Whether you’re an adult looking to relive your childhood, or you’re looking to help inspire the next series of scientists in your family, a microscope can help achieve that.
Getting a microscope is one of the best ways to introduce science to your home. They’re generally reasonably priced and quite simple to use, so even if you’re unsure of how to use a microscope properly, it really isn’t too difficult – you’ll soon get the hang of it. Or, perhaps you’re in college and you want to take some work home with you. Well, a good microscope with adequate power will be more than enough to enable you to do so.
So, lets take a look at some of the best options to choose from if you’re looking for a microscope to purchase.
OMax Lab Microscope
Generally for those that are looking for the best microscope that isn’t a ridiculous price, then I’d advise looking at something like the OMax. Professional microscopes can cost thousands of dollars, and they aren’t really necessary for most people, especially young kids. So, there are a few reasons why I’d opt for a good quality microscope like this one as opposed to others out there.
The Omax is a binocular microscope that makes it really easy for kids to use. It’s capable of 2000x if you use it with the 100x lens and a 20x eyepiece (that it comes with), though it works best at lower magnifications. One of the main questions I’m asked with this sort of microscope is what exactly is it capable of seeing? Well, it’s great for everything from algae to insects.
One of the things I like so much about the OMax is the stage. Even though this is one of OMax’s cheaper models, it uses a high quality mechanical stage. This means that you can easily adjust the stage on an X-Y axis, making it really easy not only to use, but you can also mark the stage so that you can refer back to these coordinates later. This is something missing from cheaper microscopes.
I also like this particular model because in comparison to the other OMax models and some branded microscope models, it’s actually quite compact. And although it’s smaller in size, it doesn’t compromise in terms of effectiveness.
From a negative perspective, the main thing that I can think of that might put you off is that it isn’t just a ‘ready to use’ microscope. Although all the objectives are installed, you’ll need to take a little time reading through the instruction manual first, and then pop the objectives in. But if it’s okay with you to spend a few minutes reading beforehand, then this is probably my favorite option currently available.
The Amscope M150C-I also puts it hat into the ring when considering some of the best microscopes out there. If you’re looking for a pretty cheap compound microscope (and there aren’t that many cheap compounds about!), then this one might prove to be a winner. Here are a couple of reasons why I like this particular model.
Firstly, it’s at a perfect range of power for beginners. It’s going to be better than most cheap USB microscopes that you’re going to find out there. It’s at the lower end of the pricing spectrum and it’s a low price to pay for a compound microscope, seeing as the majority of others on the market venture into the hundreds of dollars ballpark. Of course, it’s not going to match up with professional equipment, but for me this model is a great place to start.
So, it’s cost effective yes, but it still has more than enough power to be a good choice for most people. It has a monocular scope as offers five different magnification settings, from 40x all the way up to 1000x – it has both 10x and a 25x eyepieces that come with the microscope, which takes the magnification up to this level. The materials it uses are good and for the most part, it’s going to last you a long while.
I did check some of the reviews online from other users and it seems like they have had issues with them receiving a used product as opposed to a brand new one – this is why you need to check the Amazon reviews thoroughly first! However usually with Amazon if you let them know this kind of stuff after purchase, they’re usually excellent at dealing with this. But, I thought I’d better mention this as although this is unlikely to be an issue, it seems it has happened with some people.
MicroXplore 5mp LCD Digital Microscope
This MicroXplore LCD Digital Microscope (aff. link) is a digital microscope that isn’t particularly expensive, but it is quite effective as a microscope.
I’m the first to admit; I don’t love digital microscopes, especially for first timers, but it’s only fair that I mention a good digital model as well as the compound microscopes I’ve already mentioned. For the most part, I would rather spend the extra cash on a better optics for a compound microscope as opposed to getting an LCD screen and link it up with a microscope camera.
But, don’t rule this digital microscope out entirely. It has a 3.5 inch digital LCD screen, which although I’m not the biggest fan of, I can appreciate. For kids especially it can prove to be a great way to learn and use a microscope, mainly because of the interactivity of the design. It’s also very easy to use and take pictures with the 5mp sensor, which can get some good resolution images.
Generally with a digital microscope that has an LCD, you’re going to sacrifice some optical power in exchange for the expense of the screen. However if you don’t think you need a super powerful microscope, then this might prove to be a good choice for you.
