We have previously blogged about using the Olympus Air for taking images of Gram stains. This gave the image quality of a dedicated microscope camera but the added convenience of quickly sharing the image because it was transferred to a handphone. But why not just use a handphone to capture the image directly?
Anyone who has tried this will realise it is not as easy as it sounds. If you just hold the handphone lens flush against the microscope eyepiece, it is very difficult to get a good image of the slide because the wide angle of the camera lens tends to include the sides of the eyepiece barrel. You can obtain a better field of view of the slide by holding the handphone a small distance away from the eyepiece but then you need steady hands…
We have experimented with a number of commercial microscope-handphone adapters without much joy. They all suffer from 2 problems. Firstly, they all hold the handphone flush with the eyepiece so you don’t solve the field of view problem mentioned above. Secondly, the attachment method does not result in a stable platform.
We were so frustrated with the results that we considered designing and 3D-printing our own adapter. It would have set the handphone lens a bit further back from the eyepiece and would involve a redesign of the attachment method that would leverage somehow on the binocular eyepiece of the microscope to keep the whole platform steady.
Someone has now come up with a better design based on a similar thought process.
The LabCam addressed the field of view issue optically by including a lens which replaces the microscope eyepiece (2 are provided which should fit most microscopes). Both the replacement eyepiece and the design of the adapter itself ensure a stable platform. It is easy to set up and use.
There remain a number of issues.
Because it includes lenses, it is more expensive than the other adapters (but the ease of use and the results obtained will trump price in our view).
The lens could be of higher quality. Sharpness is good centrally but falls away at the edges. There also appears to be chromatic aberration at the edges (blue fringing around the image).
It is only available for iPhone at the moment, though the modular design does suggest the potential to apply the same concept to other handphones.
Nevertheless, we feel this is the best solution on the market at the moment. You can see more images captured with this system on our Instagram.