Global Geek Shenzhen: USB microscope

We all bought one of these USB microscope at the SEG Market. We were immediately fond of the heavy base and the smooth adjustment of the camera. We bargained a bit and bought it for 260 RMB ($40), that’s half the cost of the same thing on eBay from another China seller.

Some example shots and a short review below the break.

According to a product specification we found online the camera isn’t that impressive, only 0.3 megapixels.

  • DSP : High power Digital Image Monarch Processor
  • Sensor : High-quality CMOS sensor, 0.3M pixels
  • Resolution : 640 x 480
  • Interface : USB 1.1/USB 2.0
  • Frame rate: 30 frames/sec(CIF and VGA)
  • Focal distance : 10 mm- ∞
  • Magnification : 1x – 200× (at 10mm on 17” screen by 640 x 480 resolution)
  • USB cable length : 2 meters

The camera comes with a driver disk which has the driver for Windows both 32 and 64 bit. We found the software a bit frustrating as menus are sometimes hidden under the video overlay. For Linux we used gucview under Ubuntu, which seems to work fine and give the possibility to make a still.

First we took a better look at our trusty Bus Pirate v3a. This one was manufactured by Seeed Studio in 2010. We must note the resistors are 0805 size, instead of the 0603 we are currently using. The area is approximately 1cm x 1.5cm. Lighting seems a bit off, but the solderjoints and component values are easily visible.

Next is a .4mm breakout board for QFN and TQFP from unknown origin which didn’t cope with heat well. We tried to solder a QFN32 onto it but evidently we failed.

Some detail of the inside of a DECT phone with 0402 components.

The stand Ian got is a bit wobbly, but still usable. For $40 we got what we paid for, and overall a nice ‘toy’ to help inspect difficult soldering jobs.

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    1. For some years Siemens/Gigaset put bluetooth in their handsets. This is a Gigaset Professional S3 which is approx 2-3 years old.

      Got by any chance a link to a datahseet? :D

  1. Very interesting post/review. Because the light appears to be right next to the lens, you have the increased opportunity for glare ( as seen in a few of the pictures above ) especially when there is a lot of flux in the area. I would venture to guess that by adding some lighting that is away from the camera you would get less glare. I imagine the glare isn’t as bad when you are inspecting because you have the option to adjust the pcb to compensate for it.

  2. In my experience you need polarized lighting/filtering to get something usable, or you will see only shiny reflections. I guess this is the difference from a generic USB microscope and a microscope targeted at soldering/rework..

  3. Nice piece of hardware :D … The uber important aspect – how big is the delay? When you look at the realtime video of your pcb and you move pcb how fast you see the change on the screen? 1ms 10ms 100ms 500ms? Most usb cameras (including scopes) are in the range of 500ms (or higher) and that’s makes them unusable for work, only good for inspection (why I finally gave up and ordered a real stereo microscope myself, hopefully will arrive in a week so I will post review)

    1. depends on how fast you move. If you move slowly it is ok;

      I guess it is only usable for inspectionwork as the depth of field is too less for working under it.

      1. “if you move slowly” is just how I was lying to myself to use the scope .. it’s actually impossible. I tried 200ms one and after many frustration just gave up. I’m actually thinking of making a small rig to measure delay :)

    2. @arhi,
      Yep I have a couple of stereo microscopes, but watch the lenses (flux fumes)and ensure you always cover the equipment when not in use, plus ensure that when you move it, ALWAYS support it from the bottom
      Once any dust gets inside the lens chambers it is almost impossible to get it out.

      most of the delay in these products is down to ‘shitty’ drivers, or cheap interface chips, i have a set of CCD and Cmos microscope cameras, but on stripping them down they used shitty 20Mhz USB 1.0 interface chips from Cypress.

      1. @hardcorefs, thanks for the hint about scope, still waiting for it, it’s this one:

        I got it very cheap (~90EUR), new, not used, sitting in someones closed for a year.

        As for the delay, I know it’s because of the shitty electronics, I also have a regular ccd camera I used to use before that is connected trough some usb tv card and the delay is below 10ms, completely workable, it’s just not very handy, lens is very bad … then I connected my old hi8 camera + some macro ring I have and I was using this for work, when you get the output to a 25″ screen it gets very “visible”, even from regular hi8 camera .. 0201 is workable :D, problem is there’s no depth, it’s not easy to assess how far something is with only one camera… can be done but again I find myself spending more time looking at the board then looking at the screen. I tried bunch of those heads on loupe’s , gave up too, the focusing distance is just too near, I need to get my head 5cm from the board, I can’t work like that :( … so, I went with this scope. It’s supposed to be 60x but that’s not 100% ’cause it might be model PERL 60 and those are iirc 20x or 40x .. anyhow 20x is more then enough for me, 60x is cool too :) … we’ll see when it gets here, the guy need to return from a trip so next week if all goes ok :)

        As for lens protection, I have some old UV filters for cameras, I’m probably going to be able to mcgiwer something up … I also have some cpl’s so that should also help with reflections .. we’ll see.. I just need to get it here first :D

  4. The design is utilitarian and rather cool. Might need one… was up close with magnifier glasses the other day and sneezed while soldering and now have a tiny burn on my forehead… :). Unexpected symptom of seasonal allergies…

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