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Before You Buy a Microscope

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Before you purchase a microscope there are several factors that should be considered. How should the microscope be constructed? What type of lighting is best? What kinds of specimens are you interested in viewing with the microscope? Should you buy a compound or a stereo microscope? Answers to these questions depend on your specific needs.

Construction

Sturdiness is an important quality when considering a microscope. The microscope you purchase should be solidly constructed and composed of a sturdy metal alloy. Plastic microscopes do not last so it would be best to avoid them.

Lighting

Most microscopes that have a built-in light source use either a tungsten, fluorescent or halogen bulb. Fluorescent bulb systems are more expensive than tungsten systems, but the quality of light is brighter and they produce much less heat than either tungsten or halogen systems.

Beginner Microscopes

Introductory microscopes are especially designed for younger kids. They have controls that are large and simple to use. Features include low magnification, one eyepiece for viewing specimens and usually a mirror for illumination.

Stereo Microscopes

A stereo microscope uses two different paths of light. This allows you to see a specimen in 3-D. Stereo microscopes have high depth perception but low resolution and magnification. These microscopes are great for dissecting as well as for viewing fossils and insect specimens. The best models have a built-in light source and zoom capabilities. The following information provides instructions on how to build your own stereo microscope.

Compound Microscopes

Compound microscopes use a single light path. They can either have a single eyepiece (monocular) or a dual eyepiece (binocular). Compound microscopes have low depth perception but high resolution and magnification. They are used for viewing very small specimens such as cells, pond life samples and other microscopic life forms. The following information provides instructions on how to build your own compound microscope.

Digital Microscopes

Digital microscopes may be compound or stereo microscopes that enable you to capture still images, as well as video images. These images can be displayed on your computer monitor. Digital microscopes also contain imaging software that enables you to zoom, edit, create special effects and time lapse images. The following is a review of Motic's DigiScope 300 digital microscope.
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