Phase Contrast Objectives


  • Positive Phase Contrast Objectives
  • Dark Low Low and Apodized Dark Low Options Available
  • Plan Fluorite and Achromat Designs
  • Condenser Phase Mask Included

N20X-PH

20X Dark Low Low

N10X-PH

10X Dark Low Low

N10X-PHE

10X Apodized Dark Low

Brightfield (Left) and Phase Contrast (Right) Images of Mouse Kidney Cells

Ph1 Condenser Phase Annulus
(Included)

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Objective Lens Selection Guide
Objectives
Super Apochromatic Microscope Objectives
Microscopy Objectives, Dry

Microscopy Objectives, Oil Immersion
Physiology Objectives, Water Dipping or Immersion
Phase Contrast Objectives
Long Working Distance Objectives
Reflective Microscopy Objectives
UV Microscopy Objectives
VIS and NIR Focusing Objectives
Scan Lenses and Tube Lenses
Scan Lenses
F-Theta Scan Lenses
Infinity-Corrected Tube Lens


Mounted Condenser

Did You Know?

Multiple optical elements, including the microscope objective, tube lens, and eyepieces, together define the magnification of a system. See the Magnification & FOV tab to learn more.

Brightfield Microscopy Mouse Kidney Cells
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Mouse Kidney Cells Imaged Using Brightfield Illumination
Phase Contrast Microscopy Mouse Kidney Cells
Click to Enlarge

Same Sample Imaged Using Phase Contrast

Thorlabs provides a selection of Nikon dry objectives designed for phase contrast microscopy. These objectives use a phase plate at the rear focal plane of the objective with a coated phase ring. The ring introduces a +¼λ phase shift to light passing through the ring. Light which does not pass through the ring, which consists primarily of light scattered by sample features, receives a typical phase shift of -¼λ. This results in a 180° phase shift (typical) between background and scattered light. Constructive and destructive interference between light scattered by the sample and background illumination results in higher image contrast than can be achieved through brightfield illumination alone.

To achieve optimum phase contrast, these phase contrast objectives should be used with the included Ph1 phase annulus; the diameter of the annulus is paired to the diameter of the phase ring of the objective. The phase mask should be installed in a Nikon condenser containing a compatible slot, such as the CSC1002 condenser. See the Phase Contrast tab for details.

These objectives feature M25 x 0.75 threading and a 60 mm parfocal length; to use one of these objectives alongside an objective with a longer parfocal length, such as for multiphoton microscopy, we offer the PLE153 Parfocal Length Extender to increase the parfocal length from 60 mm to 75 mm. To convert M25 x 0.75 threads to M32 x 0.75 threads, we offer the M32M25S thread adapter.

These objectives are designed for tube lenses with a 200 mm focal length, such as our series of TTL200 infinity-corrected tube lenses.


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Information on Either Side of a Phase Contrast Objective
(See Objective Tutorial Tab for More Information About Microscope Objectives)
Phase Contrast Microscopy Diagram
Click to Enlarge
Phase contrast microscopy beam diagram. The condenser annulus allows only a hollow focused cone of light to illuminate the sample (light blue); after passing through the sample, scattered light (orange) is delayed by -¼λ (typical). When undeflected light - primarily background illumination - passes through the phase ring of the phase plate, it is shifted +¼λ and dimmed 50% (dark blue). These phase shifts result in constructive and destructive interference between background and scattered light at the image plane.

Principles of Phase Contrast Microscopy

When imaging a translucent sample via brightfield trans-illumination, the contrast between the sample and background can be minimal, as it only depends on absorption. Phase contrast microscopy increases image contrast by converting phase changes into amplitude changes at the image plane.

In the case of positive phase contrast, a high-refractive-index plate inside the objective utilizes a metal-coated, etched ring to both reduce transmission by 50% and introduce a +¼λ phase shift to light traveling through the ring. When used with the matching condenser annulus, the beam passing through the phase ring primarily contains background, unscattered light, while the beam passing elsewhere through the plate corresponds to light scattered by the sample. Light interaction with the specimen results in a typical -¼λ phase shift for cellular structures. The net 180° phase difference (typical) between the unscattered and scattered portions of the beam results in constructive and destructive interference at the image plane. The 50% reduction in background light results in a more comparable intensity between background and scattered light, additionally improving contrast. Compared to brightfield images, phase contrast images exhibit larger, phase-dependent contrast with lower background signal. Because these objectives utilize positive phase contrast, the resulting image will be dark with a light background.

