What is a digital microscope

A digital microscope is a microscope that contains a tiny digital camera (CMOS) and is connected to a computer. The images seen through the microscope's eyepiece can be shown on the computer's monitor and saved on the hard drive as an image (in various formats) or as video, or timelapse video.

Digital microscopes are used widely in research and industry:

  • in art galleries for restoration work
  • in the textile industry for examining fibre quality
  • by scientists (entomologists, palaeontologists, marine biologists and others) in laboratories and in the field
  • in engineering workshops to examine tooling and printed circuit (PC) boards
  • by horticulturists for identifying insects and plant diseases
  • in pest control work
  • by printers to check the quality of print
  • in forensic analysis and the identification of forged documents
  • by veterinarians to identify and remove such things as small ticks
  • by beauticians to identify skin problems and in fine tattooing work
  • by audiologists to examine the inner ear
  • by dentists to examine teeth

Industrial and scientific researchers find digital microscopes have many benefits over conventional microscopes. Firstly, images can be saved or printed allowing for close examination.

In addition, when the images seen through a digital microscope are viewed on a computer screen using Web technology, it enables several people in various locations to examine the image at once.

There are also benefits for teachers.  The entire class can view a specimen at once when the camera is connected to a computer and data projector/interactive white board. This saves time and ensures that all students will get to see the same specimen. Images can be saved for later use, and using special software, can also be measured and changes analyzed over time.

Types of digital microscopesDigital Eyepiece

Some digital microscopes are portable and can easily be held in the hand. Other digital microscopes are really conventional microscopes with a digital camera where the eyepiece would be. Such microscopes have the same limitations as conventional microscopes in that they are bench-mounted (fixed) but also the benefits of better quality optics.

A conventional microscope can become a digital microscope quite simply with the addition of a digital eyepiece.  A digital eyepiece is a small digital camera that replaces the standard eyepiece of the microscope and is then connected to a computer via USB.

However the most popular digital microscopes tend to be the hand-held variety that can be taken into the field or onto the factory floor with a laptop, or the smaller ultra-mobile PCs.

A small number of digital microscopes are WiFi which means they can be used by iPads and Andoid tablets.

An example is the TLI iMicro, which works with iPad, iPhone and Android via WiFi. The NetcamViewer App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes site and the Android App is supplied on CD for upload to your Android device.
iMirco for iPad

 The Proscope Mobile is designed for use with iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Apps can be downloaded for use with this digital microscope.
The Proscope HR uses interchangeable lenses with a magnification to 400X.

Proscope Mobile for iPad

One digital microscope suitable for education, the ViTiny, also has its own in-built memory. By no means a replacement for traditional or USB based microscopes, schools looking for a highly portable, digital alternative to a traditional magnifying glass find the ViTiny easy and fun for junior students. It saves up to 20 images which can later be downloaded to a computer. Polaroid Digital Microscope

Specialist digital microscopes include Polaroid, fluorescent(UV) and long working distance. Polaroid microscopes are ideal for working with shiny surfaces such as jewelry, metal and printed circuit boards.

Other digital microscopes have specific applications such as dentiscopes, earscopes and iriscopes. Such medical devices adapt the basic digital microscope to specific applications.

Hearing digital microscope Dentiscope EyeScope


Teachers, do you require further information?  Our SMART Guide to Digital Microscopes contains details of the major kinds of microscopes, a buyer guide, useful Websites and a variety of classroom activities.  Click here for details.