Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

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DeepEnd
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Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by DeepEnd » 15 Jun 2019 14:48

Inspired by the work of Ray Parkhurst I thought I would have a go at trying to do good quality pictures of stylus tips using my existing Olympus micro 4/3 camera and bits and my older OM series cameras and parts. The best m4/3 lens I have will only do about 0.42:1 which is OK for cartridge shots but for my OM camera I had a Tamron SP 90mm F2.5 with the matching 1:1 adaptor (0.5:1 without this) with a Tamron to m4/3 adaptor and again this is only good for cantilever shots and the size makes not getting vibrations a bit of an issue.
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So having studied Ray's set up, and picked his brain a bit, I purchased a used Olympus Macro rail (~<£90)
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This is a nice piece of kit well built with super smooth adjustment and because both front and back move you can balance the weight over the mounting point.

I also ordered and XYZ table (60mm x 60mm) from Germany (still not arrived!!) [<£100] to provide the fine movements and allow focus staking etc. but was racking my brains trying to work out the best way of mounting all these solidly enough for the pictures but adjustable. Purely by chance came across some parts made by a company called "smallrig" that are supposed to be used to make shoulder rigs for video camera use, particularly for the smaller cameras now being used, so for less then £60 I now have the following 40cm assembly
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Again with the clamps tightened up there is no twist movement etc. I will use two of the cross pieces to mount the XYZ table one to mount some LED light onto and the forth to mount the Macro rail/camera. By adding some feet to the bottom of the blocks at the end of the rails this can be placed and a suitable surface and be ready to use quickly.

It then turns out I have been unable to find an adaptor to fit the 15mm thread the objectives from my cheap digital microscope so ended up buying some AmScope RMS style Objective (4x Achromatic @$15 and a 10x Plan Achromatic ($35) along with RMS to M42 adaptor, a OM to 4/3 adaptor and OM to M42 adaptor (not arrived yet) and a reversing adaptor for fitting my 28mm and 50mm OM lenses reversed on the macro rail to give 1:1, 2:1, 4:1 and 10:1 most of these were between £2 and £6. A few table tennis balls for diffusers.

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Once I get all the bits I will update things further. :D

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by ray_parkhurst » 15 Jun 2019 19:33

Looks like a good start! Can't wait to see some photos.

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by ]eep » 18 Jun 2019 02:53

Duh, finally I got it... The title. I was hoping to see pretty pictures for free. :o

You don't need a professional camera for that though. I just purchased an USB digital microscope that connects to my phone via the USB-otg usb-c. It has plenty of enlargement and enough resolution to see the stylus. And it costs less than €20.

Before I used a jewelers 60x microscope and simply held it in front of my lens. That sort of worked. It made great vintage vignettes. OK, not great but at least I could share something. See example below.

The digital microscope should improve a lot on that. I watched Analog Planets visit to the Rega factory and saw they used the same sort of microscopes to monitor the coil winding process. A bit more money buys you better resolution but 1080p is enough for me.

Edit: like nobody knew that already... I'm not a complete idiot though. I do know how to make professional pictures, have several cameras and used to study for bio analist so spent lots of hours behind a real microscope, but I didn't realise what your purpose was. Picture stacking. But that's actually using software on the wrong tool. You don't want the kind of microscope that uses the little glass trays but a stereo microscope that has less magnification but a lot more depth of field. The kind that AJ vd Hul etc use. And then capture that.

The software for stacking is like what an MRI does, slice by slice, but you would want something like an electron microscope to see what's going on. I'll await my usb microscope first.
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DeepEnd
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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by DeepEnd » 24 Jun 2019 16:12

I’ve already tried a 40x and 120x magnifier and also a USB microscope none have been entirely successful hence trying further options. Getting closer but need to find a way to fix my XYZ table onto the rails as mounting holes are at 50mm spacing but no centre hole on base only on top plate :(
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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by ray_parkhurst » 24 Jun 2019 16:46

DeepEnd wrote:
24 Jun 2019 16:12
I’ve already tried a 40x and 120x magnifier and also a USB microscope none have been entirely successful hence trying further options. Getting closer but need to find a way to fix my XYZ table onto the rails as mounting holes are at 50mm spacing but no centre hole on base only on top plate :(

2417EACA-BDDE-4789-B9D6-B114AA6A9D46.jpeg
Why not just flip the table over?

DeepEnd
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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by DeepEnd » 24 Jun 2019 17:59

I was planning to use the centre holes on the top for a mounting a 45 degree block that I can turnround for 90 degree shots so block didn't need to be the full width.

