Gel Documentation Systems

Jean Harris jean.harris at
Sun Aug 3 04:02:16 EST 1997

I wish to thank everyone who replied to my request for a consumer report on
gel documentation systems.  Many of the responses were very comprehensive
and informative.  I'm appending the responses at the end of this

It appears there are a number of good systems; the Eagleeye from
Stratagene, the Bio-Rad Gel Doc 1000, and the Alpha Innotech.  The Alpha
Innotech sounds like it may be the best of the lot.  I have used the
Eagleeye myself, mostly to obtain thermal print-outs of gels stained with
ethidium bromide.  I liked the Eagleeye, but now I would prefer a system
that has Mac software.  Though I haven't taken much advantage of the
picture storage and manipulation possibilities of any system so far I would
like to be able to do that in the future.

 However, we are very limited for cash and therefore I'm most strongly
considering the Kodak system which seems like it will be something of a
'best buy':  An Amersham rep
will soon be lending us a demo Kodak EDAS so we will be able to have hands
on experience before we purchase.  I'll be particularly interested in the
WYSIWYG aspect.  A researcher I know who has a very cheap system (not the
Kodak system) found that the image that ended up on the thermal print was
often not the image he thought he was capturing so that, many thermal
print-outs later, the cheap system was not so cheap after all.  At present
it looks like we will go for a Kodak system with a directly linked Mac
computer and use a high quality laser printer for hard copies of routine
images.  We will get the system with the recently released DC120 camera
rather than the current DC40 camera.  Meanwhile we're considering just
buying the DC120 camera or an equivalent or better competitor from a
discount outlet and putting it over a UV transilluminator in a dark room.
I'm not quite sure how my colleague who is looking into this plans to
acquire the image, but he seems certain this will not present a problem.
Whether we do this will depend mostly on just how far our limited supply of
cash ($4000 NZ) will go.  Of course it would be preferable to have the
software as well as the camera.  I'm not sure I like the idea of being able
to use the camera as a separate unit: I'm afraid the surgeons might develop
quite a habit of using it to take pictures of their operations:)

Again thanks for all your informative replies.  Here they are all together:)

To: methods at
From: "jean.harris" ("Eugenie L. Harris")

Subject: Gel Documentation Systems

Date: 13 Jul 1997 04:28:30 -0700

Since the introduction of Stratagene's Eagleeye a few years ago an
increasing number of biotech companies market gel documentation systems.
They comprise, at a minimim, a digital camera and some way of recording or
permanently capturing the gel image. Is there any "consumer report"
available anywhere outlining the advantages and disadvantages of the
various systems and their costs? My ears are open to your comments on your
gel documentation system. Thanks:)

Jean Harris

Date: Sun, 13 Jul 1997 18:15:32 +0530 (IST)
From: "Mr. G. Anil Kumar" <mam at>
To: "Eugenie L. Harris" <jean.harris at>
Subject: Re: Gel Documentation Systems

Dear Eugenie,
We have a geldocumentation system from Kodak and costwise it is cheaper but
processingwise it is very cumbersome. Comparing the price among the
different documentation systems, I think it is costeffective and do a good

Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997 08:39:15 +0000
From: Keld Sorensen <KeldS at>
Organization: University of Illinois, College of Medicine
To: jean.harris at
Subject: Re: Gel Documentation Systems

Remember to post a summary.

CCD cameras have limited linear range (are often 8 bit!!! - although some
are 12 bit) so careful about quantitations off those systems.

I kind of like the BioRad software myself (the software being an important
part of any system IMHO), but I have not done a real survey, just messing
with a few systems.

YOu should also consider what ELSE you can do with these systems
(chemiluminescent detection etc).


Eric Anderson (e-anderson at ski.mskcc.arghhh)
Mon, 14 Jul 1997 09:16:31 -0400
From: e-anderson at ski.mskcc.arghhh (Eric Anderson)

Subject: Re: Gel Documentation Systems

Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997 09:16:31 -0400

i have used both the eagle eye (a very early and basic version which worked
flawlessly) and the Bio-Rad Gel Doc 1000 which this department bought a few
months ago. i have nothing bad to say about either of them.  we decided to
go with the Bio-Rad because of it's Mac based software, but if you don't
need that, the Stratagene Eagle Eye is also a good choice.

i realize this isn't much of a comprehensive report, but i think these 2
systems are the most popular and my experience with both of them has been
very good.

good luck,


Eric C. Anderson
Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research
Dept. of Cell Biology and Genetics
Lab: (212) 639-2977
Fax: (212) 717-3298
e-anderson at ski.mskcc.arghhh

(Legitimate responders please change arghhh to org when replying.
Unsolicited commercial responses are not welcome and will be forwarded to
the FCC.)