Principles of Phase Contrast Microscopy
Click to Enlarge
In brightfield, when imaging translucent samples, image contrast, ΔI, only indicates absorption of light by the sample. In phase contrast, the phase plate converts phase differences due to scattering in the sample into amplitude changes via constructive and destructive interference between background and scattered light; this results in increased contrast between the background and the sample.
Chromatic Aberration Correction per ISO Standard 19012-2
Objective Class Common Abbreviations Axial Focal Shift Tolerancesa
Achromat ACH, ACHRO, ACHROMAT C' - δF'| ≤ 2 x δob
Semiapochromat
(or Fluorite)
SEMIAPO, FL, FLU C' - δF'| ≤ 2 x δob
F' - δe| ≤ 2.5 x δob
C' - δe| ≤ 2.5 x δob
Apochromat APO C' - δF'| ≤ 2 x δob
F' - δe| ≤ δob
C' - δe| ≤ δob
Super Apochromat SAPO See Footnote b
Improved Visible Apochromat VIS+ See Footnotes b and c
  • Measured as the difference of the focal length (δ) between two of the following wavelengths: 479.99 nm (F'-line), 546.07 nm (e-line), and 643.85 nm (C'-line), compared to the theoretical focal length δob. The δob = (n*λe)/(2*NA^2), where n is the refractive index of the medium in object space, NA is the numerical aperture of the objective, and λe is 479.99 nm (e-line).
  • Currently not defined under ISO 19012-2: Microscopes -- Designation of Microscope Objectives -- Chromatic Correction.
  • Yueqian Zhang and Herbert Gross, “Systematic design of microscope objectives. Part I: System review and analysis,” Adv. Opt. Techn., Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 313-347 (2019); doi: 10.1515/aot-2019-0002.

Parts of a Microscope Objective
Click on each label for more details.

Parts of a Microscope ObjectiveThread DepthShoulderCorrection CollarLabel AreaMagnification IdentifierImmersion IdentifierIris RingParfocal Length TextWorking Distance TextRetraction Stopper

This microscope objective serves only as an example. The features noted above with an asterisk may not be present on all objectives; they may be added, relocated, or removed from objectives based on the part's needs and intended application space.

Objective Tutorial

This tutorial describes features and markings of objectives and what they tell users about an objective's performance.

Objective Class and Aberration Correction

Objectives are commonly divided by their class. An objective's class creates a shorthand for users to know how the objective is corrected for imaging aberrations. There are two types of aberration corrections that are specified by objective class: field curvature and chromatic aberration.

Field curvature (or Petzval curvature) describes the case where an objective's plane of focus is a curved spherical surface. This aberration makes widefield imaging or laser scanning difficult, as the corners of an image will fall out of focus when focusing on the center. If an objective's class begins with "Plan", it will be corrected to have a flat plane of focus.

Images can also exhibit chromatic aberrations, where colors originating from one point are not focused to a single point. To strike a balance between an objective's performance and the complexity of its design, some objectives are corrected for these aberrations at a finite number of target wavelengths.

Five objective classes are shown in the table to the right; only three common objective classes are defined under the International Organization for Standards ISO 19012-2: Microscopes -- Designation of Microscope Objectives -- Chromatic Correction. Due to the need for better performance, we have added two additional classes that are not defined in the ISO classes.

Immersion Methods
Click on each image for more details.

Immersion Methods DryDippingImmersion

Objectives can be divided by what medium they are designed to image through. Dry objectives are used in air; whereas dipping and immersion objectives are designed to operate with a fluid between the objective and the front element of the sample.

Glossary of Terms
Back Focal Length and Infinity Correction The back focal length defines the location of the intermediate image plane. Most modern objectives will have this plane at infinity, known as infinity correction, and will signify this with an infinity symbol (∞). Infinity-corrected objectives are designed to be used with a tube lens between the objective and eyepiece. Along with increasing intercompatibility between microscope systems, having this infinity-corrected space between the objective and tube lens allows for additional modules (like beamsplitters, filters, or parfocal length extenders) to be placed in the beam path.

