There are a plethora of different microscopes types out there: simple and compound microscopes, stereo microscopes, digital microscopes, fluorescence microscopes, confocal microscopes, and scanning probe microscopes. Check out this informative article for descriptions, anatomies, functions, and applications.
In this article, we will look at microscopes from another lens (get it?): the definitive guide to purchasing the right one for your needs.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Microscope
There are several factors to consider when buying a new microscope. They are:
- Intended use and application
- Magnification and resolution
- Quality of optic and lens
- Illumination and contrast
- Ergonomics and comfort
- Durability and maintenance
Read on below for our in-depth look at each of these considerations!
Step One in How to Buy A Microscope: Identify the Intended Use and Application
The first question you should ask yourself when choosing a microscope to buy is: what are you going to use it for? If you’re a dermatologist, it could be choosing one that appropriately magnifies a variety of specimens you’ll be studying. Or is it for your child’s high school science project? A college biology class? What about if you’re an art historian and want to zero in on finer manuscript details?
There are different microscope options for many of these different purposes. For dermatologists studying melanoma (a type of skin cancer), for instance, a simple microscope with only one lens will probably suffice. A simple microscope might do for a high school science project, but a compound microscope could also be useful, depending on the material. Let’s say you’re doing a specimen dissection for a college biology class. In that case, a stereo microscope would be your best bet. And lastly, as an art historian, you’ll probably want to use a stereo microscope as well.
Step Two in How to Buy A Microscope: Magnification and Resolution
Different microscopes have different magnification capacities. Again, you’ll need a solid idea of your project before making a purchase based on magnification specs. By and large, except for more complex laboratory microscopes, the microscope’s objective lens and eyepiece determine both the magnification and resolution.
An electron microscope produces the highest level of magnification among the different microscopes. Lower-mag microscopes are more in the simple and stereo camp, as they generally deal with larger objects (relatively speaking).
When it comes to resolution – briefly defined as how well a microscope can distinguish different details of a sample – it’s largely the same set of considerations as magnification.
Step Three in How to Buy A Microscope: Quality of Optic and Lens
This one’s pretty basic. Higher quality is always better. Of course, there are usually budget constraints, but make sure you select a microscope from a verified vendor with quality parts and components – particularly the optic and the lens.
Step Four in How to Buy A Microscope: Illumination and Contrast
Your illumination and contrast requirements vary significantly based on your project and work. These are crucial factors. Generally speaking, you want the illumination to optimize your visual results and reveal new information.
There are several different types of illumination, which are:
- Incident light
- Transmitted light
- Standard transmitted brightfield illumination
- Oblique transmitted illumination
- Darkfield illumination
- Contrast method
Step Five in How to Buy A Microscope: Ergonomics and Comfort
Ergonomics refers to how physically accessible and capable of manual manipulation an object is. Always choose a microscope with enough ergonomic features to get the job done and increase workflow simultaneously.
Comparison of Microscope Brands
There are several high-quality microscope manufacturers on the market today. For your convenience, we’ve selected a handful and explained why we’ve done so.
Accu-Scope has existed since the 1980s, so it has some real longevity as a company and brand. With excellent optics, crisp and clear imagery, and high contrast and resolution, Accu-Scope microscopes are a consistently solid buy. Jewelers, educational institutions, medical centers, and a whole host of other facilities use Accu-Scope microscopes.
Another great choice, Labo-Med microscopes, can be found in various higher education, scientific, and clinical settings across the international market. With even more longevity than Accu-Scope (60+ years in the business), Labo-Med equipment has a highly skilled team and provides exceptional microscopes.
Nikon microscopes are, without question, world-class. The company is famous for its optical equipment, not just in the health and science industries but as a manufacturer of the world’s highest-quality digital optical equipment. Their microscopes are no exception.
With the most longevity out of all the companies in this guide and a list of clients that will make your jaw drop (think MIT, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, to name a few), Unitron delivers greatness. In addition to the above-mentioned industries, Unitron produces microscopes for metallurgy and materials science.
1. How much does a microscope typically cost?
The price varies enormously, from $2,500 for a cheap used one to $10,000,000 for use in the most elite research labs and governmental facilities.
2. What’s the difference between a compound microscope and a stereo microscope?
The difference and similarities can be confusing because both are types of compound microscopes (meaning they both have multiple lenses). There are some key differences, however. Compound microscopes are used to study smaller samples like viruses and bacteria, whereas stereo microscopes are for larger samples like historical artifacts and samples for dissection.
3. What magnification level do I need for my intended use?
This consideration will also vary depending on your work/project. Make sure to consult a research guide before choosing a microscope and cross-reference it with the capabilities of the microscopes you’re looking at.
4. Can I use a microscope for both biological and non-biological applications?
Absolutely! In this buyer’s guide, we’ve indicated some of the specific uses and applications for the various kinds of microscopes, such as art history, forensics, and metallurgy. Check it out!
We hope this guide has proven helpful in helping you select the right microscope for you. From stereo to simple, electron to fluorescence, you will find the best microscope for you. Just make sure to follow the science, and have fun!