From: Betsy Alberty <alsbyte1 at>
Subject: Re: Gel Documentation Systems
Date: Sat, 19 Jul 1997 00:39:26 -0700

I suggest you also take a serious look at alpha innotech's gel doc system.
I'm an independent rep (but don't sell gel doc systems)and a *lot* of my
mol bio reagent customers think it's far superior to bio-rad's or
stratagene's system. You can find them at

From: WSchick at
Date: Sat, 19 Jul 1997 08:51:41 -0400 (EDT)
To: "jean.harris", bionet.molbio.methds-reagnts at
Subject: Gel Documentation differences

I don't know about a consumer report,  would like to see one if you find it.

The gel doc systems actually began about 15 years ago in Germany with
simple analog printers attached to video.   These are still available, but
only replace Polaroid.  UVP was one of the pioneers in digital systems that
had image software.  The ability to archive digital images, and to enhance
them to see faint bands, or sharpen to resolve doublets, etc., and to
analyze the images have made daily gel work easier and more informative.
As you say, other companies supply image software and systems.

Consider the camera--some systems use inexpensive cameras that will take a
digital image, but the sensitivity and linearity of response will be
compromised.  Most of the better systems have equivalent cameras,
transilluminators, computers, etc. An eight-bit, gray scale camera with at
least 40% quantum efficiency in the wavelength range of 400-700nm is a good
compromise between resolution and price.  The Stratagene system is in the
US$10,000-$15,000 range, and uses an 8-bit gray scale camera. There are
cameras with 12bit and more, with 1000x1000 pixels and more, and even
cooled with liquid nitrogen.  Some of these cameras alone may cost up to

A few systems have custom camera control boards that permit integration on
the chip, rather than adding up frames.  this reduces the analog-to-digital
conversion noise and does produce petter images.  Look for this design

If all the systems have similar performing hardware, and similar prices,
the differentiating component is the software supplied.  how easy is it to
use? how fast can you perform operations?  what image enhancement and
analysis functions are included?

Some of the most expensive software packages for image analysis have many
professional tools and need a workstation to operate.  For the busy lab (or
shared labs) with a number of technicians, some of whom are not familiar
with different computer programs,  an intuitive interface can make gel
documentation and analysis easy and fast.

As I sold a gel documentation system in California from the company Alpha
Innotech, I have looked at many different suppliers of gel analysis
packages.  In my experience, the AlphaEase interface is the only software
package that uses plain language buttons--almost no icons (which are a new
language to many users) and almost no menus.  Many of our customers
preferred this unique user interface after comparing with other systems.
You should contact the various distributors in your country for information
on their gel doc systems;  most suppliers have technical associates that
can demonstrate their system in your lab so you can compare image quality,
sample flexibility, print speed, ease of use, etc.

Alpha Innotech have a website   at

Walter Schick
My gel documentation sales experience was at Hoefer Scientific, San
Francisco, and ATR Biotech (represented Alpha Innotech) Emeryville,
From: Valeri Krougliak <krougv01 at>
Date: Mon, 21 Jul 1997 17:30:29 -0400

Betsy Alberty wrote:
>> I suggest you also take a serious look at alpha innotech's gel doc
> system. I'm an independent rep (but don't sell gel doc systems)and a
> *lot* of my mol bio reagent customers think it's far superior to
> bio-rad's or stratagene's system. You can find them at

We have had bad experience with Alfa Innotech. The system we purchased
(Pentium based) did not work properly - very intence background/noise
appeared when we tryed to reveal weak bands.  All attempts of Alfa Innotech
to resolve this problem failed (we sent the system to the company 3 times,
after that the campany decided to build a completely new system but nothing
has helped. By the way the loaner unit
(486-based) we used when they tryed to fix our system worked fine.  I
think, it does not work with Pentium.  Finally we decided to replace it
with eagle eye ii.