Note that older objectives and some specialty objectives may have been designed with finite back focal lengths. In their inception, finite back focal length objectives were meant to interface directly with the objective's eyepiece.
Entrance Aperture This measurement corresponds to the appropriate beam diameter one should use to allow the objective to function properly.

Entrance Aperture = 2 × NA × Effective Focal Length
Field Number and Field of View The field number corresponds to the diameter of the field of view in object space (in millimeters) multiplied by the objective's magnification.

Field Number = Field of View Diameter × Magnification
Magnification The magnification (M) of an objective is the lens tube focal length (L) divided by the objective's effective focal length (F). Effective focal length is sometimes abbreviated EFL:

M = L / EFL .

The total magnification of the system is the magnification of the objective multiplied by the magnification of the eyepiece or camera tube. The specified magnification on the microscope objective housing is accurate as long as the objective is used with a compatible tube lens focal length. Objectives will have a colored ring around their body to signify their magnification. This is fairly consistent across manufacturers; see the Parts of a Microscope section for more details.
Numerical Aperture (NA) Numerical aperture, a measure of the acceptance angle of an objective, is a dimensionless quantity. It is commonly expressed as:

NA = ni × sinθa

where θa is the maximum 1/2 acceptance angle of the objective, and ni is the index of refraction of the immersion medium. This medium is typically air, but may also be water, oil, or other substances.
Working Distance
The working distance, often abbreviated WD, is the distance between the front element of the objective and the top of the specimen (in the case of objectives that are intended to be used without a cover glass) or top of the cover glass, depending on the design of the objective. The cover glass thickness specification engraved on the objective designates whether a cover glass should be used.

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Threading allows an objective to be mounted to a nosepiece or turret. Objectives can have a number of different thread pitches; Thorlabs offers a selection of microscope thread adapters to facilitate mounting objectives in different systems.

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The shoulder is located at the base of the objective threading and marks the beginning of the exposed objective body when it is fully threaded into a nosepiece or other objective mount.

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A cover glass, or coverslip, is a small, thin sheet of glass that can be placed on a wet sample to create a flat surface to image across.

The most common, a standard #1.5 cover glass, is designed to be 0.17 mm thick. Due to variance in the manufacturing process the actual thickness may be different. The correction collar present on select objectives is used to compensate for cover glasses of different thickness by adjusting the relative position of internal optical elements. Note that many objectives do not have a variable cover glass correction, in which case the objectives have no correction collar. For example, an objective could be designed for use with only a #1.5 cover glass. This collar may also be located near the bottom of the objective, instead of the top as shown in the diagram.


Click to Enlarge

The graph above shows the magnitude of spherical aberration versus the thickness of the coverslip used for 632.8 nm light. For the typical coverslip thickness of 0.17 mm, the spherical aberration caused by the coverslip does not exceed the diffraction-limited aberration for objectives with NA up to 0.40.

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The labeling area for an objective usually falls in the middle of the objective body. The labeling found here is dictated by ISO 8578: Microscopes -- Marking of Objectives and Eyepieces, but not all manufacturers adhere strictly to this standard. Generally, one can expect to find the following information in this area:

  • Branding/Manufacturer
  • Aberration Correction (Objective Class)
  • Magnification
  • Numerical Aperture (NA)
  • Back Focal Length (Infinity Correction)
  • Suitable Cover Glass Thicknesses
  • Working Distance

Additionally, the objective label area may include the objective's specified wavelength range, specialty features or design properties, and more. The exact location and size of each and any of these elements can vary.

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In order to facilitate fast identification, nearly all microscope objectives have a colored ring that circumscribes the body. A breakdown of what magnification each color signifies is given in the table below.

