SUMMARY: Video gel documentation

RICK REST, HAHNEMANN UNIV, PHILADELPHIA restr at HAL.HAHNEMANN.EDU
Thu May 20 15:37:14 EST 1993


Thanks to everyone who replied to my query about documentation of
gel photos using video systems like Strategene's Eagle Eye.

Here is a summary of the responses I received:

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From: "RICK REST, HAHNEMANN UNIV, PHILADELPHIA" <restr at hal.hahnemann.edu>

We just bought an Eagle Eye.  I don't know of any other companies that sell
such a product.  It is absolutely wonderful to use.  Everything the Stratagene
rep tells you is true.  The machine is easy to use (easier than a polaroid
setup), the images are just as good as a polaroid, the ability to archive
(save) on a video disc recorder is a snap (and the image is saved forever),
etc.  Give Stratagene a buzz.  They'll be happy to do a demo for you.  If not,
come up to Philly, and use ours.

Rick Rest, Hahnemann University, restr at hal.hahnemann.edu, (215) 762-8599

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From: John H McDonald <mcdonald at ravel.udel.edu>

William, The first question to ask is, do you really need to computer
analyze the images, or do you just want to take pictures?  I'm getting a
system constisting of a CCD camera, lens, monitor, and thermal printer, for
$2500.  I've already got the transilluminator, and I'm going to build a
cabinet.  I'll let you know in a couple weeks whether it works, but I think
it should do the job. I suspect you could get a video capture board for a
few hundred dollars, if you wanted to upgrade later to computer analysis.
Since Polaroid pictures cost about $1.50 each, a video system will pay for
itself in a couple years, even if you already have the Polaroid camera.
   If you do want to computer analyze your images, make sure you get a
system that works with Macintoshes.  Then you can use the excellent FREE
program Image, which is available from the Indiana ftp site.  As someone
pointed out a couple weeks ago on the newsgroup, even if all your
computers are DOS machines, you can buy a Mac and get the free Image
program for less money than the DOS image analysis programs cost.
   All the commercial video systems I've seen seem overpriced, with more
bells and whistles than most people need.  Make sure you try out any
system before you buy it, and if they won't let you do that, make sure you
can send it back.

John H. McDonald, University of Delaware

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From: rosswhet at unity.ncsu.edu

Bill,
Our group recently bought an Eagle Eye after trying or watching demos of
several commercially available gel documentation systems and after demos of
individual components such as low-light-level video cameras and image
intensifying units. We bought the Eagle Eye because it seemed to have the the
best cost to performance ratio. The only modification we made was to buy it
without the small format thermal printer, and substitute a large format
printer (about 6" x 8" prints) because we run 30 to 50 well combs and it's
hard to see the bands on a small print. Regarding your questions:

1) Very easy to use: three power buttons turn everything on, put your gel on
the lightbox, adjust the field of view and focus of the lens if necessary,
adjust the brightness of the image if desired, push the print button.

2)The images are indistinguishable from glossy black and white photos at arms
length; upon closer inspection one can see the individual pixels in different
shades of gray, but it is not a problem as far as casual viewing of the image.
The Stratagene rep claims that the thermal paper is archival quality and will
not deteriorate physically or in image quality for at least ten years. We
obviously have not yet tested that claim, but I do have images over a year old
(from an early demo) that have not changed perceptibly in quality.

3) The sensitivity of the Eagle Eye unit was the major advantage it had over
all the other systems I looked at. The unit includes a "frame integrator" that
somehow increases signal without appreciably increasing the background (which
is why I put integrator in quotes; other integrators increase background as
well as signal, and Stratagene won't say exactly what their unit does). The
bottom line is that the Eagle Eye is quite a bit _more_ sensitive than
Polaroid film, while competitive units are roughly as sensitive or a little
less sensitive than Polaroid.

4)The Eagle Eye doesn't include any form of image storage and retrieval system
in the base unit; many of the competing systems do. I prefer to have paper
images in my notebook, so that is not a problem for me. Images occupy a lot of
disk space and screen resolution isn't as good as the resolution of the
thermal printer, so if you store digital images, plan on losing resolution and
buying additional storage capacity for your computer.

5) As you can tell, I think the Eagle Eye is the best unit for our needs - high
sensitivity, easy operation, no menus or files to fool with, and price
competitive with a system I could put together myself from individual
components. If you want digital image storage and retrieval, there are very
good databasing programs available that run on Sun workstations, but you will
pay a lot for them. 

Ross Whetten
Research Assistant Professor
Forest Biotechnology Group
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-8008  USA
telephone or fax (919)515-7801
e-mail rosswhet at unity.ncsu.edu

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From: Hsing-Tsu Lai <BMHTLAI%TWNAS886.BITNET at pucc.Princeton.EDU>

Hi!
There was once a summary on this but I was not able to retrieve it by wais
just now because the machine seemed to be out of service. Since we are
currently using EAGLE EYE from STRATAGENE, I can give some opinion.
1) It is very to use and learn to use.
2) The thermal print images look fine and comparable to polaroid's quality
except for lasting for only two years as I was told. (Our machine is less
than a year old.)
4) We have not buget for getting a PC driver for the image disk so I have
no answer for archiving the images.
5) We have no experience with other brands.
With best regards,
Hsing-Tsu Lai
bmhtlai at ccvax.as.edu.tw

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From: lei at mace.cc.purdue.edu (Jason Lei)

In our building, there are both kinds of systems (i.e., polaroid and
video).  After using the video one time, I never use it again.  The
quality of the picture is poorer than the polaroid.  Well, that's
only my humble opinion.

Jason

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William D. WARREN, PhD
Center for Agricultural Biotechnology     Email: ww40 at umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland at College Park    Phone: (301) 405-7681 

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