Microscope camera review: Touptek 5, CMEX-5 vs SLR review

Microscope camera review. There is very little information available comparing microscope cameras, so we thought we would test a few. Thank you to Joyce Scott and Keith Tulip for reviewing the following cameras on a trinocular iScope microscope:

CMEX-5 5MP camera

Touptek 5MP L3CMOS USB 3.0

10MP Canon 500D SLR with Euromex SLR adapter

Joyce’s notes follow below…

Choosing a camera for my microscope – a few thoughts.

What I was Looking for: It had to be easy to use, produce clear photographs and images large enough to print to A3 size for exhibitions.

Options: Hand held compact camera, dSLR or specialist microscope camera

I’d already been using a compact camera and was getting some reasonable results as record shots but nothing good enough to print.

David Smith was helping me with my microscope work and he uses an dSLR with good results so that was what I was looking for. Keith Tulip then showed me his new set up with the Euromex microscope and his dSLR again with good results.

The CMEX-5 camera was easy to set up initally but had three main problems as far as I could see (with my limited experience of these cameras). One, there was a time delay between focusing the microscope and the picture on the laptop responding. That was very disconcerting. Two was that I couldn’t get a completely clear image. It always seemed a bit fuzzy. I might have been expecting to much as Keith explained that even with the dSLR the image was never as good as through the microscope alone. Three was that the software was not easy to use. I couldn’t get a good white balance, try as I might when following the instructions in the User Document so the images were very murky. I want to use this for lichens so it is important to be able to see the colours clearly. The green algal layer in a lichen thallus did not show up for example. It may be that with some help (from yourself) that I could have resolved some of these issues but it all felt too difficult.

CMEX-5MP test gallery images

Keiths dSLR was good as you expect, given that he didn’t have time to do a white balance for the test slides I took up for him to demonstrate the dSLR the results were very clear and sharp.

Canon 500D test images

So I compared the dSLR to the Touptek camera. I love this camera and the software!

Touptek 5MP L3CMOS USB3 test images

It felt very comfortable, and easy to set up and use. The software is simple. Setting the white balance and exposure is easy and quick. The image on the laptop is clear, sharp with good colour and there is no time delay between focusing the microscope and the image on the laptop. So the only question, given it is only a 5megapixel camera, was that I could get good A3 prints compared to the dSLR. I sent off a few from each camera to be printed and the results were surprising. There was no difference in print quality. I expected some pixilation in the Touptek images but they were fine. (The odd one was slightly out of focus with both the dSLR and Touptek but that was because we hadn’t focused correctly on the microscope, nothing to do with print quality).

Jo Scott

26 May 2016

Additional notes: John Robinson. 7/6/16. I’m not sure if the CMEX-5 was correctly set up for this test, however the software is certainly less intuitive to use than others. The CMEX-5 to Touptek 5MP comparision is not entirely fair as the Touptek model tested has a faster USB3 connection plus onboard memory which explains the lack of camera lag when viewing on screen. However, the price difference is not that great.

The Touptek 5MP L3CMOS USB3 produced very good images in the test and gets my recommendation as a good dedicated microscope camera. It has a good quality sensor and is responsive. A less expensive USB 2 version is also available which I have also found to be good.

So far, I have been very impressed with the quality of the Touptek cameras and adapters. The cameras are well made, precision instruments and the software is very intuitive. We also have an even higher spec 12MP camera from Touptek which I will compare soon (review now added here).

In general – thoughts of micrscope cameras vs SLRs.

If you want to start taking photos with a microscope then often the first route is to use some kind of eyepiece adapter and compact camera. This is OK if you only take photos occaisionally but it soon becomes tiresome having to mount and dismount a camera frequently. If possible it is much better to get a microscope with a trinocular head and mount a camera permanently.

Once you have a trinocular microscope – is it better to mount a dedicated camera or SLR? Personally I prefer a dedicated camera – they are smaller, lighter and can be powered and controlled directly from your laptop. Microscope cameras  and adapters used to be relatively expensive but now they are much more competitively priced.

If you are a dedicated SLR owner then you may prefer to use that system and you can certainly get very good results. Canon SLR’s are the best choice as the shutter can be locked using Live View to give a vibration-free image and you can controlled by a laptop via cable. Modern Wifi-enabled Canons such as the EOS 70D (wifi) can also be controlled wirelessly from your laptop (bear in mind you will need to power the SLR with batteries).