras
(Monochrome or Color,
2048 x 2048
7.4 µm Square Pixels)
8 MP CCD Cameras
(Monochrome or Color,
3296 x 2472
5.5 µm Square Pixels)
Fast Frame Rate
VGA CCD Cameras
(Monochrome, 640 x 480
7.4 µm Square Pixels)
Item # Mag. NA Meets
Nyquistb
Sample FOV
(H x V) (mm)
Meets
Nyquistb
Sample FOV
(H x V) (mm)
Meets
Nyquistb
Sample FOV
(H x V) (mm)
Meets
Nyquistb
Sample FOV
(H x V) (mm)
TL2X-SAP 2X 0.10 3.36 µm 6.71 µm 3.36 µm - 4.49 x 3.35 - 7.58 x 7.58 - 9.01 x 6.80 - 2.37 x 1.78
RMS4X 4X 0.10 3.36 µm 13.4 µm 6.7 µm Yes 2.24 x 1.68 - 3.79 x 3.79 Yes 4.50 x 3.40 - 1.18 x 0.89
RMS4X-PF
N4X-PF
4X 0.13 2.58 µm 10.3 µm 5.2 µm - 2.24 x 1.68 - 3.79 x 3.79 - 4.50 x 3.40 - 1.18 x 0.89
TL4X-SAP 4X 0.20 1.68 µm 6.72 µm 3.36 µm - 2.24 x 1.68 - 3.79 x 3.79 - 4.50 x 3.40 - 1.18 x 0.89
RMS10X 10X 0.25 1.34 µm 13.4 µm 6.7 µm Yes 0.90 x 0.67 - 1.52 x 1.52 Yes 1.80 x 1.36 - 0.47 x 0.36
RMS10X-PF
N10X-PF
10X 0.30 1.12 µm 11.2 µm 5.6 µm - 0.90 x 0.67 - 1.52 x 1.52 yes 1.80 x 1.36 - 0.47 x 0.36
RMS20X 20X 0.40 0.84 µm 16.8 µm 8.4 µm Yes 0.45 x 0.34 Yes 0.76 x 0.76 Yes 0.91 x 0.68 Yes 0.24 x 0.18
RMS20X-PF
N20X-PF
20X 0.50 0.67 µm 13.4 µm 6.7 µm Yes 0.45 x 0.34 - 0.76 x 0.76 Yes 0.91 x 0.68 - 0.24 x 0.18
RMS40X 40X 0.65 0.52 µm 20.7 µm 10.3 µm Yes 0.22 x 0.17 Yes 0.38 x 0.38 Yes 0.45 x 0.34 Yes 0.12 x 0.09
RMS40X-PF
N40X-PF
40X 0.75 0.45 µm 17.9 µm 8.9 µm Yes 0.22 x 0.17 Yes 0.38 x 0.38 Yes 0.45 x 0.34 Yes 0.12 x 0.09
RMS40X-PFO 40X 1.30 0.26 µm 10.3 µm 5.2 µm - 0.22 x 0.17 - 0.38 x 0.38 - 0.45 x 0.34 - 0.12 x 0.09
N60X-PF 60X 0.85 0.39 µm 23.7 µm 11.8 µm Yes 0.15 x 0.11 Yes 0.25 x 0.25 Yes 0.30 x 0.23 Yes 0.08 x 0.06
RMS60X-PFC 60X 0.90 0.37 µm 22.4 µm 11.2 µm Yes 0.15 x 0.11 Yes 0.25 x 0.25 Yes 0.30 x 0.23 Yes 0.08 x 0.06
RMS60X-PFOD 60X 1.25 0.27 µm 16.1 µm 8.1 µm Yes 0.15 x 0.11 Yes 0.25 x 0.25 Yes 0.30 x 0.23 Yes 0.08 x 0.06
N100X-PFO 100X 1.30 0.26 µm 25.8 µm 12.9 µm Yes 0.09 x 0.07 Yes 0.15 x 0.15 Yes 0.18 x 0.14 Yes 0.05 x 0.04
RMS100X-O 100X 1.25 0.27 µm 26.8 µm 13.4 µm Yes 0.09 x 0.07 Yes 0.15 x 0.15 Yes 0.18 x 0.14 Yes 0.05 x 0.04
  • The objective magnification given assumes the use of a tube lens with the design focal length. For more details, please see Effects of Tube Lenses below.
  • "Yes" indicates that the resolution will be limited by the objective. "-" indicates that the combination can be used, but the resolution will be camera limited.
Minimum Resolvable Feature
Click to Enlarge

