These days, there are so many different kinds of microscopes on the market. It can be challenging to know which ones are worth your time and which are not. That’s why at Optical Mechanics, we’ve been doing our best to break down all of the different kinds of microscopes that you’re likely to run into.
Today, we take a look at the digital USB microscope. How powerful is this type of microscope? How expensive is it? When is it practical, and when would it be better to go with another kind? We will analyze all the answers to these questions and help you reach the right conclusions.
In case the name is a bit misleading, a USB microscope is not exclusively for taking a closer look at flash drives. They are called such because they can be plugged directly into a computer via a USB port. They are digital microscopes, mainly consisting of a webcam and a macro lens surrounded by LED lights.
This allows the user to see live results of a specimen directly on the computer screen. As you can imagine, this means all kinds of benefits for the microscope user. Not only are your images immediately shown on the computer screen, but you can also much more easily enhance or alter them.
USB microscopes are not the most powerful scientific instruments you get your hands on. Usually, they only consist of a single macro lens. While this macro lens is generally quite powerful, it will still mean that most USB microscopes aren’t very powerful compared to many other microscopes.
So, how powerful are we talking about? Well, certain USB microscopes are only capable of providing a magnification level of 100-200x. This isn’t very much at all. However, other traditional microscope types are capable of generating much higher magnification. It depends a lot on the power level of your specific macro lens.
Another thing to keep in mind is image quality. USB microscopes are not well-known for their high image quality; many of them will only have the ability to display images in 1-5 MP at the most.
This is because the fewer lenses used when magnifying something significantly, the blurrier and rougher the image that will come out. This is why compound microscopes are desirable for most researchers, students, and scientists.
While it might sound like a digital USB microscope doesn’t have much going for it, this is actually far from the case. Most USB microscopes are pretty cheap, as they don’t require many materials to manufacture.
Since they only require a single lens, some plastic, and an inexpensive LED light source, they are easy to manufacture and, therefore, very easy to distribute. Economical scientific instruments are definitely useful, as they can provide workers and people of all ages with an easy way to magnify and record images without breaking the bank.
Another benefit we have to highlight is the ability to record images quickly. As we mentioned earlier, viewing a magnified live image immediately on a computer after capture is a significant boon. This can make scientific recording go much faster than when using a traditional compound microscope – images captured from those will require specialized tools, and it can all get very pricey.
When it comes to the price tag for a USB microscope, they can get expensive. However, this usually isn’t the case. In most buying scenarios, you can anticipate spending less than a hundred dollars when hunting for a half-decent USB digital microscope. In many cases, you can expect to pay even less than that.
As you might’ve put together, a USB digital microscope is not ideal if you need really accurate measurements. If you’re trying to record hundreds of images and easily categorize them, then being able to view and manipulate your results instantly will be a big help.
USB microscopes are also great picks for when you need a device that is easily portable and even easier to learn. They don’t require you to learn how to manually adjust focusing knobs, unscrew different pieces, or flip your way through different lenses.
They are essentially the point-and-shoot camera of the microscope world. While they might not help you get a good look at an atom, they can show you plenty of tiny things in great detail.
Now that we’ve broken down the USB microscope into more understandable pieces, we think you’ll have an easier time with just what you can do with it. It’s great for when you need a lot of images fast, and it’s even better when you need a cheap microscope that can give you up to 200x magnification.
It’s also relatively easy to learn, making it an excellent pick for beginners and experts with specialized needs. You will be able to find plenty of uses for this microscope if you decide to give it a go, so we would encourage you to give it a try.