Q: How does the UVSIS show skin damage from the sun?
A: Human skin reacts to UV exposure by producing the pigment melanin. Melanin accumulates in little patches that are commonly known as freckles. On many people, the freckling is hard to see with visible light, but because melanin strongly absorbs UV light, it shows up very well in a UV image. The UV image will show a person their history of sun exposure, particularly people with light skin color. Very dark skin has so much melanin already that a UV image looks much the same as a visible image.
Q: Is UVSIS a medical device?
A: No! We make no claims that this is a medical device. It is simply a means to visualize anything in the UV part of the spectrum. It is a well known fact that absorber sunscreen looks dark when imaged in the UV band. The sunscreen is designed that way – it prevents UV from penetrating the skin.
Q: Why does the UVSIS system have to use UV lamps?
A: The UV lamps are necessary in almost all conditions because interior lighting is specifically designed to not emit UV, because UV fades textiles and carpeting and does not significantly contribute to illumination for human vision. The only time that there is sufficient ambient UV is when the system is used outdoors. Direct sunlight is not required, since the blue sky is very bright in the UV band from Rayleigh scattering of UV sunlight by the atmosphere. The twin illuminators operate at a wavelength of 396nm, which is generally safer than shorter UV wavelengths and gives excellent results when used to visualize hyperpigmentation and sunscreen. We recommend that the subject and the system operator always wear yellow safety glasses that block UV when the UV LED illuminators are turned on. Two pairs of these glasses are provided with every UVSIS.
Q: Why doesn’t Oculus sell systems based on converted DSLR cameras?
A: The main issue is that those converted cameras have been invasively modified so that they have voided factory warranties. The cover glass is removed from the sensor by the third-party vendor, and then replaced with a cover glass that does not have infrared and UV blocking layers. This cover glass removal and replacement is a very invasive process. Another issue is that the sensors have color filter arrays on them. The color filters on the green pixels are particularly bad at transmitting longwave UV. So the camera is starting out life with half the pixels on the sensor having poor sensitivity. Oculus cameras use monochrome sensors that do not have color filters or UV barrier filters.
Q: How does the UVSIS HD camera compare to the UV Explorer camera from maxmax.com?
A: Their camera is made by Titan Electro-Optics Company in Taiwan, and it is model G1UD05M. Here is a link to the camera manufacturer website. This camera requires the user to supply a computer running software to display imagery and control the camera. Maxmax also uses a light panel made up of an array of UV blacklight tubes, which are prone to breakage and very diffuse, making it hard to control where the light goes. The UVSIS HD does not need a computer to display video, in fact, it does not require any computer control – the camera is set up with optimized settings for skin imaging, making it simple to use and computer-free. We use a 21 inch video monitor designed for SDI video, so you get a nice big image. The UVSIS HD uses two 365nm LED illuminators with gooseneck lamps which makes it easy to direct the lighting from the sides, rather than head on. Notice the UV images of the man on their site – he has a big bright reflection off his forehead caused by the coaxial illumination of the light panel.
Q: What are the applications for the UVScanner?
A: The UVScanner was designed for field forensics investigation where the UVCorder™ may sometimes be more clumsy to handle. It can be worn just like a pair of binoculars and used to rapidly scan a room or other scene. The apparent magnification of the system with the standard 16mm lens is 1.3. The twin 396nm illuminators make it possible to see a 40% reflective target clearly from about 10 feet away in total darkness with the 16mm lens set to the widest aperture (lowest f/number), which is f/1.4 on the 16mm lens. Composite NTSC video can be pulled out of the UVScanner via the SMA connector on the front of the device and fed to a recording device or flatpanel monitor.
Q: Does every UV camera need a quartz lens to work properly?
