Video Displays

There are a number of choices available for viewing your microscope image on a video screen. Here are just a few:

When using a lower cost standard definition camera, any standard TV/VCR combination unit will work such as the one shown above on the left. These units have direct video inputs so you can plug the composite video output of the camera directly to the TV. These are a simple option if you have it available but with the advent of HD into the marketplace these units are no longer sold in stores.

What you will find in all electronic stores today are HD flat panel TVs from 14” to 80” in size. If you are using a standard definition camera, choosing a TV that has s-video input capability is needed. Since the signal feeding the TV is standard definition, up to only a 19” screen size would be preferred. Though we have plugged our standard definition cameras into our 47” screen in class and it looks good from a distance, it is pushes the limits of resolution for closer viewing and we think keeping a display under 26” for a standard definition camera is warranted. If using a high definition camcorder than the larger screen sizes are great.  

Here’s one of the classroom scopes at the Biotorium hooked up to a 47” LCD/LED display.

Video Cameras

The Past: Standard video cameras have CCD (charged coupled device) chips where images get focused from a lens and are then translated electronically to a TV picture. Analog CCD chip cameras have been the video standard in use for a long time for live biological imaging. These can be either one chip cameras or 3 chip cameras. Where a single chip camera can generate up to 500 lines of vertical resolution, a 3 chip camera can generate up to 850 lines. Internally, the best cameras will use digital signal processing. You should note that not all cameras offer the same image quality, even if they have the same specifications. You have to look at the image quality with the intended application to discern what works well and what does not.

Today and the Future: CCD chips are still used in higher end broadcast and production cameras while CMOS chips are a more recent technology which is coming along with increasing image quality. You will find these chips in many digital cameras that go direct to a computer and in HD camcorders.

At this stage of development USB digital cameras primarily work best for still imaging. The frame rate (how many picture frames the camera takes each second to make a smooth moving live picture) is in the range of 15 frames per second with a decent image screen size, though 30 frames per second is more preferable.

Consumer and prosumer HD camcorders are a top choice for excellent imaging while not rocking the budget. These can be plugged directly into high definition flat panel displays through the HDMI interface for direct 30 frame per second viewing at 1920 x 1080 resolution.

With many camcorders, getting high pixel count has been important where a definite quality difference can be seen going from say a 3 megapixel camera to a 8 to 12 megapixel camera.  However, the number of pixels does not tell the whole story.

Recently some manufactures have decreased the pixel count to perfectly match a 1920 x 1080 HD screen size while increasing the pixel size along with the physical CMOS chip size. With the increased pixel size this has meant more sensititvity to low light conditions and with a matched pixel to screen size it has meant less internal electronic processing to form the image which is a source of image noise.

With this situation a 2 megapixel chip camera may outperform a 9 megapixel camera where live real time imaging is concerned.  

Video Imaging

Old style TV/VCR combo for standard definition video.

Broadcast style monitor for the best standard definition video.

High definition TV monitor used with HD video camera.
(the best)

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Video imaging review for nutritional microscopy in education of clients living blood.

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