Veho – Discovery VMS-004 review

USB microscope
Photo of Veho – Discovery VMS-004
£45 from www.firebox.com

Veho is perhaps best known for its well priced transparency scanners, but this product is slightly more niche. The Discovery is a USB-powered microscope. Priced at just £45, it will appeal to those wanting to use it for anything from an interesting hobby to a valuable teaching tool. Displaying high-magnification images on the screen of your PC or Mac can be a fascinating way of exploring the world at microscopic level.

The Discovery is a thick black plastic cylinder about 120mm long, with a diameter of 35mm. At the bottom end is a small, acrylic extension, and at the top a single button and the USB cable. Built into the cylinder are four white LEDs, which illuminate whatever is placed under it. The large silver wheel in a cut-through in the microscope body is the focus control. Exposure can be controlled either manually or automatically.

Supplied with the Discovery is an applet called MicroCapture. This is a fairly basic viewer, taking the signal from the microscope and displaying it in a window or full-screen. You can use the microscope to take still shots at resolutions of up to 2650×1920, or a video, which is useful for Petri dishes full of pond life. One way of taking shots is to press the button near the end of the tube, but this tends to move the microscope – better to use a mouse click in MicroCapture.

Most of the controls in the program are hidden in a Properties panel and include brightness, contrast, gamma and HLS adjustment. It’s a shame the more regularly used ones, such as brightness and contrast, aren’t available directly from the main screen. Shame nobody read through the menus for typos, too….

The image from the microscope is, in general, surprisingly good. The level of detail in the subjects we chose was quite suitable for hobbyist use, and you can get some very worthwhile images. It’s also pretty robust, so should be suitable as a gift for a budding science enthusiast. Since it’s totally USB-powered, it could be used on field trips, too, running from a socket on a laptop or netbook.

The microscope is attached to a metal stand, which counterbalances its weight and has a two ball-joint mount. This isn’t ideal, as releasing the wing-nut loosens both joints at once. A flexible snake-head stalk, as on a desk lamp, would be much easier to adjust. Also, the stand is only just heavy enough to support the microscope – it’s too easy to adjust it to a position where it overbalances.

Company: Veho


Verdict
As a useful tool for school science projects, or even to help illustrate a lesson, the Discovery microscope is technically up to the task. The part that prevents it reaching its full potential is the stand. If it were made heavier and had a flexible stalk, this little gadget would be a winner.