A: No, it is not a requirement for near-UV imaging. Standard lens glass (BK7, for example) transmits plenty of light at 360nm, right in the middle of the near-UV band. Below about 330nm, standard lens glasses start to absorb UV as the wavelength gets shorter. By 280nm, there is virtually no transmission of a UV light signal through them. Most UV lenses are designed to work from 400nm down to 200nm, where quartz cuts off. We have found that if one wants to use a conventional color lens on a UV camera, it must have broadband AR coatings or else it will not have good transmission. Color lenses are not color corrected for UV light, and a reduction in image sharpness may be observed unless a narrowband source like an LED array is used as illumination.
Q: Do you make cameras that work in the shortwave UV band, below 300nm?
A: Yes, we have built a handheld viewer that works in the shortwave UV band. We also have the capability to integrate shortwave UV imaging systems for customers. We have experience with back-thinned CCD imagers, and we know which lenses, filters and light sources to use to get excellent results at the low-pressure UV mercury lamp wavelengths of 254nm and 310nm.
Q: Why are there so few companies making UV cameras and lenses?
A: There is not a big market for UV imaging products at this time. Many companies try their hand at marketing UV imaging products, but subsequently exit the business due to the low volume. Case in point: Nikon manufactured a special lens called the UV-Nikkor some years ago. They stopped making them. Today good examples sell for 1.5 times the price when they were new. Fuji made two models of cameras with longwave UV and near-IR response for the forensics market: the S-3 UVIR and the IS/Pro. These systems were packaged with UV bandpass filters that had significant red leaks, they were not well supported by Fuji and most customers received little or no training in how to use them properly. Canfield Scientific used to sell a digital SLR with UV response, but no longer.
Q: I have tried to get applications support from companies that sell UV cameras, but the people I talk to don’t know how to integrate their camera product into a system. Why is that?
A: These companies sell UV cameras only, they don’t sell UV systems. So their apps engineers typically just know how to operate the camera itself. The sales people don’t use the products, they take phone orders but don’t do demos, since these are commodity camera preoducts. The only way to develop expertise in applications engineering is to try out many applications. That is what we have done at Oculus. We are power users of UV camera systems, so we know how to put together the whole system for customers.
Q: Can UV cameras see paranormal phenomena? I am interested in detecting UFOs, ghosts, shadow people, etc. and I have heard about others doing this.
A: We are getting this question more and more lately. Oculus Photonics is a company that sells cameras to large corporations, government institutions and universities. We aren’t involved with paranormal investigation ourselves, and know very little about this area of study. If a customer seriously wants to buy a camera for this purpose, we will help them to use their camera to the best of our ability.
Q: I want to do paranormal investigations and I have seen a “full-spectrum” camcorder for $300 on eBay. Is that equivalent to the UVCorder?
A: We have not tested one of these products. The listings usually show a spectral curve that suggests that a piece of UV filter glass (probably Schott UG-1) has been placed over the lens. This filter cuts out visible light, but passes near-UV and near-infrared light. The problem with any kind of investigation with this camera is that the user does not know if what he or she is seeing is a UV signal or a NIR signal. Both will look similar to the camera. It is very hard to believe that these devices have much response in the UV band. Ask the seller what the UV response of the system is, not just the filter, but the filter, optics and sensor.
Q: I know you can use black and white film and a filter to take reflected UV images with film cameras. How is this done?
A: Standard black and white film (Kodak T-Max 400, for example) is sensitive to UV light. One can load it in a standard 35mm SLR camera and place a Wratten 18A filter or equivalent on the front of the lens to block visible light and pass UV to the film. See my application note on the subject.
Q: How is the UVCorder better than film for UV imaging?
A: Even under laboratory conditions, film-based UV photography is very inefficient in terms of the time it takes to get a good shot. When the film camera has the UV pass filter on it, the photographer cannot compose the shot, since the eye sees nothing through that filter. So the shot must be made using a tripod. The filter is removed for composition, and then is replaced before the exposure is made. The exposure value must be guessed, although filters like the UG-1 have a filter factor of about 6 stops with sunlight illumination, and using 6 stops of compensation often works. Still, this technique requires bracketing, which consumes a lot of film. Black and white film is getting harder to find, and fewer and fewer labs process it. The UVCorder eliminates every one of these problems and adds video capability as well. The primary difference is resolution – the UVCorder is a 640×480 imager. This is 0.3 megapixels, which is a lot less than the level to which film can be digitized.
