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Celestron Handheld 5MP USB Microscope
on January 15, 2014
I purchased this 'scope hoping to have better luck than with one of the no-names (read Veho). Having had some experience with these USB scopes, I probably was able to better sort out the rash of complaints listed in the latest dozen or so reviews.
Some of the comments about "Blobs" or reflections or artifacts are actually typical of bits of dust. A Swiffer duster will clean much of this up in seconds.
I do knife sharpening as a retirement hobby, and I use the scope for checking for scratches, chips, nicks and level of polish.
Understand that these are not true microscopes, but are high-magnification video cameras. Imaging is processed from the video stream, not like a photograph. Modern digital cameras do the opposite.
My prior 'scope has a similar thumbwheel adjustment built into the housing, which varied the magnification. The Celestron doesn't have variable magnification; it's fixed and is adjustable in the software, which simply crops the image. The resolution is based on the full image, so if you zoom in, it's like using digital zoom on your little Nikon Coolpix camera. The Celestron thunbwheel adusts the actual projection of the camera lens axially with the housing as a fine-adjust tool to focus.
Hoping that a 5MP camera would be better than my 2MP camera, I was disappointed to realize that setting up for the higher resolution didn't improve the image on my screen. Silly me, I would need a hi-res screen. But capturing images at the higher res resulted in blurry images. Disclaimer here: I use the camera primarily in the handheld mode. If I had a good image on the screen (the basic 2MP is actually better than HD video) and captured an image, apparently the software uses interlacing to fill in the other 3MP. Meaning that it actually has to take more than one frame of video to produce a higher resolution image. In handheld mode, that means a blurry image. I haven't yet tested for true 5MP imaging with a fixed mount.
All that said, this camera has some major improvements over the no-name I have been using. With its fixed magnification and adjustable focus I was able to set up for my particular use. I adjust the focus point to fall on the plane of the face of the clear plastic shroud. Then I can touch the camera to any reasonably straight component and immediately have a near-perfect focus. I can tip the camera to lay the shroud flat and centered on a knife edge and slide the camera along the edge, watching the video of the edge as I pan along the edge. Nice! I can even take videos, but the file size is huge!
The no-name (Veho) image capture button is on the housing, making it nearly impossible to get a clear image without disturbing the camera. I had to use the "print screen" key and then paste the image to some other software. A very time-consuming process. I use Corel's version of Photoshop.
Unlike the others, Celestron provides a cable-mounted capture button, the housing of which also holds a thumbwheel dial for the LED brightness. No disturbing the camera! Very nice!
The fixed magnification image shown on my screen is comparable to my Veho's max magnification of about 185X (not the advertised 800X). I don't need more power so much as a clearer image of my knife edges.
Also nice is the calibration method provided. This makes it easy to measure objects on the screen. I was able to measure "scratch lines" down to within few microns. I did find a glich in that the dimension of a measurement is unreadable because of the font size when you are zoomed in.
The software could use some other improvement, but is vastly better than the no-name. The instructions are supplied as a .pdf file which was only a dozen or so pages. Some sections could use clarification and a forthright explanation of the video and image capture would be helpful. It would also be nice if I could change the color and font of the measuring tools. Under certain lighting conditions, it simply disappeared.
BTW, I was able to also run my old camera on the Celestron software, You have to restart the software after you plug in a different camera. I haven't played with it yet to test the hybrid performance. Maybe I'll find situations that would dictate one camera over the other. 12/2015 edit: The non-Celestron cameras seem to work with the software, but you can't capture images
12/2015: An update after a couple of years of use:
Celestron says it's a fixed magnification, but actually I've found that these cameras (the tubular kind) have a single lens which is moved closer or farther from the 5MP sensor to focus. The closer the lens is to the object, the greater the effective magnification. I use it at a fixed focal plane - the face of the shroud, which I rest on the knife edge. I've found that all these cameras have two positions at which they will focus on a given plane. For me, on my 21" monitor, this is 50X and about 160X. I've learned that for my use (knife edges) 50X is perfect. Some depth-of-field, easy focus. On further study, I don't think the rez is boosted by interlacing. I think it really is 5MP, but yes, 2MP is all you need for any HD monitor. To use 5MP, you need to save to a JPEG and zoom in to the level you want. Frankly 5MP isn't much better than 2MP.