I was just a bit surprised as drawing seemed to indicate the same 9 tapped holes top and bottom but there are only 4 on the base and they are clearance only. Just need to make a block 60mm x 80mm x (6-10mmmm thick) with tapped holes in four places at 50 mm pitch and two clearance holes at 70mm pitch down the centreline.

PS here is a picture from my USB of a Paratrace in Aluminium cantilever.
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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by ray_parkhurst » 27 Jun 2019 03:57

I'm still working on putting together a spec for a stylus imaging system that is affordable and capable. It's really not an easy thing to do! My standard rig relies on very high quality optics from Nikon to get highest image quality. I've tried to create "acceptable" quality with different optics, and have had some good results, but the overall system is still fairly expensive. I put together 4 different systems, with a range of objectives and a few different cameras, and none gave acceptable cost/quality results. I will keep trying to find the right combination of camera and optics, but so far it seems the optics are the limiting factor (as expected), and I have more complete failures than near-successes.

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by DeepEnd » 15 Jan 2020 14:33

So having had a break due to other things in life getting in the way I have tried my "rig out" now with grip on lights via a battery pack and a simple 6mm Acrylic sheet drilled (and tapped for some) to mount the XYZ table on the rails.
OptoSetupx10.jpg
Rig with X10
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Here are the pins on a VM95C using an X4 objective - appear gold plated but then "tinned". Objective seems good for the low price.
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Pins X4
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And here is the new spherical tip of the VM95C - a bit soft so I need to try and improve the vibration levels (remote release with shutter delay), my settings on Helicon Focus (need help with those) or possibly a better x10 objective.
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VM95C X10
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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by ray_parkhurst » 15 Jan 2020 16:52

I've never found much benefit to adjusting of the stacking parameters on Helicon. I just use the defaults.

The 4x looks pretty good, but indeed the 10x looks blurry. Does your camera have any choices for electronic shutter operation? At 10x, "shutter shake" is a big problem and can be the limiting factor for sharpness.

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by DeepEnd » 15 Jan 2020 20:27

Thanks for the feedback Ray, I went with Helicon due to the RAW support but will stick with the defaults.

Unfortunately my Mk1 EM5 doesn’t have quite as many Electronic shutter options as the Mk2 or EM1 models but will I play on a more stable surface with a remote release and using the “delay” options that try to create a gap between the mechanical and Electronic shutters but the X10 does look slightly soft on the viewing screen.

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by dagfinn » 15 Jan 2020 21:57

Hi Ray, thanks for sharing your very impressive knowlegde and work. I'm piecing something to try to get closer to images like yours. I have Nikon D7100 & D800, and a bellows, remotes and lights, so I'm partially on the way. Already discovering issues with too cheap stuff. My bellows works, but it's not very good. "Buy cheap and try" can get expensive in the long run, so I'm hoping for some tips.
I'm most uncertain of the 10x objective, there seem to be many 10x Nikons in different price classes. Do you have any advice for which to get at not too high price? I suppose there are F-mount adapters they must fit?

Regards,
Dagfinn

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by 33na3rd » 16 Jan 2020 00:24

DeepEnd wrote:
15 Jan 2020 20:27


Unfortunately my Mk1 EM5 doesn’t have quite as many Electronic shutter options as the Mk2 or EM1 models but will I play on a more stable surface with a remote release and using the “delay” options that try to create a gap between the mechanical and Electronic shutters but the X10 does look slightly soft on the viewing screen.
Are you disabling image stabilization while the camera is mounted to the bellows/tripod/stand?

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by ray_parkhurst » 16 Jan 2020 02:36

dagfinn wrote:
15 Jan 2020 21:57
Hi Ray, thanks for sharing your very impressive knowlegde and work. I'm piecing something to try to get closer to images like yours. I have Nikon D7100 & D800, and a bellows, remotes and lights, so I'm partially on the way. Already discovering issues with too cheap stuff. My bellows works, but it's not very good. "Buy cheap and try" can get expensive in the long run, so I'm hoping for some tips.
I'm most uncertain of the 10x objective, there seem to be many 10x Nikons in different price classes. Do you have any advice for which to get at not too high price? I suppose there are F-mount adapters they must fit?

Regards,
Dagfinn
Hi Dagfinn (and DeepEnd)

Lighting is the critical issue with imaging of stylus tips, and the objective interacts with the lighting due to the short working distances involved. Plus, there are multiple imaging methods, so there are a few keys to making this work:

Let's discuss the methods, and their strengths and weaknesses:

1. The "Oblique View" method looks at the stylus / cantilever from an arbitrary angle. This method is more useful for viewing the overall condition, determining stylus type, etc. It is also very pleasing aesthetically.