Q: What about the Fuji S-3 UVIR camera? Is that a good near-UV camera?
A: We have experimented extensively with this camera, which is designed to image from 380nm to 1100nm. The near-infrared performance is excellent, but the near-UV response is much lower than the UVCorder. We believe that this is because the Bayer RBG mosaic filter is on the sensor, which modulates and attenuates the UV or NIR signal. We end up using just the color channel that gives the highest contrast when post-processing the RAW images from the Fuji in Photoshop. The reduced response means that one often has to use very bright UV lights to get appreciable signal. The Fuji does have a live preview feature that makes it possible to retract the SLR mirror and get a live near-UV or near-IR image on the viewfinder in the back. However, doing that kills the batteries very fast, it is hard to see the dim UV image on the viewfinder and the live preview only runs for 30 seconds before one has to navigate through various menus to start it again. The camera is very high resolution, though. It is very convenient to use the UVCorder to find UV features of interest, then photograph these features or phenomena with the Fuji UVIR for high resolution.
Q: What about resolution?
A: There is no question that 35mm film has higher resolution than most digital camera sensors, although even that is starting to change. The UVCorder images at a relatively small image size, about 0.3 megapixels. For many applications, this is perfectly adequate. Multiple images of a scene can be acquired in rapid succession and stitched together using software like Adobe Photoshop if higher numbers of pixels are required.
Q: There are other electronic devices for imaging in the UV besides CCDs cameras out there. Why not use them?
A: Image-intensifier based UV systems suffer from radial distortion and an inability to record images without adding cumbersome cameras and relay lenses on the back. They also do not have lenses with adjustable apertures, which is inconvenient and leads to non-optimal exposure values under bright lighting conditions (like sunlight), as well as low lighting. Finally, their intra-scene dynamic range is very poor. This means that bright parts of the scene will cause the intensifier to “bloom”, and the screen contrast to become low.
Q: Does the UVCorder image UV fluorescence?
A: There is a very common misperception that UV imaging is the same thing as UV Fluorescence imaging. The UVCorder records UV light reflected or emitted from scenes or objects. The UV channel on the UVCorder detects UV light only, not visible or infrared light. Fluorescence is a phenomenon whereby light at one wavelength (often UV) strikes a material that re-emits light at a different, longer wavelength. The classic case is a fluorescent highlighter pen. UV light will cause the pigment in the marker to emit yellow light, which is easily detected by the eye.
If one images a fluorescent object or material with the UV channel of the UVCorder, it will nearly always look dark, since UV light tends to be absorbed by the fluorescent material. Any visible fluorescence emitted by the material is not detected by the UVCorder, since it is designed to see only near-UV light.
The visible channel on the UVCorder can be used to image fluorescence phenomena when it is equipped with a special filter that blocks any UV light from reaching the sensor. With the filter in place, the image formed is visible light only. If the target is illuminated with a pure UV light in a darkened room, the visible fluorescence signal will be very apparent. Various filters are available upon request. We can advise which filter is appropriate for the application. The filters are mounted in 30mm rings which screw onto the front of the Sony camcorder.
Q: Can the UVCorder take images in both visible and UV at the same time?
A: No, you have to choose one or the other. Simultaneous imaging will require a second camcorder that will record in the visible band. The UVCorder and this second camcorder can be mounted on a common mounting plate.
Q: Does the UVCorder need any special software?
