Public Lab Research note

Microscope Webcam Conversion

by bronwen with warren |

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You can modify a webcam to serve as both a camera and lens with the basic microscope kit. The steps (as demonstrated above) are as follows.

Different versions

These are the instructions for the basic Intro Community Microscope Kit, but below in the comments, you can read how to build the Plus and Super versions, as well as how to do this with the Raspberry Pi camera ( #pi-camera).

Step by step

Carefully unscrew the case. If you are using a webcam different that the one above (currently included with some versions of our microscope kit), be aware that you may need to examine the case to determine the best way to access the inside. If your camera's case is snapped together you may need to pry (or even snap) some connections.

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Lift off the top of the case and unscrew the lens.

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Apply double stick foam tape to the underside of the board and place back into the bottom half of the case. Be advised that the soldering where the wires attach to the board is very delicate, and be careful not to pull or twist the cord too much as you are handling it.image description

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Replace the top half of the case and screw the two halves back together.image description

Attach foam tape to the bottom of the case (don't peel the paper off the back until you are ready to place it on the microscope stage.image description

Attach another layer of foam tape to the opening on the top, with a hole cut or punched so the camera's sensor is not blocked.image description

Center your lens (wide side down) over the hole and press down. If your camera is plugged in to your computer you should just see light: if your screen shows dark spaces you may have an issue with your tape or lens being off-center.image description

Now you're ready to center your camera and lens on your platform! Read on here:

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Connect your camera

On a laptop, use Photo Booth for Macs, or you can go to in most browsers to access your webcam.

If you are using the objective lenses (instead of the webcam lens) assemble as per the images below.

We recommend saving the webcam's lens so that you can use both options as you explore different ways to use your microscope.


If you have an Android phone, you can use this app to connect to a webcam directly if you have an OTG USB adaptor; scan this QR code to get the app:

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For folks starting to connect microscope objective lenses to their microscopes as part of the Community Microscope Kit, we'll post some photos soon but there is an adapter made of acrylic which can be taped or glued down, and this allows the lens to be screwed in gently onto the top of the webcam.

Here is the adapter! We're making some on a lasercutter and some on a 3d printer, but it's a /very/ simple part -- the tough part for us is getting the size of the hole just right -- not too loose or too tight. Note that this:

  1. will allow switching lenses!
  2. is universal between the Raspberry Pi version and the webcam version.

The 3d model for this is here:

And the hole is /just/ slightly bigger than 3/4 inches.


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