Magnification Identifier Color Ring
Codes per ISO 8578
Black 1X or 1.25X Light Green 16X or 20X
Grey 1.6X or 2X Dark Green 25X or 32X
Brown 2.5X or 3.2X Light Blue 40X or 50X
Red 4X or 5X Dark Blue 63X or 80X
Orange 6.3X or 8X White 100X, 125X, or 160X
Yellow 10X or 12.5X

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Immersion Identifier Color Ring Codes
per ISO 8578
None Dry
Black Oil
White Water
Orange Glycerol
Red Others

If an objective is used for water dipping, water immersion, or oil immersion, a second colored ring may be placed beneath the magnification identifier. If the objective is designed to be used with water, this ring will be white. If the objective is designed to be used with oil, this ring will be black. Dry objectives lack this identifier ring entirely. See the table to the right for a complete list of immersion identifiers.

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Objectives that feature a built-in iris diaphragm are ideal for darkfield microscopy. The iris diaphragm is designed to be partially closed during darkfield microscopy in order to preserve the darkness of the background. This is absolutely necessary for high numerical aperture (above NA = 1.2) oil immersion objectives when using an oil immersion darkfield condenser. For ordinary brightfield observations, the iris diaphragm should be left fully open.

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Also referred to as the parfocal distance, this is the length from the shoulder to the top of the specimen (in the case of objectives that are intended to be used without a cover glass) or the top of the cover glass. When working with multiple objectives in a turret, it is helpful if all of the parfocal distances are identical, so little refocusing will be required when switching between objectives. Thorlabs offers parfocal length extenders for instances in which the parfocal length needs to be increased.

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The working distance, often abbreviated WD, is the distance between the front element of the objective and the top of the specimen (in the case of objectives that are intended to be used without a cover glass) or top of the cover glass. The cover glass thickness specification engraved on the objective designates whether a cover glass should be used.

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Objectives with very small working distances may have a retraction stopper incorporated into the tip. This is a spring-loaded section which compresses to limit the force of impact in the event of an unintended collision with the sample.

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Immersion Identifier Color Ring Codes
per ISO 8578
None Dry
Black Oil
White Water
Orange Glycerol
Red Others

Dry objectives are designed to have an air gap between the objective and the specimen.

Objectives following ISO 8578: Microscopes -- Marking of Objectives and Eyepieces will be labeled with an identifier ring to tell the user what immersion fluid the objective is designed to be used with; a list of ring colors can be found in the table to the right.

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Immersion Identifier Color Ring Codes
per ISO 8578
None Dry
Black Oil
White Water
Orange Glycerol
Red Others

Dipping objectives are designed to correct for the aberrations introduced by the specimen being submerged in an immersion fluid. The tip of the objective is either dipped or entirely submerged into the fluid.

Objectives following ISO 8578: Microscopes -- Marking of Objectives and Eyepieces will be labeled with an identifier ring to tell the user what immersion fluid the objective is designed to be used with; a list of ring colors can be found in the table to the right.

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Immersion Identifier Color Ring Codes
per ISO 8578
None Dry
Black Oil
White Water
Orange Glycerol
Red Others

Immersion objectives are similar to water-dipping objectives; however, in this case the sample is under a cover glass. A drop of fluid is then added to the top of the cover glass, and the tip of the objective is brought into contact with the fluid. Often, immersion objectives feature a correction collar to adjust for cover glasses with different thicknesses. Immersion fluids include water, oil (such as MOIL-30), and glycerol.

Using an immersion fluid with a high refractive index allows objectives to achieve numerical apertures greater than 1.0. However, if an immersion objective is used without the fluid present, the image quality will be very low. Objectives following ISO 8578: Microscopes -- Marking of Objectives and Eyepieces will be labeled with an identifier ring to tell the user what immersion fluid the objective is designed to be used with; a list of ring colors can be found in the table above.

Widefield Viewing Optical Path
When viewing an image with a camera, the system magnification is the product of the objective and camera tube magnifications. When viewing an image with trinoculars, the system magnification is the product of the objective and eyepiece magnifications.
Magnification & FOV Calculator
Manufacturer Tube Lens
Focal Length
Leica f = 200 mm
Mitutoyo f = 200 mm
Nikon f = 200 mm
Olympus f = 180 mm
Thorlabs f = 200 mm
Zeiss f = 165 mm

The rows highlighted in green denote manufacturers that do not use f = 200 mm tube lenses.

