Mibo for smartphone microscopy

Posted on Aug 12, 2014

With a simple addition of a lens in the front, and a homemade stage, a smartphone camera can be converted to a microscope.  AVI Labs from Turkey ran a Kickstarter campaign to mass produce a set of lens (and support) for converting a phone camera to a microscope, and my “mibo” kit arrived today.  The child in me spent entirely too long playing with it.

mibo as arrived

mibo as arrived: a bundle of plexiglass, and an instruction sheet.

There is not much to say about the kit.  It comes as a few sheets of cut plexiglass, some lens, and an instruction sheet.  A few items are missing from the kickstarter package: no “velvet bag to prevent scratches”, and no light source.  I am supposed to receive two sets, but one of the sets misses the back plate.  Everything feels a little flimsy.  There is an iOS app, but I have an android phone so I can’t comment on that.

Mibo assembled.

Mibo assembled.

Assembling the kit takes ten seconds, involving only snapping together five sheets of plexiglass.  The circle on the top plate is where the lens gets inserted.  The sample stage has magnets glued on either side, and the thinking is that it can be minutely controlled using the magnets on the outside.  The stage didn’t work very well, and I certainly would have preferred a nut / carriage bolt adjustment mechanism.  Most of the time the adjustments are made with eyes on the screen, and I find it difficult to keep the stage horizontal.  The sample slide can then slide down, and all the adjustments for null.

My sample stage also seems a hair too wide for the box, and it sticks occasionally, making fine adjustments difficult.  And then… one of the magnets just fell off.  The way the sample is mounted didn’t work for me, and I may just rig my own sample mount later.

Once the stage is correctly set, however, the lens does its job perfectly.  I could not make sufficiently fine adjustments to the stage, so I’ve (for now) given up on the mibo+ kit (80x base magnification).  The following pictures are taken with a Sony Xperia Z2, lighted ~30 cm from the stage using 300W lights in a softbox, and with just a single lens (40x magnification, zoom to 160x).  The original pictures are 20 megapixels in size.

A name card showing the 40x magnification (no zoom)

A name card showing the 40x magnification (no zoom)

Here are a selection of items we will be looking at closely.  It’s fascinating what they look like up close.

Items looked at using the microscope.

Items looked at using the microscope.

Click on an image to view a higher resolution version (careful – large file size!)