Author Topic: The Ergonomics of Microscope Soldering: Direct Optical View vs Camera/Monitor  (Read 6902 times)

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Online Electro Fan

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It's hard to concisely frame all the questions, but here's a try...

When using a microscope do you prefer to solder (ie, watch/direct the position of your soldering iron and utensils as you solder/de-solder parts on a PCB) while looking through a stereo microscope or while viewing via a camera/monitor?  In other words, assuming you need a microscope to aid with magnification which do you find easiest/most natural/most enjoyable - direct optical view or camera/monitor view?

Does your preference depend on how much time you will be soldering?  I.e., assuming you could use either your preferred direct optical microscope or your preferred camera/monitor microscope, which would you prefer if:
a. you were just going to work on a few solder joints for 10-15 minutes?
b. spend an hour or two soldering?
c. spend most of the day soldering?

In general, do you prefer to solder while standing or sitting, or some of both?

If the budget isn't the primary issue, is there any reason to not go with both (ie, a simulfocal so you could use both direct optical view and the camera/monitor setup)?

These questions are mostly driven by personal use cases as opposed to making youtube videos, etc. but maybe some of the reason for camera/monitor view is to enable the sharing of images for collaboration support, Q&A, etc.?

Any thoughts or comments related are A-OK.  Thx
 

Offline Renate

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I kind of have the same question, but not answers.

I've used binocular microscopes and they are great, also bulky.
And they aren't any good for documentation unless you get trinocular.

I have a crappy USB microscope.
At full 5 Meg resolution it runs at 3 frames/second! |O
You certainly can't use it for soldering even if you reduce the resolution.
I'm looking to replace it with something that is definitely USB 3.0

Still, the crappy USB microscope is good for inspection and reverse engineering.
I actually modified with a better ring light and two cross polarized filters.
I've thought about adding a through light (like a light table) to make it easier to see traces on the bottom.
 

Offline rsjsouza

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I was in the same conundrum a long time ago and had the Vividia USB microscope (an all-metallic one that Dave reviewed ages ago). I was able to solder using it, but the ghosting on the image due to the frame rate was something that handicapped the process. Also, the low sharpness of the image and the very small depth of field were a bit troubling for higher density soldering.

Thus I was gifted by my wife an Amscope trinocular stereo that is absolutely perfect for soldering and inspection.

One of the major annoyances of a stereo microscope, however, is if you use glasses - they get in the way. If you could afford a Mantis, perhaps this wouldn't be a problem (I used one at work and it is really good).

I have never tried an advanced overhead camera (à la Louis Rossmann) or digital microscope (Keyence) to find out if these overcome the limitations of the cheap USB option.
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Offline Berni

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I use both at work.

Its an fairly cheep but decent trinocular Amscope microscope fitted with a camera in the form of a blue anodized aluminum box sitting on top. The camera can even do 2K video to SD card but we tend to keep it at 1080p and the HDMI output is 1080p, coupled with a computer monitor the lag is rather tiny, enough to work under. The camera is also very useful for documenting things since you can save pictures to a SD card with the push of a button.  Otherwise its only USB 2.0 so PC connection is not that great, but its there.

For hand soldering i still prefer to look trough the oculars tho. Its mostly the 3D depth perception that helps you get a better sense of where your soldering iron and parts are. The ergonomics of it are also not that bad since the working distance is large enough for you to sit nice and straight in front of it. This ergonomics improvement is one of the reasons i might go do a long soldering job under the microscope even if the parts are not so tiny. Being hunched over a desk when soldering a board really makes my neck hurt after a while.

But when it comes to hot air rework i actually prefer using the monitor. I can get a more comfortable position when holding the hot air gun and its easier to go between looking at the board directly and the monitor. Its easier to pick up tools while you keep heating the board while also keeping an eye on things. My face is not above the hot air stuff and flux smoke. You can see whatever you are doing just fine on it. You don't manipulate components around quite so much so depth perception or zero lag is not quite so important here.

This being at the workplace also makes the camera very useful for showing people things. You can easily have a few people gather around the monitor while you show them a problem on a PCB. Or someone is just curious and you quickly want to show them something its easier to just turn on the monitor than getting up for the chair and getting them to sit down in front of the microscope. Id say such a microscope is a must have for any company working with electronics.
 
