A compound microscope gets its name from the fact that it consists of not just one lens – but multiple double convex lenses. These lenses are positioned near the two ends of the cylindrical hollow tube. Since both lenses magnify, the resultant image you see through the microscope is magnified multiple times. The magnifying powers of the two lenses used, when multiplied one by the other, give you the total magnification that that particular compound microscope provides.
Since the multiple magnifying power can produce greatly detailed images of very small components like tissues and even cells, they can be used for a variety of purposes. However, when choosing a compound microscope, you must be having the purpose in mind. And to ensure it fits your purpose, you need to check if it has the right specs and parts. And to help you understand the different parts, here’s a section that will help you check.
- 1 Compound microscope parts to look out for when buying
- 2 Top 3 Compound Microscopes Reviews
- 3 How to find the best compound microscopes
- 4 Conclusion
Compound microscope parts to look out for when buying
A compound microscope contains many parts. Some are essential and are considered standard parts on all such microscopes. However, certain parts will differ from microscope to microscope. These are the ones you need to look out for. But before we get right into the different parts of the compound microscope, here’s a word on lenses – this is what will give you the key to selecting the magnification power.
Figuring out the magnifying power of a lens
The actual magnification is usually calculated in ‘diameters’. If lens can magnify an object to twice its actual size – the resultant image will be twice in diameter – and the magnifying power of the lens will then be 2 diameters. This is however, simply expressed as 2X. Realistically, when we talk of compound microscopes, the lenses installed in them are usually anywhere from 5X and can go up to 2000X for very strong microscopes. Keep in mind though that the product of the magnifying power of the individual lenses gives you the resultant magnification.
For a compound microscope with:
- Objective lens: 40x
- Eyepiece lens: 10x
- The final magnification will be 400x!
So that’s how it works. The other thing – and a related idea, you should keep in mind is the resolution. When it comes to highly magnified images, unless you have good resolution, the details won’t be clearly visible. This will depend on the wavelength of light you are using for illumination as well as the working distance. Working distance is the distance between the objective lens and the object you are looking at. Both these factors have to be carefully adjusted if you want highly magnified images – and this is where the quality of the parts comes in.
As you can see from the image above – we’ve marked out the different parts. And now we’ll discuss the ones that you need to know about for the time being:
Eyepiece: Choose one where you can see through clearly. This will be important if you are able to use it easily.
Diopter adjustment: If you have myopia, or have a difference in vision between the two eyes – this will be an essential detail to look for. It’ll allow you to adjust for the difference in vision.
Eyepiece lens: This is the first lens – that will provide part of the magnification to the image you see. So its power will count. The usually available options are 10x or 15x.
Objective lenses: As you already know – this is what will multiply the power of the eyepiece lens. And the more magnification you want – the more you want this to be. Of course, with most good compound microscopes you will get a range – because they’ll have multiple objective lenses – the one in the image has 4 as you can see. The different objective lenses will have varying magnifying powers.
Fine adjustment: Coarse adjustment option should be present – because this helps you to focus the image. But much more important is the fine adjustment – and this should be in keeping with your purpose. This allows you to throw the projected image into sharper focus and detail. The more magnification you will need, the better should be the fine adjustment.
Illumination: This is important – as you want one that will provide illumination but without distorting the image. Choose wisely.
Viewing head: This is another factor to consider – the viewing head can differ – you can have monocular (one eyepiece), binocular (2 eyepieces) or trinocular (3 eyepieces). The binoculars are most common, whereas the trinoculars allow a second person to look at the image simultaneously. As for all the other parts, you can find detailed information on all the different parts of a compound microscope here . But when you want to choose a microscope these factors should allow you to decide.
Top 3 Compound Microscopes Reviews
Here’s our brief review on the top 3 products on the market:
1. OMAX 40X-2000X Digital Lab LED Binocular Compound Microscope
Currently, this is one of the top rated compound microscopes available at Amazon. It comes with Mac and PC compatibility. The microscope lends itself perfectly to recording observations because it comes with a built-in 1.3 Megapixel camera. If you have different vision in both eyes, then the good news for you is that this compound microscope also comes with diopter adjustments.
Our Rating: (4.3 / 5)
This microscope comes with a binocular head that has a 45 degree incline and can swivel up to 360 degrees. The 2 included eyepiece sets are of 10x and 20x magnification power. This means that the magnification power can go up quite a bit! Not a surprise then that it comes with 8 levels of magnification. All 4 objective lenses are also achromatic, so no chance of aberration or incorrect color.
As for the other features:
- All lenses are high quality optical glass.
- The objective lenses are as follows:
- Magnification levels you can get:
- Built-in 1.3 Megapixel camera that comes with sophisticated software that connects to a Mac or Pc. This means you can easily transfer or work with all the photos.
- The company gives you a 5 year warranty.
- It also integrates a sliding adjustment feature for interpupillary distance.
- The stage moves up and down, but there’s an upper position lock – this keeps the objectives safe from contamination by coming in contact with the specimen.
- Diopter adjustments can be a great help.
- Coarse and fine co-axial adjustment knobs on both sides.
- Illumination intensity is adjustable.
- Diaphragm and filters are all iris style.
- Condenser with rack and pinion adjustment.
- Abbe Condenser: NA1.25.
2. OMAX 40X-2000X Digital Binocular Biological Compound Microscope
This compound microscope is one of the best microscopes you could invest in, with full 8 levels of magnification. The 4 objectives are all achromatic – so minimal aberration and color correction have already been taken care of.
