capsule review

PROSCOPE

At a Glance
  • Scalar PROSCOPE

Scalar's ProScope, distributed by Dr. Bott, is a handheld microscope that makes objects appear larger than life. Unlike conventional microscopes, the ProScope doesn't force you to cram subjects onto tiny glass slides, so it's ideal for magnifying living things. The ProScope is practical for many situations, from forensic investigations to lab experiments, and it's an ideal learning tool for a science class.

The ProScope resembles a compact hair dryer, and it's just as easy to use. To focus, nearly all you have to do is point; anything in its view is displayed on your monitor. And the USB cable powers six bright LEDs, so you don't need a separate light source. If the standard 50* lens isn't powerful enough, you can attach an optional 100* or 200* lens ($109 and $129, respectively) in a jiffy. The ProScope ships with a driver for OS 8.6 through OS 9; an electronic manual; and an intuitive application called USB Shot, for displaying and saving images. (The company is planning to release OS X­compatible drivers and software this summer.)

USB Shot supports three image-capture settings. In the program's Snapshot mode, you can save the displayed 640-by-480-pixel image as a JPEG or PICT file when you press a button on the handle. In Movieshot mode, you can create 320-by-240-pixel or 640-by-480-pixel QuickTime movies. And Interval mode lets you store time-lapse sequences with intervals as short as 1 second or as long as 24 hours--for example, you could set up the ProScope to record the growth of a germinating seed over several days. The program's image controls make it easy to tweak white balance, auto-exposure, saturation, and other settings.

Macworld's Buying Advice

We had a great time using the ProScope to examine the world from an insect's perspective. Although it can't replace a high-power microscope, the ProScope is a valuable educational tool that belongs in every school science class and lab.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Easy to use
    • Interchangeable lenses

    Cons

    • Doesn't yet support OS X
    • Requires separate application to capture images
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