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CSI TUAW: Taking iOS microphotographs with Bodelin's ProScope Micro Mobile

TUAW readers who watched this week's TUAW TV Live got a sneak peek at the nifty device in this review -- Bodelin's ProScope Micro Mobile (US$149), a tool for turning an iPhone (4/4S/5), iPad mini, or 2nd- through 4th-generation iPad into a professional-quality microscope.

That's right -- if you need to take close-up images or video of evidence, circuit boards, stamps, coins, you-name-it, then the ProScope Micro Mobile is the best choice for you.

Design

The Bodelin ProScope Micro Mobile (PMM) is a small and lightweight (2.1 ounces) unit that needs an iOS device as a viewing tool. As such, purchasing one includes a sleeve for your iPhone, iPad, or iPad mini that the device clips onto. The sleeve holds the PMM in place over the rear-facing camera lens on your iOS device.

The PMM is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery that the manufacturer says can power your viewing for up to five hours. A USB to mini-USB cable is provided for charging the battery. So what does the battery provide power for? LEDs. There is a ring of white LEDs around the lens to provide lighting for whatever you're looking at. A two-position switch selects one of two sets of six LEDs (one set polarized, the other unpolarized), while the power switch also doubles as an intensity switch.

About the optics: the PMM uses a 20X lens to start off. With the 4X digital zoom on your iOS device, you can get the equivalent of 80X magnification. That's not exactly the type of magnification that is going to show you microbes or individual atoms, but it's impressive enough for a lot of other work. Bodelin points out that the PMM is used in science education, medical and dermatology work, manufacturing quality control, health and beauty, and the ever-important law enforcement and forensics. You think I'm joking about CSI TUAW? Bodelin products have been used on all of the CSI TV show franchises.

Functionality

On TUAW TV Live, I used the PMM with an iPhone 5 sleeve to look at fingerprints, a 20-pence coin, and components on a faulty Raspberry Pi single-board computer. Using the Reflector app, I was able to beam the image from the iOS camera app to my iMac and then out to the world at large.

Since this hardware uses the iOS Camera app (or any other iOS photography app you choose), you can not only view the magnified image, but also take still photos or video. The gallery below contains images of a US penny, 20X and 80X views of a circuit board, two views of that 20-pence coin, the fine weave on a placemat, my dry skin and some hair (ewww, I need to put lotion on my hands), a printed image, a leaf, and sugar crystals.

The PMM unit moves easily between the different sleeves, so CSI Nick Stokes could use it with his iPad in the LV Crime Lab, then swap it out for the iPhone sleeve in the field.

Some of Bodelin's other devices currently offer interchangeable lenses with up to 400X magnification. For the purpose of taking images with that level of magnification and still using an iOS device to capture the images, you'll probably want to look at their ProScope Mobile. At that level of magnification, you will be able to see microorganisms and beam the images over Wi-Fi to an iOS device. The company notes that there is an app called Air MicroPad to grab the images, but I was unable to find it in the App Store.

The user manual for the PMM does talk about changing lenses and installing optional filters, but none of those items appear to be available at this time. Update: Per Bodelin Director of Sales and Marketing Peter White, other lenses and filters will be available soon.

Conclusion

The Bodelin ProScope Micro Mobile is a totally unique accessory for taking high quality microphotographs with your favorite iOS devices. Whether you're in a quality control lab, a crime scene investigator, or just want to take some cool pictures of highly magnified things, the ProScope Micro Mobile is an affordable solution.

Pros

  • Works with the iOS device you already own through available sleeves
  • 20X - 80X magnification provides sufficient range for a variety of microphotographs
  • Price is quite reasonable for a high-quality piece of equipment
  • Adjustable LED lighting makes it possible to capture the image you want without over or underexposure
  • Battery life for the LED lights is exceptional

Cons

  • None to speak of

Who is it for?

  • Anyone who wants to take microphotographs with an iOS device, whether for work or play

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