Barska 20-40x Binocular Stereo Microscope
This is another good option for a microscope – as opposed to most of the other monocular style microscopes I’ve listed (aside from the Omax), this is a binocular style, which may be preferable to some people. Despite what some people may tell you, there really isn’t much of a noticeable difference between the two types aside from how you view the object, so it tends to come down to personal preference more than anything.
However, it’s worth mentioning that although this model and the OMax model look the same, they really aren’t. Whilst the OMax is a binocular compound microscope, this is a stereo microscope. To put the difference between them simply, a compound microscope uses light reflected from the object, whereas a compound microscope uses light that is transmitted through an object. The difference here allows for better optics on thicker specimens, which compund microscopes cannot handle. I have a whole article about different types of microscopes to check out if you want to learn more.
Generally, stereo microscopes can be a much better option for kids in particular. This is because although they’re lower in magnification, they’re much easier to set up and use. So, it’s worth considering a stereo microscope if you have a budding scientist at home. Although you might know Barska better for their outdoors equipment – they specialise in tactical equipment and outdoors wear – but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to ignore their other products either, with this microscope being a good example.
Celestron Digital Microscope Kit
Although Celestron are best known for their telescopes, they also produce a few microscopes too. One of these options is this digital microscope kit, which is an ideal choice for those looking for an entry level telescope. For complete beginners or young children, then I’d likely recommend this to be a good choice.
It comes with a variety of different magnification eyepieces with the microscope itself, ranging from 40x all the way up to 600x. This might not seem particularly impressive if you compare that 1000-2000x, but for the most part, you’re not going to be using lens at their maximum magnification.
This set also comes with a cheap digital camera too, and although it isn’t the best quality around, it’s a good beginners point. All you need to do is download the necessary software and you can easily set it up with your Mac or other device. The only bad thing about this Celestron Microscope is that it doesn’t come with many different slides, so you might want to have a look online and find some more prepared slides to use. Of course, you can also set up your own microscope slides too.
Microscope Buying Guide – Things to Consider
One thing that you’ll undoubtedly have to consider when you’re purchasing a microscope is the cost. Generally, if you’re purchasing a microscope for kids, you’ll often see them between $80-250 dollars. This is about the amount you’ll want to spend if you want to ensure that you’re getting something of a decent quality. Microscopes go up into the thousands, but unless you’re buying one specifically to see organisms and such, you won’t need a professional microscope.
Compound vs Digital Microscopes
For reasons that I’ve already mentioned, I much prefer a compound microscope to a digital microscope (mainly based on price and a preference for digital cameras). Sure, a digital microscope may be better for convenience and speed (though this isn’t always the case), but they don’t tend to give you the same quality of picture and in my experience, and you’re more likely to get aberrations in your images. So, personally I prefer a compound microscope, but some people prefer digital microscopes.
I alreayd mentioned so of the benefits to stereo microscopes above, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you’re going to be viewing a lot of thick, 3D objects then a stereo microscope tends to be better (although it has lower magnification, this isn’t much of an issue). However, a compound microscope is better for viewing specimens due to the illumination going directly through the slide, so it depends what you are going to be examining.
Monocular vs Binocular
Aside from the difference between compound and stereo scopes, monocular and binocular microscopes tend to give you the same view just in two different forms. If it’s a compound microscope and you have the choice between monocular and binocular, then there really isn’t going to be much of a difference, aside from your personal preference.
For the most part, you’re never really going to be using a microscope at it’s maximum possible magnification. So although it might seem impressive to have a 6000x Professional microscope, unless you’re actively using it for work purposes, the likelihood is that you won’t need this kind of magnification. The majority of compound and stereo microscopes are good enough for home purposes and students.
After you’ve got yourself a good microscope, it’s then time to decide exactly what you’re going to view through it! If you want some ideas, here’s my list of microscope slides, which should give you some awesome ideas for what you can put on your microscope slides.
Overall, these are just a few of my favorite microscopes that are currently available to purchase. There are more out there, but you’ll generally either be looking at cheaper USB microscopes which aren’t as effective, or professional microscopes which are too costly. So for the middle of the ballpark, this selection are ideal for regular use.
Whether you’re looking for a microscope to use on a regular basis yourself or you want to encourage your kids to get into their science at home, a microscope can be a great addition to any young scientists collection. So, it’s worth considering looking at a microscope to your collection.