Archive for the ‘Digital Microscope’ Category

Color Infidelity: Love your Monitor!

Stop staring at your screen and give your monitor some love

“It’s like you’re looking right past me, like I’m not even here, and then when you do notice me, all you do is complain, complain, complain. How about a little love, I’m working hard over here!” your monitor screams at you as you question why the image in the microscope doesn’t match the image on the screen. The color accuracy is way off! Maybe it’s the microscope, lighting, or camera. Or maybe the poor color quality is because of your monitor.

Choosing the Wrong Monitor Cheats your Color Accuracy!

When you were considering the microscope options, you bought the best microscope, camera, and software possible with your budget. You were careful; you scrutinized every detail during your decision. Then there, screaming at you toward the bottom of the quote, is that crazy overpriced monitor. You calmly ask your microscope representative: “What do you mean the monitor is $3,000 – I bought one for my computer at home on a Black Friday deal for $150!?!”

Your representative agrees and suggests that you save a few dollars by bringing your own monitor. So you pull one off the shelf, dust it off, and feel proud of yourself for being so thrifty.

Fast forward 30 days, the microscope arrives and is working seamlessly. You’re thrilled, excited, it’s Christmas in February – that is until you’re not happy with the image that you’re seeing. This is NOT the image you saw during the demonstration! The colors are all wrong – but why?

First Impressions are All About the Technology

Not all monitors are created equally and have unique technology driving an image to your eyes. Since we are all technology consumers, we are familiar with some aspects of the technology, but probably not all. Additionally, although we are familiar, we probably don’t fully understand. Below are some of the monitors that’re available on the market and some insight about the technology inside them.

  • CRT
  • Cathode Ray Tube – Big, bulky, low resolution. These fell out of favor in the early 2000’s because of their size – but they were also not great at producing accurate color. This technology would mix red, green, and blue light at a single spot on a screen at a rate of 60Hz. Mixing the three components of light equally should result in accurate color – but unfortunately only about 70% of the color range is displayed.

  • LCD
  • Liquid Crystal Display – The most common form of monitor on the market today. This technology uses an array of liquid crystals which modulate the backlight to produce millions – or billions- of colors.

    The color accuracy depends on the backlight (Halogen or LED) and the display technology (Twisted Nematic vs. In-Plane Switching vs. Vertical Alignment). There are plenty of detailed articles on each; however, it’s safe to assume we have seen the side effects of the Twisted Nematic display where brightness, contrast, and color adjust with the angle of the screen. Recall an occasion where you were adjusting the tilt on your laptop screen and noticed the image changes with the tilt of the screen. In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels have a fewer viewing angle distortions and superior color reproduction (16.7 million vs. 1.07 billion) but are typically more expensive. The Vertical Alignment technology is a hybrid between low cost and accurate color reproduction, but it still can’t quite reach IPS.

  • OLED
  • Organic Light Emitting Diode – These displays feature high pixel density, with individual red, green, and blue LED’s. Color is modulated by adjusting brightness of the three LED’s in one pixel to blend everything together. These are most common on the Android phone or iPhone in your pocket – however they’re making their way into computer monitors, albeit at astronomical prices. OLED’s display 1.07 billion colors like the LCD IPS displays, but are thinner, use less power, and have a better contrast ratio. The color improvement over LCD IPS displays is negligible and not worth the price increase.

    The Ultimate Connection

    Although the importance of the cable connecting your computer to the monitor is often overstated by your local electronics store attempting to sell you a $100 HDMI cable, its important to use the right format.

  • VGA
  • Video Graphics Array – These pesky blue monitor connectors won’t go away. Although your HD monitor works with a 9-pin VGA analog monitor cable, it shouldn’t be used. The VGA cable will distort everything from color reproduction to resolution when it is used. Even black and white images look different with a VGA cable. However, if a digital cable, such as the ones described below, is used, the problems disappear.

  • DVI-I
  • Digital Video Interface – The DVI cable is vastly superior to analog and comes with a variety of pin combinations (DVI-D and DVI-I, Dual link vs. single link). Don’t get caught up in the “more is better” philosophy; any DVI cable with 16 pins will produce an accurate image at 1920×1080.

  • HDMI
  • High Definition Multimedia Interface – Welcome to 19 pins of simplicity. An elegant solution to high quality displays and digital audio. The interface was developed by several companies who charge royalties for it’s use. In addition, there are several different versions of HDMI – so which one do you need? Look for HDMI v2.0 and above and you won’t have any issues with up to 8K resolution or color reproduction. No need for a $100 HDMI cable, the $10 bargain HDMI v 2.0 cable will be just fine, thank you.

