Thursday, September 24

Chillout TGIF: Extreme macro photography with a microscope.

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When we ran the #ShootYourWatches Photo Assignment some weeks ago, we were overwhelmed by the number of fantastic submissions to the assignment. But the one which stood out spectacularly is the submission by Panu Kannisto. Here are more extreme macro photographs from Panu.

The selection exercise was quite an interesting activity, suitable for long days at home during these COVID-19 stay home period.

Here is our first shortlist

And the second

Final shortlist and the two we selected as Outstanding

Panu Kannisto

We thought Panu’s photograph which we selected for the Final Shortlist was one of the most amazing submissions we received. But as he was using very specialized equipment, we decided to give him an entire episode of #ShootYourWatches to showcase his work. We found it extremely fascinating. And hope you do too. We present, Panu. In his own words, and our commentary in italics.

Panu’s photograph which we selected in the Final Shortlist.

The Setup: the Keyence VHX-6000

The system I use to take these images is Keyence VHX-6000. The XY-stage and Z-axis are all motorized to automate the process. It can also be tilted up to 90 degrees. The camera is only 1600×1200 pixels, but using the XY-stage it can automatically stich over 5×5 images with focus stacking at the same time. This can of course lead to artifacts and other issues, but the time saving is worth it in our field of work. It’s primary use in the company I work in is inspection of PCBA’s and electronic component samples casted in epoxy.

The Keyence VHX-6000 Digital Microscope.

We have a couple of lenses for it, but mostly we use the 20x-200x + 200x-2000x combo because we have the ring light + coaxial light attachment for it and also the speed. There are also some longer working distance lenses, but those are seldom used. The manufacturer Keyence supplies lenses up to 5000x. The magnification ratio is taken at the 23″ display. So at 1000x, 0,1 millimeter on the sample fills 10cm in the screen. As a reference, the standard watchmaker’s loupe is 5X, and microscopes used in watchmaking are typically 25X or 30X.

The machine rests on a massive stone table. This is to reduce any vibration. Still at around 1000x and above, the ventilation at the room starts to introduce too much shake.

It can be either controlled with the control board or just keyboard and mouse. Due to some strange company IT-policies I couldn’t export a screenshot from the machine to include the UI so there is just a crappy photo of the screen. It still shows how incredibly small distances we are talking on the Z-axis.

As mentioned before, there are two main light options available, ring and coaxial. You can also mix them and also choose the direction for the ring light. There is even a mode where the machine takes a lot of pictures with different light and you can use a virtual lightbulb to choose the direction of the light. I mostly use the ring light as it works best most of the time. Coaxial light comes from the same axis as the lens so if the surface isn’t flat and reflective you will mostly see darkness. On the other hand the ring light can just be bounced off away from the lens if the surface is something like a flat shiny metal part. This can be seen from the two center point images in the Grand Seiko folder. I have included picture pairs for comparison on some other parts. Those have either “ring” or “coaxial” in the filename. The following photographs show the effects of the lighting.

It can automatically stack focusing and/or exposures to have an HDR-image or to reduce the glare. Using normal pictures, up to 200 focus points can be stacked for a single image and the machine will automatically try to correct the errors introduced by moving the lens closer or further away.

The machine in action.

And now on to the photographs!

Seiko 4843-8050 Grand Quartz “Diamond flake”

You may also notice how the watches can appear very dirty on the outside pictures. I tried cleaning the most of it but it is practically impossible because even handling the watches with great care will introduce dead skin and other dirt like that.

This is quite normal in photographing watches which have been worn and loved. Our own macros of these “lived in” watches also show signs of usage, and often copious amounts of dirt and corrosion. but do keep in mind these are extreme magnifications, and often not visible to the naked eye, sometimes appearing as tiny dots on examination.

The next two photographs are interesting. Same day/date assembly on the GS Quartz. But two different lighting conditions. Also, note how the day and date lines up perfectly, even at this very high magnification.

Seiko SBDX017

Here are photographs of the Seiko Marinemaster 300. First, two cases where I took a picture of the same part but kept increasing the magnification. One of them is the lug of my MM300, there you can see a mirror like reflection of some of the fibers on the strap.

The other photographs are also interesting. At this magnification, we can see how the elements are finished. At 300x, the structure of the material used on one of the dots on the bezel shows up as an interesting texture. This looks like it is probably a metal drop, welded and fused to the aluminium bezel.

One of the dots on the bezel, at 300X magnification.

The hands.

The hour hand at 200X.

Next, we see the difference between coaxial and ring lighting again. And what a big difference lighting techniques make to the final image. On the seconds hand at pivot, the coaxial lighting is able to show the surface finish, showing the texture is rough with pits.While the ring light highlights the edges.

Also on the index which is transfer printed. The coaxial light shows the texture of the dial as well as the ink deposited over it, slightly transluscent, but yet have a 3d profile. The ring light shows the dial texture perhaps better, allowing the shadows on the trough of the ridges of the concentric circles to be visible. To the naked eye, these finishing lines are not visible.

Grand Seiko SBGA285

We turn our attention next to the Grand Seiko SBGA285. This is a magnificently finished watch, and as Deployant fans might well know, the Grand Seiko dial finishing is second to none. First we take a look at the logo. And continue to zoom in. The final image, fully zoomed in, we see the texture of the appliqué.

And parts of the GS dial. The finish is outstanding, but does not stand up to scrutiny at these extreme magnification levels. Though, we note that it presents itself very well indeed.

And the final two photographs, showing again the difference between the coaxial and ring lighting techniques.

We think this is an outstanding series. Thanks to Panu for sharing, and for this excellent work.



  1. Pingback: Chillout TGIF: Extreme macro photography with a microscope. | Wristwatch News

  2. Thank you for this. It was a lot of fun to read . I would very much like to see something similar but with the higher end watches, like Lange, to see how much scrutiny they can stand up to.

  3. Thanks for having me!

    Hope you guys enjoy the pictures. I would’ve loved to share a lot more, but unfortunately this covid-19 restricts access to my friends’ watches such as the Explorer from last week. Maybe some other day I will get a chance to bring display casebacks to the lab 🙂