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Scientific Cameras for Microscopy: Fast Frame Rate


  • VGA Resolution CCD Cameras
  • Monochrome Scientific-Grade Cameras with <15 e- Read Noise
  • Up to 200.7 Frames per Second for the Full Sensor
  • Support for LabVIEW, MATLAB, µManager / ImageJ, and MetaMorph

340M-GE

Standard Camera Sensor

340M-USB

Standard Camera Sensor

340M-GE Scientific CCD Camera Mounted on a Thorlabs Cerna® Series Microscope

Related Items


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Camera on B-Scope
Click to Enlarge

The Fast Frame Rate Scientific-Grade Camera can be used for Ca2+ ratiometric studies of intracellular dynamics.

Applications

  • Fluorescence Microscopy
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Ca2+ Imaging
  • UV Imaging
  • Particle Tracking
  • SEM/EBSD
Scientific Camera Selection Guide
1.4 Megapixel
4 Megapixel
8 Megapixel
200 Frames Per Second, VGA Resolution

200 Frames per Second Camera for Scientific Imaging

  • Up to 200.7 Frames per Second (fps) for the Full Sensor (See Specs Tab for Details)
  • 1/3" Format, 640 x 480 Pixel (VGA) Monochrome CCD Sensor with 7.4 µm Square Pixels (On Semi / Truesense KAI-0340)
  • Software-Selectable 20 MHz or 40 MHz Readout: Maximize Frame Rate
    (40 MHz) or Minimize Noise (20 MHz)
  • 55% Peak Quantum Efficiency at 500 nm for Standard Version (See Specs Tab for Details)
  • 10% Peak Quantum Efficiency at 485 nm for UV Version (See Specs Tab for Details)
  • <15 e- Read Noise Improves the Threshold of Detectability Under Low Light Conditions 
  • Asynchronous Reset, Triggered, and Bulb Exposure Modes (See Triggering Tab for Details)
  • ThorCam GUI with 32- and 64- Bit Windows® 7, 8.1, and 10 Support
  • Support for LabVIEW, MATLAB, µManager / ImageJ, and MetaMorph

Thorlabs' Fast Frame Rate Scientific CCD Cameras (US Patent 9,380,241 B2), which offer up to 200.7 frames per second at 40 MHz dual-tap readout of the full sensor with 640 x 480 pixel (VGA) resolution, are specifically designed for microscopy and other demanding scientific applications. These monochrome cameras are ideal for fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry applications.

Sensors for Visible or UV Applications

We offer two versions of our fast frame rate camera. Our standard sensor is designed for visible applications and has a peak quantum efficiency (QE) of 55% at 500 nm. The UV version of the camera, which has a peak QE of 10% at 485 nm, features a sensor with a quartz faceplate in order to permit higher transmission of UV light and enable applications at UV wavelengths. Please see the Specs tab for plots of the QE for both sensors.

Industry-Standard USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, or Camera Link Interfaces

Thorlabs' scientific cameras are offered with a choice of USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet (GigE), or Camera Link interface. GigE is ideal for situations where the camera must be far from the PC or there are multiple cameras that need to be controlled by the same PC. The GigE and Camera Link cameras are provided with either a GigE or Camera Link frame grabber card and cables. Since USB 3.0 is supported by most computers, the USB cameras do not come with a card; however, one is available separately below. A power supply and software are supplied with all cameras. More information on what's included is on the Shipping List tab. Your computer must have a free PCI Express slot to install the GigE or Camera Link interface. For more information on the three interface options and recommended computer specifications, please see the Interface tab.

Jason Mills
Jason Mills
General Manager,
Thorlabs Scientific Imaging

Feedback?
Questions?
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Contact TSI

We offer our fast frame rate cameras in our standard, non-cooled package. Since these cameras are designed for high frame rates and short exposures, cooling the sensor is not required. For applications with low light levels and exposures longer than 1 second, we recommend our 1.4 Megapixel, 4 Megapixel or 8 Megapixel scientific-grade CCD cameras.

Our cameras have triggering options that enable custom timing and system control; for more details, please see the Triggering tab. External triggering requires a connection to the auxiliary port of the camera. Accessory cables and boards to "break out" the individual signals are available below.

Our 340M-GE and 340M-CL cameras come with a user-removable IR filter; for details on the transmission please see the Specs tab. If the filter is removed, it can be replaced with a user-supplied Ø1" (Ø25 mm) filter or another optic up to 4 mm thick.