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Offline hagster

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Big fan of the Vision Engineering Mantis and Lynx scopes(like the Mantis on Dave's bench). If you have the money they are great and much easier than classic binocular microscopes with conventional eyepieces. Until recently I think most cheap camera systems have had too much latency or low resolution for effective working, but that's probably changed now.
 

Online jfiresto

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... One of the major annoyances of a stereo microscope, however, is if you use glasses - they get in the way....
Does the microscope have modern, high eyepoint eyepieces with little, printed eyeglass symbols? That should end the annoyance.
 

Offline Psi

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I always solder while sitting down.

In my opinion a camera and screen is only good for live-streaming or for quick inspection of things, not for soldering

Hands down it is nicer to solder under a stereo microscope compared with any sort of digital display.
The 3D you get from a stereo microscope makes all the difference compared to a 2D generated image.

When it comes to stereo microscopes for soldering there are really two types, the typical type and the funky Mantis style.
If you will be using it all day long then the mantis one will be much better, but they are costly and the camera in them sucks.
I've used my normal microscope for hours and it's fine. If you need a camera forget the mantis.

If you buy a microscope get the typical kind we all have. It has wide angle objectives and the right level of zoom range/working distance for soldering.

I've come across people thinking the following.. "I'm not going to get the typical china microscope, i'm going to get a 2nd hand one that's a really high quality brand. It will be much better".
These people usually end up with something that is not intended for soldering and has too narrow field of view, no zoom or fixed zoom at the wrong level etc.

If you want to livestream at the same time as looking though the eyepieces then get the simulfocal version
« Last Edit: October 22, 2020, 07:17:26 am by Psi »
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Offline nfmax

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I've used binocular microscopes and they are great, also bulky.
And they aren't any good for documentation unless you get trinocular.

That's not quite correct. If you hold your phone camera so that the camera lens is at the exit pupil (eye point) of the eyepiece, you can get perfectly acceptable images. This works because phones, unlike proper cameras, have their lens very close to the surface, so you can get the lens in the right place.

I should 3D print a widget to help align the phone properly, but time...
 
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Offline tggzzz

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When using a microscope do you prefer to solder (ie, watch/direct the position of your soldering iron and utensils as you solder/de-solder parts on a PCB) while looking through a stereo microscope or while viewing via a camera/monitor?  In other words, assuming you need a microscope to aid with magnification which do you find easiest/most natural/most enjoyable - direct optical view or camera/monitor view?

Neither.

I find head mounted visors more than adequate, with the benefits of cheapness, use with spectacles, multiple magnifications, and also use when inspecting equipment resting on the floor.

Widely available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rolson-60390-Loupe-Magnifier-Visor/dp/B001MJ0JW2

Ultimately the best choice is highly personal, and therefore unpredictable. Hence a good strategy is to use cheap equipment to learn what works for you.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Online jfiresto

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... I've come across people thinking the following.. "I'm not going to get the typical china microscope, i'm going to get a 2nd hand one that's a really high quality brand. It will be much better"....

Some of us resemble that remark. I think what microscope you should get really depends on what you need and what you consider "better".

Some of the older, used microscopes were built to be very adaptable. I am waiting on a classic accessory for one, I think could be re-purposed to address a modern problem some folks, here, have not solved with a mass-market microscope – that would be hard to solve with many microscopes, for that matter. (I will start a new thread and cross link the old one)
« Last Edit: October 22, 2020, 10:04:04 am by jfiresto »
 

Online AndyC_772

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I've come across people thinking the following.. "I'm not going to get the typical china microscope, i'm going to get a 2nd hand one that's a really high quality brand. It will be much better".
These people usually end up with something that is not intended for soldering and has too narrow field of view, no zoom or fixed zoom at the wrong level etc.

I did exactly this; I bought a s/h Olympus SZ40, which is an excellent binocular zoom microscope with the ability to attach a camera.

It came with a range of eyepieces with different magnification levels - I use 20x - and the only additional accessory I needed was a standard, inexpensive 48mm 0.5x Barlow lens. This increases the working distance and made it absolutely ideal for soldering.

I have it mounted on the stand at about 10 degrees to the vertical, so it looks down onto the PCB at a slight angle. This makes it easier to see that the sides of SMT components have wetted properly. If it were mounted vertically, fillets would be harder to see.

