All the Parts of a Microscope – With Photos

While most of us have seen microscopes used in at least some format, they can be a lot different to interact with if you’ve never actually used one yourself. Microscopes are instrumental pieces of technology that make just about any scientific examination much easier. You might find yourself asking whether you’ll ever understand the parts of a microscope.

However, first you need to understand what you’re looking at. When examining even simple microscopes, the various parts can be overwhelming if you’ve never attempted to use one before.

At Optical Mechanics, one of our primary goals is to make science more approachable to people worldwide. That is why we’ve broken down the average microscope to make it easier to understand.

We’ve gone part by part and provided a detailed explanation about the function of those pieces, how they’re likely to present themselves to you, and how you can better understand and approach them. We hope that this guide proves helpful to your understanding of just how microscopes work!



Eyepiece of a microscope

The eyepiece is the part of the microscope that you are most likely to interact with, as it’s how you engage with the whole “viewing the specimen” aspect of microscope utilization. Eyepieces come in all shapes and sizes but usually consist of one or two eyepiece lenses you can look through.

Microscopes with two eyepieces are called binocular microscopes, while those with one are called monocular microscopes. Typically, these initial lenses you look through have a magnification power of up to 10x. The higher magnification occurs farther down the eyepiece tube when the other lenses get involved.

Eyepiece Tube

Eyepiece tube of binocular microscope

The eyepiece tube is another essential microscope part. This is where the various lenses work together and subsequently do their magic. Not only do you look down it to get a view at the stage and see a magnified view of the specimen you’re examining, but it is what makes a microscope work.

The light from the illuminator shines up the eyepiece tube and the objective lens and its effects are multiplied by the ocular lens. All extraneous light and interfering sights are shut out, so you have a clear view of whatever it is you’re examining.


Microscope lens

The lenses are arguably the most critical microscope part. These are what provide the effect of magnification. Now, you might be wondering why microscopes have multiple lenses. Well, you need to be able to understand why lenses magnify to begin with.

A traditional magnifying glass is called a biconvex lens, where a lens is bent outwards on two sides like two spoons open-faced, hugging each other. In theory, you can keep making a biconvex lens bigger and bigger to provide more magnification. This is because such a lens works by collecting all the light reflected from an object and making that object look much bigger.

The problem is that by simply increasing the size of a biconvex lens, you will ultimately hit a point where the microscope image quality starts to deteriorate, leading to a worse overall image and poor picture quality. This will, in turn, affect any scientific finding you’re trying to undertake. So, this is solved by utilizing multiple lenses, which cut down on wasted light and help provide a higher-resolution microscope image.


Scientist adjusting knobs on microscope

Knobs are an important part of any microscope with multiple lenses. They allow the user to do a few different things. The main one is to manually adjust the height of the microscope and move the objective lens closer or farther away from the specimen being magnified.

This is known as the coaxial, fine adjustment, or fine focus knob. The other adjustment knob commonly seen on a microscope is the condenser focus knob, which adjusts how much light is being shone on or through the specimen.


Illuminator of microscope shining light on petri dish

On any light microscope, the illuminator plays an essential role. This piece of equipment provides the lighting that shines on the specimen and allows for close viewing. With an illuminator, any compound microscope is a fundamentally important piece of equipment.

The illuminator shines on the specimen using a variety of light sources. These days most illuminators will use electronic light from a low-intensity light source such as a halogen bulb. This provides a soft light intensity that will effectively illuminate a specimen without proving harsh to a viewer’s eyes when using a compound microscope.


Slide on stage of microscope

Lastly, the stage is what holds the specimen. Some stages are equipped with stage clips to hold down a slide, while others are simply little slabs on which specimens can be directly placed. Once your slide is set securely on the stage, you can use the adjustment knobs to maneuver the stage and bring different areas of the slide into focus without having to move the slide itself.

Knowing the Parts of a Microscope

Now that we’ve broken down all the different parts of your average microscope, we hope you have a more fundamental understanding of how they work. A high-quality microscope can be a bit complicated to master, but once you do, you can have a much more comprehensive understanding of the universe and how it functions. We hope that this breakdown of microscope parts proved useful to you.

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