A programmable system has been developed for the study of both transient and persistent effects of extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic field exposure of cell cultures. This high-precision exposure system enables experimental blinding and fully characterized exposure while simultaneously allowing live cell imaging. It is based on a live imaging cell around which two asymmetrical coils are wound in good thermal contact to a temperature-controlled water jacket, and is mounted on a microscope stage insert. The applied B-field uniformity of the active volume is better than 1.2% with an overall exposure uncertainty of less than 4.3% with very low transient field levels. The computer-controlled apparatus allows signal waveforms that are sinusoidal or composed of several harmonics, blind protocols, and monitoring of exposure and environmental conditions. B-fields up to 4 mT root mean square amplitude are possible with minimal temperature variation and no recognizable temperature differences between exposure and sham states. Sources of artifacts have been identified and quantified. There are no visible vibrations observable even at the highest magnifications and exposure levels. Bioelectromagnetics 34:231–239, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.