Biologists that use, or are interested in using, microscope cameras and don’t speak engineering
Clarity on the relevance of camera specs to biological experimentation
|Hamamatsu listing||Synonyms used by other vendors|
|Imaging device||Sensor options, Sensor type|
There are three types of sensors behind most microscope cameras—CCD, EM-CCD, and CMOS. While EM-CCDs are a modification of the older CCD technology with the ability to amplify signal, CMOS sensors are a completely different technology with unique capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Because of these differences, care must be taken when comparing CMOS cameras to CCD/EM-CCD cameras.
For details on the differences in sensor architecture, read our Reality Check—A quick look at sCMOS vs. CCD vs. EM-CCD, and for a more technical discussion of scientific CMOS technology, read our Changing the Game white paper.
In addition to sensor technology, the way that the manufacturer implements the sensor in a camera also affects the camera’s capabilities. For example, a very commonly used CCD sensor is the Sony ICX 285. Many different cameras use the Sony ICX 285, but the speed, read noise, dark current, analog gain, binning, and even linear full well capacity can differ from camera-to-camera, depending on how the manufacturer engineered the camera. Thus, the sensor is a part of the picture in camera evaluation, but not the whole picture.
What do the different sensors mean for biologists? At the end of the day, what matters is performance and quality, for your experiment —will the camera be able to capture the resolution, speed, and sensitivity that your experiments need now and perhaps also give you advanced features beneficial in your next round of experiments? To really answer these questions, you’ll need to take a closer look at all the specification to see how the sensor performs in the context of the camera and your questions. We can’t know all the details of your experiments, but there are a few general observations we can make about sensor technology.
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