I just came across this interesting PDF summarizing the performance of Point Grey cameras. Point Grey is a machine vision camera manufacturer, and I don’t normally think of using machine vision cameras for microscopy. However, some of their cameras have respectable performance – I wouldn’t want to use them for low light fluorescence work, but for brightfield imaging, and possible for routine fluorescence imaging, they would be fine. Most interestingly, they are very cheap – all are under $2k, and many are under $1k.
For example, the GS3-U3-23S6M-C is a 1920 x 1200 pixel CMOS camera, with 6.8 e– read noise, and 76% QE at 525 nm. It has 5.86 μm pixels, and runs at up to 162 frames per second. Best, it’s only $1295.
Or, the FL3-GE-20S4M-C – it’s a 1624 x 1224 pixel CCD camera, wih 8.35 e- read noise, and 59% QE at 525 nm. It has 4.4 μm pixels, and runs at 15 fps. It’s only $995.
These cameras are uncooled, so noise will be an issue at longer exposure times. Driver support for these in microscopy software is also an issue, but some of the firewire and GigE cameras may work in Micro-manager. It would be nice to see support for these low cost cameras appearing in microscope software and would open up some interesting possibilities for cheap imaging.