Dark field microscopy (dark ground microscopy) describes microscopy methods, in both light and electron microscopy, which exclude the unscattered beam from the image. As a result, the field around the specimen (i.e. where there is no specimen to scatter the beam) is generally dark.
_Advantages and disadvantages_
Dark field microscopy produces an image with a dark background.
Dark field microscopy is a very simple yet effective technique and well suited for uses involving live and unstained biological samples, such as a smear from a tissue culture or individual water-borne single-celled organisms. Considering the simplicity of the setup, the quality of images obtained from this technique is impressive.
The main limitation of dark field microscopy is the low light levels seen in the final image. This means the sample must be very strongly illuminated, which can cause damage to the sample. Dark field microscopy techniques are almost entirely free of artifacts, due to the nature of the process. However the interpretation of dark field images must be done with great care as common dark features of bright field microscopy images may be invisible, and vice versa.
While the dark field image may first appear to be a negative of the bright field image, different effects are visible in each. In bright field microscopy, features are visible where either a shadow is cast on the surface by the incident light, or a part of the surface is less reflective, possibly by the presence of pits or scratches. Raised features that are too smooth to cast shadows will not appear in bright field images, but the light that reflects off the sides of the feature will be visible in the dark field images.