Choosing a Microscope Camera in Life Sciences Applications

Choosing a Microscope Camera in Life Sciences Applications Leveraging advanced vision systems in life sciences applications prove to be an effective way of maintaining quality control, ensuring traceability, increasing throughput, and minimizing costs. Life science vision systems tend to be complex, with capabilities above those normally used in the industrial sector, to handle the requirements of unique applications. 

But the growth of the life sciences sector has led to a rapid proliferation of vision technology to support the needs of diverse applications. Given the wide variety of vision solutions available, how do you choose a camera for your life science application? 

Choosing a Camera for Life Sciences Boils Down to the Sensor

There are many different vision components that make up a camera, including the lens, the lens mount, the interface, the cables, the housing and more. But when most people consider one camera over another, the image sensor is the vital vision component that determines camera performance.

The first and most significant thing to look at in a sensor is whether charged coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensors are better for you. CCD sensors are hindered by low frame rates but have excellent pixel uniformity. CMOS sensors, on the other hand, can achieve high speeds, high resolutions, and for the most part have become a more popular choice for life science applications. 

Evaluating an Image Sensor for Life Science Applications

Diving deeper into what makes a high quality sensor for life sciences applications, there are a number of attributes that determine the performance of an image sensor. 

  • Pixel Size: the size of the pixel determines its sensitivity. Large pixels will be great in low light situations, including fluorescence microscopy. However, large pixels tend to reduce the overall quantity of pixels on a sensor, reducing the sensor’s resolution. 
  • Quantum Efficiency: the quantum efficiency (QE) of a sensor is a measure of its ability to convert photons to charge. The higher the QE at your desired spectral range the more efficient your camera will be.
  • Spectral Range: today’s sensors are available in a variety of spectral ranges. If your application requires vision outside the visible spectrum of light, you may need to extend the spectral range with a sensor that has near-infrared (NIR) capabilities.
  • Frame Rate: the frame rate of a sensor measures how many frames can be captured in a second. Often, capturing cellular mechanisms requires a CMOS sensor with a high frame rate for quality imaging. 

When most end users are evaluating the merits of a microscope camera for their application, they’re actually discussing the performance capabilities of the image sensor. The few attributes mentioned above are critically important to evaluate, although there are many others. 

Choosing a microscope camera for your life sciences application can be difficult, but knowing how to evaluate an image sensor can help point you in the right direction. 

To learn more, stay tuned for the launch of our educational Vision in Life Sciences section of the website! This section will be dedicated to the use of vision in life science applications, as well as cover the emerging market of life sciences. Be sure to check back for more updates!


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