The cameras feature standard C-Mount (1.000"-32) threading, and Thorlabs provides a full line of thread-to-thread adapters for compatibility with other thread standards, including the SM1 (1.035"-40) threading used on our Ø1" Lens Tubes. The front face also has 4-40 tapped holes for compatibility with our 60 mm Cage System. Four 1/4"-20 tapped holes, one on each side of the housing, are compatible with our Ø1" posts. These flexible mounting options make Thorlabs' scientific cameras the ideal choice for integrating into home-built imaging systems as well as those based on commercial microscopes.

Scientific Camera Basics
Scientific Camera Catalog PDF
Scientific Camera Capabilities
Item #a 340M-USB 340M-GE 340M-CL 340UV-USB 340UV-GE 340UV-CL
Sensor Type On Semi / Truesense KAI-0340 Monochrome CCD
Number of Active Pixels 640 x 480 (Horizontal x Vertical)
Imaging Area 4.736 mm x 3.552 mm (Horizontal x Vertical)
Pixel Size 7.4 μm x 7.4 μm
Optical Format 1/3" Format (5.92 mm Diagonal)
Peak Quantum Efficiency 55% at 500 nm 10% at 485 nm
Number of Taps (Software Selectable) Single, Dual
Exposure Time 0 to 1000 seconds in 1 ms Incrementsb
CCD Pixel Clock Speed 20 MHz or 40 MHz
ADCc Gain 0 to 1023 Steps (0.036 dB/Step)
Optical Black Clamp 0 to 1023 Steps (0.25 ADU/Step)d
Vertical Hardware Binninge Continuous Integer Values from 1 to 24
Horizontal Software Binninge Continuous Integer Values from 1 to 24
Region of Interest 1 x 1 Pixel to 640 x 480 Pixels, Rectangular
Read Noisef <15 e- at 20 MHz
Digital Output 14 Bit Single Tap: 14 Bit
Dual Tap: 12 Bit
14 Bit 14 Bit Single Tap: 14 Bit
Dual Tap: 12 Bit
14 Bit
Cooling None
Host PC Interfaceg USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet Camera Link USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet Camera Link
Lens Mount C-Mount (1.000"-32)
  • The specified performance is valid when using a computer with the recommended specifications listed on the Interface tab.
  • Exposure time varies with operating mode; exposure times shorter than 1 ms may be possible when using an external trigger.
  • ADC = Analog-to-Digital Converter
  • ADU = Analog-to-Digital Unit
  • Camera Frame Rate is impacted by the Vertical Hardware Binning parameter. For color cameras, when the Image Type setting in ThorCam is anything other than "Unprocessed" only 1 x 1 binning is available. When set to Unprocessed, the camera can bin up to 24 x 24, but the image produced will be monochrome.
  • If your application is read-noise limited, we recommend using the lower CCD pixel clock speed of 20 MHz. For more information about read noise, and for examples of how to estimate the limiting factor of total camera noise, please see the Camera Noise Tutorial.
  • For more information on these interface options, please see the Camera Interface tab.
Example Frame Rates at 1 ms Exposure Time
CCD Size and Binninga Single Tap Dual Tap
20 MHz 40 MHz 20 MHz 40 MHz
Full Sensor (640 x 480) 57.0 fps 112.3 fps 103.3 fps 200.7 fps
Full Sensor, Bin by 2 (320 x 240) 110.1 fps 213.5 fps 196.8 fps 372.4 fps
Full Sensor, Bin by 10 (64 x 48) 429.0 fps 764.7 fps 712.9 fps 1185.4 fps
  • Camera Frame Rate is impacted by the Vertical Hardware Binning parameter. For color cameras, when the Image Type setting in ThorCam is anything other than "Unprocessed" only 1 x 1 binning is available. When set to Unprocessed, the camera can bin up to 24 x 24, but the image produced will be monochrome.
Quantum Efficiency
Click to Enlarge
Click for Raw Data for Standard Cameras
Click for Raw Data for UV-Enhanced Cameras
This curve shows the quantum efficiency of the camera sensor. The UV camera has a sensor with a quartz faceplate and no microlens array, which leads to increased sensitivity at UV wavelengths at the expense of performance in the visible. No filter is provided with our UV enhanced cameras; standard cameras include the IR blocking filter with the transmission shown to the right.
Quantum Efficiency
Click to Enlarge

Click for Raw Data
The IR blocking filter (Thorlabs' Item # FESH0700) is only provided on the 340M series cameras. It can be removed from the camera; instructions are provided in the manual. If the filter is removed, it can be replaced with a user-supplied Ø1" (Ø25 mm) filter or another optic up to 4 mm thick.

