Side-lighting the Intel QX3+ stylus microscope…

OK, I take back what I blogged a couple of hours ago… you really can get some excellent images of styli out of the Intel QX3+ microscope.

The increased intensity of the separate side lights greatly decreases image noise and improves the clarity – you can clearly pick out the edges of the diamond.

Here is my setup…

Intel QX3+, IKEA desk lamps, stylus image

Stylus held in place with Blu-Tack

It’s pretty rudimentary. The microscope is raised up on a couple of cookbooks (got to find some use for them!), two cheap IKEA desk lamps are placed level with the microscope stage, a blob of blu-tack is used to hold the stylus at the desired angle – et voila! You can see how good the images are in the first snapshot – and that was taken with my underwhelming Samsung smart-ish-phone (a topic for another day perhaps).

Here are a couple of those images in higher quality. Both were taken after cleaning the styli with a microfibre cloth (it’s surprising how many tiny lumps of crud get on there), and both are taken looking along the cantilever as the record itself “sees” it.

Below is a Goldring Elektra (which I think is a re-badged Nagaoka C51M MkII-E – my suspicions were raised by the “Made in Japan” mark on the back of the cartridge)…

Goldring Elektra stylus

Next is an Ortofon Super OM10…

Ortofon Super OM10 stylus

To be honest, after looking at four different styli under these lights, I was hard pressed to tell them apart, and I couldn’t see any damage or wear once they had been cleaned. These are styli that are either of unknown history, or have been clumsily cared for by myself – I have been known to drop the arm from time to time (haven’t we all…)!

Each one is supposedly an elliptical, but I find it hard to pick out clearly the flats that are cut into the stylus, perhaps just a little sign of it in the hard line where the illumination stops.

Perhaps an experienced eye can see more.

But I do think that the pictures are beautiful, even at 200x magnification you can see the precision with which even these relatively cheap styli are made.

Hurrah! The Intel QX3+ microscope DOES work with Vista!

Intel QX3+ and Windows Vista
Dodgy camera-photo proof of the QX3+ microscope working on Vista!

My new/old hobby is vinyl – so I bought this Intel QX3+ USB microscope on eBay to look at my styli. It’s also quite good fun for my daughter to look at insects legs and spores and stuff like that.

This dates from 2001-ish, but compared to the contemporary USB microscopes it has a proper illuminated stand that allows you to focus on what you are looking at. It also comes with a few specimens to look at and some software.

As a tool for inspecting styli it is actually quite limited. You can easily tell whether a stylus has major damage (none of mine do), but the images are pretty noisy, especially at 200x magnification, and it is hard to see much more than that. Some people have rigged up a pair of side-mounted light sources which are apparently better for checking wear – I will try the same with a couple of desk lamps.

Back to the installation. Because of it’s age, the microscope is only advertised as working with Windows versions up to XP. ¬†However, there are a couple of solutions posted online to get the microscope working on Vista. I initially tried one that didn’t work, but Googled a few of the filenames and found them elsewhere on Intel’s site. While writing this very post, I found a solution that has the correct file locations here. Easy.

Although it runs, I do find the software a little temperamental. It crashes if you go in and out of it, and the TWAIN driver doesn’t really work with my other image editing software.