Microscope Buying Tips

Microscope Buying Tips

1. Buy only what you need. High schoolers don't need a magnification of more than 400x unless they want the capability of seeing down to intra-cellular levels. The most commonly sold magnification in microscopy is 400x. Going to 1000x not only increases the expense of the microscope, but also the complexity of operation and maintenance. 1000x microscopes must have stronger light sources, iris diaphragm, and an oil immersion objective which requires a particular type of oil to properly focus. Online Science Mall sells 1000x microscopes, but we do not feel that the average user needs these.

2. Be wary of claims on magnification ranges. Many sales companies claim to sell microscopes with ranges up to, or over, 1000x. They are using mathematical computations that are inadequate for judging the magnification performance of the microscope. A 16x objective used with a 100x objective should mathematically produce 1600x (16 x 100 = 1600). High-level magnification isn't that simple. The light level of microscopy is limited to around 1000x. The higher the magnification, the less light is available for viewing. Anything over 1000x would require the brightness of the sun. This is the reason light microscopes for decades have had a 1000x limit. If you choose to buy a microscope advertised as having 1500x or 1600x magnification, you are paying for about 500x that cannot be used.

3. Pictures can be deceiving. Check descriptions closely for sizes. Small elementary school scopes listed at low prices are often bought with the customer believing that he or she is buying a normal sized scope, after viewing a misleading picture. Most “normal” sized microscopes are 14 to 16 inches in height.

4. Be hesitant before adjusting factory settings. The biggest problems with focusing occurs when customers re-adjust stops, which prevent the focus travels from moving into the focus range.

5. Warranties are only as reliable as the companies that offer them. We only buy from companies that have been in business longer than we have. We repair most microscopes at our facility. Factory repair is only for major problems or more complicated procedures.

6. Buy the microscope that better suits your uses. If you are going to view rocks or coins, a stereomicroscope is adequate. A compound microscope is used for viewing slides.

We get numerous questions every week requesting assistance in choosing appropriate scopes for specific purposes. If you have a specific purpose or need, be sure to e-mail us at CustomerService@onlinesciencemall.com. Mike McNamara, one of the owner of Online Science Mall, has a vast background in laboratory supplies and equipment. He has been in the business since 1976. He also worked as a researcher for the USDA as a microscopist, at both the light and electron levels. He would be glad to help in any way possible if any problems or questions arise.