Thorlabs' Scientific-Grade CCD Cameras are ideal for a variety of applications. The photo gallery below contains images acquired with our 1.4 megapixel, 4 megapixel, 8 megapixel, and fast frame rate cameras.

To download some of these images as high-resolution, 16-bit TIFF files, please click here. It may be necessary to use an alternative image viewer to view the 16-bit files. We recommend ImageJ, which is a free download.

Thorlabs' Scientific Camera Applications (Click Images for Details)
Intracellular Dynamics Brightfield Microscopy Opthalmology Fluorescence Microscopy Multispectral imaging Neuroscience SEM
Intracellular Dynamics Brightfield Microscopy Ophthalmology (NIR) Fluorescence Microscopy Multispectral Imaging Neuroscience SEM/TEM
Thorlabs' Scientific Camera Recommended for Above Application
1.4 Megapixel
Fast Frame Rate
4 Megapixel
8 Megapixel
1.4 Megapixel 4 Megapixel
1.4 Megapixel
4 Megapixel
1.4 Megapixel
1.4 Megapixel 1.4 Megapixel
4 Megapixel
Fast Frame Rate

Multispectral Imaging

The video to the right is an example of a multispectral image acquisition using a liquid crystal tunable filter (LCTF) in front of a monochrome camera. With a sample slide exposed to broadband light, the LCTF passes narrow bands of light that are transmitted from the sample. The monochromatic images are captured using a monochrome scientific camera, resulting in a datacube – a stack of spectrally separated two-dimensional images which can be used for quantitative analysis, such as finding ratios or thresholds and spectral unmixing.

In the example shown, a mature capsella bursa-pastoris embryo, also known as Shepherd's-Purse, is rapidly scanned across the 420 nm - 730 nm wavelength range using Thorlabs' KURIOS-WB1 Liquid Crystal Tunable Filter. The images are captured using our 1501M-GE Scientific Camera, which is connected, with the liquid crystal filter, to a Cerna® Series Microscope. The overall system magnification is 10X. The final stacked/recovered image is shown below.

Multispectral imaging
Click to Enlarge

Final Stacked/Recovered Image

 


Thrombosis Studies

Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot within a blood vessel that will impede the flow of blood in the circulatory system. The videos below are from experimental studies on the large-vessel thrombosis in Mice performed by Dr. Brian Cooley at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Three lasers (532 nm, 594 nm, and 650 nm) were expanded and then focused on a microsurgical field of an exposed surgical site in an anesthenized mouse. A custom 1.4 Megapixel Camera with integrated filter wheel were attached to a Leica Microscope to capture the low-light fluorescence emitted from the surgical site. See the videos below with their associated descriptions for further infromation.

Arterial Thrombosis

In the video above, a gentle 30-second electrolytic injury is generated on the surface of a carotid artery in an atherogenic mouse (ApoE-null on a high-fat, “Western” diet), using a 100-micron-diameter iron wire (creating a free-radical injury). The site (arrowhead) and the vessel are imaged by time-lapse fluorescence-capture, low-light camera over 60 minutes (timer is shown in upper left corner – hours:minutes:seconds). Platelets were labeled with a green fluorophore (rhodamine 6G) and anti-fibrin antibodies with a red fluorophore (Alexa-647) and injected prior to electrolytic injury to identify the development of platelets and fibrin in the developing thrombus. Flow is from left to right; the artery is approximately 500 microns in diameter (bar at lower right, 350 microns).


Venous Thrombosis

In the video above, a gentle 30-second electrolytic injury is generated on the surface of a murine femoral vein, using a 100-micron-diameter iron wire (creating a free-radical injury). The site (arrowhead) and the vessel are imaged by time-lapse fluorescence-capture, low-light camera over 60 minutes (timer is shown in upper left corner – hours:minutes:seconds). Platelets were labeled with a green fluorophore (rhodamine 6G) and anti-fibrin antibodies with a red fluorophore (Alexa-647) and injected prior to electrolytic injury to identify the development of platelets and fibrin in the developing thrombus. Flow is from left to right; the vein is approximately 500 microns in diameter (bar at lower right, 350 microns).

