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Definition of Terms

Close-Up vs. Macro vs. Micro
Magnification Limits
Electron Microscopy
Polarized Illumination
aaaaVery simply, magnification is just how much larger the image is than the actual object. It is usually written, for example, as M = 15X (magnification is fifteen times life-size.)
aaaaMagnification cannot be accurately determined until we know how large the final image will appear: on a printed page? on a computer screen? on a poster? on a video screen?
aaaaUnderstandably, clients frequently are uncertain as to the amount of magnification they need. Once we learn about your subject, and how the image will be used, we can make suggestions as to the appropriate magnification. Often, we can provide images at more than one magnification, so a choice can be made visually.
aaaa If required, an accurate dimension scale can be provided imbedded on the final images.
Magnification Limits
aaaaWe are frequently asked, “What’s the maximum magnification you can achieve?” The answer is, “It depends.”
aaaaaaaaHow much fine detail does the subject have? Jello or sandpaper?
aaaaaaaaOn what media (print? computer screen?) will the final image be viewed?
aaaaaaaaHow close will the observer be to the final image?
aaaaaaaaHow much three-dimensional depth does the subject have.
aaaaaaaaIs the structure simple or complex, and do foreground areas partially obscure rear elements?
aaaaThe amount of magnification is theoretically unlimited: an image can easily be thousands of times larger than the original object. However, an image that is highly magnified often does not contain discernable detail; you get a big “picture”, but it’s lacking in useful resolution, useful information in the fine details. This is called empty magnification.
aaaaThat said, we can routinely achieve high-quality magnifications of 200X - 500X, and up to 1,000X for some specimens.
aaaaWhat is considerably noteworthy, is that these magnifications are accompanied by depth-of-field far greater than was available in the past, often negating the need for electron microscopy.
Close-Up vs. Macro vs. Micro
How much is in focus from foreground to background.
aaaaAs magnification increases, depth-of-field diminished drastically. And the more three-dimensional structure in an object, the greater the problem. Traditionally, depth-of-field associated with tiny objects was severely limited, but our specialized technology and precision skills have allowed us to surpass this limitation many times over.

aaaaThis term indicates how much fine detail you can see. Resolution is dependent on a complex mix of the optical system, critical focus, camera megapixels, magnification and viewing distance of final output.
aaaaThe best way to determine if we can resolve the detail you want to see is to let us do a free test

xxxxThese are lighting techniques that create either a white or bright background (brightfield) or black or dark background (darkfield). The difference may be quite striking, and can greatly enhance the visibility of important detail, depending on the subject. Darkfield illumination is often effective with transparent or translucent objects, though it can be employed with certain opaque specimens to highlight edges and shape. If appropriate, we can try both methods for your project.
Electron Microscopy
aaaaMacro and micro optical techniques using white light have been traditionally employed to photograph tiny objects. Unfortunately, certain properties of light limit maximum magnification and depth-of-field. An electron microscope, on the other hand, uses a beam of electrons instead of light, and can magnify up to 25,000X, as well as provide far more depth-of-field than conventional techniques.Not only are electron microscopes expensive, complex instruments, but specimens require special preparation (typically an evaporated coating of gold), there are restrictions on the physical size of the specimen, and they only produce black-and-white images. While there is no substitute for the high-magnification capabilities of an electron microscope, our combination of specialized equipment and precise technique allows us - using white light - to duplicate the depth-of-field found in low-and medium-magnification electron microscope images (electron micrographs). Additionally, our images are in full color, and there will be no harm or modification to your objects. In certain instances, our imaging capabilities will provide superior images, and be more cost effective, than electron microscopy. And unlike electron micrographs, ours images will always look “real”. If you’re in doubt, let us provide a free sample image.

Polarized Light
aaaaWe are fully equipped to employ polarized light techniques with objects that can benefit from it. Polarized light can produce dramatic, often necessary, colorful imaging effects in certain specimens, such as some crystals and plastics.
Actual length of uncooked brown rice is 0.30 inches (7.6mm). Depending on your computer monitor settings, the image on the right will appear about 4 inches (100mm) long. So magnification, M is
Final Image Size
Actual Size
4" (100mm)
0.30" (7.6mm)
M = 13X (13 times life-size)
M =
“Close-up” technically refers to creating images that are smaller in the camera than the actual object. It is generally accepted that “close-up” photography starts with images that are one-tenth the size of the object (M=0.1X) and increases in magnification until the object and its image size in the camera are equal (M=1X). Of course, the camera image will typically be enlarged anywhere from 2-20 times more (for print or computer monitor use), so the final magnification might be anywhere from M=0.2X to M=20X.
M (in camera) = 1/2X
M (on screen) = 2X (approx.)
“Macro” In this case the image on the camera
sensor was actually larger in size than the very
small section of the computer keyboard, So we
are now in the “macro” range.
M (in camera) = 3.5X
M (on screen) = 13X (approx.)
“High-Magnification Macro”
M (in camera) = 12X
M (on screen) = 40X (approx.)
M (in camera) = 35X
M (on screen) = 150X (approx.)
"Extreme Macro"
This is a “traditional” macro photograph covering
an area on a circuit board about
0.2”x 0.3” (5mm x 7.5mm)
Using specialized equipment and techniques,
the entire area is in sharp focus.
Chick Embryo, 96 hours.