review of Point Grey camera for microscopy

February 28, 2017 at 5:40 pm | | hardware, review

I bought a $500 camera from Point Grey that has the Sony IMX249 chip. It is a fairly large field of view with intermediate sized pixels (5.86 um), so it has a great dynamic range. The great thing is that it has low dark/read noise of 7-14 electrons per frame and a very high quantum efficiency of 80%. At it runs at up to 40 fps!

While this camera can’t fully compete with scientific CMOS cameras like the Andor Zyla or Hamamatsu Flash4 (and definitely not with the Photometrics Prime95B), because these scientific cameras do a better job cooling (reducing dark counts) and on-chip correction of dead pixels or other pixel-to-pixel variability. But I wondered if this Point Grey camera could be a very cheap replacement for our old interline CCD (a Hamamatsu Orca-ER model C4742-80-12AG).

Recently, Nico wrote a Micro-Manager device adapter for USB3 Point Grey cameras, so I quickly bought the Blackfly BFLY-U3-23S6M-C and was happy to get beautiful images! The picture on the bottom is from the Point Grey and the one on the top is from the old interline camera. At the same exposure time, the images were very similar. And the Point Grey camera could run 4x faster if necessary. In addition, the Point Grey outputs 16-bit-images with much higher dynamic range than the old 12-bit interline CCD. I misread the specs: the video output is 16 bit, but the A/D converter is still only 12 bit.

So I plan to replace the interline camera with this Point Grey camera for day-to-day microscopy. I’ll let you know if we run into any problems in the future.

Also, Kurt tested a different Point Grey camera with great results.


Here are two more images, zoomed in and cropped. Top is Hamamatsu Orca-ER and bottom is the Point Grey Blackfly camera:

These were the same exposure time (200 ms) and the same magnification. I’ve decided to replace the Hamamatsu with the Point Grey camera.

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