Last updated: 04/11/2020

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Taking part in new experiences is one of the great pleasures in life, but our eyes do have their limitations. There are some things they simply can’t see. This is why microscopes are your best ally to explore beyond what is visible to the naked eye.

Derived from the Ancient Greek words mikrós (small) and skopeîn (to look), this instrument allows you to observe tiny things in incredible detail. Microscopes feature various filters and zoom levels, giving you the exciting possibility of exploring an unknown world. Will you dare do it?

Key Facts

  • Getting your own microscope will allow you to delve into uncharted territory, open up your mind, and arouse your scientific curiosity.
  • Nowadays, you can find easy-to-use, digitally connected microscopes for everyone to explore whatever piques their interest.
  • You will have to consider a series of different criteria before choosing the microscope that best fits you. We will discuss these aspects in the final section of our shopping guide.

Our Selection: The Best Microscopes on the U.S. Market

Microscopes can come with different characteristics and functionalities. In order to pick the right model for you, you have to know what they are and how to use them. Before we dive into this, we want to introduce you to our very own selection of the best microscopes currently on the American market. Take a look at the different models we chose; you might just find the one you’ve been looking for!

Best Microscope Kit for Kids

AmScope’s microscope set has become Amazon’s Choice in the category for excellent reasons. Featuring a quality metal microscope and 49 additional accessories all placed in a sturdy and easy-to-carry case, it offers incredible value for money. Children and beginners will simply love experimenting with this product that is designed to facilitate its use. This microscope comes with a 1200X magnification and three objective lenses.

Best Compound Microscope

This compound microscope certainly goes a step further, with quality achromatic lenses and a total magnification that can reach 2000X. Delivered with 100 glass slides and cleaning paper, it integrates a binocular eyepiece and transmitted LED lighting technology whose intensity you can adjust manually. The mechanical stage is another handy feature. This compact microscope comes with a 5-year warranty.

Best Pocket Microscope

Another Amazon’ Choice, the MicroBrite Plus by Carson has received thousands of high ratings and positive reviews by past users. With a magnification range reaching 120X and a LED light powered with an AA battery, this pocket microscope will go anywhere you go. That means that you can head out into the forest and start observing what you’ve always wanted to see. The manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty on this product.

Best Microscope for Students

Last but not least, this mid-range microscope by AmScope is ideal if you want to start delving deeper into science while keeping it on a budget. With a total of five magnification settings that can reach up to 1000X, it has a sturdy metal build and a LED illumination system that can work via a power outlet or AA batteries. This means that you can also use your microscope on the go. This bang-for-your-buck model is great for students.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Microscopes

If you aren’t very familiar with these instruments, you will probably have a million doubts before you purchase your own microscope. Although they were originally intended for professional, scientific environments, they have now become more popular to a wider audience. In the following section, we have answered the most frequently asked questions regarding microscopes.

Hombre en su taller con microscopio

We encourage you to choose a digital microscope. They are easy to use and connected to the computer.
(Source: Pelikh: 84795650/ 123rf.com)

Why are microscopes such great gifts?

There are times when we are looking for an original, useful, engaging, and creative gift – for Christmas, a birthday, or any other anniversary. In any of these cases, you will find the microscope to be a fantastic option. This instrument can fascinate children, parents, and grandparents alike.

You are advised to opt for a digital microscope, as this type is easy to use and connected to the computer. In addition, they have quality zoom levels without anything to envy to the most advanced models. In fact, the magnification level is always one of the deciding criteria when buying one of these instruments.

When was the microscope invented?

This instrument was an incredible scientific breakthrough, especially for more advanced research. After the invention of the microscope in 1590 by a Dutch spectacle-maker called Zacharias Janssen, William Harvey’s research on blood circulation was published in 1665 with a detailed analysis of capillaries.

Various pioneers continued to make technological advances over the following decades. They increased the magnification level of microscopes, leading the way for increasingly comprehensive studies of the behavior of microorganisms and the study of cells. The progress was particularly significant during the 18th century.

