Using Cameras in Microscopy: Life Science and Industrial Applications

By Andrew Kirby on

At Atik, we specialise in creating low noise cameras that are especially suited for low light applications. Our cameras utilising CCD sensors remain an excellent choice for this purpose and our newer designs, based on CMOS technology, are increasingly finding favour in higher frame rate applications.

Cameras can be used in conjunction with a microscope to record a library of snapshots of what is being observed through the eyepiece. Processes that occur over a longer time scale can be studied by capturing an extended sequence of images. In other situations, where the process is very dynamic, a microscope camera capable of capturing images at video rate (CMOS) may be preferable.

Life Science

In the life sciences or ‘Bio-Imaging’ sector there is an extremely diverse range of potential applications. For example, the area of cellular systems yields the following topics of interest:

  • Identification of specific components or regions within individual cells
  • Observing the growth and lifecycle of cell cultures – for example in response to external stimuli such as the introduction of antibiotics or antimicrobial agents
  • Observing changes in the outer cell wall or cell membrane
  • Capturing the uptake of viral particles or synthetic nanoparticles
  • Using fluorophore markers to locate areas of interest or highlight biochemical processes
  • Observing how bacterial biofilms or particles adhere to different surfaces

Remaining in the life sciences but looking at closely related areas we have Histology, the study of tissue under the microscope and Pathology, the study of diseases in such tissues.

Clinical specimens can be prepared on a microscope slide from thin tissue sections. Frequently, the objective is to use the complementary pairing of microscope and camera to identify structures or anomalies caused by disease. The resulting images can then be used for diagnosis or to provide the basis for tailoring patient treatment. Additionally, where the disease is ongoing or unresolved, a library of images can be compiled for further investigation or used for teaching purposes.

  • Specimens may consist of a variety of physical forms such as soft tissue biopsies taken during surgery. In order to improve image contrast, or to highlight particular features, chemical dyes may be applied to sample.
  • Precise examination of melanomas on the surface of the skin

And of course, there is forensic pathology as part of an autopsy

  • Detailed examination of cardiac muscle
  • Analysis of brain tissue in cases of Alzheimer’s or dementia


The roles in which a high-quality camera can be utilised in industrial applications are equally diverse. In this case the important characteristic may not simply be its low light performance, but may instead highlight the need for a camera with a tight specification to ensure predictable and repeatable results. Parameters such as its linearity to increasing brightness and its colour accuracy may be more important. Additionally, cameras used in industrial applications often need to be capable of higher frame rates compared to those used in the life sciences. Some broad examples are:

  • Metallurgy, particularly with regard to the formation of alloys
  • Structural analysis, such as crack testing in critical components. UV dyes can be used to pinpoint the presence of microscopic defects
  • Inspection of the quality of surface finishes, such as machining marks, paint layers or anodising
  • The integrity of adhesives and sealing compounds
  • Automotive, the inspection of coatings used in catalytic converters

Atik cameras have over a decade of experience of creating cameras for a diverse range of applications. We can manufacture a bespoke design or tailor the specification of an existing model to suit your requirements. Please feel free to get in touch with us using the contact form.