Reference: Cooley BC. In vivo fluorescence imaging of large-vessel thrombosis in mice. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 31, 1351-1356, 2011. All animal studies were done under protocols approved by the Medical College of Wisconsin Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Camera Back Panel Connector Locations

USB 3.0 Back Panel Layout
Click to Enlarge

340M-USB and 340UV-USB Back Panel Layout
Gigabit Ethernet Back Panel Layout
Click to Enlarge

340M-GE and 340UV-GE Back Panel Layout

Camera Link Back Panel Layout
Click to Enlarge

340M-CL and 340UV-CL Back Panel Layout
(See Manual for Instruction on Using the CL0 vs. CL1 Ports)


TSI-IOBOB and TSI-IOBOB2 Break-Out Board Connector Locations


TSI-IOBOB and TSI-IOBOB2 Connector 8050-CAB1 Connectors Camera Auxiliary (AUX) Port
6 Pin Mini Din Female Connector
Female 6-Pin Mini Din Female Connector
6 Pin Mini Din Male Connector
Male 6-Pin Mini Din Male Connector (TSI-IOBOB end of Cable)
12 Pin Hirose Male Connector
Male 12-Pin Hirose Connector (Camera end of Cable)
12 Pin Hirose Female Connector
Female 12-Pin Hirose Connector (Auxiliary Port on Camera)

Auxiliary Connector

The cameras and the break-out boards both feature female connectors; the 8 megapixel cameras have a 12 pin Hirose connector, while the break out boards have a 6-pin Mini-DIN connector. The 8050-CAB1 cable features male connectors on both ends: a 12-pin connector for connecting to the camera and a 6-pin Mini-DIN connector for the break-out boards. Pins 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 are each connected to the center pin of an SMA connector on the break-out boards, while pin 4 (ground) is connected to each SMA connector housing. To access one of the I/O functions not available with the 8050-CAB1, the user must fabricate a cable using shielded cabling in order for the camera to adhere to CE and FCC compliance; additional details are provided in the camera manual.

Camera AUX Pin # TSI-IOBOB and TSI-IOBOB2
Pin #
Signal Description
1 - Reserved Reserved for future use
2 - Reserved Reserved for future use
3 - Reserved Reserved for future use
4 6 STROBE_OUT
(Output)
A TTL output that is high during the actual sensor exposure time when in continuous, overlapped exposure mode. It is typically used to synchronize an external flash lamp or other device with the camera.
5 3 TRIGGER_IN
(Input)
A TTL input used to trigger exposures on the transition from the high to low state.
6 1 LVAL
(Output)
Refers to "Line Valid." It is an active-high TTL signal and is asserted during the valid period on each line. It returns low during the inter-line period between each line and during the inter-frame period between each frame.
7 2 TRIGGER_OUT
(Output)
A 6 µs positive pulse asserted when using the various external trigger input options; TRIGGER_IN, LVDS_TRIGGER_IN, or the CameraLink CC1 signal. The CC1 signal, driven from the host, is one of the software-controlled trigger signals for the camera. The CC1 signal is brought out of the camera as TRIGGER_OUT at the High-to-Low transition to allow triggering of other devices. The same applies to the other external triggers.
8 - LVDS_TRIGGER_IN_N
(Input, Differential Pair with Pin 9)
A LVDS (low-voltage differential signal) input used to trigger exposures on the transition from the high state to low state. The suffix "N" identifies this as the negative input of the LVDS signal.
9 - LVDS_TRIGGER_IN_P
(Input, Differential Pair with Pin 9)
A LVDS (low-voltage differential signal) input used to trigger exposures on the transition from the high state to low state. The suffix "P" identifies this as the positive input of the LVDS signal.
10 4 GND The electrical ground for the camera signals
11 - Reserved Reserved for future use
12 5 FVAL_OUT
(Output)
Refers to "Frame Valid." It is a TTL output that is high during active readout lines and returns low between frames.
Recommended System Requirements
Operating System Windows® 7, 8.1, or 10 (64 Bit)
Processor (CPU)a ≥3.0 GHz Intel Core i5 or Core i7
Memory (RAM) ≥8 GB
Hard Drive ≥500 GB (SATA) Solid State Drive (SSD)b
Graphics Card Dedicatedc Adapter with ≥256 MB RAM
Power Supply ≥600 W
Motherboard USB 3.0 (-USB) Cameras: Integrated Intel USB 3.0 Controller
or One Unused PCIe x1 Slot (for Item # USB3-PCIE)
GigE (-GE) Cameras: One Unused PCIe x1 Slot
Camera Link (-CL) Cameras: One Unused PCIe x4/x8/x16 Slot
Connectivity USB or Internet Connectivity
for Driver Installation
  • Intel Core i3 processors and mobile versions of Intel processors may not satisfy the requirements.
  • We recommend a solid state drive (SSD) for reliable streaming to disk during image sequence storage.
  • On-board/integrated graphics solutions present on Intel Core i5 and i7 processors are also acceptable.

