Microscopy with the iPhone

Wooden scope

The Echo Labs wooden microscope, with resolution test target on the stage. The phone sits on top, with the camera looking through the lens.

At ASCB, Echo Labs was giving out laser cut wooden microscopes that use a cell phone as the camera to promote their new microscope.

I’ve been curious for a while about how high the resolution achievable with a consumer phone or camera would be, so I took some pictures of a resolution test target with my iPhone 5 alone, and using the wooden microscope. I used a USAF 1951 resolution target, available from Thorlabs. To get images without compression artifacts, you need to use a camera program that can save lossless images, rather than the JPEG compressed images that the iPhone generates by default. I used Camera+, but there are others. I then took pictures with and without the wooden scope.With the scope, I was able to see resolve group 5 element 2 (conservatively).  Without the scope, I was able to resolve group 3 element 6.  This corresponds to 35.9 line pairs / mm with the scope and 14.25 lp/mm without the scope. Inverting these numbers gives you a resolution of 28 µm with the microscope and 70 µm without. This is a far cry from a research microscope, but not bad for a cell phone and a single lens laser cut microscope.

Resolution target acquired with the Wooden Scope

Center part of the resolution target acquired with the wooden microscope.

iPhone alone

Resolution target acquired with the iPhone 5 alone.

6 thoughts on “Microscopy with the iPhone

  1. This is great! Thanks for putting our wooden scope to the test. These were a bigger hit than we expected, and we love seeing the photos of people building and using them.

    Cheers,

    Adrian
    Echo Labs

  2. FYI, Echo labs now has them for sale on their website, $10 each. I just ordered a bunch.

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