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|
|Readout noise||Read noise|
Camera specs can give you an indication of whether or not the camera will be able to accurately image your sample, but image quality is dependent on the quality of your sample—as the commercials used to say, “actual results may vary,” and powerful, sensitive electronics cannot always makeup for high background or low contrast. With this caveat, the best indicators of camera sensitivity are a combination of quantum efficiency (QE) and camera noise.
QE is a measure of how many photons are converted to electrons by the sensor. QE is a function of the camera sensor materials and design and is dependent on the wavelength of the light being detected. In the camera specs, QE is presented as the percentage of photons converted into electrons—i.e. detected—at a particular wavelength, and manufacturers usually can provide QE versus wavelength plots.
Higher QEs generally indicate higher sensitivity, as the likelihood of detecting your signal is increased.
Camera noise is the amount of noise introduced by the camera. It primarily consists of two components—read noise and dark noise.
Dark current, and therefore dark noise, are temperature dependent, with less noise at lower temperatures. For most biological experiments, dark current and dark noise are negligible over a typical exposure interval of less than five minutes.
Because dark noise is typically negligible, the main noise component coming from the camera that needs to be considered is read noise.
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