At the core of Microscope are the Abstract Base Classes (ABC) for the different device types. ABCs are a way to enforce a defined interface by requiring those subclassing from them, the concrete classes, to implement the declared abstract methods. For example, the class TopticaiBeam is a concrete class of the Laser ABC and so is forced to implement a series of methods, marked as abstract on the ABC, thus “promising” that it works like all other devices that implement the Laser ABC.

Microscope has the following ABCs that map to a specific device type:

In addition, they all subclass from which defines a base interface to all devices such as the initialize and shutdown methods.

The actual concrete classes, those which provide actual control over the devices, are listed on the section Supported Devices.

In addition to the different device ABC, there is which is not a devices its own but are device specific and returned by Stage instances to control the individual axis.

Finally, is an ABC that can be mixed in other classes to add support to receive hardware triggers.


Many microscope devices have specialised features which, when not unique, are very specific to the hardware. For example, some cameras have the option of applying noise filters during acquisition or provide control over amplifiers in the different stages of the readout. Being so specialised, such features do not fit in the ABC of their device type. To supported these features, Microscope has the concept of “Settings”.

Settings map a name, such as “TemperatureSetPoint” or “PREAMP_DELAY”, to their setters and getters which act at the lowest level available. Those getter/setter are not exposed and only available via the get_setting and set_setting methods, like so:

# Some settings are readonly, so check first
if not camera.describe_setting("TemperatureSetPoint")["readonly"]:
    camera.set_setting("TemperatureSetPoint", -5)

Settings often overlap with the defined interface. For example, PVCamera instances have the binning property as defined on the Camera ABC, but if supported by the hardware they will also have the “BINNING_PAR” and “BINNING_SER” settings which effectively do the same.

The use of settings is a powerful feature that provides a more direct access to the device but this comes at the cost of reduced interoperability, i.e., code written using settings becomes tied to that specific hardware which makes it hard to later replace the device with a different one. In addition, settings also bypass the rest of the device code and it is possible for settings to lead a device into an unknown state. Once settings are used, there is no more promise on the behaviour of the device interface. If possible, avoid use of settings and prefer methods defined by the ABC.

An alternative to the current settings scheme would be to declare a method for each setting on the concrete device classes. There are a few reasons not to. First, many classes support a wide range of models, for example, AndorSDK3 supports all of Andor CMOS cameras, and different models have different settings which would lead to multiple classes with different sets of methods. Second, some of those settings would clash with the ABC, for example, “AndorAtmcd” devices might have a “Binning” setting which could clash with the binning property. Finally, using get_setting and set_setting clearly declares the use of methods that are not part of the interface and reminds the implications that come with it.