Daniel C. McCarthy, News Editor
The quick image capture and archiving ability of video-based imaging systems has lured materials analysts away from film-based documentation methods. More high-end technologies, such as digital-output CCD (charge-coupled device) cameras, may also eliminate the need for a frame grabber, but the prohibitive cost of these cameras limits their use in a wide range of applications. When Buehler Ltd. designed its Mars (materials archive and report system), it found a cost-effective solution in Panasonic's GP-KS1000 color microcamera, which offers both high pixel density and real-time imaging -- features that when combined are still atypical for digital color CCD cameras.
Panasonic's 900,000-pixel color microcamera provides real-time imaging for materials analysts using Buehler's materials and archive report system. By calibrating the dimensions of a single item within an image, many measurements can be performed on other items in the image. Courtesy of Buehler Ltd.
At the heart of Panasonic's camera -- and the reason Buehler selected it -- is a 900,000-pixel CCD chip that gives 560 horizontal lines of resolution and a signal-to-noise ratio of 54 dB, according to Alan Woodman, product manager for the Mars system. This gave him the option to upgrade resolution for the Mars system from a 380,000-pixel camera, while controlling overall system costs. "Panasonic offers the highest-resolution color single-chip real-time video camera that I found," he said.
Another drawing card was the size of Panasonic's camera. Its head is about the size of a tube of lipstick, and it can be connected directly to most microscopes. The camera's processing electronics are housed in a small box at the end of a 6-foot cable and may be placed where it doesn't intrude on analysts' work space.
Although uses for the Mars system extend beyond microscopy, it was designed with microscope applications in mind. "Calibration is usually a one-time procedure for microscope applications if the microscope has fixed magnification interchangeable objectives," Woodman said. "But with any image file that can be calibrated on [the dimensions of] a single item within it, you can then perform a wide variety of measurements on anything in the image.