During the hackteria workshop held at the Homemade Week Vico Morcote 2009, the participants were introduced into the microscopic world of the living, hacking webcams and builing usable microscope setups. Different samples were collected from the local environment, the lake of Lugano, soil from an old biological wastedump and a stack of hay.
Further improvements of the microscope setup developed during this week allowed the control of the focus by a servo, and lighting using a microcontroller (Arduino) and also using Pure Data to process the video data, which allows to do various image processing and visual art work. A simple interface was also made to be able to adjust the most important settings without using the laptop directly.
A small hack to the optics of a standard webcam allows to create video data, with a magnification of around 100 to 400x (depending on the model and the setup) at a working distance of a few mm. The highest magnifications can be achieved by inverting (putting upside down) the lens. Addition of good lighting by the use of leds allows to create images using a bright-field method (shine through the stuff) or dark field method (shine from the side and look at the reflections and scattering).
Thanks to: Jordi Riegg, Christoph Haberer, Uwe Schueler, Alex