Magnification and Sample Area Calculations

Magnification

The magnification of a system is the multiplicative product of the magnification of each optical element in the system. Optical elements that produce magnification include objectives, camera tubes, and trinocular eyepieces, as shown in the drawing to the right. It is important to note that the magnification quoted in these products' specifications is usually only valid when all optical elements are made by the same manufacturer. If this is not the case, then the magnification of the system can still be calculated, but an effective objective magnification should be calculated first, as described below.

To adapt the examples shown here to your own microscope, please use our Magnification and FOV Calculator, which is available for download by clicking on the red button above. Note the calculator is an Excel spreadsheet that uses macros. In order to use the calculator, macros must be enabled. To enable macros, click the "Enable Content" button in the yellow message bar upon opening the file.

Example 1: Camera Magnification
When imaging a sample with a camera, the image is magnified by the objective and the camera tube. If using a 20X Nikon objective and a 0.75X Nikon camera tube, then the image at the camera has 20X × 0.75X = 15X magnification.

Example 2: Trinocular Magnification
When imaging a sample through trinoculars, the image is magnified by the objective and the eyepieces in the trinoculars. If using a 20X Nikon objective and Nikon trinoculars with 10X eyepieces, then the image at the eyepieces has 20X × 10X = 200X magnification. Note that the image at the eyepieces does not pass through the camera tube, as shown by the drawing to the right.

Using an Objective with a Microscope from a Different Manufacturer

Magnification is not a fundamental value: it is a derived value, calculated by assuming a specific tube lens focal length. Each microscope manufacturer has adopted a different focal length for their tube lens, as shown by the table to the right. Hence, when combining optical elements from different manufacturers, it is necessary to calculate an effective magnification for the objective, which is then used to calculate the magnification of the system.

The effective magnification of an objective is given by Equation 1:

Equation 1 (Eq. 1)

Here, the Design Magnification is the magnification printed on the objective, fTube Lens in Microscope is the focal length of the tube lens in the microscope you are using, and fDesign Tube Lens of Objective is the tube lens focal length that the objective manufacturer used to calculate the Design Magnification. These focal lengths are given by the table to the right.

Note that Leica, Mitutoyo, Nikon, and Thorlabs use the same tube lens focal length; if combining elements from any of these manufacturers, no conversion is needed. Once the effective objective magnification is calculated, the magnification of the system can be calculated as before.

Example 3: Trinocular Magnification (Different Manufacturers)
When imaging a sample through trinoculars, the image is magnified by the objective and the eyepieces in the trinoculars. This example will use a 20X Olympus objective and Nikon trinoculars with 10X eyepieces.

Following Equation 1 and the table to the right, we calculate the effective magnification of an Olympus objective in a Nikon microscope:

Equation 2

The effective magnification of the Olympus objective is 22.2X and the trinoculars have 10X eyepieces, so the image at the eyepieces has 22.2X × 10X = 222X magnification.


Image Area on Camera

Sample Area When Imaged on a Camera

When imaging a sample with a camera, the dimensions of the sample area are determined by the dimensions of the camera sensor and the system magnification, as shown by Equation 2.

Equation 5 (Eq. 2)

The camera sensor dimensions can be obtained from the manufacturer, while the system magnification is the multiplicative product of the objective magnification and the camera tube magnification (see Example 1). If needed, the objective magnification can be adjusted as shown in Example 3.

As the magnification increases, the resolution improves, but the field of view also decreases. The dependence of the field of view on magnification is shown in the schematic to the right.

Example 4: Sample Area
The dimensions of the camera sensor in Thorlabs' 1501M-USB Scientific Camera are 8.98 mm × 6.71 mm. If this camera is used with the Nikon objective and trinoculars from Example 1, which have a system magnification of 15X, then the image area is:

Equation 6

Sample Area Examples

The images of a mouse kidney below were all acquired using the same objective and the same camera. However, the camera tubes used were different. Read from left to right, they demonstrate that decreasing the camera tube magnification enlarges the field of view at the expense of the size of the details in the image.