ThorCam™

Software

Version 2.9.1

Click the button below to visit the ThorCam software page.

Software Download


ThorCam is a powerful image acquisition software package that is designed for use with our cameras on 32- and 64-bit Windows® 7, 8.1, or 10 systems. This intuitive, easy-to-use graphical interface provides camera control as well as the ability to acquire and play back images. Third-party software support for packages such as LabVIEW, MATLAB, Metamorph, and µManager/ImageJ are included along with a development kit and application programming interfaces for the development of custom applications by OEMs and developers.

Click the Highlighted Regions to Explore ThorCam Features

Thorcam GUI Window

Camera Control and Image Acquisition

Camera Control and Image Acquisition functions are carried out through the icons along the top of the window, highlighted in orange in the image above. Camera parameters may be set in the popup window that appears upon clicking on the Tools icon. The Snapshot button allows a single image to be acquired using the current camera settings.

The Start and Stop capture buttons begin image capture according to the camera settings, including triggered imaging.

Timed Series and Review of Image Series

The Timed Series control, shown in Figure 1, allows time-lapse images to be recorded. Simply set the total number of images and the time delay in between captures. The output will be saved in a multi-page TIFF file in order to preserve the high-precision, unaltered image data. Controls within ThorCam allow the user to play the sequence of images or step through them frame by frame.

Measurement and Annotation

As shown in the yellow highlighted regions in the image above, ThorCam has a number of built-in annotation and measurement functions to help analyze images after they have been acquired. Lines, rectangles, circles, and freehand shapes can be drawn on the image. Text can be entered to annotate marked locations. A measurement mode allows the user to determine the distance between points of interest.

The features in the red, green, and blue highlighted regions of the image above can be used to display information about both live and captured images.

ThorCam also features a tally counter that allows the user to mark points of interest in the image and tally the number of points marked (see Figure 2). A crosshair target that is locked to the center of the image can be enabled to provide a point of reference.

Thorcam Software Screenshot
Click to Enlarge

Figure 1: A timed series of 10 images taken at 1 second intervals is saved as a multipage TIFF.
Thorcam Software Screenshot
Click to Enlarge

Figure 2: A screenshot of the ThorCam Software. The tally function was used to mark three locations in the image. The line to the lower left was added using the measurement function, with the distance between the points in pixels displayed just above it.
Third Party ThorCam Support
Click to Enlarge

Figure 3: The ImageJ plug-in for our scientific cameras supports live viewing directly in ImageJ.

Third-Party Applications and Support

ThorCam is bundled with support for third-party software packages such as LabVIEW, MATLAB, Metamorph, and µManager/ImageJ (see Figure 3). Both 32- and 64-bit versions of LabVIEW and MATLAB are supported. A full-featured and well-documented API, included with our cameras, makes it convenient to develop fully customized applications in an efficient manner, while also providing the ability to migrate through our product line without having to rewrite an application.

Example Arduino Code for the TSI-IOBOB2 Shield for Arduino

Example Arduino Code

Click the button below to visit the download page for the sample Arduino programs for the TSI-IOBOB2 Shield for Arduino. Three sample programs are offered:

  • Trigger the Camera at a Rate of 1 Hz
  • Trigger the Camera at the Fastest Possible Rate
  • Use the Direct AVR Port Mappings from the Arduino to Monitor Camera State and Trigger Acquisition
Software Download
Pixel Peek Vertical and Horizontal Line Profiles Histogram Camera Control Icons Measurement and Annotation Functions Measurement and Annotation Functions

USB 3.0 Contents Example

Scientific Camera, Cables, and Accessories
Click to Enlarge

Item # Shown: 340M-USB

In Addition to the Camera, Each USB3.0 Item Includes the following:

  • USB 3.0 Cable (Micro B to A)
  • Power Supply, with Region-Specific Power Cord
  • Wrench to Loosen Optical Assembly
  • Lens Mount Dust Cap (Also Functions as IR Filter Removal Tool)
  • CD with ThorCam Software
  • Quick-Start Guide and Manual Download Information Card

Gigabit Ethernet Contents Example

Scientific Camera, Cables, and Accessories
Click to Enlarge

Item # Shown: 340M-GE

In Addition to the Camera, Each GigE Item Includes the following:

  • Gigabit Ethernet PCI Express Card
  • Gigabit Ethernet Cable
  • Power Supply, with Region-Specific Power Cord
  • Wrench to Loosen Optical Assembly
  • Lens Mount Dust Cap (Also Functions as IR Filter Removal Tool)
  • CD with ThorCam Software
  • Quick-Start Guide and Manual Download Information Card