Figure 10: A plot showing the minimum resolvable sample feature as a function of wavelength for several objective numerical apertures (solid lines). Also plotted are minimum resolvable sample features for several of our cameras (dotted lines), plotted for 60X as an example. For more details, please see the text.

Resolution and Wavelength
Resolution is proportional to wavelength, and therefore it is important to consider the effects your imaging wavelength will have on resolution as it pertains to a particular imaging system. Figure 10 is a plot of projected image size versus wavelength for several objective numerical apertures (solid lines). Also plotted is the smallest resolvable feature for each camera family assuming a 60X objective (dashed lines in Figure 10).

Figure 10 indicates an important detail of resolution in an imaging system. When wavelengths become shorter into the ultraviolet, the minimum size that the objective can image continues to decrease. Imaging these smaller features, however, will require smaller camera pixels. Where the solid line is below a dashed line, a feature that size cannot be imaged by the camera (the camera is the limiting element of the imaging system); conversely, when the solid line is above a dashed line, the feature will be able to be imaged by the camera (the objective is the limiting element in the imaging system).

Other Considerations
This analysis suggests that a camera with smaller pixels would always be preferable to a sensor with larger pixels. However, smaller pixels usually collect fewer photons for the same photon flux, and therefore often have lower quantum efficiency values. Since fewer photons are collected, the signal collected is lower, and the signal-to-noise ratio is worsened. It is therefore important to balance the pixel size requirements with the experiment's requirements for noise.

Manufacturer Tube Lens
Focal Length
Leica f = 200 mm
Mitutoyo f = 200 mm
Nikon f = 200 mm
Olympus f = 180 mm
Thorlabs f = 200 mm
Zeiss f = 165 mm

The rows highlighted in green denote manufacturers that do not use f = 200 mm tube lenses.

Effects of Tube Lenses

Modern microscope objectives are infinity-corrected and therefore require a tube lens. The specified magnification of an objective is calculated by assuming a specific tube lens focal length. Each microscope manufacturer has adopted a different focal length for their tube lens, as shown by the table to the right. Hence, when combining optical elements from different manufacturers, or a lens with a different focal length in a custom imaging system, it is necessary to calculate an effective magnification for the objective, which is then used to calculate the magnification of the system.

The effective magnification of an objective is given by:

Equation 1.

Here, the Design Magnification is the magnification printed on the objective, fTube Lens in Microscope is the focal length of the tube lens in the microscope you are using, and fDesign Tube Lens of Objective is the tube lens focal length that the objective manufacturer used to calculate the Design Magnification. These focal lengths are given by the table to the right.

Note that Leica, Mitutoyo, Nikon, and Thorlabs use the same tube lens focal length; if combining elements from any of these manufacturers, no conversion is needed. Thorlabs offers several tube lenses, each with a 200 mm focal length; for general imaging applications, we recommend the TTL200, which features optimized color correction and high transmission at wavelengths below 480 nm.

 

Vignetting

Vignetting occurs when the optical image that is formed at the focal plane of the camera is smaller than the camera format. When this occurs, the area of the sensor is not completely exposed, causing a dark ring to appear around the borders of the image. The vignetting effect is illustrated in Figure 11, which were both captured with the same 4/3" format camera (8051M-GE). More detail about integrating machine vision lenses into an imaging system may be found in our Camera Lens Tutorial.

The effect is the same in microscopy, and a simple calculation can inform whether the (usually circular) image generated by an objective and tube lens will underfill the rectangular imager. In order to estimate the size of the image (in mm) at the focal plane of the camera, one can use the field number (FN) of the objective. Where given for an objective, it represents the diameter of the field of view (in millimeters) at the image plane (i.e., the camera sensor). If this dimension is greater than the diagonal of the imager, then vignetting is unlikely to be a problem. Please note that this calculation does not include the effects of the objective lens design; for example, it is possible that aberrations or slight vignetting as seen in Figure 11a will be present. A table of sensor diagonals for our scientific cameras is below.

