Friday, May 13, 2011

Celestron handheld USB microscope

Since I go through so much trouble whenever I want to shoot macro, I decided to take a look at maybe a cheap microscope and try to figure out how to shoot it with my camera. I was delighted to find out that you can now buy a 150x USB microscope for less than $70. The imaging sensor is rudimentary when compared even to my phone's camera, but in this case the important part is the lens and focusing.

This is a Celestron 44302 handheld digital microscope. It is mainly designed for hobbyists that want to inspect things like coins, stamps and other collectibles, and professionals doing quality assurance inspections.

Installation was simple: pop-in the CD, install the application and then plug it into USB. There, it's done.

The microscope has a shutter that can be triggered by the software, and a focusing wheel. There are no markings or any kind of indicator to tell you your zoom level, and focusing is a pain in the ass. It took me maybe one hour of screwing with it until I more or less figured out how to get perfect shots at the lowest resolution and I can almost get a sharp shot at 150x 75% of the time. The main (only) problem is that the focusing wheel is really hard, and I don't know if it is going to loosen up with usage.

The image quality is decent, it does work. The problem is that at least until the focusing wheel is a bit easier to turn, the stand is by all means worthless: you can't keep it in position and focus at the same time. I took tons of shots of coins, memory cards, etc. It is definitely better than using the camera for straight macro because even handheld it is much easier to aim than the camera.