For lighting I use a twin gooseneck LED light ("Dual Flexilite" http://www.brunelmicroscopes.co.uk/coldlight.html).

I don't like trying to use any kind of camera - especially small, cheap ones - for 'live' work. The dymamic range is too low to properly expose both shadows and specular highlights, which is an issue when inspecting shiny soldered joints.

Offline Renate

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If you hold your phone camera so that the camera lens...
Sorry, I can't take a handheld cell phone as a solution. You still need to transfer the images.
Also, using a microscope camera that takes an SD card can't be viewed as convenient.

Currently I just use two stacked dollar store +3.0 reading glasses.
 

Online jfiresto

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If you hold your phone camera so that the camera lens...
Sorry, I can't take a handheld cell phone as a solution. You still need to transfer the images.
Also, using a microscope camera that takes an SD card can't be viewed as convenient.

It is not so bad if you transfer images over USB, and "plug" and "unplug" the cable by flipping a switch.
 

Offline Psi

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Nothing wrong with buying a good quality 2ndhand microscope if you know what you're looking for.
It's just a bad idea when people don't.
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Offline nfmax

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If you hold your phone camera so that the camera lens...
Sorry, I can't take a handheld cell phone as a solution. You still need to transfer the images.
Also, using a microscope camera that takes an SD card can't be viewed as convenient.

The phone camera tip is for documentation purposes only, I wouldn't like to work using one! I use AirDrop to transfer images, as my phone doesn't take SD crads.
 

Offline Tarloth

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Without a doubt the stereo microscope. I have tried a camera some time ago but the working position did not help me, something simplifies in use the fact that the eyes are "looking" towards the same point where the hand is, despite having optics between the two.

I don't work with the microscope every day, but when I do it is for more than 4 hours, preferably sitting.

With enough budget I would use a trinocular microscope with a camera and monitor just to verify some static shots and to be able to document some processes.
 
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Offline SilverSolder

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When using a microscope do you prefer to solder (ie, watch/direct the position of your soldering iron and utensils as you solder/de-solder parts on a PCB) while looking through a stereo microscope or while viewing via a camera/monitor?  In other words, assuming you need a microscope to aid with magnification which do you find easiest/most natural/most enjoyable - direct optical view or camera/monitor view?

Neither.

I find head mounted visors more than adequate, with the benefits of cheapness, use with spectacles, multiple magnifications, and also use when inspecting equipment resting on the floor.

Widely available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rolson-60390-Loupe-Magnifier-Visor/dp/B001MJ0JW2

Ultimately the best choice is highly personal, and therefore unpredictable. Hence a good strategy is to use cheap equipment to learn what works for you.

I like the headband magnifiers as well.  It is much more flexible than fixed optics in that you can angle your head in from different angles, while getting full 3D vision - there is no limitation in the size of PCB or awkwardness of construction - just a total winner overall.  And you pack them away in a drawer when you're done, they don't take up any desk space.

My particular model has been made for almost 70 years (I have an antique one from the 50's just for fun, it looks and works just like the modern ones...   this thing has stood the test of time!)

The original Donegan made one
https://www.amazon.com/Donegan-OptiVisor-Lens-LX-3-14/dp/B0006O8RWS

Cheaper clones, no experience with these
https://www.amazon.com/Headband-Magnifier-Head-Mounted-Binocular-Magnification-1-5X/dp/B07M7H3P95

« Last Edit: October 22, 2020, 09:11:05 pm by SilverSolder »
 

Offline joeqsmith

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For home, currently using an old Olympus SZ60 trinocular scope with an AMSCOPE camera attached to it and a home made mount.   I use the camera for documentation, not for soldering.  I had an older 50's Olympus prior to this that I gave away. 

For soldering I will continue to use a stereo scope with zoom. 
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Offline tggzzz

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When using a microscope do you prefer to solder (ie, watch/direct the position of your soldering iron and utensils as you solder/de-solder parts on a PCB) while looking through a stereo microscope or while viewing via a camera/monitor?  In other words, assuming you need a microscope to aid with magnification which do you find easiest/most natural/most enjoyable - direct optical view or camera/monitor view?

Neither.

