A webcam’s image chip is an ultrafine shadow-imaging stage.

By Tom Zimmerman


Photography by Sam Murphy (this page, A, B) and Tom Zimmerman (C, D, I)

Imager chip from a 5MP camera mounted in a black box captures microscopic shadows of rotifer plankton.

Behind the lens of a webcam is an imager chip with thousands of tiny light sensors, each about 1/10 the diameter of a human hair. If you replace the lens with an LED light source, and place tiny objects on the imager chip, shadows will project onto the sensor, creating a lensless microscopic image. You can use the webcam’s regular software to save pictures and video, or stream ...

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