Biology > Light > Photomicroscopy

Site: http://www.nexusresearchgroup.com/research_papers/nzms1999b.htm

Grade Category: High School

Subject Category: Biology

Sub Category: Light



(presented at the 1999 New Zealand Microbiological Society conference at Otago University, November 23rd - 26th)

  1. Abstract
  2. Materials and Methods
  3. Results
  4. Discussion
  5. Conclusion
  6. Acknowledgements



We have been investigating the application of an Internet WebCam digital camera as a versatile photomicroscopy unit. Still images from a light microscope are saved to disk and can be printed later as photographic quality poster sized images, or viewed and enhanced on screen. This very cheap system comes with the ability to capture full motion video of the microbes found in pond water, motility of bacteria, cell division, etc. The software provided with the camera also allows the transmission of images over the internet for identification, problem solving or publicity purposes.

Materials and Method

A C.U.C. US (see-you-see us) web camera purchased from Dick Smith Electronics ($244) was connected to a Pentium II computer with a free PCI slot and 16 Mb RAM. The camera comes with its own video capture card and CD-ROM with software requiring approximately 30 Mb of hard drive space. An adapter was constructed from a cardboard tube cut lengthways to accommodate the webcam unit and a retort stand held this assembly in place over the eye-piece of a standard monocular light microscope. The microscope was of the type commonly found in a High School and lacked phase contrast. Captured digitised images were printed on a Hewlett Packard 710c DeskJet printer using HP Photo Paper.



Paramecium, a single celled animal (100 X)

  1. Micro-nucleus
  2. Macro-nucleus
  3. Cillia. Hair-like projections that whip back and forth allowing the animal to swim around.


Bacillus megaterium (x1000).

Bacterium. Gram postive rod. Related to Anthrax organism.



Trypanosomes in Human blood (x1000).

Single celled animal spread via mosquito bite. Some of these are arrowed, more are present.They use up blood sugars so brain runs out of energy source and shuts down. Cause of Sleeping Sickness.



Tradescantia plant root cells undergoing cell division for growth (mitosis). Cell walls arrowed (x400).

  1. Cell nucleus
  2. Chromosomes visible


Tradescantia plant root cells undergoing cell division for growth (mitosis). Individual chromosomes arrowed (x1000).


Tradescantia plant leaf cells (x1000).

  1. Guard cells
  2. Opening (stoma) for air to enter leaf (carbon dioxide in) and water vapour and oxygen to exit leaf.

This is the underside surface (epidermis) showing only one of many hundred stomata present.


We have used just one of the many brands of email/internet digital video cameras (Webcams) currently available. Typically, they use a Charge Coupled Device (CCD) to convert light images entering a lens into digital signals sent to a computer.


  • The cheapest digital camera system available.
  • Easy to set up, quick to install.
  • The unit did not require modification to capture images from the microscope.
  • The camera focuses down to 1 mm for extreme close-up images (legume root nodules, sequencing gels, etc).
  • Comes with software for transmission of images over the Internet.
  • Photographic quality images can be stored on disk and cheaply reproduced on demand.
  • Movie files can be recorded and edited.


  • Distortion of periphery or centre of image due to the wide-angle lens provided.
  • Some loss of image quality when compared to the original microscope image.
  • Requires a more expensive video capture card for full screen video playback.


We have demonstrated that this digital system is cost effective and fast. As low cost models with higher resolution are being developed, this technology will appeal to most research laboratories. The ability to tramsit images to other computer screens via the Internet has a number of applications. Images of organisms or samples can be sent instantly to other institutions for identification or interpretation. Anyone with Internet access can remotely capture still images or live video from a demonstration or experiment. In the near future we intend designing a more permanent "quickfit" adapter for attaching a webcam to a microscope. Subject to funding, we would compare other models.