Anyone tried photomicrography? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread


I'm keen to try some photomicrography (I think that's the correct word) with a 10x8" camera. I've never used a microscope, so I don't know whether I need a microscope with some sort of adaptor to my camera (with/without lens?). Or do I just need some extra-long bellows extension and some extra-long arms to go with it? I'm using an Arca 10x8" monorail. I think the things I would want to photograph would be mounted in those glass slide thingies - squashed insects/tissue samples etc - greatly magnified.

Thanks for any advice

David Nash

-- David Nash (, May 31, 2002


David, photomicrography involves photographing prepared microscope slides under a great amount of magnification. You'll need a microscope and an adapter for your lens, as well as a rig to hold the camera at the correct angle. Doing this type of photography with an 8X10 camera is like hunting for rabbits with an elephant rifle. Better done with a 35mm camera that has the proper extension tubes and lens adapter to fit the microscope.

-- Eugene (, May 31, 2002.

How "microscopic" do you want to go. Scale back to 4x5 and try to get ahold of some of the Zeiss Luminar Lenses. On the expensive side, but really top notch stuff. Take a look at the January/February 2000 issue of View Camera. You can get up to 40x with the 16mm lens. Of course depth of field is about the width of a hair at that point. Linhof made an extension cone lens board for the Luminar lenses that fit the Technika IV and later models.

-- Donald Brewster (, May 31, 2002.

What sort of magnification do you want to achieve? I do this and use Nikon scopes and a special Nikon 35mm camera that is controlled by a keypad. The keypad has settings for shutter speed, film speed, exposure compensation, and includes a meter. The scopes are either a standard binocular transmission scope where light is shined through a thinly sliced (0.5 to 5 micron) specimen or a binocular dissecting scope where fiber optic lights are used to illuminate the subject--a bug, a penny, mouse organs, salt, etc.

I also use a Coolpix 990 to do digital photomicroscopy with an inverted Nikon TS100 microscope.

Neither of these setups are cheap. You might see if you know someone or know someone who knows someone who could help you out.


-- Dave Willis (, May 31, 2002.

You might try looking for an old Bausch & Lomb Metallograph 8x10 camera outfit. They weigh about 90 pounds, have no back movements but are rock solid and designed for photographing mineral specimans up to about 500x lifesize. They are a 5 or 6 foot long platform with the metal 8x10 body on one end, about 3 feet of bellows & a platform on the other end. Permanently aligned, rock solid & take the lenses designed specifically for photomicrography. Put the film holder in and nothing even vibrates. They have been used in labs for years and still work well. If you find one you can make it perform as a horizontal enlarger as well.

-- Dan Smith (, June 01, 2002.

You can also look into a Polaroid MP4 camera with a Kenro 8x10 head, works very well. I've used mine for >500x magnifications of transistor chips.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, June 01, 2002.

As far as the microscope goes, you'll need a trinocular scope -- one that has a prism to send the light to either the viewing reticles or through the photo eyepiece. They are usually pretty easy to pick out as they have a long arm extending straight up from the top of the scope. Many of the newer models have the photo eyepieces located in the rear or on the side, but these designs are very expensive. I would look at any of the Nikon, Olympus, or Leitz lines. I just saw a Leitz Dialux go by un-bidded at under $1,000 on eBay. An extremely fair price for some seriously quality glass.

As far as connecting your 8x10 to the scope, you dont have to get super precise about it. In the past, I've mounted a 4x5 on a strudy copy stand, placed the scope on the base board and used a blackened toilet paper roll to keep out stray light. If you are working in a totally light tight room, you can even dispense with the TP roll. Most adapters for large format dont even contain any glass (unless they are magnifying adapters), so all you need is a black void to send the imaging light through so it can reach your film. And if you didnt know already, if you're shooting 8x10 film from a microscope at any amount of magnification, you're going to be there a while. I wouldn't set up near a blasting zone.

You may also want to try reverse mounted enlarging lenses or "thimble" lenses for high mag work without a microscope.

-- Dan Craig (, June 04, 2002.

Adding to Don Craig's comment, trinocular microscopes show up on Ebay for a few hundred $ (I bought a Spencer a year ago for $200- something). With a 4x5 you can also use a tripod and a geared center column.

Kodak has a good book on photography thru the microscope

-- John Lehman (, June 04, 2002.

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