Sunday, March 21, 2010

Photomicography (microphotography) with Lumix GH1

I bought a 2x achromatic objective for the microscope and also discovered that positioning the camera closer to the objective by removing microscope parts will increase the field of view (lower magnification). This is very useful since the 4x and even the 2x objective have too much magnification for large insects and similarly-sized objects.

I added photos of a large orb-weaver spider.

Since buying a Lumix GH1, I have been excited to attach it to my telescope, microscope, and any other imaging device so that I can capture unusual photographs. Today, I got all of the parts together and tested it with a microscope for the first time.

The microscope is a Labo VJ-71. It's a decent-quality student microscope with DIN 4x, 10x, and 40x objectives. I also have a remote shutter release for the camera, an LED on a flexible mount for top-lighting, and eyepiece (not needed for photography)

In order to attach the camera to the microscope, I found this microscope->Nikon adapter that I had built years ago. The barrel fits inside the microscope tube and provides a Nikon lens mount. I got the lens mount from a very old, very broken lens. I have a m4/3->Nikon adapter, so I can attach this to the GH1.

The first problem that I noticed was a bright, fuzzy spot in the middle of the image. I removed the camera, and looked down the microscope with all of the adapters in place, but no eyepiece. I could see a lot of light reflecting off the tube's inner walls and this ring of light was landing on the sensor and ruining the image. I added a washer to the Nikon adapter to act as a baffle. This helped, but I also ended up unscrewing the eyepiece tube from the microscope, and inserting the Nikon adapter into the microscope body. This shortened the distance between the camera and the objective, so there was less tube wall to cause unwanted reflections.
I started with this dandelion flower. This image is shot with my Vivitar 28-90, at 28mm

Here is a photo taken directly from the microscope. The objective is only 4x, but as you can see, the overall image is highly magnified. This cluster of pollen parts on the flower is only a few mm in width.

Another problem with microphotography is the extremely shallow depth of field. Even with the 4x objective, there is not much in focus. A neat solution to this problem is to use photo-stacking software, and stack a whole bunch of images taken at different focal depths.
I used CombineZM, a free software tool to do the alignment and stacking:


The head of a common house fly. Yikes!


  1. Wow, great job! I never would have though of using many shots with different focal lenses. Do you do color enhancement on the images as well, or is the increased color a side-effect of the picture layering?

  2. Your term microphotography was pre-empted years ago to mean 'tiny pictures' and instead the accepted term for your procedure is the unwieldy 'photomicrography'; my feelings are your use makes more sense but....

  3. Anonymous, that's an interesting point about naming conventions. I never knew the word photomicography.

    Anonymous, I forget how much image enhancement that I did on these photos. I probably did the standard amount of levels/gamma correction, but I get the feeling that the pollen and fly's head are actually pretty colorful objects. Also, these shots were taken with the same lens, but at different focal positions.

  4. I have a growing interest in photography and this micro-photography just sparks my interest even more.

  5. Ben, Thank you! How does one make the adapter? Saludos, MCL

  6. Anonymous, I made the adapter by removing the aluminum mount from a broken lens. The plastic barrel was machined from scratch and glued to the lens mount with epoxy. There are a lot of solutions that will work, though. All you need is for your camera to be positioned above the microscope tube without any light leaks. Almost any combination of adapters will do the trick since the focal distance is much less critical on a microscope than with a standard camera lens (no need for infinity focus).

  7. May i sugest you a different approach?

  8. For the G serie, you can use also the konica microscop adapter (with the konica mount adapter) it works like a charm with most olympus microscop

  9. I am very keen on combining science with photography. I will be doing year 12 this year, and in future I want a career as a forensic scientist. One of my subjects this year is digital art - and I would love to be able to attach a camera to a microscope at school for some amazing shots of cells and other micro organisms. I would love to know what I would need to attach a camera to a microscope - keeping in mind that money is an issue, I don't have a camera like yours just a normal little digital one - but at my school they have black ones (I’m not exactly sure on what model they are) .
    Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. :)

  10. Paige, if you cannot remove your camera's lens (as with most point-and-shoot digital cameras), the next best thing is to set your camera into macro mode, and position it above the microscope. Many digital cameras can achieve very close focus, so you may be able to capture an image. You can try this with or without the microscope's ocular (eyepiece) in place. For testing, I would recommend using a cardboard tube, maybe from a roll of paper towels, and modeling clay to get the camera in position. Use your camera's self-timer feature so that you can press the shutter button, then remove your hand to avoid causing vibrations or movements as the camera counts down and takes the photo. Good luck!