EEVblog #566 – Cheap USB Microscope Reviews


Dave takes a look at two cheap USB microscopes to see how suitable they are for electronics works and soldering and inspection.
http://amzn.to/JEXuLH
Andonstar/Vividia 2MP 12mm diameter endoscope style USB microscope:
http://amzn.to/1cLfhHr
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/171176517011

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    • Ivan

      The software for the second one looks like software for Logitech webcams.

    • I do like that second one, reminds me a lot of the Adafruit one.

      http://www.adafruit.com/products/1061

      Seems to be available via ebay in the UK

    • vimes

      Dave, have you tried the second scope with the software of the first?

      • Stig

        Yeah, the first software seems better since it can measure distances and stuff.
        I tried to find it on the internet and its supposed to come from here:

        http://www.joinnew.com/joinnew/NewsView.asp?id=10&.html

        But it isnt possible to download it for some reason 🙁
        Would have liked to tried it on my own old USB camera.

    • Jippie

      I’m glad I waited buying one of these things, Thanks Dave.

      Do know if those microscope register with the PC like a normal/generic webcam, do they require special drivers or is it just the displaying software that you had to install? I’m on Linux so I have to rely on generic drivers.

      • vimes

        I have the flimsy one or at least one like it. The box says it only supports windows and it contained a minidisk with some crappy windows software only.
        On linux (mint/ubuntu) however it worked just by plugging it in and using common cam software like cheese.
        Only the snapshot button did not work here, but as Dave showed, you dont want to use that anyway.

    • Ross McKenzie

      Adafruit and Amazon want US$149 and US$99 (plus shipping) compared with the Sydney eBay guy’s AUD$59.90 (delivery included) for the same AndonStar unit. What a rip off! Ordered from Sydney.

      Cheers,

      Ross

      • me again

        My AndonStar unit arrived safely yesterday from Sydney. Works perfectly. Love the clear images.

        Ross

    • Dave B

      Thanks Dave!

      Much appreciated. I just bought the Andonstar from eBay after seeing your blog. Just search on Andonstar on eBay. The Aussie price is quite competitive. The biggest risk is Australia Post losing the parcel. There are two types on eBay, one as you described, and one with a flexible gooseneck.

      As for the Hoo Flung Dung brand, I bought a variant of one of those a few years ago (25x to 200x) – they were around $60 back then – from an eBay vendor in communist China. Piece of garbage never worked on Windows 7 or even XP. Nothing but driver problems. I could not locate an updated driver on-line. The eBay vendor as expected would not answer emails. I traced the microscope’s manufacturer down and their website was crap. Of course they could not bother answering emails either. A complete waste of money and a lesson learnt.

      One day I will save my pennies and get a Mantis.

    • michael

      Hi,
      would you like me to do a physical resolution estimation on this?
      I just need
      1.) a image of a slanted sharp edge with a high grey-value change. (Razor blade in backlight would be ideal) The edge should be tilted abt. 5 degrees respective to the x or y axis of the sensor to avoid aliasing.
      2.) A image of a ruler to count pixels/mm (same scale) to convert findings of image 1 back to linepairs/mm.

      I’ll do the math on this image.
      Often high image resolutions are just a interpolated marketing gag.

    • JFA in Montreal

      You should also check out the Celestron brand on Amazon.__ , a well known telescope brand.

      Search for Celestron USB microscope

      They seem to have a quite nifty one for about 75 bucks, the resolution seem to be better, the stand looks quite good (dunno how it feels) and the magnification seems to be higher.