If the magnification of the total microscope differs from that of the objective's specification, either due to a different focal length tube lens or magnifying camera tube, then the field size produced at the camera sensor will be a different size as well. This field size can be calculated by:

Effective FN = Design FN x (System Magnification / Design Objective Magnification).

Camera Family Format (Diagonal)
Fast VGA CCD 1/3" (5.92 mm)
1.4 MP CCD 2/3" (11 mm)
Quantalux® 2.1 MP sCMOS 2/3" (11 mm)
Kiralux™ 5 MP CMOS 2/3" (11 mm)
Kiralux™ 2.3 MP CMOS 1/1.2" (13.4 mm)
Kiralux™ 8.9 MP CMOS 1" (16 mm)
4 MP CCD 4/3" (21.4 mm)
8 MP CCD 4/3" (22 mm)
MVL12M43 on 8050M-GE
Click to Enlarge

a: 4/3" Format Lens, FL = 12 mm
Click Here for Raw Image (3296 x 2472)
MVL12M23 on 8050M-GE
Click to Enlarge

b: 2/3" Format Lens, FL = 12 mm
Click Here for Raw Image (3296 x 2472)

Figure 11: The vignetting effect is illustrated in the two images above, which were both captured using the same 4/3" format camera. a: Using a 12 mm focal length, 4/3" format lens produces a full image with slight dimming around the edges. This minor example of vignetting is due to the lens design which has decreased transmission at the edge of the lens. b: A 2/3" format lens at the same focal length produces a prominent dark ring around the photo edge.

System Integration

 

Recommended System Requirements
Operating
System
Windows® 7 or 10 (64 Bit)
Processor
(CPU)a
≥3.0 GHz Intel Core (i5 or Newer)
Memory (RAM) ≥8 GB
Hard Drive ≥500 GB (SATA) Solid State Drive (SSD)b
Graphics Card Dedicatedc Adapter with ≥256 MB RAM
Power Supply ≥600 W
Motherboard USB 3.0 (-USB) Cameras:
Integrated Intel USB 3.0 Controller
or One Unused PCIe x1 Slot
(for Item # USB3-PCIE)

Camera Link (-CL) Cameras:
One Unused PCIe x4/x8/x16 Slot

GigE (-GE) Cameras:
One Unused PCIe x1 Slot
Connectivity USB or Internet Connectivity
for Driver Installation
  • Intel Core i3 processors and mobile versions of Intel processors may not satisfy the requirements.
  • We recommend a solid state drive (SSD) for reliable streaming to disk during image sequence storage.
  • On-board/integrated graphics solutions present on Intel Core i5 and i7 processors are also acceptable.

Camera Interfaces

Thorlabs offers three interface options across our scientific camera product line: USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet (GigE), and Camera Link. 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.

Definitions

  • Camera Frame Rate: The number of images per second generated by the camera. It is a function of camera model and user-selected settings.
  • Effective Frame Rate: The number of images per second received by the host computer's camera software. This depends on the limits of the selected interface hardware (chipset), CPU performance, and other devices and software competing for the host computer resources.
  • Maximum Bandwidth: The maximum rate (in bits/second or bytes/second) at which data can be reliably transferred over the interface from the camera to the host PC. The maximum bandwidth is a specified performance benchmark of the interface, under the assumption that the host PC is capable of receiving and handling data at that rate. An interface with a higher maximum bandwidth will typically support higher camera frame rates, but the choice of interface does not by itself increase the frame rate of the camera.

USB 3.0

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, however maximum speeds can be impacted by the host PC's chipset. Support for multiple cameras is possible using multiple USB 3.0 ports on the PC or a USB 3.0 hub.

Gigabit Ethernet

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.

Camera Link

Camera Link is ideal for applications requiring very high data transfer rates of up to 850 MB/s. However, the maximum cable length is 10 m. Camera Link requires the use of the supplied Camera Link card and cables for connecting to a computer. To operate our 4 and 8 megapixel cameras in quad-tap mode a second Camera Link connection is required.

