Here’s the setup I use to photograph microsculpture of beetles. I also use the same setup to photograph whole beetles, or other parts, including genitalia, although there is some variation in lighting, position, etc., depending upon the part. In some other post I will show how I photograph beetle genitalia using this setup.
The setup is for the most part the one I purchased from GT Vision in about 2006, with a few slight modifications (lighting, software). It looks like this:
On the left is the specimen on a stage, lighting, the lens, and camera; on the right is the computer into which the camera outputs its digital signals. Here are the details:
The specimen is placed under the lens, with two fiber optics lights aimed at it, as follows:
A cone of semi-opaque drawing acetate is placed around the specimen. The opening at the top of the cone is well above the specimen, and is as small as it can be. If it is too small, then the image in the camera will be obscured, which will be obvious by the white fog on the images. The cone I use is about 5 cm high, about 3 cm wide at the base, and about 1.5 cm wide at the top.
It is tricky to get the exactly right angles for the fiber optics lights, but it is worth spending the time to get it right. Good lighting is absolutely necessary to get a good image.
The lens and camera make a huge difference, too, and the lens is a very special one. It is a Leica Z6 APO lens, onto which is screwed one of three Leica PlanApo objective lenses: 0.5x, 1.0x, or 2.0x. For images of microsculpture, the maximum magnification is needed, so the 2.0x lens is used.
The Z6 lens is mounted onto a motorized focus stand, which allows it to be moved up and down with a motor, which itself is controlled by the computer. On top of the Z6 lens is an adapter, which allows a JVC KY-F75U video camera to be attached to the lens. This whole complex is on top of a Vistek platform that isolates the imaging apparatus from vibrations in the room. Here are those parts:
The JVC video camera is not a high-resolution camera (it only produces images that are 1360 pixels by 1024 pixels) but it is a very high-quality camera, with each of the pixels being quite accurate.
Here’s a closeup of the optical end of the setup:
From the camera cables extend to the computer. There are graphics cards involved – GTVision looked after these details. Software on the computer (Microvision’s Cartograph) controls the camera and focusing stand, and allows one to easily take a stack of many pictures, with each picture focused on a different level of the structure. This stack of pictures can be exported as TIFF images, which I then input into Zerene Systems’s Zerene Stacker. I use the PMax algorithm in Zerene Stacker to merge the stack of images into a single image. This algorithm works better than the ones present in other software I have tried.