Using a webcam with a microscope - magnification increase.

One of the interesting things that those of us that are using webcam/microscope combinations to look at rose pollen is that the webcam increases the multiplication factor (magnification) of the microscope. There have been some private e-mail discussions on whether the effect is real and how much additional magnification can be realized. In general, the larger the number of pixels in the CCD sensor, the higher the magnification. Right now the largest sensors in inexpensive “Paypal obtained” webcams appears to be 5 megapixels (some advertise higher but these normally are software enhanced numbers).

The link below indicates that magnifications of 4000X to 8000X can be reached (an ordinary microscope normally has a maximum of around 1000X).


It is a question of resolution -can you see two separate dots or a blur into one. Blame the thickness of a wavelength, that is why electrons, thinner, can get better resultution. They can pass between the two dots so you can see “light” between them. I think, for light microscapy, 1000X is about it

Thank you for a very interesting link.

What isn’t mentioned is how to deliver light that is ‘quality’ so that when it passes through the object you’re looking at, all the light rays are parallel and you get not optical distortion. It’s a skill that needs to be learned from someone who has done a lot of microscopy.

The other thing missing is commentary on the microscope objectives. 40x is (or at least was) the optimum air lens that could be used. For higher magnification (100x) the objective needed to be an oil immersion objective.

Until I see something I know from quality microscopes (light microscopes) taken up to 4000x, easily, I will be somewhat skeptical. I’ve got Kodak slides I took of palynomorphs with a microscope that cost thousands more than mine (it was used for moon rocks)…with just the right foci, I could blow those spores up to that magnification for talks. The magnification , for it to work, came off the slide film via the projector. And for every slide that was awesome, there where hundreds that weren’t quite the perfect focus. Even though those hundreds looked good to my eyes when I took them.

I wish he had used a Leitz or a Zeiss microscope because often those had the best objectives.

Correction to earlier post: I said “PayPal obtained”, I meant “e-bay obtained”.

I replace the light source with the reflector and LEDs from miniature flashlights that contain from 21 to about 29 high intensity white LEDS (from e-bay for about 3 dollars each plus shipping}. They are powered by 3 AAA, 1 and 1/2 volt, batteries in serial. Normally this size reflector fits the bottom of standard Abbe Condensors. Since most microscopes allow the Abbe condensor to both move up and down and to change the iris (size of light opening), one can adjust for best picture on the computer screen in real time. Also, the webcam program normally has adjustments for brightness, contrast, sharpness, etc. Also, the microscope program allows one to add up to 64 individual pictures to reduce noise.

There are webcams designed to work with infrared light (IR) and there are infrared LEDS ( ir webcam: Search Result | eBay), ( ir leds: Search Result | eBay ). I have considered setting up an “IR microscope” to see if there is any noticeable improvement in resolution.

There are 2 possible problems that come to mind: 1) will the microscope lens pass the IR and 2) will the IR cause too much heating of the sample?