Scientific Camera Interface Summary

Interface USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet Camera Link
Interface Image (Click to Enlarge) USB 3.0 Scientific Camera Port Gigabit Ethernet Camera port Camera Link Camera Port
Maximum Cable Length 3 m 100 m 10 m
Maximum Bandwidtha 320 MB/s 100 MB/s 850 MB/s
Support for Multiple Cameras Via Multiple USB 3.0 Ports or Hub Via Switch Topology (Click for Details)b No
Available Cameras Quantalux® 2.1 MP sCMOS Camera
Kiralux™ 2.3 MP CMOS Cameras
Kiralux™ 5 MP CMOS Cameras
Kiralux™ 8.9 MP CMOS Cameras
1.4 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
4 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
8 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
200 FPS VGA Scientific CCD Cameras
1.4 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
4 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
8 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
200 FPS VGA Scientific CCD Cameras
1.4 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
4 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
8 MP Scientific CCD Cameras
200 FPS VGA Scientific CCD Cameras
  • Performance will vary depending on the exact PC configuration.
  • Up to 4 cameras have been tested in the GigE switch topology.

 

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 12 through 14 show the timing diagrams for these trigger modes, assuming an active low external TTL trigger.

Camera Timing Diagram
Click to Enlarge
Figure 12: 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.
Timing Diagram
Click to Enlarge
Figure 13: 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.
Camera Timing
Click to Enlarge
Figure 14: 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.
Camera Triggering in ThorCam Software
Figure 15: 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 15 shows the Camera Settings window, with the trigger settings highlighted with red and blue squares. Settings can be adjusted as follows:

  • "HW Trigger" (Red Highlight) Set to "None": The camera will simply acquire the number of frames in the "Frames per Trigger" box when the capture button is pressed in ThorCam.
  • "HW Trigger" Set to "Standard": There are Two Possible Scenarios:
    • "Frames per Trigger" (Blue Highlight) Set to Zero or >1: The camera will operate in streaming overlapped exposure mode (Figure 12).
    • "Frames per Trigger" Set to 1: Then the camera will operate in asynchronous triggered acquisition mode (Figure 13).
  • "HW Trigger" Set to "Bulb (PDX) Mode": The camera will operate in bulb exposure mode, also known as Pulse Driven Exposure (PDX) mode (Figure 14).

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 15).

Equal Exposure Pulse (EEP) Mode

CMOS sensors often feature a rolling shutter, meaning that each row begins to acquire charge sequentially, rather than simultaneously as with the gloabal shutter on CCD sensors. If an external light source is triggered to turn on for the length of the exposure, this can lead to gradients across the image as different rows are illuminated for different lengths of time. The Equal Exposure Pulse (EEP) is an output signal available on our Quantalux® sCMOS camera's I/O connector. When selected in the ThorCam settings dialog, the strobe output 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 the strobe output 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.

CMOS Camera EEP Diagram
Click to Enlarge

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.

CMOS Camera EEP Diagram
Click to Enlarge

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 Thorlabs' Scientific Camera Accessories

Camera Triggering with TSI-IOBOB2 Shield for Arduino
Figure 16: 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 16. 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.

Applications

 

Applications Overview

Thorlabs' Scientific-Grade Cameras are ideal for a variety of applications. The photo gallery below contains images acquired with our 1.4 MP CCD, 4 MP CCD, 8 MP CCD, and fast frame rate CCD 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.

