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Microscope Camera

The August 1st, 2015 NTMS meeting there was a brief discussion on using USB web cams (specifically the microscope variety) for soldering SMT components or for simply inspecting circuit solder joints. I had considered this myself so I listened with interest. I had no experience so I couldn't join in with an opinion.

The big negative concern was if there would be enough space under the scope to get a soldering iron in there without melting the lens. There was also concern of watching the work on a screen while doing micro soldering.

Otherwise it seemed like an idea worth trying. So I have.

I haven't done any soldering under the scope (yet) but I have shown what I discovered so far.

I looked on Amazon for USB powered video microscopes. There is an overwhelming selection. I studied every one to educate myself to what was being marketed and all the available features. I am a lot more knowledgeable now than when I started.

Many brands are the same device with different names and prices. I wasn't looking for expensive and I determined very high resolution was not desirable for the purpose I intended. Just as in digital cameras, there are two kinds of magnification (called zoom). The best is definitely optical. The worst is digital where resolution quickly goes to hades in a hand basket.

I picked a very low cost ($35.00) microscope with decent optical zoom. Follow the link to the Amazon page. The link is subject to breakage as the scope will not be available forever. The brand name is Plugable and the link with take you to the product in their website (Plugable.com) which will likely be more reliable.

The supplied stand is functional but for serious work, I will buy or construct a much more stable stand. Focus is critical and depth of field (what's in focus) is very shallow. This is not a flaw but the nature of high magnification. This is part of the reason very high magnification is NOT desirable for circuit board work

The pictures tell the story better than words. My PC is running Ubuntu 15.04 and I am using the free Camorama capture software. It includes nice adjustments for white balance and color correction. I also have free Fotoxx photo editing software for further tweaking if required.

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 This matches the photo below.  To zoom closer, the "scope" is lowered and refocused.
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 There is clearly plenty of room to work beneath the microscope.  Still good room. However a sharp tapered pin point looks like a baseball bat at this magnification.
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Here I am with my sharpest micro solder iron. No problem How I used to do it!

For $35.00 you can experiment and make your own determination. If for not doing the actual soldering, I think it is still an excellent investment as an inspection tool. I was using  a magnifying hood but this is far easier. Plus I can capture an image. What more do I need? <G>

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