Happened to see a lovely blog post about a fine old 35mm camera and it got me itching to shoot a roll. However, first let’s have a look at a nice common apparatus that will get anyone started in photomicrography! -K
Years ago all the larger firms had a line of photomicrographic apparatus or two. One of the earliest to capitalize on the 35mm market was Leitz who took their popular Leica and adapted a shutter and prism set up to suit the needs of the microscopist. The result was the Micro-Ibso (later to be called the Mikas) a small eyepiece mounted shutter.
The Micro-Ibso features a timed shutter just as one will find on mechanical 35mm cameras, which would have been imidiately understood by contemporary users-even if it might take a bit of getting used to for those who grew up with digital or point-and-shoot film cameras. It’s not overly complex and that’s part of the appeal. The other draw is the versatility, and the viewing eyepiece. Unlike earlier large format microscope cameras, the Micro-Ibso carried a focusing eyepiece and did not require a ground glass focusing plate.
A variety of bellows could be fitted between the shutter and the photo-sensitive material. There are at least three that I am aware of: a 1/3x bellows that was intended for use with 35mm camera bodies, 1/2x bellows called the Macca which took a large format film or small photographic plate, and a 1x bellows called the Makam which was able to take an image measuring 9x12cm on plates or film backs. All of the bellows would screw into the Micro-Ibso and were fitted with reducing lenses-except for the Makam which I understand required no lens.
The 1/3 bellows is perhaps the most common today, and it is likely the one which will be most used. Featuring a standard Leica Thread Mount, the Mikas could be fitted to the camera one already had. In the first picture it may be seen fitted to an old, Russian, FED3 rangefinder.
Working up from the base in the photo below, the Micro-Ibso has a threaded ring which fits over the eye-tube of the microscope and is held in place by a convenient set screw. With this ring removed one can seat an ocular (the periplanatic flat-surfaced ocular of Leitz are ideal) into the base of the Micro-Ibso and then screw it in to hold the ocular firmly in place. The ocular itself creates the light-tight connection of the photomicrographic apparatus to the microscope and because of the arrangement adds less than two millimeters to the tube length of the microscope.
In the photos one will notice that their are two shutter release cables connected to the apparatus. Only one of these actually controls the shutter, the other operates a spring-loaded prism. When the dual cable release is pressed a prism is pushed out of the optical path before the shutter is tripped so that all the light from the ocular is directed towards the photosensitive material. Naturally one cable is noted as “Prisma” on the dual release adapter and the other is labeled “Verschluss” respectively. When assembling the Micro-Ibso make sure that the “Prisma” cable is fitted to the body of the device and the “Verschluss” to the silver shutter connection.
In practice the Leitz Mikas is a breeze to use. With the cameras shutter set to “B” one simply winds the camera, focuses the object appropriately as seen through the viewing port and selects the best shutter speed for the lighting conditions and objective in use. Depress the cameras release first and hold it while then pressing the dual release to take a photomicrograph.
If the process seems complex then one might do well to note that even inexpensive 35mm film has a resolution equivalent to 15 MegaPixels. Without too much trouble-let’s not even mention the price of a 15MP digital microscope camera-one can find a Leitz Mikas for under $50.00 on online auction sites. Additionally because the Mikas features the common Leica Thread Mount a ring adapter can be found for most modern digital cameras (with removable lenses) so that one can use their modern camera with ease.