ACT-1 Software Introduction
(Version 2)

The Digital Eclipse DXM 1200 is Nikon's new high-resolution color digital camera designed exclusively for photography through the microscope. This system provides high quality photo-realistic digital imaging at a resolution of up to 12 million pixels with low noise, superb color rendition, and high sensitivity.

One of the most outstanding features of the DXM 1200 is the advanced control software (entitled Automatic Camera Tamer or ACT-1) bundled with the camera system, which allows the microscopist a great deal of latitude in collecting, organizing, modifying, correcting, and customizing digital images. When the ACT-1 control software is first launched and initialized, the window illustrated in Figure 1 appears on the computer monitor. Presented in the window is a variety of on-screen elements including menu bars and a Windows-style tool bar that allow the user to capture images as well as specify the areas for display of the live image and the last captured image. The list of features presented below includes an overview of the main software components.

  • Title Bar - A blue bar spanning the top portion of the ACT-1 control software window, this area shows the application program name (Nikon ACT-1), the filename of the last saved image, and the pixel dimensions of the image.

  • Menu Bar - The menu bar is a standard Windows feature that is present in most application programs. Each menu item contains a pull-down command or access list that can be loaded or executed by clicking on the item name.

  • Tool Bar - Another feature that is standard equipment in most Windows applications, the tool bar contains buttons that allow the user to shortcut a variety of command functions.

  • Image Display Areas - Two image display areas are available, one for displaying the live image and the other for displaying the last image captured by the software. The Live settings panel can be utilized to switch images between these display areas. The area size of the larger (left-hand) window is 640 x 512 pixels, while the smaller window (right-hand side) has a display size of 327 x 256 pixels.

  • Thumbnail Display Area - This scrollable "menu" contains thumbnail-size displays of the images captured and saved during the current software session. Scroll buttons to the left and right of the thumbnail area permit the operator to view all images stored in the current folder (directory).

  • Live Control - A real-time focus monitor, this feature displays the focus rating of the live image both numerically and in bar graph form.

  • Color Level Button - Click this button to overlay the RGB signal levels produced by a single horizontal row of pixels over the live image in the form of a line graph.

  • Settings Panels - A total of five (5) settings panels are available to control image acquisition and display. Each panel, selectable by clicking on the appropriate tab, is described here in detail with links to review articles provided below.

  • Camera Sensitivity - The sensitivity menu contains a set of radio buttons to adjust camera gain. The user can select between three options: Normal, High, and Max.

  • Exposure Time Control - Camera exposure is controlled by a slider that can vary the exposure time between 1/12000 and 170 seconds.

  • Expose Button - When an viewfield has been properly framed, use this button to start camera integration and acquire the digital image.

Many of the software routines provided by the ACT-1 control software have a complex set of functions that display a significant level of interdependency. Detailed reviews of the software features are presented in the links below.

ACT-1 Control Software Reviews

White Balance Calibration - The color of a digital image produced by an optical microscope is dependent not only upon the spectrum of wavelengths transmitted through or emitted by the specimen, but also on the spectral content of the light source. In color digital cameras that utilize charged coupled device (CCD) imaging detectors, a range of balance adjustments is often necessary in order to produce acceptable color quality in digital images.

Focus Control and Brightness Adjustment - The Nikon DXM 1200 digital camera system software (ACT-1) has a Live settings panel, which is utilized to control the focus rating, white balance, exposure time, and camera sensitivity prior to capturing digital images. Each of these settings should be carefully scrutinized before selecting areas in the live window for photomicrography.

Exposure Control and Camera Sensitivity - One of the most important variables in digital photomicrography is to assure the correct exposure to match the dynamic range and sensitivity of the camera system. The DXM 1200 control software (ACT-1) is equipped with an exposure time control panel that allows the microscopist to produce exact and reproducible exposures from images observed in the microscope.

Configuring and Loading Setting Files - Image capture variables selected in the Photo and other settings panels can be collectively given a setting file name and stored in a specified location under a user-selected filename. This feature is convenient for automatically saving and organizing digital images captured with the DXM 1200 camera system. Specialized software configurations can also be stored in the Setting File, which allows the user to pre-configure the software for a particular set of variables and conditions.

Option Settings Panel Functions - The Digital Eclipse DXM 1200 ACT-1 control software has an Option settings panel that can be utilized to configure various functions related to image capture. Among the variables controlled by the Option panel are image resolution, auto printing, automatic image enhancement, noise reduction, and color mode.

Miscellaneous Software Features - Among the miscellaneous software features offered by the Nikon Digital Eclipse DXM 1200 ACT-1 software are flipping and rotating images, changing the display position, enlarging and reducing the image, resizing the image, and re-creating thumbnail images.

Saving Digital Images - The DXM 1200 software package (ACT-1) is equipped with an advanced file saving feature that allows the user to rapidly record and save digital images in an efficient and organized manner. By enabling the specification of a set of storage conditions prior to conducting photomicrography sessions, the software automatically records, names, and stores image files as they are captured by the camera system.

Printing Digital Images - Images recorded with the DXM 1200 control software can be printed on any Windows-compatible printer, including laser printers, color inkjet printers, and dye-sublimation printers. The current availability of low-cost color inkjet printers makes this software feature quite valuable for microscopists who want to maintain an economical record of images recorded from the microscope.

Deleting Digital Images - Images captured by the DXM 1200 Digital Eclipse control software (ACT-1) can be selected and deleted from the Thumbnail display area, either individually or in groups of up to five images at a time. After selecting the images to be deleted, use the Delete button in the main menu tool bar to remove the files from the computer's hard drive.

Time-Lapse Cinemicrography - The Digital Eclipse DXM 1200 ACT-1 software has a time-lapse feature that allows the user to capture sequential images of dynamic events that occur under the microscope. The Timer settings panel is utilized to configure variables included in time-lapse experiments, and to start and stop recording of image sequences.

Retouching (Correcting) Digital Images - Images captured by the Nikon DXM 1200 digital camera system can be conveniently processed by a retouching menu available with the ACT-1 control software. Correction factors include image brightness, contrast, gamma, sharpness, hue, saturation, intensity, rotation, color balance, white/black balance, and cropping.

Annotation Tools - Images captured by the Nikon DXM 1200 digital camera system can be conveniently annotated with text and graphics using the annotation tools available in the ACT-1 software. The annotation tools provide the ability to draw text, straight lines, rectangles, ellipses, polygons, polylines, and freehand curves directly onto any digital image captured by the DXM 1200 camera system. In addition, each annotation tool is fully configurable through a variety of options that can be accessed through the Set button located on the annotation toolbar.

Displaying the Scale - The ACT-1 software provides the ability to indicate the scale of a captured or live specimen image. Scale can be specified in terms of the objective lens magnification and the intermediate magnification, or by specifying the measured distance between two pixels in the image. In addition, a scale can be drawn onto the image in terms of the specified length of an individual pixel.

Interactive Java Tutorials

ACT-1 Full Window - Upon initialization, the ACT-1 software main window appears on the computer monitor. This window presents a variety of on-screen elements including menu bars and a Windows-style tool bar that facilitates capture and correction of digital images. There are two image display areas, a larger window appearing on the left portion and a smaller window positioned on the right. The tutorial operates in a manner that is similar to the native Nikon software. A pop-up window will alert the user when a feature of the ACT-1 software is not available from the interactive Java tutorial.