I find head mounted visors more than adequate, with the benefits of cheapness, use with spectacles, multiple magnifications, and also use when inspecting equipment resting on the floor.

Widely available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rolson-60390-Loupe-Magnifier-Visor/dp/B001MJ0JW2

Ultimately the best choice is highly personal, and therefore unpredictable. Hence a good strategy is to use cheap equipment to learn what works for you.

I like the headband magnifiers as well.  It is much more flexible than fixed optics in that you can angle your head in from different angles, while getting full 3D vision - there is no limitation in the size of PCB or awkwardness of construction - just a total winner overall.  And you pack them away in a drawer when you're done, they don't take up any desk space.

My particular model has been made for almost 70 years (I have an antique one from the 50's just for fun, it looks and works just like the modern ones...   this thing has stood the test of time!)

https://www.amazon.com/Headband-Magnifier-Head-Mounted-Binocular-Magnification-1-5X/dp/B07M7H3P95

I haven't tried those, but a lot of people seem to like them.

The ones I use have 4 different strength lenses, and two can be put in series if necessary. .the only thing I dislike is that over time the lens "hinge" becomes a little loose and the lens flaps a bit. I really ought to spend 5mins looking to see if I can improve that!

I also have stereo microscopes with (I think) 12 and 24 times magnification. Most stereo microscopes give me a headache after 5mins, but these just work. I only use those for specialist work, maybe once a month. Normally the visor is good.
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Online jfiresto

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I have used a 3-step (3.2X, 8X, 20X) stereo microscope for soldering and inspection and did not find the 2.5X steps excessive.

I could see giving up zoom to have 5 fixed magnifications (3.2X, 5X, 8X, 12.5X, 20X) and get sharper and flatter images.
 

Online Electro Fan

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When using a microscope do you prefer to solder (ie, watch/direct the position of your soldering iron and utensils as you solder/de-solder parts on a PCB) while looking through a stereo microscope or while viewing via a camera/monitor?  In other words, assuming you need a microscope to aid with magnification which do you find easiest/most natural/most enjoyable - direct optical view or camera/monitor view?

Neither.

I find head mounted visors more than adequate, with the benefits of cheapness, use with spectacles, multiple magnifications, and also use when inspecting equipment resting on the floor.

Widely available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rolson-60390-Loupe-Magnifier-Visor/dp/B001MJ0JW2

Ultimately the best choice is highly personal, and therefore unpredictable. Hence a good strategy is to use cheap equipment to learn what works for you.

I like the headband magnifiers as well.  It is much more flexible than fixed optics in that you can angle your head in from different angles, while getting full 3D vision - there is no limitation in the size of PCB or awkwardness of construction - just a total winner overall.  And you pack them away in a drawer when you're done, they don't take up any desk space.

My particular model has been made for almost 70 years (I have an antique one from the 50's just for fun, it looks and works just like the modern ones...   this thing has stood the test of time!)

The original Donegan made one
https://www.amazon.com/Donegan-OptiVisor-Lens-LX-3-14/dp/B0006O8RWS

Cheaper clones, no experience with these
https://www.amazon.com/Headband-Magnifier-Head-Mounted-Binocular-Magnification-1-5X/dp/B07M7H3P95

I have the Donegan 2.75X.  They say they are good for a 6 inch working distance but in my case I think I'm closer to 4"-4.5" (from the lenses to the PCB) when things are in focus.  Maybe it's as much as 5.0"; it's kind of hard to measure while inside the visors :), but my best guess is about 4.25".  At  ~4.25" with the 2.75X it's pretty easy (but not super easy) to see details like 0805 resistors and individual legs on SMD ICs, but at ~4.25" it's pretty close to the heat and fumes from the soldering iron tip. I estimate that at the ~4.25" working distance with the rectangular shaped visor lenses the FOV horizontally across the two side by side visor lenses is about 7 cm and the FOV is about 5 cm diagonally.  So the FOV is not spectacular but probably good enough.

I have tried a cheaper visor version too and I'd say the Donegans are worth the extra price in terms of the clarity and the comfort/lack of distractions vs. the cheaper visor. 