      They also have an imager for 35$, i.e. only a 2MP camera with a standard ocular ring fixture that seems to make you able to plop it into any telescope or microscope. I dunno which standard diameters it can accomodate. That would fit nicely on a small boom-mounted stereo microscope like this: http://www.amazon.com/AmScope-Widefield-Binocular-Inspection-Microscope/dp/B005C75IVM/ref=pd_sim_p_6

    • JFA in Montreal

      Oh, and BTW Dave, next time, DO get a referral code so you can make money on your reviews, because I just bought the Vividia 2MP one, but not from Amazon.OZ (the top level domain name .AU is Austria, isn’t it?) If I’m making someone rich, I’d rather it be you than some other unknown guy…

      • elgonzo

        .au = Australia
        .at = Austria

    • Just forked out for the 2nd one. Dave has lots to answer for 😉

      Any way it looks ok for some good shots of PCBs etc

    • Simon

      Hi Dave,

      On the “strength” of your video I did buy an Andonstar USB camera (the vendor I used refers to it as an endescope, which I don’t think is strictly correct!)

      It really produces good images (better than my Canon SLR and 100mm EF macro lens) which I need for “my” confidence purposes supplying prototype hardware to customers showing good assembly and soldering etc.

      I was really surprised at the lack of edge fringing (either colour or de-focussing) in the image, quite remarkable.

      However I find that I can only reproduce camera images using the Win XP drivers/applications (USB Video Device under My Computer). Yes I still use Win XP.

      If I used the supplied application (AmCap and all the x32, x86 and other DLL stuff copied to the same folder) the program hanged big style requiring a hard re-boot of the PC. I suppose they didn’t do any regression testing between Windows 7 and Windows XP (I don’t know).

      Other (XP)users may find things work better for them, who knows?

      But I just wanted to “say” that in optical terms this device is very good (as you found) and as long as you are benevolent enough to accept that there may be software/UI “wrinkles” (especially under Win XP)all should be OK!

      In summary a really wonderful piece of hardware perhaps let down by it’s software?

      PS…..

      Who remembers the Netgear (Zetera) SC central storage disk drives referred to as “Toasters”? (well the first generation)

      That was a similar scenario, good hardware BUT decidedly flaky software!

      Cheers,

      Simon

      • Good to hear. Nothing new about decent hardware being let down by software!

    • Michael

      It bothers me that the phrase “Wun Hong Low” seems like a nasty racial slur.

      Can someone explain this? It’s a big turnoff for me on what is otherwise a thorough favourite of mine on the web.

      • It’s not, it’s a running joke. If you see it as a nasty racial slur, then well, that’s your right, but that’s not the intention.
        I won’t stop using it just because a couple of people take it the wrong way. Same with many of my other phrases and words I use.
        When you get a large enough audience you can’t NOT offend someone.

    • I just brought an Anderstar based on this review, cost £40 off ebay uk.

      HW is good, SW is less so. Got sent a link to the new SW, which looks the same as Dave used, the CD had the original one and AMCAP (AMCAP is a utility from the original Direct Show SDK, it turns up quite often in Wun Hong Low cameras). The original SW appears more useful tbh, as you can change the video pin and settings. Turning off Auto Exposure and setting it lets it become must better with less light.

      Framerate can be a bit low at the high res levels but latency is pretty good.

      In the UK it appears Anderstar are selling it direct, got email from them with new SW link and tech support :O
      Also got a bunch of heads for it, really not going to play with them much, a couple are clearly dental attachments and another looks like its used for the other end!!!

      Excellent buy, recommended if budget and/or unable to use the stand up/look down scopes are an issue (standing up and budget are for me).

      • Good call, mine came in the same little kit of funky looking parts 🙂

        Personally I have not tried the original SW as I wanted to use it under Linux. The camera enumerates as a standard USB cam so there is no problem there !!!

      • Matt Humphrey

        Can you provide a link to the new software? The stuff that came on little CD has an awful framerate.

      • Steve L

        Mine arrived a couple of days back. At low resolution it works well.

        HOWEVER, I can not get it into any resolution higher than 640×480 try as I might (options ==> Video Capture Pin). Tried Amcap, ehe_V2 etc

        My disk basically has the ehe.exe software and some dll stuff. I lack the proper drivers I think. Only the old Microsoft 2006 drivers are installed.

