How to turn your Webcam into a Microscope

We see past time in a telescope and present time in a microscope. Hence the apparent enormities of the present.

Victor Hugo

University is about to begin again and I am really excited! It will be my first semester at ETH Zürich and I cannot wait to meet my future colleagues. In the meantime, I have been working in the low-cost microscope I told y’all ladies about in my last post.


Probably, you are wondering how a webcam can become a microscope. This is indeed magic because it is so simple! BBC Science explains it really well in the following article so that everyone can do it.

How can a webcam become a microscope?

The webcam’s digital camera works by capturing light through a small lens on to a CMOS or CCD image sensor.

The sensor converts the picture into a digital format that is transmitted to the computer usually via a USB cable.

The lens on the camera is designed to take a wide-angle view and focus it on to the small sensor.

But if you flip the lens around, this process is reversed and the very small image appears magnified instead.

This way a basic webcam should be able to achieve 200x magnification.


Amazing, right? If you are not sure of how CMOS or CCD sensors work (I had only a vague idea myself) I recommend you the following tutorial.

I used an old webcam I had at home and I am quite happy with the results (about 50x for free!) although I couldn’t get 200x magnification as claimed in the article but maybe with a newer camera it would work even better!


Google Chrome Icon on phone screen

The image above is part of the results I obtained and it is a picture of my phone screen. Can you see the rgb leds? I think it is pretty cool!

I also discovered that using this very same principle other people already built digital microscopes (I have been scooped!) and since they cost the same as a new webcam (yes, I destroyed my old webcam so I need to buy a new one) I think I will get one of these instead.


To conclude, I would like to mention something that made me feel so proud of myself for a little while. One of my Linkedin contacts saw my projects on GitHub and decided to collaborate: he is helping me to improve the cardiology project code. GitHub is really working!




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