Keyence VHX-5000 demonstration

Thursday 20th April 2017

Claire Nivens from the Microscope Division of Keyence (UK) Ltd visited the Angela Marmont Centre in the Natural History Museum to demonstrate the VHX-5000 Digital Microscope to Quekett members and Museum staff.

It is an impressive piece of kit, with motorised X, Y and Z movements and the ability to tilt the head to observe specimens from the side and record 3D information. Specimens can be viewed on the screen (23″ IPS 1920×1080) or via DVI-I on an external monitor, and show an extraordinary depth of field by stacking images almost instantly; move the specimen or change the magnification and the image updates in less than one second.

For the demonstration, Claire used a zoom lens with a magnification range of 20–200× (measured on a 15″ screen); at 20× this produces images with 34 mm depth of field, 20 mm working distance, and 15×11 mm field of view. With stitching of multiple images, it can cover a 40×40 mm field. An LED ring-light is built in to the lens, with an optional diffuser. The lens can be removed for subjects that don’t fit on the stage, and there is a contact adapter. Claire used a metallurgical specimen to demonstrate the features of the microscope, and then showed what it could do with the specimens that we had brought. Producing a stacked and stitched image was remarkably quick; mark the 4 edges of the field you want to image, focus just below the lowest part of the subject, and set it going. Under computer control, the stage and the lens move to produce a series of stacked overlapping images that are then stitched, to produce a final image in a few minutes. Images can be saved as compressed JPEG or lossless TIFF.

Keyence VHX-5000 Digital Microscope uprightKeyence VHX-5000 Digital Microscope upright

Keyence VHX-5000 Digital Microscope inclinedKeyence VHX-5000 Digital Microscope inclined

3D information is captured automatically, so that a rotatable image can be generated on the screen. Reflected and transmitted light, bright-field, dark-ground, polarisation and DIC are all available. Scale bars can be included in the image. There are lots of nice features, for example double-click on any point on the screen, and the stage shifts so that the clicked point moves to the centre of the screen. Image editing software is built in, including HDR, a range of filters, and the ability to alter brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness.

Jan Baccaloni, Gemma Jeans and Martin Hinchcliffe brought a tiny spider from the Arctic, and 3 ticks from an ancient Egyptian tomb mounted on card, and were very impressed with the results.

Arctic spiderArctic spider (imaged in liquid)

Argas reflexus from ancient Egyptian tombArgas reflexus (Fabricius) from ancient Egyptian tomb (stacked and stitched)

Argas reflexus labelArgas reflexus label (stacked and stitched)

Alan Wood brought some fresh cones of Lawson’s cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). This was the least successful image, and probably needed the diffuser.

Cone of Lawson’s cypressCone of Lawson’s cypress

Dennis Fullwood brought some insects in amber and several slides, including the tongue of a blowfly, a fly mounted by Fred Enock, and the third leg of a honeybee (Apis mellifera) showing the corbicula (pollen basket). He did not expect good results because of the glass and the amber, but was pleasantly surprised.

Fred Enock fly (entire)Fred Enock fly (entire) (stacked and stitched)

To show the detail that can be recorded, here is a un-sharpened crop at 100% from the image above:

Fred Enock fly (crop from entire)Fred Enock fly (crop from entire)

Here is another image of the fly, taken at the highest magnification of the zoom lens:

Fred Enock fly (head)Fred Enock fly (head)

Blowfly tongueBlowfly tongue (stacked and stitched)

Insect in amberInsect in amber

Fly in amberFly in amber

Pollen basket (corbicula) of honeybeePollen basket (corbicula) of honeybee

In case you were wondering, prices start from £54,000 with the 20–200× lens. Claire told us about a museum that had used crowdfunding to raise the money to buy one.

Report and photographs of microscope by Alan Wood

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