        In the Win7 (64) device manager it shows up as “ehe camera” with a Hardware ID of USB\VID_1871&PID_0D02&REV_1226&MI_00

        Can anybody please supply software or a link where I could get it? Or something. Or anything. Hellllppp! I’d be sooooo grateful.

        Thanks indeed.

    • Just been fiddling with the Cam under Linux you can definately see the noise reduce and I’m sure improvements in framerate with good light.

      mplayer -fps 30 -cache 128 -vf screenshot -tv driver=v4l2:width=1600:height=1280:device=/dev/video0 tv://

      Works well on the comand line allowing me to just press ‘s’ to take a snapshot whilst watchingthe live vid!

    • Dave B

      Whoa!

      My Andonstar arrived today. Works a treat. I don’t have the dust speck that Dave’s unit had and the image is crystal clear.

      A PDF file on the CD does contain instructions on how to disassemble the unit and clear out any debris. It is an entertaining read.

      The instructions contain typical language from third world countries like China. For some reason, their factory owners do not understand that hiring an English speaking technical writer would pay dividends, as would also an English speaking website development professional.

    • Dave B

      When I ordered mine late last week, the bloke in Sydney had sold 16 Andonstars on eBay (“Buyrarest”). Now he has sold 62 of them. I wonder if he knows about EEVBLOG and why the sudden gold rush on these devices.

      I might buy one for work too.

      cheers,
      DB

    • Matt Humphrey

      There are two utilities that come on the Andonstar CD. One is called “amcap.exe”. The other, depending on what version of the CD you get, is called “ehe.exe”, “andonstar 1.exe”, or “New Andonstar.exe”. amcap.exe is actually a 3rd-party program. There is a newer version out there, but it costs money to get all the features.

    • Toomas

      Before watching this video I just had bought the one that makes Dave’s skin crawl. Sure, it’s more a toy than a microscope, but when used right, it can be useful tool and not a waste of money.

      It can be used in two ways. First, keep the bottom in contact with observed surface and hold the unit with your fingers as low as possible. This way even pressing the Snap button with your other hand won’t shake the picture almost at all at 500x. Having it in contact with surface gives two focal points at about 50x and 500x and since the distance is fixed, measurements are rather exact after calibration (1mm=?*pixels).

      The other useful way to use it is holding it in hand. Then the magnification is less than 50x and it is focusable between anything between about 50cm to 0cm from the object. About 3cm from the object the magnification is about 20x and you see about 10x6mm.

      The particular one I bought has rubbery plastic, which is quite nice. Also, 1600×1200 picture streams just as fast as 640×480 on my Win7 64bit system. No issues with installing drivers either.

      Bought it here
      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/321234675263

      • Toomas

        Well, found out that the sensor is really 640×480 and 1600×1200 is fast only because it’s scaled up in software.

    • Matt Humphrey

      I got a link to the updated software from Andonstar:

      http://share.cx.com/kdGLt7

      The default settings give a lot of lag in the preview window. To fix that, go to “Video Capture/Set Frame Rate”, and uncheck “Use Frame Rate” (or set it to 30 or higher). Also, make sure that the “Color Space/Compression” setting in “Options/Video Capture Pin…” is set to MJPG.

      With those settings, I’m able to get a reasonably lag free preview up to 1280×960 resolution.

      • Matt Humphrey

        Actually – i’m getting good speed all the way up to 1600×1200.

    • Stig

      Regarding solding beneath the USB microscope..

      Wouldnt this in time damage the lens, with all them fumes going straight into it ?

      • Good question maybe you can use some IPA to clean it or attache a microscope slide over it somehow then change it when it gets marred?!

        • Juergen

          Use a smoke absorber or a fan.

          • Yeah agreed since you should be using one anyway, or at least a fan to blow the fumes off your face!

            How ever I think that the lens would be so so close to the work that some fouling from the fumes would be inevitable thus my glass slide idea!