Camera Link Contents Example

Scientific Camera, Cables, and Accessories
Click to Enlarge

Item # Shown: 340M-CL

In Addition to the Camera, Each Camera Link Item Includes the following:

  • Camera Link PCI Express Card
  • One Camera Link Cable
  • Power Supply, with Region-Specific Power Cord
  • Wrench to Loosen Optical Assembly
  • Lens Mount Dust Cap (Also Functions as IR Filter Removal Tool)
  • CD with ThorCam Software
  • Quick-Start Guide and Manual Download Information Card
Recommended System Requirements
Operating
System
Windows® 7, 8.1, or 10 (64 bit)
Processor
(CPU)a
≥3.0 GHz Intel Core i5 or Core i7
Memory (RAM) ≥8 GB
Hard Drive ≥500 GB (SATA) Solid State Drive (SSD)b
Graphics Card Dedicatedc Adapter with ≥256 MB RAM
Power Supply ≥600 W
Motherboard USB 3.0 (-USB) Cameras:
Integrated Intel USB 3.0 Controller
or One Unused PCIe x1 Slot
(for Item # USB3-PCIE)

Camera Link (-CL) Cameras:
One Unused PCIe x4/x8/x16 Slot

GigE (-GE) Cameras:
One Unused PCIe x1 Slot
Connectivity USB or Internet Connectivity
for Driver Installation
  • Intel Core i3 processors and mobile versions of Intel processors may not satisfy the requirements.
  • We recommend a solid state drive (SSD) for reliable streaming to disk during image sequence storage.
  • On-board/integrated graphics solutions present on Intel Core i5 and i7 processors are also acceptable.

Thorlabs offers three interface options across our scientific camera product line: USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet (GigE), and Camera Link. Once other camera decisions, such as field of view and frame rates, have been made, for many of our camera types it is necessary to choose one of these interfaces. It is important to confirm that the computer system meets or exceeds the recommended requirements listed to the right; otherwise, dropped frames may result, particularly when streaming camera images directly to storage media.

Definitions

  • Camera Frame Rate: The number of images per second generated by the camera. It is a function of camera model and user-selected settings. 
  • Effective Frame Rate: The number of images per second received by the host computer's camera software. This depends on the limits of the selected interface hardware (chipset), CPU performance, and other devices and software competing for the host computer resources.
  • Maximum Bandwidth: The maximum rate (in bits/second or bytes/second) at which data can be reliably transferred over the interface from the camera to the host PC. The maximum bandwidth is a specified performance benchmark of the interface, under the assumption that the host PC is capable of receiving and handling data at that rate. An interface with a higher maximum bandwidth will typically support higher camera frame rates, but the choice of interface does not by itself increase the frame rate of the camera.

USB 3.0

USB 3.0 is a standard interface available on most new PCs, which means that typically no additional hardware is required, and therefore these cameras are not sold with any computer hardware. For users with PCs that do not have a USB 3.0 port, a PCIe card is sold separately below. USB 3.0 supports a speed up to 320 MB/s and cable lengths up to 3 m. Support for multiple cameras is possible using multiple USB 3.0 ports on the PC or a USB 3.0 hub.

Gigabit Ethernet

GigE is ideal for situations requiring longer cable lengths, as well as for systems that require using multiple cameras with one computer. GigE supports a speed up to 100 MB/s and cable lengths up to 100 m. It also uses fairly inexpensive cables, but does require the use of a computer with a GigE card installed. Support for multiple cameras is easily achieved using a Gigabit Ethernet switch. However, the GigE card supplied with the camera is recognized as a public connection to the network; institutions with strict policies only allow registered devices and trusted connections. For any questions regarding using our GigE card at your institution, please contact your IT department.

Camera Link

Camera Link is ideal for applications requiring very high data transfer rates of up to 850 MB/s. However, the maximum cable length is 10 m. Camera Link requires the use of the supplied Camera Link card and cables for connecting to a computer. To operate our 4 and 8 megapixel cameras in quad-tap mode a second Camera Link connection is required.

Scientific Camera Interface Summary

Interface USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet Camera Link
Interface Image (Click to Enlarge) USB 3.0 Scientific Camera Port Gigabit Ethernet Camera port Camera Link Camera Port
Maximum Cable Length 3 m 100 m 10 m
Maximum Bandwidtha 320 MB/s 100 MB/s 850 MB/s
Support for Multiple Cameras Via Multiple USB 3.0 Ports or Hub Via Switch Topology (Click for Details)b No
Available Cameras 200 Frames per Second Scientific-Grade CCD Cameras
1.4 Megapixel Scientific-Grade CCD Cameras
4 Megapixel Scientific-Grade CCD Cameras
8 Megapixel Scientific-Grade CCD Cameras
  • Performance will vary depending on the exact PC configuration.
  • Up to 4 cameras have been tested in the GigE switch topology.