Image with 1X Camera Tube
Click to Enlarge

Acquired with 1X Camera Tube (Item # WFA4100)
Image with 1X Camera Tube
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Acquired with 0.75X Camera Tube (Item # WFA4101)
Image with 1X Camera Tube
Click to Enlarge

Acquired with 0.5X Camera Tube (Item # WFA4102)

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Plan Fluor Phase Contrast Objectives, Dark Low Low

Magnification 10X 20X
Item # N10X-PH N20X-PH
Manufacturer Part # MRH10101 MRH10201
Numerical Aperture (NA) 0.30 0.50
Working Distance (WD) 16 mm 2.1 mm
Parfocal Length 60 mm
Compatible Tube Lens Focal Length 200 mm
Coverslip Correction 0.17 mm
Aberration Correction Plan Fluorite
Phase Ring
Ph1a
Phase Type Dark Low Low (Positive Phase)
Threading M25 x 0.75
Thread Depth 6.8 mm 5.0 mm
  • For optimum phase contrast, these objectives should be used with the included Ph1 phase annulus installed in a compatible Nikon condenser.

Click to Enlarge

Schematic of a positive phase plate. The ring introduces a +¼λ phase shift and reduces transmission by 50%.
Protective Accessories
Case Lid: OC2M25
Canister: OC22 (10X)
OC24 (20X)
  • Dark Low Low Phase Type
  • Infinity-Corrected Plan Fluorite Design
  • Ideal for Phase Contrast Using Brightfield Illumination
  • Ph1 Condenser Phase Annulus Included

These phase contrast objectives are ideal for phase contrast with multiple illumination modalities, such as brightfield and epi-fluorescence. They feature a larger numerical aperture for higher light transmission at the sacrifice of less contrast than the apodized phase contrast objective sold below. In addition, these plan fluorite objectives feature aberration correction at four wavelengths and correction of field curvature. A Ph1 phase mask is included for use with a compatible Nikon condenser.

Based on your currency / country selection, your order will ship from Newton, New Jersey  
+1 Qty Docs Part Number - Universal Price Available
N10X-PH Support Documentation
N10X-PH10X Nikon Phase Contrast Objective, Dark Low Low, 0.30 NA, 16 mm WD
$1,760.26
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N20X-PH Support Documentation
N20X-PH20X Nikon Phase Contrast Objective, Dark Low Low, 0.50 NA, 2.1 mm WD
$1,810.56
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Achromat Phase Contrast Objective, Apodized Dark Low

Magnification 10X
Item # N10X-PHE
Manufacturer Part # MRP40102
Numerical Aperture (NA) 0.25
Working Distance (WD) 6.2 mm
Parfocal Length 60 mm
Compatible Tube Lens Focal Length 200 mm
Coverslip Correction 1.2 mm
Aberration Correction Achromat
Phase Ring
Ph1a
Phase Type Apodized Dark Low
(Positive Phase)
Threading M25 x 0.75
Thread Depth 4.6 mm
  • For optimum phase contrast, this objective should be used with the included Ph1 phase annulus installed in a compatible Nikon condenser.

Click to Enlarge

Schematic of an apodized dark low phase plate. The primary ring introduces a +¼λ phase shift and reduces transmission by 50%; secondary rings reduce transmission by 25%.
Protective Accessories
Case Lid: OC2M25
Canister: OC24
  • Apodized Dark Low Phase Type
  • Infinity-Corrected Achromat Design
  • Ideal for General-Purpose Phase Contrast Applications
  • Ph1 Condenser Phase Annulus Included

This phase contrast objective features a second neutral density ring on either side of the central phase ring. The secondary rings introduce an additional amplitude filter to the central phase ring, thereby reducing halo artifacts common to imaging large particles or specimen features. This objective provides a stronger contrast for large refractive index changes in the sample compared to the objectives above; it is ideal for general purpose applications such as cellular imaging and photomicography. In addition, this achromat objective incorporates aberration correction at two wavelengths. A Ph1 phase mask is included for use with a compatible Nikon condenser.

Based on your currency / country selection, your order will ship from Newton, New Jersey  
+1 Qty Docs Part Number - Universal Price Available
N10X-PHE Support Documentation
N10X-PHE10X Nikon Phase Contrast Objective, Apodized Dark Low, 0.25 NA, 6.2 mm WD
$521.25
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