    • Juergen

      Hi Dave
      thanks for the cool video.

      years ago I also bought some of those crappy USB microscopes. They are totally useless for solder inspection. This Christmas I thought I should try it again. After a long search in the web I found this one:
      http://www.supereyes.cc/en/a005-adjustable-auto-fine-tune-portable-digital-microscope-29.html

      Its about 160 US$. Quite expensive for an USB microscope.
      And yes this is for me the first one which can be really used for solder inspection. Even for metal surface inspection after grinding.
      Cheers

    • Tomas

      Juergen could you tell more about supereyes. It’s expensive and maybe quite well build and decent as microscope. Is it worth paying extra for autofocus?

    • Rylan White

      I’m so glad you have comments here! I am a long time fan of your youtube channel, and was very annoyed by the new changes they made to the comments there. Cheers, and thanks!

      • Yep, no need for a Youtube account. There is also the forum as well as here.

        • Rylan White

          Cheers, and I did buy the Andonstar based on your detailed review. I’m finding it more than adequate for my needs. The base is pretty stable though I do get some rotational play when adjusting the height on my unit. For $65 there’s no chance I could fault it! Great buy!

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    • Dan Fury

      Hi Dave I just purchased an Andonstar and
      cannot get a image on screen? The software seems to be working alright? There is no
      image on the screen if I move the pen around,
      Please Help.

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    • Fred Z

      I just bought the Andonstar and ordered it from a dealer who had 100% positive feedback on his sales. I cannot seem to get it to work. Each time I run the executable it tell me that “There is no webcam device in you computer, please check” I have plugged the usb into all my ports and I still get the same response. The camera is getting power from when I plug it in because the led lights work fine. I keep thinking I am doing something wrong. HELP!!!!!!!

    • m47

      Hallo

      Someone can help me?

      I got the CD only with amcap.exe Version 9.03 BETA.
      I need the CD with “New
      Andonstar.exe” and/or “andonstar 1.exe” Software.

      Thank you.

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    • Quality work Dave! Enjoyed it a lot!

    • Wahroonga Farm

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the great video. I would probably have referred the ‘short version’. 😉

      But it gave me the confidence to lash out on an Andostar and I’m certainly not disappointed.

      Here is a short video shot at 640×380 and 30fps using AP1.exe.

      https://youtu.be/6cTWvayFapA

      The microscope is 5cm from the job, so there’s plenty of space to work and perfect magnification for doing a bit of cutting and soldering on that internal WIFI antenna (TP-Link MR3020).

      It is a bit hard when you are not holding the pen, to determine the delay, but
      basically there isn’t much and certainly not enough to upset slow deliberate
      actions.

      The unit came with two video capture proggies.

      http://s17.postimg.org/jyaikrwxr/screenshot_919.jpg

      1. The Andonstar software that Dave used, AP1.exe. It’s basic, but it ticks all the boxes and neatly files video and photo captures in the associated files. It just works.

      It only records in AVI, but VLC Media Player provides a free and easy MP4 conversion. That 17 second video above was an 88MB AVI, but it shrunk to a 552KB MP4.

      http://s17.postimg.org/sulaopnjz/screenshot_920.jpg

      2. An outdated version of AMCap, amcap.exe. It’s clunky, buggy and offers nothing that the Andonstar software doesn’t do better.

      I bought mine here.

      http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Andonstar-2MP-USB-Digital-Pen-Microscope-Endoscope-Video-Otoscope-dental-oral-ENT-Camer/1445313577.html

      Cost was US$43.72, or at the time AU$57.61

      Enjoy your Andonstars

      • Brian Anderson

        hi’
        very good video’ i have just been bought one as a present from my wife’ but did not get the drivers or the software with this, ive looked for hoursssssssss on the internet but every link is false.
        could you by any chance point me in the right direction where i could get this please.
        many thanks
        bri

    • Nicolas SCHMIT

      So, what’s the best software to run this microscope?

    • Fernand

      can please share the software for andonstar please 🙂

    • Manilo Tris

      Can anyone share “New Andonstar.exe” please?

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