Muchos microscopios

Microscopes can integrate different types of illumination.
(Source: Ousa Chea: gKUC4TMhOiY/ Unsplash.com)

What types of microscopes are there?

Microscopes are some of the most versatile instruments available, in the sense that the different models can be identified from various perspectives. Depending on how you plan on using it, you will want to choose an optical, ultraviolet, or electronic illumination system, for instance. You can compare the different types of microscopes in the following table:

Microscope by Type Description
Illumination system Optical A light source points to the sample, which is illuminated by visible light.
Illumination system Electronic The sample is not illuminated by light, but rather electrons. These collide inside a vacuum chamber.
Illumination system Ultraviolet light The sample is illuminated with ultraviolet light, which provides a better resolution than visible light.
Illumination system Polarized light This optical microscope comes with two added polarizers.
Illumination system Fluorescence You can observe substances that emit their own light when illuminated with a certain wavelength.
Number of objective lenses Single lens Commonly known as a magnifying glass, it has a single lens.
Number of objective lenses Reflected light The light illuminates the sample, and part of it is reflected and directed towards the lens.
Number of eyepieces Monocular It has a single eyepiece (ocular lens) through which you can observe the sample.
Number of eyepieces Binocular It allows you to view the sample simultaneously with both eyes. This is the most common type in research laboratories.
Number of eyepieces Trinocular You can observe the sample in a third eyepiece connected to a camera.

What is the difference between digital and stereo microscopes?

Now that we have taken a closer look at the different types of microscopes available on the market, it is essential to note that the two main types are actually digital and stereo microscopes. On the one hand, digital models connect a digital camera instead of the eyepiece to capture the image.

Stereo microscopes, on the other hand, allow you to observe the sample in three dimensions. They are equipped with two eyepieces and the image of the sample that reaches each eyepiece is different. Combined together, this creates a 3D effect. On the downside, these microscopes tend to offer a lower magnification when compared to conventional optical models.

Hombre viendo a traves de microscopio

Knowing how to get the best possible results from your samples is essential before you start using your new microscope.
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How should I use my microscope?

It is essential that you learn how to make the most of your new instrument if you want to get the best results from your samples. While focusing is certainly the most fundamental, there are other tips you can follow to get off to a good start with your microscope. We have listed them below:

  • Place the sample on the slide and adjust it.
  • Turn the coarse focus knob to start focusing until you start seeing the object and turn the micrometric screw.
  • Turn the fine focus knob to finalize focusing.
  • Perfect the focus to the last detail.
  • Adjust other factors such as illumination and contrast.

What are the parts of a microscope?

You have to be familiar with the different parts that make up a microscope if you want to get the most out of it. This will also allow you to better adjust the various elements depending on how you want to use this instrument. Here are the main parts of a microscope:

  • Eyepiece (ocular lens): This is where you place your eye is to observe the sample. It can magnify the image 10 to 15 times its original size.
  • Tube: Completely black inside, this long metal tube connects the eyepiece to the objective lenses.
  • Objective lenses: This set of 2 or 3 lenses is located in the nose piece.
  • Nose piece: This system contains the objective lenses. It will generally feature a rotation system to allow you to change from one lens to another.
  • Coarse focus knob: You can adjust this small knob to bring the sample observed closer or further away.
  • Fine focus knob: This piece allows you to fine-tune the focus, making the image clearer.
  • Stage: This clamp platform is where you place the object or sample you want to look at.
  • Diaphragm: You can use this to regulate the amount of light passing through the sample on the stage.
  • Condenser: It helps you concentrate the light beam on the sample.
  • Illuminator: It directs the light towards the stage.

Buyer’s Guide

Despite the technological progress made with microscopes over the last decades, you have to pay close attention to the characteristics and features of each product to choose a quality model. Now that you have learned more about these wonderful instruments, we want to delve into the main shopping criteria. If you take them into account while comparing microscopes, we guarantee you will be in the right direction to pick a model that fits your needs:

Optical Quality

Both the eyepiece and the objective lens contribute to this quality, although the latter is more important because it is responsible for magnification found in the microscope. You should ensure that the objective lenses are achromatic, as this will allow you to correct some visual inaccuracies in the lenses.

