Prioritized Criteria for Scientific Camera Selection

A list of the top-10 questions that help you zero-in on the technologies that are best suited for the requirements of your Scientific Imaging project. By capturing the prioritized essentials of your application, this process can save both time and money. For example, one begins with the "Photonics" questions to ensure that one doesn't initiate camera selection based on the number of pixels, but by parameters that are crucial to obtaining a quantitatively useful image.

  • Please add a title by which you can identify the experimental setup or lab requirement. For example: "Imaging zebrafish embryos under fluorescence" OR "Materials Science Lab" OR "NIR Inspection of ____".
  • Add a few notes that describe your experimental setup. Is it an existing setup, or one that is still in the conceptual stage? If possible, identify the imaging technique that is involved. For example: "I need to add upgrade the camera in my existing Spinning Disk Confocal Microscope setup" OR "I'm working on a proposal for Wide Field of View Imaging under Near Infrared illumination". If possible, add a few words about the end-goal of the experiment, e.g. "I need to obtain quantitative data from my images", OR, "Images must be of publication quality".
  • Photonics

    The first 4 questions of this prioritized 10 question process capture the critical "photonics" aspects of your Scientific Imaging requirements. These most directly affect the imaging performance of your setup - and your budget as well. If we get these right, we can quickly identify the technologies that are can deliver the necessary performance. It can also prevent mistakes that can cost time and money.
  • How would you characterize the light level that is incident on the camera in your experimental setup? Since it is often difficult to come up with quantitative information, e.g. photons/pixel/sec (!), a qualitative estimate [e.g. very dim, or moderately bright] can suffice.
  • If the light levels are low, do your applications allow a longer camera exposure? Are there other requirements, for example, throughput, that constrain the duration of exposure that is acceptable for the camera?
  • What is the wavelength of the light that is incident on the camera? Be as specific as possible, e.g. GFP emission at 509nm, OR provide a range, e.g. VISible light, or NIR between 700-900nm.
  • Are the images in your applications uniformly bright, or is there a wide range of brightness within a typical image?
  • Imaging

    Now that the Photonics are understood, we can breathe a little easier! The next 4 questions get to salient aspects of the imaging setup that can help us narrow down the details within a specific category of the relevant imaging technology.
  • How would you describe the size of the sample area that needs to be captured in one image? In some experiments, this is fixed, e.g. one needs to view a sample that is 10mm x 10mm in size. In others it can vary, depending on the optics, the sample size or the workflow.
  • What is the working distance (WD), the distance between the sample plane and the front of the lens/objective. Responses can range from: "it is set by the objectives in my microscope" to "my optics are on a benchtop optical table, WD is 100mm" or "A viewing port in my experimental chamber requires the WD to be at least 170mm".
  • What is the size of the smallest feature that your optics and camera must resolve? For example, "I need to be able to detect cells or particles that are 20um in diameter". If you need to see 1um sub-features within the 20um cells or particles, then the critical number becomes 1um. Keep in mind that the Optical Resolution of an imaging system is dependent on the illumination, optics and the camera in an imaging system.
  • Is there anything that is likely to changing rapidly in the Field-of-View (FOV)? Note that the changes could be in the samples themselves, or in various aspects of the illumination or imaging technique. If specifics are known, please mention them here, for example, "the particles that I am imaging move so fast that I must capture at least 40 images per second, with ~50us exposures to prevent intraframe blur".
  • Use of Images

    Here we focus on the workflow, to ensure that we have all the factors that are relevant to our selection of cameras and other components.
  • Is there a need to capture single images, or image sequences - or both? Are the images to be quantitatively analyzed? A few words on these topics can be very helpful. For example, "I need to take multiple images and analyze a stack of images".
  • Do you have any software-specific requirements? For example, are you looking to use the "bundled" imaging software provided by the camera manufacturer to control the camera and acquire images? Do you need to use specific 3rd party software, e.g. LabVIEW, MatLab, Micro-manager, Metamorph? Are you developing a custom application, and require a camera with a well-documented SDK/API?
  • Next Steps

    Please enter your name and email address to receive a copy of your completed questionnaire as well as technical recommendations that are specific to your project.
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