Triggered Camera Operation

Our scientific cameras have three externally triggered operating modes: streaming overlapped exposure, asynchronous triggered acquisition, and bulb exposure driven by an externally generated trigger pulse. The trigger modes operate independently of the readout (e.g., 20 or 40 MHz; binning) settings as well as gain and offset. Figures 1 through 3 show the timing diagrams for these trigger modes, assuming an active low external TTL trigger.

Camera Timing Diagram
Click to Enlarge
Figure 1: Streaming overlapped exposure mode. When the external trigger goes low, the exposure begins, and continues for the software-selected exposure time, followed by the readout. This sequence then repeats at the set time interval. Subsequent external triggers are ignored until the camera operation is halted.
Timing Diagram
Click to Enlarge
Figure 2: Asynchronous triggered acquisition mode. When the external trigger signal goes low, an exposure begins for the preset time, and then the exposure is read out of the camera. During the readout time, the external trigger is ignored.  Once a single readout is complete, the camera will begin the next exposure only when the external trigger signal goes low.
Camera Timing
Click to Enlarge
Figure 3: Bulb exposure mode. The exposure begins when the external trigger signal goes low and ends when the external trigger signal goes high. Trigger signals during camera readout are ignored.
Camera Triggering in ThorCam Software
Figure 4: The ThorCam Camera Settings window. The red and blue highlighted regions indicate the trigger settings as described in the text.

External triggering enables these cameras to be easily integrated into systems that require the camera to be synchronized to external events. The Strobe Output goes high to indicate exposure; the strobe signal may be used in designing a system to synchronize external devices to the camera exposure. External triggering requires a connection to the auxiliary port of the camera. We offer the 1500-CAB1 auxiliary cable as an optional accessory. Two options are provided to "break out" individual signals. The TSI-IOBOB provides SMA connectors for each individual signal. Alternately, the TSI-IOBOB2 also provides the SMA connectors with the added functionality of a shield for Arduino boards that allows control of other peripheral equipment. More details on these three optional accessories are provided below.

Trigger settings are adjusted using the ThorCam software. Figure 4 shows the Camera Settings window, with the trigger settings highlighted with red and blue squares. Settings can be adjusted as follows:

  • "HW Trigger" (Red Highlight) Set to "None": The camera will simply acquire the number of frames in the "Frames per Trigger" box when the capture button is pressed in ThorCam.
  • "HW Trigger" Set to "Standard": There are Two Possible Scenarios:
    • "Frames per Trigger" (Blue Highlight) Set to Zero or >1: The camera will operate in streaming overlaped exposure mode (Figure 1).
    • "Frames per Trigger" Set to 1: Then the camera will operate in asynchronous triggered acquisition mode (Figure 2).
  • "HW Trigger" Set to "Bulb (PDX) Mode": The camera will operate in bulb exposure mode, also known as Pulse Driven Exposure (PDX) mode (Figure 3).

In addition, the polarity of the trigger can be set to "On High" (exposure begins on the rising edge) or "On Low" (exposure begins on the falling edge) in the "HW Trigger Polarity" box (highlighted in red in Figure 4).

Example Camera Triggering Configuration using Scientific Camera Accessories

Camera Triggering with TSI-IOBOB2 Sheild for Arduino
Figure 5: A schematic showing a system using the TSI-IOBOB2 to facilitate system integration and control. 

As an example of how camera triggering can be integrated into system control is shown in Figure 5. In the schematic, the camera is connected to the TSI-IOBOB2 break-out board / shield for Arduino using a 8050-CAB1 cable. The pins on the shield can be used to deliver signals to simultaneously control other peripheral devices, such as light sources, shutters, or motion control devices. Once the control program is written to the Arduino board, the USB connection to the host PC can be removed, allowing for a stand-alone system control platform; alternately, the USB connection can be left in place to allow for two-way communication between the Arduino and the PC. Configuring the external trigger mode is done using ThorCam as described above.

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About Thorlabs Scientific Imaging

Thorlabs Scientific Imaging (TSI) is a multi-disciplinary team dedicated to solving the most challenging imaging problems. We design and manufacture low-noise, high performance scientific cameras, interface devices, and software at our facility in Austin, Texas. In addition, we are leveraging the engineering experience across Thorlabs, a vertically integrated photonics products manufacturer, to bring to market a line of integrated imaging systems, including our forthcoming, patent-pending system for whole-slide scanning.