Depending on the budget you are willing to allocate to this purchase, you will find other types of objectives lenses besides achromatic models. First of all, flat-field lenses can reach an almost perfect correction level. Secondly, semi flat-field models are the mid-range option, being more affordable than flat-field lenses and offering a higher correction level than achromatic ones.

Estudiante con microscopio

Microscopes are very versatile instruments and can be categorized depending on different factors.
(Source: Polc: 84829544/ 123rf.com)

Magnification

The overall quality and types of samples that you can observe through your microscope will depend on its magnification. Your best option is to opt for a nose piece that allows you to change objective lenses so that you can adjust to whatever you are looking at. Note that you won’t necessarily need an incredible level of magnification – which usually varies between 20X and 60X – for every sample.

The total magnification of the compound optical microscope happens over two steps: one on the objective lenses and the other on the eyepiece. This is why you should know the magnification of both elements of the microscope in order to calculate the maximum magnification available. Here is the equation you need to do: microscope magnification = objective lens magnification x eyepiece magnification.

Type of Illumination

As we discussed earlier, you have to pick the type of lighting of your microscope according to your use of it. You will find the following on the market: tungsten, fluorescence, LED, and halogen. The last two will offer the best brightness and quality. The fact that they are white light means that heat won’t affect the sample. They are, therefore, most often used in more delicate investigations.

Fluorescence is another type of lighting that won’t cause any damage. Tungsten, on the other hand, contains yellow light and is only recommended for use on samples that cannot be affected by heat. It is fundamental that you keep these factors in mind when buying your own microscope, as it could make the difference between a successful purchase and a failure.

Microscopio en primera plano

Stereo microscopes allow you to observe the sample in three dimensions.
(Source: Suria: 111518681/ 123rf.com)

Materials

The manufacturing material of your microscope will ultimately determine its durability. In other words, if you are looking for an affordable, no-frills product, you can comfortably turn towards cheaper models. That being said, keep in mind that the useful life will be shorter and that its quality will be inferior. So, should you opt for a plastic or a metal microscope?

It depends. If you will only use it for leisure or school activities, plastic models will be plenty enough. But if you need a microscope for more advanced and professional observations, metal will allow you to reach a higher level of quality. In any case, plastic and metal are the most common manufacturing materials out there.

Accessories

So far, we have mostly look at the primary components of a microscope that you should evaluate during your purchasing process. However, we encourage you to take a look at the accessories that can help you increase the quality of your instrument. This is particularly important if you want to go beyond the most basic uses.

The main benefit of having accessories is that they allow you to obtain more accurate results with your microscope. The various accessories available to you include the possibility of adding digital cameras, different lenses, reflective mirrors, or condensers to your instrument.

Hombre adulto en su oficina

The microscope was an incredible scientific breakthrough, especially for more advanced research.
(Source: Stokkete: 26749515/ 123rf.com)

Summary

You no longer have to be a renowned scientific researcher to own your own microscope. Nowadays, technological progress has led this instrument to become within the reach of any curious person looking to find out more about what the naked eye cannot see. Does that sound like something you would like to do?

If the answer is yes, don’t wait any longer and delve into an incredible new world. The microscope is a truly fascinating instrument that will pique the interest of young children and adults alike, as long as you choose an easy-to-handle, quality model. This is why you have to pay attention to the various criteria we discussed in the final section of our article.

We hope that you found our guide on microscopes helpful and informative. If that’s the case, feel free to share it on your social media. You can also leave us a comment in the section below, and we will be happy to answer any remaining doubts you may have.

(Source of featured image: Lightfieldstudios: 77858052/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Thibault Perinet Freelance Writer & World Traveler
As a literature and translation licensee and avid traveler, language has always been at the heart of my daily life. A freelance writer since 2014, I love to delve into a variety of topics that contribute to my professional and personal development. My favorite things in life? Maté in the morning, soccer with friends, and old school hip hop.