Introduction . . .

This is a brand new blog, by a brand new blogger. However, some readers may recognize this blog's title, taken from a series of books of the same name. Unfortunately, time has a way of gradually making printed material all too quickly outdated -- especially these days -- and so, this blog was created partly as an attempt to address that issue.

As we move forward from here on-going efforts will be made to transfer selected content from the Better Microscopy books series into this new format, not only to provide to provide more effective distribution, but also as a means for making timely additions and overdue updates to that material. In addition, much previously unpublished material is now planned to be released, including high-resolution color images.

The current plan is to aim for a content mix that is both interesting and educational -- perhaps even inspiring -- and which will address the needs and interests of a wide range of user levels, from beginner to semi-professional. With more decades of Microscopy experience than I care to admit, I hope I will be able to contribute something to others in terms of both knowledge and enjoyment.

I hope you find something of interest in new undertaking as it takes shape and gain much from its content, now and well into the future!

Just beware of the occasional attempts at humor...

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

3D Image Enhancement made EASY – Part I [Updated April 27]

Click on image above for larger version.

Recent posts covering the Goerz '3D' Condenser have sparked interest in creating an alternative approach suitable for use with ordinary (Abbe-type) condensers.

The goals of this new effort were: (1) Low cost and Ease of construction, (2) Improvement in image contrast and apparent object depth, and (3) Ease of construction and use..

It is important to remember that the goals here are not maximum image contrast nor maximum resolution, but rather to simply achieve meaningful improvements in both (relative to normal Brightfield imaging) by use of the simplest and most generally applicable method possible. 

The method presented here appears to satisfy these goals and results in a simple addition which may be easily applied to an ordinary microscope condenser and, unlike other methods, (e.g: oblique illumination or phase contrast) may be used without any additional/special optics or concern for adjustments during use.

Also, since the light loss is minimal, the device is suitable for use on instruments having limited illumination and/or at higher magnifications than these common alternatives.

The device is constructed as a simple disk having an array of three diffusion segments, which modify the illumination in a predetermined manner and is essentially the same for all objectives, from 10x to 40x, or more. The "radial" approach both eliminates the need for adjustments when changing objectives and also allows the Condenser Iris to remain fully usable as an additional means of image control.

The construction of this Condenser "Radial Diffusion mask" is depicted in the following diagrams:

Note: Click on any above image for a larger view. 

Installation of the mask, its preferred use and example specimen photos will be presented ASAP… 

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Basic Construction Notes:  

Most of the construction details for this mask are non-critical. If the tape intersection point is reasonably close to the optical center of the Condenser when installed, then the device should function as intended. The precise angles are also not critical – anything approaching 90-degrees should work just fine. 

The specific type of "matte tape" to be used is also not critical. Ordinary, generic "dollar store" types seem to work about as well as anything else. As long as the tape width is about 3/4" then disks up to about 37.5mm diameter would seem feasible. Scotch (brand) Matte finish tape, however, apears to be superior to their "Satin finish" variety, which seems to exhibit less desirable diffusion characteristics, at least for this use. 

The acetate disk material is also non-critical. The basic requirements are that it be basically clear, self-supporting and thin enough to be trimmed with scissors. However, if your Condenser accepts a clear Daylight filter, then this might  serve as an alternative substrate. 

The positioning of the Opaque segment was chosen so as to not create uneven illumination with objectives of less than about 40x. However, it may be positioned closer to the disk center if contrast enhancement is desired for objectives in the 16x to 25x range also. In this case, about a third, instead of halfway, from the center to the disk edge may be tried. However, if detailed examinations with 40x and greater objectives are not the primary use, then the Opaque segment may simply be omitted with minimal loss in overall performance. (It can always be added later, if desired.) 

The Opaque segment may be created with a single strip of black PVC tape (plastic electrical tape), located on the reverse side of the disk, so it does not interfere with the matte segments. This allows the opaque segment to be re-positioned, if desired, without interfering with the other segments. 

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An External Mask

One common problem with many modern microscopes is that they often use Condensers which lack any sort of proper filter holder. Naturally, this sort of shortcoming might seem to be an issue when attempting to implement even something as simple as a Radial '3D' Mask… 

Fortunately, the design of this Mask is remarkably forgiving when to comes to placement in the Condenser, even to the extent that it can be perfectly acceptable to place the mask outside the Condenser! This can be especially true for use with objectives of >10x, where the loss in Mask performance is basically trivial. (For objectives of ~10x, the loss is most typically limited to a slightly uneven background light level.) 

For Condensers which have a significant bottom flange (e.g: most base-mount types), external mounting of the mask should be possible, as long as the width of the flange's bottom surface is sufficient to allow retention of the tape strips. 

The tape strips are simply applied across the width of the flange, such that the "inside corner" formed where the strips overlap is located approximately in the center of the objective aperture, as viewed from the eyepiece position. (For the most accurate alignment, with the least difficulty, use of the 10x objective is suggested for this process.)  The two diagrams below depict both proper tape placement and proper overall mask alignment (centering).  

(Note: Click on either image above for a larger view.)

Be aware that the tape placement should be performed only after the Condenser has been properly centered in its mount, as for Brightfield use. Once the Condenser itself is centered, any centering mechanism present should not be used to correct any misalignment of the tape strips. If the overall positioning is unacceptable, then the strips should simply be removed and re-positioned properly. Just remember that exact alignment is not essential for successful use!  

The photo below shows typical results when using the External '3D' Mask method:
(Image cropped and downsized from 16Mpix JPEG original. No sharpening used.) 

(Note: Click on above image for a larger view.

Additional photos using the Radial '3D Mask' will appear in the next post – so, stay tuned…

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