Label-free microscopy techniques have numerous advantages such as low phototoxicity, simple setup and no need for fluorophores or other contrast materials. Despite their advantages, most label-free techniques cannot visualize specific cellular compartments or the location of proteins and the image formation limits quantitative evaluation. Differential interference contrast (DIC) is a qualitative microscopy technique that shows the optical path length differences within a specimen. We propose a variational framework for DIC image reconstruction. The proposed method largely outperforms state-of-the-art methods on synthetic, artificial and real tests and turns DIC microscopy into an automated high-content imaging tool. Image sets and the source code of the examined algorithms are made publicly available.
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