Taking photos for fluorescent microscopy can be a challenge because of its low light condition. High sensitivity CCD microscope camera are typically used for this type of task. The cost of CCD microscope cameras can be several times more than the CMOS cameras with the same resolution. Recently, a relatively unknown microscope camera manufacturer, Tucsen Imaging Technology, was surfaced on the internet. The cost of the camera from Tucsen was several times lower compared with the name brands. I am very curious about the cameras from Tucsen. Does this low cost camera as good as the name brands? This post, I am comparing two microscope CCD cameras, Zeiss MRc5 (5MP) and Tucsen TCC-3.3ICE-N (3.3MP) along with their image aquisition software (Axion Vision and TSView for MRc5 and TCC-3.3ICE-N, respectively). I should have used Zeiss ICc3 (3.3MP) to be fair but that’s the only two CCD microscope cameras that I have access to.
The Zeiss MRc5 was connected to a desktop computer running AxioVision 4.5 using firewire connection while the Tucsen TCC-3.3ICE-N was connected to my laptop running TSView 6.2 using USB2.0 cable. The Vero cells stained with VECTASHIELD Hard-set Mounting Media with DAPI from Vector Lab was used to compared the two cameras.
Photos* at 200X
Photos at 400X
The Zeiss Axio Vision software is a very comprehensive image capturing and processing software. There are many setting that you can choose from. It looks very intimidating initially but I can figure out how to do thing immediately. All I need to do is click on Live and Snap buton. The buttons are quiet big. you won’t miss it. The live view is a little bit fuzzy but very responsive. It was good enough for me to focus the image easily. I did not spend much time learning the software. On the other hand, the operation of TSView software for taking fluorescent images is not as straightforward. By default, TSView first loaded the auto white balance and auto exposure mode which are not intended for fluorescent microscopy. After consulting the manual, I found out that there is a session written specifically for fluorescent microscopy. I followed the instruction to use the focus mode then photo taking (fine) mode. The light intensity of my DAPI stain was apparently not strong enough to use either 2.5 fps or 5 fps (in the Quick Fluo tab – in Advanced setting). I end up using 0.61 fps then adjust the gain to approximately 20 db and 3000 ms exposure time. By setting with this gain and exposure time (i.e. I waited about 3 seconds to allow image to be displayed in preview screen when I turned the focus knob.), I had some visible image that I can use to focus. After the image was focused, I then switched the gain back to 10db. Return to the Quick fluo tab and change the time to 10 second more or less (compared to Zeiss MRc5 which took about 5 seconds to get the photo with correct exposure). It approximately took me an hour to figure out how to do it because the “Advance button” isn’t visible on the view screen and my inability to get the focus mode to work. After I learned the trick, it was much easier. The most difficult thing is to be patience the get the image focused. Three seconds don’t seem to be very long. It felt long when I was doing nothing but trying to get the image focused.
The image quality of the photos produced by Tucsen TCC-3.3ICE-N is comparable to that of Zeiss MRc5. Some of the pictures using TCC-3.3ICE-N showed up with more details then MRc5 while some pictures show up with insufficient exposure. The brightness of the DAPI stain showed better contrast with TCC-3.3ICE-N among different cellular components (DNA vs nucleus vs cytoplasm vs background) with the expenses of doubling the exposure time (10 second vs 5 second). TCC-3.3ICE-N allows me to use up to 60 minutes of exposure (10 second is no where close to the limitation). This could be due to the lower light sensitivity of their CCD. Zeiss Axio Vision software clearly a better software then TSView. Axio Vision have many options to configure and have a very user intuitive design. It takes very little time to learn. It is difficult to conclude which camera hardware is better since the outcome depends on the image capturing software*.
* My attempt to use Tucsen TCC-3.3ICE-N with AxionVision was not successful since AxionVision did not recognize the Tucsen camera. Neither is TSView recognize Zeiss MRc5 camera.
To cost: Zeiss MRc5 bundled with Axion Vision software cost $9,990 while the Tucsen TCC-3.3ICE-N with Free TSView software costs just over $1,200. MRc5 cost 8 times more than TCC-3.3ICE-N. A more comparable model, Zeiss ICc3, costs about 6 times.
For the image quality, the two cameras are comparable. I had better software experiences with Axion vision than TSView while MRc5 cost much more than TCC-3.3ICE-N so there isn’t a clear winder. You might consider a Zeiss MRc5 if you are: a laboratory with plenty of funding, many users and don’t want to spend time on training. You might want to consider a Tucsen TCC-3.3ICE-N if you are: a laboratory with limitted funding, don’t mind spend time to tweek the software to get the optimized image. With some patience and practice, you can get a very good results with ICC-3.3ICE-N.
|Tucsen TCC-3.3ICE-N||Zeiss MRc5|
|CCD chip manufacturer||Sony||Zeiss|
|CCD chip model||ICX412AQ||ICX282|
|CCD scan mode||interline||Interline|
|CCD size||1/1.8 inch||2/3″ (8.7 mm x 6.6 mm)|
|Pixels||3.46 µm x 3.46 µm||3.4 µm x 3.4 µm|
|Resolution||2080H x 1536V||Number of Pixels: 2584 H x 1936 V|
|Filter||R, G, B buyer||IR barrier filter BG40, 400 nm to 710 nm|
|Lens interface||Standard C-mount||Standard C-mount|
|Maximum fps||5 fps (2080 x 1536)30fps (640 x 480)||Mode H x V Frame Rate@20msSlow 1296 x 968 3.8 frames/secMedium 430 x 322 11 frames/sec Fast 258 x 193 15 frames/sec|
|A/D conversion||12 bit||12 Bit / 12 MHz pixel clock|
|Peltier cooled||– 30℃ below ambient||n/a|
|Power supply||5V exterior power supply||supply via FireWire / IEEE1394 data cable|
|Dimension||100mm*81mm*48mm(HXBXT)||110 mm x 80 mm x 45 mm|
|Operational temperature||0-60℃||5° … +35° Celsius|
|Operational humidity||45%-85%||10% …. 80% relative air humidity|
Other photos captured by Tucsen TCC-3.3ICE-N:
*All the images posted on this page are not post-process (except the water marks) by any graphical manipulation to show the raw quality of the camera.
Where you can get it