  • Display Port
  • Developed as a royalty-free competitor to HDMI, the 20-pin display port cable has all the advantages of HDMI with less confusion about different cable versions. Whether the display port is standard format or mini display port, this format produces up to 8K resolution with no limitations on color reproduction.

    Sooth Your Weary Eyes with Monitor Calibration

    Armed with the information above, you walk into your local electronics store. You’re feeling confident as you look at the monitors, evaluate the technology, compare images from one monitor to the next – side by side – to find one with just the right color. The differences between the monitors are amazing, some images look more saturated, others look cooler or warmer. Is it the difference between a TN display or IPS display? Maybe, but it could also be a simple color calibration.

    Each monitor has “scene selections” and the ability to fine tune brightness, contrast, saturation, and in some cases, gamma. All of these settings can influence the color accuracy of a monitor. A good rule of thumb is to choose sRGB as a scene selection. If that’s not available, maybe pick up an inexpensive monitor calibration device. It sure beats trying to adjust all the monitor display settings manually.

    Resolution, Refresh Rate, Height, Swivel, and Tilt – Do Tell!

    In addition to color reproduction, monitors also differ in resolution, aspect ratio, refresh rate, and ergonomic adjustments such as height, swivel, and tilt. All of the Black Friday deals advertise resolution, so most are familiar with 2K, 4K, and 5K displays – but often overlook refresh rate. Some bargain 4K and 5K monitors only offer that resolution at a paltry 30Hz. At this frequency, even mouse movements appear to lag – 60Hz should be the minimum.

    Another overlooked monitor feature is height, swivel, and tilt. These adjustments can create a comfortable work space and also allow users to adjust the monitor height to fit it into cramped lab space. The bargain bin monitors do not include these adjustments, which are essential to a functional work space.

    Trust W. Nuhsbaum, Inc.

    Technology can be overwhelming and confusing; however, the team at W. Nuhsbaum has selected monitors that will allow investigators to get the most out of their images. The monitors we sell are not the lowest price, but they will deliver the most features for your dollar.

    Look like a Cleanliness Expert

    You’re not fully clean until you’re ISO 16232 – fully clean!

    Manufacturing is just catching on to what bath soap companies have known for years – cleanliness sells product! In a never-ending quest for superior product and reliability, manufacturers, particularly in the automotive industry, are turning to the ISO 16232 standard to hold manufacturing practices to the same quality of engineering.

    Cleanliness standards are being applied to everything from drive train components to suspension and steering. Manufacturers have discovered that infrequently occurring metal objects can lead to component failure, costly repairs, and recalls.

    Increasingly, major automotive companies have been requiring suppliers to provide cleanliness information. Now, in order to maintain or earn new contracts, suppliers need to meet or exceed cleanliness standards set by the manufacturer.

    Although there are plenty of systems claiming to provide suppliers with cleanliness data, Leica has several easy to use and cost effective Cleanliness Expert systems that provide suppliers with ISO 16232 cleanliness results.

    Rinse, Baby, Rinse!

    Standard cleanliness procedure includes rinsing a part with a solvent and filtering the fluid through a 47mm diameter filter patch. The filter will catch inorganic material such as organic fiber, but it will also capture metallic debris. The metallic debris are concerning, depending on size they can either be insignificant or lead to component failure in a final product.

    Scanning the filter paper with a microscope can identify the difference between organic and metallic objects using a polarizer. Since metallic objects are highly reflective, the software compares the polarized and non-polarized images to identify objects that are reflective (metallic) and non-reflective (organic).

    Reduce User Errors with Leica

    Automation and routine save time, but they also significantly reduce user error. The Leica Cleanliness Expert system automates both hardware and software to make acquiring consistent conditions as simple as a few mouse clicks. With Leica systems, engineers can configure the image acquisition conditions and set the limits for cleanliness.

    Once the system has been configured, users can log into the system with restricted access to settings and quickly work through the guided acquisition procedure. Generating consistent and accurate results has never been easier!

    Reporting is also made easy and consistent with standard report templates – providing engineers and decision makers with the information they need in a familiar format.

    High Content Cleanliness Data

    In addition to providing engineers with XY size information, Leica also offers users the ability to provide Z data for the most detailed contaminant data. If a metal shaving is taller than it is wide, the motorized focus motor can capture an “extended depth of focus” image to calculate volume!

