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Image Gallery: Digital Microscopy in Forensics – Examples From Ballistics, Document, and Trace Evidence Investigations

Forensics experts assist law enforcement all over the world to determine whether a suspect is guilty or innocent of a crime through examination of evidence. In their investigations, they use a broad range of macroscopes and microscopes, depending on the type of evidence. Digital microscopy also plays a role in forensics, such as in examination of evidence from firearms and tool marks, documents, forensic or legal medicine, hair and fibers as well as glass and paint.

In the image gallery below, you will find example images from ballistics, document, and trace evidence investigations.

One challenge in ballistics investigations is that bullets and cartridge cases alike are made of metal which can lead to reflections of light under the microscope. To see the finest details of any traces and marks, the reflections must be kept to a minimum or avoided. A way to achieve this is to tilt the microscope.

A common approach in document and handwriting investigation is to go into detail at higher magnification only after a suspicious area of the document has been identified during an lower scale overview. Frequent changes in magnification and objectives may be required.

Trace evidence specialists investigate a wide variety of materials, reaching from hair, fiber, glass, metal, paper, and paint to biological samples. Since these materials are very different in character, different kinds of illumination as well as low to high magnification may be required. Additionally, creating mosaics and 3D images may be important to get the full picture.

The images were taken with a Leica DVM6 digital microscope.

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Detail of an explosive swap.
Detail of an explosive swap.
Detail (aluminum particle) of an explosive swap.
Detail (aluminum particle) of an explosive swap.
Detail (aluminum particle) of an explosive swap.
Detail (aluminum particle) of an explosive swap.
Hair detail multifocus.
Hair detail multifocus.
Hair detail multifocus.
Hair detail multifocus.
Hair with root.
Hair with root.
Bundle of fibres.
Bundle of fibres.
Fibre detail of a cut multifocus.
Fibre detail of a cut multifocus.
Textile multifocus.
Textile multifocus.
Textile 3D model.
Textile 3D model.
Blue metallic paint multifocus.
Blue metallic paint multifocus.
Blue metallic paint 3D model.
Blue metallic paint 3D model.
Blue metallic paint layers multifocus.
Blue metallic paint layers multifocus.
Blue metallic paint layer 3D model.
Blue metallic paint layer 3D model.
Blue metallic paint layer 3D model.
Blue metallic paint layer 3D model.
Red metallic paint 3D model.
Red metallic paint 3D model.
Red metallic paint 3D model.
Red metallic paint 3D model.
Handwriting detail of pen under stamp.
Handwriting detail of pen under stamp.
Handwriting detail of pen on stamp.
Handwriting detail of pen on stamp.
Details of striations on a bullet from the barrel.
Details of striations on a bullet from the barrel.
Details of striations on a bullet from the barrel.
Details of striations on a bullet from the barrel.
Multi-focus image in 2D of a bullet nose.
Multi-focus image in 2D of a bullet nose.
Multi-focus image in 3D of a bullet nose.
Multi-focus image in 3D of a bullet nose.
Multi-focus image in 2D of a nickel plated cartridge case showing the firing pin mark on the primer.
Multi-focus image in 2D of a nickel plated cartridge case showing the firing pin mark on the primer.
Multi-focus image in 3D of a nickel plated cartridge case showing the firing pin mark on the primer.
Multi-focus image in 3D of a nickel plated cartridge case showing the firing pin mark on the primer.
Multi-focus image in 2D of a brass cartridge case showing the firing pin mark on the primer.
Multi-focus image in 2D of a brass cartridge case showing the firing pin mark on the primer.
Multi-focus image in 3D of a brass cartridge case showing the firing pin mark on the primer.
Multi-focus image in 3D of a brass cartridge case showing the firing pin mark on the primer.
South African 50 Rand bill with more detail seen after zooming in (right).
South African 50 Rand bill with more detail seen after zooming in (right).
US Dollar bill with more detail seen after zooming in (right).
US Dollar bill with more detail seen after zooming in (right).
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting 23°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting 23°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting 15°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting 15°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting 9°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting 9°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting 0°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting 0°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting –6°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting –6°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting –15°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting –15°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting –22°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting –22°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting –27°)
Swiss identification card hologram (tilting –27°)