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Maplin USB Microscope N87FX Driver

Posted by: who last updated this on January 16, 2012

This USB digital microscope sold by Maplin was at the time I purchased it £40 which was pretty much a bargain. I needed to inspect some solder joints and this seemed an ideal way to carry out the inspections and take some pictures as part of the documentation process on the project.

I returned the first one I bought as there was no installation CD and I could not find enough information to get the USB microscope up and running. Maplin’s duly replaced it for a sealed new one without quibble. I got the sealed on home and popped the installation CD into the optical drive on my computer.

It looks as though installation is in 2 parts, the application CD and the drivers themselves.

I was running Windows XP service pack 3. The application appeared to install and so did the drivers then I plugged in the USB microscope and the drivers appeared to install.

When the application program was loaded it immediately closed ( a brief outline of the window could be seen ) and then internet explorer opened with the user manual. Scanning the user manual did not point to much.

I opened device manager to discover the USB microscope listed under Imaging Devices as a HP Basic Camera. That just did not seem right. I tried to reinstall the correct driver for the USB Microscope and run the application program only to see it close again.

The application is expecting a particular driver and when that is not available it closes. I recalled that when the driver was installing device manager wanted a driver for a SN9C120.

A quick hit in the search box of a well known search engine provided the manufacturers website for this particular device. The SN9C120 is a single chip PC Camera Controller, manufacturered by Sonix Technology Co. Ltd.

So I downloaded the SN9C120 driver from the manufacturers website ( also hosted here Sonix SN9C120 USB Camera Windows Driver). The driver is suitable for Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista and even Windows 7. I have successfully installed the driver on Windows XP and Windows 7 x64 ( see note about usage under Windows Vista and Windows 7 at the end of this article ).

After the driver above was installed I launched the application again and this time it correctly loaded. I could use the USB Microscope and take pictures etc. Just the job.

Maplin have now discontinued the N87FX USB Microscope which is a shame because it is a great little gadget at the right price.

Excerpt from the Sonix website about the SN9C120 chip:
"SN9C120 provides a low power-consumption, cost effective and superior image quality solution for PC camera controller with VGA image sensor. It integrates sensor interface, image signal processing, image compression and USB transfer function into one single chip. SN9C120 supports various image sensors with RGB Bayer pattern and comes with image signal processing blocks such as gamma and color correction, edge enhancement, auto exposure and auto white balance controls. The built-in JPEG compression engine makes the VGA frame rate up to 30fps on USB1.1 to come true. With the auxiliary hardware windowing and scaling, we can provide a variety of image format and also digital-zoom function to satisfy any special application demands. The driver of SN9C120 has passed Microsoft’s WHQL certification and it is 48-pin LQFP package without external memory needed."

The story under Windows 7. Using the sonix driver you can correctly install the driver for the USB microscope. Maplin’s website included a software update for the N87FX under Windows Vista SP1 ( also as Maplin have discontinued the product in case they remove the product page from their website the N87FX Windows Vista driver can also be found here). The software in the original CD did not work. The software update from the Maplin website installed and was then configured for compatibility with Windows Vista SP1. The application loads and with the correct driver for the SN9C120 loaded you can see live pictures on the screen. The problem comes when you click picture to capture a picture from the device and store it for later use. A message appears with some junk characters and text stating the folder cannot be created. Not really much use without being able to capture the images.

I am not sure if there is a newer application available as its not really clear who is the author of the application program. I suppose you could capture the images with another program if the driver is TWAIN compliant but the applications real time picture display makes the process neat – if only it worked!

 N87FX Usb Microscope Specifications:

Technical specifications:
Image sensor: 300K Colour CMOS sensor
[Technical specifications:
Image sensor: 300K Colour CMOS sensor
Light source: White light LED x 4
Hardware interface: USB 2.0
Cable length: 1.5m
Dimensions: 31mm (dia.) x 110mm (l)
Weight: 85g (microscope only)
System requirements:
OS: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista(or SP1)
Minimum CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Pentium or AMD equivalent
CD-Rom: x4 or above
Memory: 128Mb Ram or higher
Hard disk space: At least 50MB
USB interface: USB 2.0

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