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Section Overview:

The use of photography to capture images in a microscope dates back to the invention of the photographic process. Early photomicrographs were remarkable for their quality, but the techniques were laborious and burdened with long exposures and a difficult process for developing emulsion plates. The primary medium for photomicrography was film until the past decade when improvements in electronic camera and computer technology made digital imaging cheaper and easier to use than conventional photography. This section will address photomicrography both on film and with electronic analog and digital imaging systems.

The quality of a photomicrograph, either digital or recorded on film, is dependent upon the quality of the microscopy. Film is a stern judge of how good the microscopy has been prior to capturing the image. It is essential that the microscope be configured using Köhler illumination, and that the field and condenser diaphragms are adjusted correctly and the condenser height is optimized. When properly adjusted, the microscope will yield images that have even illumination over the entire field of view and display the best compromise of contrast and resolution.

Almost all microscopists will, at some point, have the need or desire to record the images seen through the microscope. The main mechanism, for many years, of producing such photomicrographs was through the use of film, although in recent years most scientists have begun to capture images by means of electronic cameras. The main purpose of this tutorial is to enable the microscopist to record the observed images on film or digital media, and to do so with accuracy of image reproduction and with fidelity of color when color film is being used. The further aim is to empower the photomicrographer to secure excellent pictures without having to struggle through the already existing, far more complex reference literature. Use the links below to navigate to various topics in our discussions of photomicrography.

Review Articles

  • Troubleshooting Errors and Faults in Photomicrography

    Microscope configuration errors represent the greatest obstacle to quality photomicrographs, followed by errors in filter selection, aberration, and processing mistakes.

  • Color Compensating Filters:
    Specifications and Spectral Data

    Listed on this page is an index to our data on color compensating filter specifications, including spectral data for each individual filter set.

  • Film Basics

    There are a number of films made by manufacturers around the world that are suitable for photomicrography. Discussed here are the fundamental properties, use, and technology of common photographic film.

  • Fundamentals of Film Exposure

    Many fundamental topics are discussed in detail in this article including the reciprocity law, characteristic curves, exposure bracketing, exposure calculations, and filter factors.

  • Filters for Black and White Photomicrography

    In black and white photography through the microscope, filters are used to control contrast in the final image captured on film. They are also useful for overcoming optical aberration.

  • Color Temperature

    Based on the relationship between the temperature of a black body radiator and the energy distribution of its emitted light, this concept is of paramount importance in color photomicrography.

  • Filters for Black and White Photomicrography:
    Spectral Characteristics of Common Biological Stains

    Compare the visible light absorption spectral data for common biological stains to determine suitability for use in black and white photomicrography.

  • Filters for Black and White Photomicrography:
    Kodak Wratten Filters for Black and White Photomicrography

    Visible light transmission regions for Kodak Wratten color filters are presented to aid microscopists in determining filter suitability for contrast and resolution control.

  • Filters for Color Photomicrography

    A wide spectrum of filters are available to assist the microscopist in achieving the best quality images. These include color compensating filters, neutral density filters, didymium filters, and filters to block ultraviolet light.

  • Film Cameras for Photomicrography

    Topics in this section primarily focus on various aspects of attaching a camera to the microscope as well as going in depth on reviewing automatic exposure cameras designed specifically for photomicrographic applications.

  • Film Cameras for Photomicrography:
    Olympus PM-30 Automatic Camera System

    The Olympus PM-30 automatic camera system described in this section can easily handle the usual modes of microscopy including brightfield, phase contrast, differential interference contrast, polarized light, and darkfield.

  • Photomicrography Interactive Tutorials

    Visit our gallery of interactive Java and Flash tutorials for user-controlled demonstrations about complex topics in photography through the microscope. Included are tutorials covering filters, color balance and correction, aberrations, film exposure, and concepts in digital imaging technology.

Contributing Authors

Mortimer Abramowitz - Olympus America, Inc., Two Corporate Center Drive., Melville, New York, 11747.

Kenneth R. Spring - Scientific Consultant, Lusby, Maryland, 20657.

Brian O. Flynn, John C. Long, Kirill I. Tchourioukanov, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.

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