    This feature could be the difference between failure in the quality lab or failure in the product. Measuring contaminants in 2D only provides half the information; 3D is required for the full picture.

    Time Equals Money

    One unique feature of the Leica Cleanliness Expert system is speed. The software will acquire both brightfield and polarized light images rapidly with a filter wheel and provide analysis results during acquisition. Therefore, if there are too many contaminants detected at 25% complete, the user can cancel the acquisition and report the results.

    The high-speed filter wheel also means that the cleanliness scan happens more quickly. Other systems require manual polarizer switching leading to lost time and possible error. In a setting where results have to happen quickly and accurately for a shipment to leave the building, time equals money!

    Money Equals Money

    Leica offers a variety of configurations for Cleanliness Expert systems to meet just about any budget. The fully automated system, which is the pinnacle of speed, accuracy, and quality, may fit into the manufacturer’s budget, but it may not fit into the supplier’s budget.

    However, the suppliers need to meet cleanliness to maintain and win new contracts – so Leica offers fully configurable semi-automated systems and manual systems to meet budget. At the entry level, a system can be configured with one of Leica’s digital microscopes!

    Along with affordable Cleanliness Systems from Leica Microsystems, for a limited time, W. Nuhsbaum, Inc. is offering up to $2,500 savings with any Leica Cleanliness Expert system purchased before June 30th, 2016. There has never been a better time to have the experts at W. Nuhsbaum, Inc. provide you with a system that meets your needs and your budget!

    Trust W. Nuhsbaum, Inc.

    With 35 years of experience in microscopy and a track record of delivering results for customers with cleanliness systems across the Midwest, the sales representatives and imaging specialists at W. Nuhsbaum, Inc. are qualified and prepared to deliver results for your company.

    Contact your representative to learn more about the Leica Cleanliness Expert system and how much you could save!

    Digital microscopes… with eyepieces?

    I wanted a digital microscope, but you brought me one with eyepieces!

    I had a conversation with a customer recently who asked about “digital microscopes.” To that I said, “Define ‘digital microscope,’” complete with air quotes. Why? Because although the term “digital microscope” is often referring to an optical macroscope and camera combination – without eyepieces, the fundamentals of a “digital microscope” are present in many of Leica’s stereo microscopes and macroscopes.

    Precision optics – Check

    High resolution camera – Check

    Coded microscope components – Check

    3D Imaging and measurements – Check

    Versatile – Check

    Modular – Check and Check

    In fact, according to the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) definition of a digital microscope (ISO/DIS 18221), the presence or absence of eyepieces is not mentioned:

    3.1 – Digital microscopy system: Instrument consisting of an objective, an image sensor and a digital display to make visible minute details that are not seen with unaided eye

    Despite this definition, the perception of a digital microscope is one without eyepieces. This mainstream definition is both incorrect and limiting to end users and their respective businesses. The marketplace has become obsessed with adding a digital microscope to their set of available tools when, in many cases, a traditional microscope system with an advanced camera would produce comparable data, provide more flexibility, and most likely come at a lower price. This is, in part, due to digital microscope manufacturers producing a “one size fits all” strategy to their systems. This approach has forced customers to purchase systems with features they will never use – without the ability to accommodate upgrades that address future needs. Sure, users can upgrade a lens or software license but cameras, lighting, automated stages, and computers are unavailable to upgrade. This means that a business will need to purchase a completely new system to address future needs.

    There are, of course, exceptions to these limitations. Some manufacturers have opted to offer more modularity or upgradability. Thankfully many companies are moving away from the integrated system computer, opting instead for a separate computer. This limits the risk of a computer failure rendering a digital microscope useless, but it highlights the shortcomings of a “one size fits all” strategy.

    One manufacturer that is leading the way in the evolution of the mainstream definition of the digital microscope is Leica Microsystems. The recently introduced DVM6 comes in three different versions with the ability to upgrade lenses, software, and computer as necessary. It currently meets or exceeds the draft standards set forth in ISO 18221. If the DVM6 is not the right fit, there are also the DMS1000 and DMS300 that round out the “digital microscope” offering by Leica Microsystems.

    If the digital microscope phrase is opened up to include microscopes with digital components, the options are even greater. Regardless of your experiment or project demands, Leica has a digital microscope that will meet the needs of any project requiring optical observation or analysis. Project needs can be addressed by an upright compound microscope, inverted compound microscope, stereo microscope, or macroscope with hundreds of options.