My concern with the Donegan is that if I want more working distance I'm going to give up more magnification by going with the 1.75X, 2X or 2.5X lenses.  For someone with good eye sight I think the Donegan's are certainly worth trying before springing for the cost of a microscope.  My guess is the winners might be either the Donegan 2.5x or the 2x - but at some point when you get enough working distance you might not be able to see a lot small detail.  I'm hoping the scope optics can provide both better/good working distance and good/better magnification.  You would certainly hope so for 10-20x the price (or 30x if you count the camera and a monitor).

It would be very interesting and helpful to hear form people who have soldered with both the Donegans and a good microscope.

What Donegan magnification are you using and what working distance from PCB to lenses are you getting?  Thx
« Last Edit: October 22, 2020, 10:32:40 pm by Electro Fan »
 

Offline jmelson

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One of the major annoyances of a stereo microscope, however, is if you use glasses - they get in the way. If you could afford a Mantis, perhaps this wouldn't be a problem (I used one at work and it is really good).
I have substantial astigmatism, and also one eye is twice the diopters of the other.  However, I use 3 different stereo zoom microscopes WITHOUT my glasses.  This requires me to adjust the eyepiece diopter compensation to the limits.  But, I get a wide field of view that way, and when magnified, I don't have any issue from the astigmatism.

Try it without glasses, you may never go back!

Jon
 
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Offline SilverSolder

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[...]
What Donegan magnification are you using and what working distance from PCB to lenses are you getting?  Thx

I use lens #5 (which is 2.5x) and get about 7" distance from the visor to the workpiece.  This is good enough to solder SMD components.


If I need more magnification, I use a camcorder with a close-up lens suspended over the work.  That gives something like 10" distance and works well enough to solder wires to 0.5mm pitch BGA devices at a pinch:


« Last Edit: October 23, 2020, 03:01:39 pm by SilverSolder »
 
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Online Electro Fan

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Looks like you have a good view and very good control over the soldering process. It's impressive what you show in the image, and BGA would seem to be even more challenging.  Your work shows the value of visors.

Just to double check, is the 7" distance on the 2.5X visor your personal measurement?  The Donegan spec for a 2.5X says it's 8" but I think the spec assumes someone has 20-20 vision if not Superman X-ray vision.  I have a hunch your 7" is more likely to be real world.  My experience is that the Donegan specs for working distance (I think they call it Focal Length) are pretty much best case.

Something I've just started to think about is that with a microscope working distance means (of course) the distance from the PCB, etc to the objective lens, which determines how much working distance there is for a soldering iron, other tools, hands, etc.  And in this sense working distance is the same for visors.  However, the difference is that with a visor your eyes (and face/nose/mouth) are pretty much all at the working distance; but with a microscope, while the working distance for the iron and your hands and tools are the same as the visor for the same magnification, there is around 2-3 times more distance with from the PCB and iron tip to your eyes (and face/nose/mouth) because the microscope head (depending on the model) might add 10-12 inches for the distance from the objective lens to the top of the oculars.  So with a microscope your eyes and face are maybe 18-20" or slightly more vs ~7-8" from the the source of the heat and fumes.

I think for short in and out projects the visor is a very practical and much more cost-effective solution for soldering.  I don't know yet because I don't have a microscope but I'm thinking the microscope might have some advantages for extended soldering sessions. 
 

Offline SilverSolder

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When I started with electronics, aged 12, as a self-taught kid I didn't know any better and bought a big Weller 100/140 watt soldering gun with pocket money saved up over a long time.  Soldering small electronic parts with one of those was good practice and trial by fire, for sure!  :D   

The BGA thing was done using the camcorder and an external monitor - the image above is from the camera.  That kind of detail work is too small for the visors, at least with my eye sight.  But soldering "normal" SMD components is definitely achievable.

The 7" measurement is my personal distance - I measured it this morning.   It is possible to use reading glasses under the visor to get even more magnification, but it is rarely necessary.

Getting smoke up your nose is an issue with a visor, for sure.  I'm thinking a small fan or extractor near the work piece would help, but I am able to work around it so haven't bothered yet.

I usually get the PCB I'm working on up off the desk by 12" or so with a PCB holder / vise.  That way I don't have to hunch over it. 

If I was assembling large PCBs constantly, I would definitely want a more professional solution, e.g. a Tagano or a microscope, so I could sit comfortably and work for days, weeks, and months.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2020, 06:42:07 pm by SilverSolder »
 


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