Want to buy a microscope for yourself or your child? Wondering what to look for?

Here's some basic information to get you started.

We know: What to Look for in a Microscope

What is a microscope?

A microscope is a device that uses a lens to magnify a small specimen, such as a leaf or drop of water. Biological microscopes are the kind most commonly purchased for introductory science and home-use.

What's are the basic kinds of microscopes?

High power microscopes (also called compound) are used for looking at very small specimens. High power magnifications include 40X , 100X, 400X and 1000X. They are designed for looking at translucent or transparent objects, such as bacteria, cells and water drops.

Low power microscopes (also called inspection, dissection or stereo) are used for larger specimens, such as insects or grains of sand. The magnification usually ranges from 10X to 80X. They are available with single, dual or zoom magnifications.

What are the basic parts of a microscope?

When you are shopping for a microscope, here are some of the basic parts that will effect quality and usefulness:

  • The Eyepiece - is a series of lenses mounted on a barrel at the top of the microscope. This is where the viewer's eye is placed. A monocular microscope has one eyepiece. A binocular microscope has two eyepieces.
  • The Objective Lens - forms the image that is seen through the eyepiece. The objective lens is located at the bottom of the barrel (the eyepiece is at the top). Some microscopes have more than one objective lens, attached to a rotating turret, so the user can choose different magnification powers.
  • The Magnification - of the microscope is determined by multiplying the power of the eyepiece by the power of the objective lens. The lower the magnification number, the brighter and shaper the image and the wider the field of view. Higher magnification means larger but dimmer images and a narrower field of vision.
  • The Stage - of the microscope is where glass slides with specimens are placed for viewing through the lenses.
  • Light - Some microscopes help shed light on the specimen with mirrors, others have a built-in source of light.
  • Focus - The focus control often has two options: fine and coarse.
  • The Condensing Lens - helps concentrate light on the object under view.

What's a digital microscope?

A digital microscope has a built-in digital camera with USB or fire-wire output so you can send the microscope images to a computer to view or store or email. You can also get microscopes with video output.

What kind of microscope should I buy as a gift?

High power microscopes often make better gifts for children or amateurs because they provide a wider range of specimens to explore and investigate.

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