Standard, Customized, or OEM Cameras and Software for a Range of Applications (Click Each Image for Details)
Intracellular Dynamics Brightfield Microscopy Opthalmology Fluorescence Microscopy Multispectral imaging Neuroscience SEM
Intracellular Dynamics Brightfield Microscopy Ophthalmology (NIR) Fluorescence Microscopy Multispectral Imaging Neuroscience SEM/TEM
Thorlabs' Scientific Cameras Recommended for Each Application Above
Quantalux® 2.1 MP sCMOS
200 FPS VGA CCD
Kiralux™ 2.3 MP CMOS
Kiralux 5 MP CMOS

Kiralux 8.9 MP CMOS
Kiralux 2.3 MP CMOS
Kiralux 5 MP CMOS

Kiralux 8.9 MP CMOS
1.4 MP CCD
Quantalux 2.1 MP sCMOS
Kiralux 2.3 MP CMOS
Kiralux 5 MP CMOS

Kiralux 8.9 MP CMOS
Quantalux 2.1 MP sCMOS
Kiralux 2.3 MP CMOS
Kiralux 5 MP CMOS
Quantalux 2.1 MP sCMOS
Kiralux 2.3 MP CMOS
Kiralux 5 MP CMOS

Kiralux 8.9 MP CMOS
1.4 MP CCD
4 MP CCD
200 FPS VGA CCD

Multispectral Imaging

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.

Multispectral imaging
Click to Enlarge

Final Stacked/Recovered Image

 

Thrombosis Studies

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 anesthetized 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 information.

Arterial Thrombosis

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).


Venous Thrombosis

In the video above, a gentle 30-second electrolytic injury is generated on the surface of a murine femoral vein, 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 vein 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.

Simultaneous NIR and Fluorescence Imaging
Click to Enlarge
Example Setup for Simultaneous NIR/DIC and Fluorescence Imaging

Live Dual-Channel Imaging

Many life science imaging experiments require a cell sample to be tested and imaged under varying experimental conditions over a significant period of time. One common technique to monitor complex cell dynamics in these experiments uses fluorophores to identify relevant cells within a sample, while simultaneously using NIR or differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy to probe individual cells. Registering the two microscopy images to monitor changing conditions can be a difficult and frustrating task. 

Live overlay imaging allows both images comprising the composite to be updated in real-time versus other methods that use a static image with a real-time overlay. Overlays with static images require frequent updates of the static image due to drift in the system or sample, or due to repositioning of the sample. Live overlay imaging removes that dependency by providing live streaming in both channels. 

Using the ThorCam overlay plug-in with the two-way camera microscope mount, users can generate real-time two-channel composite images with live streaming updates from both camera channels, eliminating the need for frequent updates of a static overlay image. This live imaging method is ideal for applications such as calcium ratio imaging and electrophysiology. 

Example Images

Simultaneous Fluorescence and DIC Imaging

The image sequence below shows mouse kidney cells imaged using a dichroic filter to separate the fluorescence and DIC signals into different cameras. These images are then combined into a two-channel composite live image with false color fluorescence by the ThorCam overlay plug-in.

Fluorescence Image
Fluorescence Image of Two Camera Overlay
Click to Enlarge
2-Channel Composite Live Image
Image Overlay from Two Cameras
Click to Enlarge
Microaspiration Image using Two Cameras
Click to Enlarge
In the image above, the pipette is visible in the DIC image as two lines near the center of the frame.

Microaspiration Using a Micropipette

The image to the right shows a live, simultaneous overlay of fluorescence and DIC images. The experiment consists of a microaspiration technique using a micropipette to isolate a single neuron that expresses GFP. This neuron can then be used for PCR. This image was taken with our 1.4 Megapixel Cameras and our 2SCM1-DC Two-Camera Mount and shows the live overlay of fluorescence and DIC from the ThorCam plug-in. Image courtesy of Ain Chung, in collaboration with Dr. Andre Fenton at NYU and Dr. Juan Marcos Alarcon at The Robert F. Furchgott Center for Neural and Behavioral Science, Department of Pathology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Simultaneous NIR Dodt Contrast and Epi Fluorescence imaging

The image to the right shows a live, simultaneous overlay of fluorescence and near-infrared Dodt contrast images of a 50 µm brain section from a CX3CR1-GFP mouse, which has been immunostained for PECAM-1 with Alexa-687 to highlight vasculature. The Dodt contrast uses a quarter annulus and a diffuser to create a gradient of light across the sample that can reveal the structure of thick samples. The image was taken with our Scientific Cameras and our 2SCM1-DC Two-Camera Mount. Sample courtesy of Dr. Andrew Chojnacki, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Live Cell Imaging Facility, Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, University of Calgary.


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