    Leica’s commitment to the modular microscope design also offers businesses the opportunity to upgrade when an unforeseen challenge arises. This is something that Leica has been doing for years. In fact, Leica microscopes that are 20 years old are still in use today because of their quality manufacturing, but also modularity. Leica has made a point to manufacture systems that are compatible across generations of microscopes. This is demonstrated in the cross compatibility in the stereo microscopes of 15 years ago. In fact, I have personally upgraded a 40 year-old microscope with a new trinocular head to accommodate a camera attachment. This commitment is also demonstrated in Leica’s continued support of digital cameras that are over 12 years old – several of which were first generation digital cameras!

    Although these systems are not the type that can be purchased “off the shelf,” they do come with highly skilled experts to help advise on critical configuration decisions. The microscope and imaging specialists at W. Nuhsbaum, Inc are prepared to help you identify the microscope system that best fits your projects, regardless of whether the microscope is digital or includes eyepieces.

    Get in touch with us and experience the expertise for yourself.

    “The Count” on Digital microscopes: You are having too much fun with numbers!

    Since the days of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and his custom microscopes, the most exquisite detector was used for critical observations – the human eye. The human eye was critical for describing the first microorganisms, but also, as the story goes, the quality of the thread he was using for his textile business. The eye was able to open the door to unknown areas of science, albeit with the help of glass lenses.

    Today, the eye is still a critical part of every scientific advancement based on an image. Whether the image is generated by a stereo microscope, compound microscope, electron microscope, or the Hubble Space Telescope – the eye is the final destination for the data generated by these systems. So, naturally, the eye is the final calculation for total magnification in a microscope system. For over 160 years, Leica has been calculating total magnification by multiplying the magnification of the objective lens, intermediate lens, and eyepiece lens. For instance, a 20X microscope lens, without an intermediate magnification lens, and 10X eyepieces, would have a total magnification of 200X.

    Although the traditional “total magnification calculation” still applies in optical systems that include eyepieces, the math changes when a camera is used for total magnification. If I had a dollar for every engineer that asked me, “What is the total magnification of the camera,” I would probably have about 15 or 20 bucks. Don’t laugh, in the microscope world, 15-20 are a lot of people asking the same question! The answer every time is “I don’t know.” There are too many sensors available with different pixel sizes, length, and width measurements. Pair these variables with objective lenses, intermediate lenses, and the lenses in the camera coupler and it’s enough to befuddle even the most talented engineer.

    When a camera is included in the total magnification equation, it is the monitor, not the camera that dictates the magnification. Even with a camera, the monitor, and ultimately the eye is the final calculation for total magnification. In systems where the monitor has a variable size, the magnification is calculated based on the viewable area of the live or captured image. For example, the magnification is less on a 17-inch monitor compared to a 30-inch monitor. With this in mind, a digital microscope, without eyepieces, and a 30-inch monitor has a greater magnification than the same digital microscope with a 17-inch monitor.

    Commence “fun with numbers”.

    This numbers game goes a step further when digital zoom is incorporated into the equation. When a 10-megapixel sensor is “zoomed” to only include a center region of 2.5 megapixels, the magnification is tripled. What if the digital zoom goes all the way to a region of 16 pixels squared, is that really magnification? Most reasonable people would answer “no.” However, on a spec sheet, that digital microscope has magnification that exceeds an electron microscope! Put it on a 60-inch 4K television and the numbers become even more outlandish.

    Is the scenario described above actually happening in the marketplace? The simple answer is no, but it could, which is why an ISO standard for digital microscopes is being developed to standardize digital microscopes. ISO/DIS 18221 is being developed by an international committee to put a stop to the digital microscope hijinks.

    In reference to ISO 18221: This International Standard specifies the minimum information to be provided to the user by manufacturers of microscopes with digital displays, regarding imaging performance. It further specifies terms and definitions for describing the optical performance of the digital imaging path of microscopy systems including the observation of the image on digital displays.

    NOTE: Terms and definitions for the direct visual observation with eyepieces are specified in ISO 8039 and ISO 10934-1. More information on the new digital microscope ISO standard can be reviewed at the ISO website:

    In short, the draft standard is designed to account for more than magnification, but also consider field of view and resolution (line pairs per millimeter). The flagship digital microscope from Leica Microsystems, the DVM6, was designed with these draft standards in mind. Although these standards are only in draft status, the Leica DVM6 already meets these standards.

    Those in the market for a digital microscope should seriously consider these standards when evaluating digital microscopes. Will your digital microscope stack up well to the new ISO 18221 standards? The data from the Leica DVM6 is ready for the future – will yours?