A Message from TSI's General Manager

As a researcher, you are accustomed to solving difficult problems but may be frustrated by the inadequacy of the available instrumentation and tools. The product development team at Thorlabs Scientific Imaging is continually looking for new challenges to push the boundaries of Scientific Cameras using various sensor technologies. We welcome your input in order to leverage our team of senior research and development engineers to help meet your advanced imaging needs.

Thorlabs' purpose is to support advances in research through our product offerings. Your input will help us steer the direction of our scientific camera product line to support these advances. If you have a challenging application that requires a more advanced scientific camera than is currently available, I would be excited to hear from you.

We're All Ears!

Sincerely,
Jason Mills
Jason Mills
General Manager
Thorlabs Scientific Imaging


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Scientific Camera Optional Accessories

TSI-IOBOB2 Diagram
Click for Details

A schematic showing a TSI-IOBOB2 connected to an Arduino in a custom camera system.

These optional accessories allow for easy use of the auxiliary port of the scientific cameras. These items should be considered when it is necessary to externally trigger the camera, to monitor camera performance with an oscilloscope, or for simultaneous control of the camera with other instruments.

For our USB 3.0 cameras, we also offer a PCIe USB 3.0 card and extra cables for facilitating the connection to the computer.

Auxiliary I/O Cable (8050-CAB1)
The 8050-CAB1 is a 10' (3 m) long cable that mates with the auxiliary connector on our scientific CCD cameras* and provides the ability to externally trigger the camera as well as monitor status output signals. One end of the cable features a male 12-pin connector for connecting to the camera, while the other end a male 6-pin Mini Din connector for connecting to external devices. This cable is ideal for use with our interconnect break-out boards described below. For information on the pin layout, please see the Pin Diagrams tab above.

Interconnect Break-Out Board (TSI-IOBOB)
The TSI-IOBOB is designed to "break out" the 6-pin Mini Din connector found on our scientific CCD camera auxiliary cables into five SMA connectors. The SMA connectors can then be connected using SMA cables to other devices to provide a trigger input to the camera or to monitor camera performance. The pin configurations are listed on the Pin Diagrams tab above.

Interconnect Break-Out Board / Shield for Arduino (TSI-IOBOB2)
The TSI-IOBOB2 offers the same breakout functionality of the camera signals as the TSI-IOBOB. Additionally, it functions as a shield for Arduino, by placing the TSI-IOBOB2 shield on a Arduino board supporting the Arduino Uno Rev. 3 form factor. While the camera inputs and outputs are 5 V TTL, the TSI-IOBOB2 features bi-directional logic level converters to enable compatibility with Arduino boards operating on either 5 V or 3.3 V logic. Sample programs for controlling the scientific camera are available for download from our software page, and are also described in the manual (found by clicking on the red Docs icon below). For more information on Arduino, or for information on purchasing an Arduino board, please see www.arduino.cc.

The image to the right shows a schematic of a configuration with the TSI-IOBOB2 with an Arduino board integrated into a camera imaging system. The camera is connected to the break-out board using a 8050-CAB1 cable that must be purchased separately. The pins on the shield can be used to deliver signals to simultaneously control other peripheral devices, such as light sources, shutters, or motion control devices. Once the control program is written to the Arduino board, the USB connection to the host PC can be removed, allowing for a stand-alone system control platform; alternately, the USB connection can be left in place to allow for two-way communication between the Arduino and the PC. The compact size of 2.70" x 2.10" (68.6 mm x 53.3 mm) also aids in keeping systems based on the TSI-IOBOB2 compact. 

USB 3.0 Camera Accessories (USB3-MBA-118 and USB3-PCIE)
We also offer a USB 3.0 A to Micro B cable for connecting our cameras to a PC (please note that one cable is included with each USB 3.0 camera). The cable measures 118" long and features screws on either side of the Micro B connector that mate with tapped holes on the camera for securing the USB cable to the camera housing.

A USB 3.0 PCIe card is also provided for computers that do not offer USB 3.0 connectors with an integrated Intel USB 3.0 controller. However, since most newer computers offer several USB 3.0 connections, a USB 3.0 PCIe card is not included with the purchase of a USB 3.0 camera. The card has two type A USB 3.0 ports.

*The 8050-CAB1 is not compatible with our former-generation 1500M series cameras.

Based on your currency / country selection, your order will ship from Newton, New Jersey  
+1 Qty Docs Part Number - Universal Price Available / Ships
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