From: imgenfm at (Imgenfm)
Subject: Re: Gel Documentation Systems
Date: 24 Jul 1997 13:43:09 GMT

Dear Jean:
In your decision to find the best digital imaging partner and in response
to Dr. Krougliak's experience with Alpha Innotech, as the independent
manufacturer's rep that sold him the system, I'd like to add the following
important points:
1.) The background/noise appeared only under extreme imaging conditions
2.)The lab had no downtime due to having a loaner system while his system
was getting repaired.
3.) The manufacturer stood behind their product and provided in writing an
extended 4 year warranty on his system. Unlike many other companies, he was
now getting a full 5 year warranty on his digital imaging system!
4.)I've sold many "Pentium" based digital imaging systems in my territory
and can provide references upon request.
5.) Alpha Innotech has sold over 1,000 units worldwide and many reputable
institutions and companies have chosen them as their imaging partner.

Please feel free to contact Alpha Innotech at 800-795-5556 and request


Florian Menninger
Manufacturer's Representative
IMGEN Technologies

KODAK DC for gel doc. system?
To: methods at

From: Steven_Burghart at (Baylor Molecular Genetics Lab)
Subject: KODAK DC for gel doc. system?
Date: 19 Jul 1997 18:14:13 GMT

Does anybody tried to use Kodak DC 40 or 120 for gel documentation system?
We will be appreciate for shearing your experience with those cameras.
Baylor Molecular Genetics Laboratory
(817) 755-1050

From: June Eva Paciga <jpaciga at>
Date: Mon, 21 Jul 1997 14:37:41 -0400

I am currently assessing (with a Demo unit) the DC40 camera and software,
known as the EDAS(Electrophoresis Documentation and Analysis System) from
KODAK.  So far, so good.  We are planning to purchase the system but will
wait until later this month when the DC120 comes out.  The new camera
promises to have better resolution. However, the DC40 resolution for gel
documentation was fine. The DC120 will also have zoom capabilities, which
would eliminate the need for close up lenses, and an LCD to instantly
display the images.  I like the system because you can use it thethered to
the computer or as a portable camera, which has proven to be very
convenient.  I've taken pictures of EtBr and SYBR Green stained gels on a
UV transilluminator, which is what I am most interested in; Polaroid
negatives of EtBr and SYBR Green stained agarose and X-Ray film of ddrt/pcr
on a light box; and of various departmental staff members using the
automatic flash feature of the camera.

To obtain the best image of gels stained with SYBR Green I Kodak provided
us with a SYBR Green filter which attaches to the DC40 camera. In addition
to the SYBR Green filter the system came with a hood and
some close up lenses and a filter for ethidium bromide stained gels. The
images are very good and I like the software for the analysis. I am doing
semi-quantitative RT/PCR. It's very easy to define lanes on the
gel and then automaticly detect bands; you can adjust the sensitivity of
band detection.  If you run a molecular weight standard, you can obtain the
M.W. of your bands in addition to band mass.  If you don't run a standard,
you can define the location of a band as Mobility, which is measured from
the top of where you marked the lane to the band and then obtain a Net
Intensity for the band, which is the sum of all the pixel intensities in
the band rectangle minus background intensity.

This is my experience with the system so far. I like it a lot.  It gives me
the information I need and it is not as expensive as many of the other gel
doc systems I have seen that use video cameras and are dedicated to a
single source and set size.  In fact, a representative of Kodak asked me
why anyone needs a video camera to photograph a gel since the gel isn't
moving. Good point! I hope this information helps.  You can contact me if
you have any other questions.  In addition check out the info about the
system from Kodak from the www address below.  I originally downloaded the
demo version they have available on line, then I called Kodak to set up a
demo with the camera and the complete

June Eva Paciga

P.S. I am not in anyway affiliated with Kodak
From: Steven_Burghart at (Baylor Molecular Genetics Lab)
Date: 21 Jul 1997 23:03:19 GMT

Thank you very much for such a detail reply.  We are also waiting for full
package of DC 120 system.  I am appreciate you.

Baylor Molecular Genetics Laboratory
(817) 755-1050


Eugenie L Harris, PhD		jean.harris at
Research Fellow
Surgery Department			Phone: +64 3 474-0999  ext. 7474
University of Otago			Home:  477-1241
PO Box 913
Dunedin, New Zealand		Fax:  +64 3 474-7622


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