About two years ago, I mentioned Point Grey cameras. These are cameras sold to the machine vision and industrial inspection market, and are much cheaper than typical microscopy cameras – most are <$1000. Point Grey puts out very nice spec sheets listing all of their cameras, and the specifications for some are pretty impressive – cameras with < 3e- read noise for ~$500. Nico Stuurman has recently written a Micro-manager driver for these cameras, and was kind enough to let me test one of these cameras. We mounted it opposite a Hamamatsu Flash4.0 (an older Flash4.0, with ~72% QE), and did a qualitative comparison by taking sequential images of the same test slide on both cameras.
The Point Grey camera we tested was a Chameleon3 CM3-U3-31S4M. This uses a Sony IMX265 sensor, which has 2048 x 1536 3.45 μm pixels, with 71% QE, <3e- read noise, and sells for ~$500. It can run at up to 55 fps. On paper, this camera should perform almost as well as the Flash 4.0. The images below are of a Texas red-phalloidin stained cell, captured with a 20x / 0.75 NA objective and a 10 ms exposure on both cameras. Click on the images to see the full size image.