2. The "Front View" method looks straight down the cantilever axis toward the front of the stylus, such that both contact major radii can be viewed. This is actually a good method for comparing different stylus shapes, but IMO is only useful for new styli. The method does not give much information on stylus wear until the stylus is beyond worn out, and it gives no information at all on the contact length in the minor radii. DeepEnd, this is the type of image you are showing above, and it is primarily useful for showing the type of stylus and cantilever, and the general condition, but it's hard to tell the condition of the contacts with this method.

3. The Shure method is to look straight down onto the tip, and shine lights in from both sides such that they reflect off the 45-deg contacts toward the objective, creating bright contact "stars". This is the least demanding method from both optical and lighting perspective, but IMO it results in the least useable images because the bright contacts are difficult to interpret. I've tried lowering the exposure so that the contacts are not just "blown-out blobs of light", and that does help somewhat, but it leaves the rest of the stylus tip nearly black. I think that viewing these "live" in the Shure microscope must be much more satisfying than attempting to image them.

4. My first alternative method, shown in the very first image of my Stylus Evaluation Imaging thread viewtopic.php?f=19&t=92996, used a ringlight rather than two single lights like the Shure method. This method diffuses the light so that the entire tip is bright, and shines it from a higher angle than the Shure method, so the light does not reflect directly off the contacts. The result is IMO much more useful than the Shure method, and like the Shure method, has the advantage of viewing both contacts in the same image. The contact dimensions can be measured with this method as well.

5. My second alternative method evolved from the first in that it uses the same ringlight technique, but looks straight down onto an individual contact. This requires a fixture to hold the cartridge at a 45-deg angle such that the contact is facing the sensor. The ringlight shines light onto the contact, but any light which hits the contact itself is reflected away from the sensor, and thus the contact appears dark. A bright ring of reflected light surrounds the contact where the light reflects directly to the sensor.

For methods 1, 2, 3, and 4, normal metallurgical or biological objectives can work fine. A 10x 0.25 in conjunction with a 2x teleconverter will give an effective 20x magnification with the working distance of the 10x objective, so there is room for getting light onto the stylus. More room is always good, so a longer working distance objective can be useful. I would recommend a ring diffuser to spread the light, but 2 or 3 lights without diffusion can still be effective. My preferred objective is the Nikon MPlan10, but the B&L 10x also has reasonable working distance and can work well with a ring diffuser, as can many other 10x 0.25 objectives.

For method 5, I use a 20x objective rather than a 10x plus teleconverter. The 20x gives a sharper result, but most 20x objectives have very short working distances. Nikon and others make Extra Long Working Distance (ELWD) types, in both Metallurgical and Brighfield/Darkfield (BD) configurations. Nikon also makes a 20x Measurement objective which has long enough working distance to implement a ringlight. In the Stylus Evaluation Imaging thread, I show results using 10x + 2x Teleconverter, 20x BD objective, 20x BD ELWD objective, 20x MM objective, and most recently 40x BD ELWD objective. Any of these types can work, but the BD types require implementation of coaxial lighting (not easy), while the 20x MM objective has enough working distance to support a small ringlight (not too difficult).

I hope this helps...Ray

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by scho2684 » 16 Jan 2020 06:13

Very interesting topic...
Thanks for sharing the knowledge!

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Re: Stylus images on the not cheap (but not massively expensive)

Post by DeepEnd » 16 Jan 2020 07:10

33na3rd wrote:
16 Jan 2020 00:24
DeepEnd wrote:
15 Jan 2020 20:27


Unfortunately my Mk1 EM5 doesn’t have quite as many Electronic shutter options as the Mk2 or EM1 models but will I play on a more stable surface with a remote release and using the “delay” options that try to create a gap between the mechanical and Electronic shutters but the X10 does look slightly soft on the viewing screen.
Are you disabling image stabilization while the camera is mounted to the bellows/tripod/stand?
Good point!! I will try with and without on my bellows/stand but my previous trials on tripods showed no real difference.

Ray, thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experience and once I can get sharp images with the 10X I try other orientations and lighting and even a 2X converter. I do have another 60mm of bellows extension but was trying to use at design length initially.

I am pleased with the performance of the 4X considering its $15 price tag and the stability of the rod system is impressive. The XYZ table makes it relatively easy to manipulate.

The grip on the lights is good but the rest is a bit of a pain as the flexible section springs around a bit and tends to drift over time (but again at $7 plus existing battery back it makes the whole rig easily transportable and not reliant on a power socket).

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