4. Microscopy

The eyepiece

The eyepiece is selected to examine the relayed image under conditions that are comfortable for the viewer. The magnifying power of the eyepiece generally does not exceed 10×. The field of view is then about 40° total, a convenient value for a relatively simple optical design. The observer places the eye at the exit pupil of the eyepiece, the point at which the light rays leaving the eyepiece come together. In most cases an eye relief (or distance from the exit pupil to the last element of the eyepiece) of about 1 cm is desirable. Too short an eye relief makes viewing difficult for observers who wear corrective eyeglasses.

Image capture

The objectives described above are usually intended to project an image through an eyepiece for direct viewing by an observer. The use of a photographic recording method permits the capture of a real image in a film holder or digital imaging system without an eyepiece lens. One approach is to remove the eyepiece and place the film holder or digital camera in the focal plane of the eyepiece, thus intercepting the image from the objective directly. A better approach is to use a specifically designed projection eyepiece, which can be adjusted to provide the appropriate magnification coupling the image to the film. Such an eyepiece can incorporate a change in the chromatic aberration correction to accommodate the requirements of the image-capture system.

Increasingly prevalent today is the use of an electronic detector such as a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) or charge-coupled device (CCD) chip to capture the magnified image as a digital signal. This signal can be transmitted to a computer and translated into an image on the monitor. Software allows the user to take single pictures, moving video sequences, or time-lapse sequences at the click of a mouse. These may be saved for conventional viewing, and image processing can be used to enhance the result. Analysis of area and particle size and distribution is easily done by conventional analytical means once the images have been digitally captured. The production of computer presentations, transmission via e-mail, and ease of printing are benefits that digital imaging brings to the modern microscopist.

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