A: The UVCorder records JPEG still images and AVI movies to the Memory Stick Pro Duo. It also records digital video (when recording to mini-DV tape). The JPEG images can be loaded into your PC via a USB card reader and opened in innumerable software applications including Adobe Photoshop. The AVI movies can be played in Windows Media Player, among others. The digital video can be streamed via FireWire from the camera to a host computer running Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier. One can also output NTSC video from the audio/video jack to a TV monitor or VHS deck. It should be noted that no audio signal is recorded when the UVCorder is recording UV video, but audio is present when the camera is recoding color or near-IR video.
Q: Can the UVCorder actually measure the signal strength of a UV source?
A: The UVCorder will not output a measurement in watts/square cm or other engineering units, but it can qualitatively tell you about the relative brightness between multiple sources. the UVCorder is an imaging device. It does not have a radiometric calibration in it like many hand-held thermal imaging cameras designed to measure temperature, for example. The automatic gain control in the UVCorder adjusts the shutter speed of the camera to match the scene brightness present. In low light conditions, the camera become more sensitive as needed. We can recommend vendors that sell calibrated photodiode systems for measuring the brightness of a UV laser beam or other UV sources.
Q: What is the spectrum of the 395nm LED light source that comes with my UVCorder?
A: The five LEDs used in the LED flashlight are spectrally very pure, with virtually no energy at wavelengths more than 20nm from the peak in either direction. The spectrum is shown below:
Q: What is the spectrum of the 365nm LED made by Nichia? Do you sell an illuminator with this LED?
A: The 100 mW Nichia i-LED is very bright and also spectrally very pure, with virtually no energy at wavelengths more than 15nm from the peak in either direction. The spectrum is shown below. We don’t have a standard flashlight with this LED in it. We can make a custom illuminator with it, however.
Q: Why is there a brass spacer behind the lens interface on some systems?
A: The UVCorder is designed to use conventional C-mount TV lenses that are much lower cost than quartz UV lenses, and in some cases, actually provide superior image quality. The C-mount back working distance of these lenses assumes that visible light is being imaged. UV light focuses slightly longer than visible light, which sometimes requires that a thin brass shim spacer be placed behind the lens so that the UVCorder will properly form an image for targets at infinity. Newer systems are using different lenses that do not require the spacer.
Q: I notice that if the target is moving, still UV images show some roughness on the edge of the moving target in the scene. What causes this?
A: The UVCorder uses a frame grabber inside the camcorder to acquire a video image from the EIA (NTSC) video stream from the UV Module. Since EIA video uses interlaced fields, one can get artifacts along the edges of moving objects, since alternating lines of the final still frame were acquired 1/60 second apart.
Q: Is the UVCorder qualified for a CE Rating?
A: We have not qualified it for CE. The main test is EMI, or electromagnetic interference. The UVCorder is not likely to be a significant source of EMI.
Q: Will the UVCorder work in sunlight?
A: Yes, the solar spectrum at sea level contains plenty of UV light in the 330-420nm band. At higher altitudes, there is even more ambient UV light to image. We have designed the UVCorder to have excellent spectral purity when used in sunlight. There is less than 1% out-of-band contamination of the signal.
Q: Can I see corona discharge in sunlight with the UVCorder?
A: No, and you cannot see corona any better than the dark adapted eye, even in the dark. The UVCorder is not suitable for detection of corona. The correct product for this application is the DayCor camera, which uses a solar-blind UV image intensifier that is fused to a visible-light image of the scene. The UVCorder can image electrical discharges such as those from natural lightning and Tesla Coils, but the discharges generally appear no brighter than they would on standard color video.
Q: Can I record audio with the UVCorder?
A: You can record ambient audio using the built-in microphone on the camcorder only when recording visible or near-infrared Nightshot video. When you are recording UV video, you are in the camcorder’s Play/Edit mode, and the microphone is disabled. You would have to connect a microphone with an externally powered preamplifier to the audio input of the camcorder to simultaneously record audio. We have not made a provision for this in our standard UVCorder cabling. A specially wired version can be done at additional cost if this is a requirement for your application.