From Gems & Gemology: Smartphone Photomicrography

We publish courtesy of Gems & Gemology GIA Insider

G&G managing editor Thomas W. Overton prepared the following entry for the journal’s Gem News International section.

Figure 1. This inexpensive microscope accessory clips over a smartphone camera lens. Illumination is provided by LEDs. Photo by Robert Weldon.

Figure 2. Taken with an Apple iPhone and the clip-on microscope in figure 1, this image shows a “lilypad” inclusion in peridot. Photomicrograph by T. Overton; field of view approximately 4.0 mm.

Smartphones such as the Apple iPhone, Motorola Droid, and Nokia N8 have become increasingly popular in recent years. Top-end models typically feature good-quality digital cameras that rival some “point-and-shoot” cameras, in addition to having basic photo editing software.
The popularity of smartphones has also spawned the development of numerous accessories that can expand their functionality even further. One such accessory is a low-power microscope that clips onto the phone over the camera lens. This contributor was interested in seeing if this device could have gemological applications.
The microscope accessory in figure 1 was ordered on the Internet for less than US$20. Its sliding housing offers varying levels of magnification, and illumination is provided by two white LEDs. The lighting assembly can be rotated about 45° to change the angle of illumination.
Although this device is clearly not optimized for gemological use, with some practice it was possible to produce serviceable photomicrographs. The images in figure 2 was taken with an Apple iPhone 4 using the ProCamera photography application, which allows manual adjustment of focus and white balance. As with any photography, the biggest challenge was the lighting. The LEDs proved too bright in most situations, and better results were achieved by partially shielding them or turning them off and relying on ambient light. Although the microscope’s packaging promised magnification up to 60x, in practice it was impossible to obtain good focus beyond medium power (approximately 20x). The best results were produced with a combination of the phone’s digital zoom, careful adjustment of the autofocus, and a steady hand.
This device clearly will not replace a standard gemological microscope or even a loupe, but it appears to provide a useful field tool in the gemologist’s arsenal.
To subscribe to G&G, visit the GIA Store, contact circulation coordinator Martha Rivera atmartha.rivera@gia.edu or call toll-free (800) 421-7250, ext. 7142. From outside the U.S. and Canada, call (760) 603-4000, ext. 7142. To purchase PDF versions of articles or sections, visit Gems & Gemology Online.
You can find the device here. Please note that the Gemma News Service does NOT guarantee the reliability of the dealer. We just found it on the web.
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