Our Rating: (4.2 / 5)
As for eyepieces, you get two sets of these – one set of 10x magnification, and the other with 20x magnification. As for connecting the microscope with your Mac or PC, it is compatible and comes with the software required. It is correctly calibrated and doesn’t cost very much. The entire set up is also pretty strong and durable.
As for its features:
- 4 objective lenses are all achromatic and of the following magnification power:
- Magnification levels include:
- Easy to record your observations with the built in 3.0 Megapixel USB camera.
- Comes with 5 year guarantee.
- Illumination from a 20W halogen lamp.
- Adjustable illumination.
- Mechanical stage with 2 layers.
- Allows for co-axial coarse and fine focusing.
- Iris style diaphragm and filters.
- Abbe condenser: NA1.25.
Of course, when you order it at Amazon, you get it for a super saver price as well – because they knock off quite a bit from the list price. They’re currently rated at 4.8 out of 5 stars, pretty favorable really – so long as the microscope matches your requirements.
3. AmScope M500 Monocular Compound Microscope
Yes, it may not have the magnification range of the other OMAX compound microscopes that we are featuring. But then if you have no need for the extra magnification power – this is a better bet. It is also priced lower than the other. As for most of the important features you look for in a good quality compound microscope, they’re all here in this one.
Our Rating: (4.5 / 5)
An ideal buy for students, it is easy to care for and pretty easy to move around. In addition, while it does save on the price of a camera, it does come with compatibility. So as long as you buy the camera you can just connect it to take photographs of your specimens. Comes with a tungsten bulb for illumination – this too you can easily replace with one of the same power or of a different power. While the mechanical stage will not move forward or back, you could just move your slides around. It does, however, move up and down. It comes with both fine and coarse adjustment knobs. This microscope also comes with a green filter and a blue filter, in case you need to look at the specimen through the special filters.
Now for its features:
- It is a monocular lens.
- Easy to record your observations with the built in 3.0 Megapixel USB camera.
- Comes with 5 year guarantee.
- Illumination from tungsten light that has CE and GS approval.
- Mechanical stage that you can lower or raise.
- Framework is metallic and pretty steady.
- Diaphragm and color filter holders are iris style.
- Comes with Abbe Condenser
Currently, this scope has an average 4.7 out of 5 star rating from 73 customers at Amazon. As most of the reviewers attest – this one is the most affordable and best performing microscope in its price bracket – and is a perfect fit for home or school uses.
How to find the best compound microscopes
While we have listed some information here for you, but that doesn’t mean you need to choose your compound microscope from among the ones shown here. You can be your own judge and buy any microscope so long as you know how you can find the best compound microscope available on the market.
And to help you do just that, we’ve included this section on things that you should consider when choosing a compound microscope.
First up, the purpose – What you need it for:
- Is it for school
- Or do you need it professionally
Once you’ve got that straight, it’ll be much easier to choose a microscope. And when making the choice and comparing, these parameters should be your guideline:
- Price range
- Magnification range
- Whether it supports USB outputs
- The strength and durability of the frame
- The kind of lens in use and the lens objective
Let’s look at each factor separately now…
Where price is concerned, for a student, it is wiser to get a compound microscope in the lower ranges. At Amazon such microscopes are available in the $130-250 bracket. If your aim is professional, or for a lab, or even for demonstration to students, then consider the higher resolution ones.
Again, this should be determined by the nature of work. If what you wish to observe will need very high magnification and resolution, then get one that affords these. However, for other purposes that will not require such high resolution and magnification, one that goes up to 1000x, or even 1600x should well suffice.
Whether it supports USB outputs
This is based on whether you intend to use the eyepiece for observation at all times, or you will be hooking it up with a USB monitor, observing on a PC or Mac or taking prints. If you will not need these features, then going for a microscope that doesn’t support these will actually help you save some money.
The strength and durability of the frame
The frame and the head is what all the other components are supported on. This needs to be strong and sturdy so that your microscope is durable. Also how well made it is will determine whether vibrations or temperature fluctuation distort the image you get.
The best options, however, are metal alloy ones.
The kind of lens in use and the lens objective
Optical glass lenses of good and reputable make work best. In addition, check for the scope standard. They are basically of two types – “Deutsche Industrie Norm” (“DIN”) and “Japanese standard” (“JIS”).
The DIN lenses are your best bet, because in the future if you need to get repairs done or want replacements for your microscope, then the DIN lenses will be easier to deal with.
Also when picking lenses, check for achromatic ones – these will minimize image aberration and have color correction built into the lens.
Of course, while you may always to go to the store to buy your compound microscopes, do keep in mind that you’ll probably save quite a bit of money if you get them from Amazon. And there too, while you should always judge according to the buying guide basics, oftentimes, the customer reviews as well as the ratings that have been left may be a good and reliable place to start.
Of the top 3 products that we have reviewed so far, the best is of course the OMAX 40X-2000X Digital Lab LED Binocular Compound Microscope with Built-in 1.3MP USB Camera and Double Layer Mechanical Stage. It comes with quite a few different pluses and advantages that make it win hands down in comparison with the others. Also there’s little doubt that this product is good from the fact that Amazon is selling them very fast.
Though the others we recommended are also pretty good, this one is easily the best compound microscope in its price range. And when investing your money is concerned, you should go for the best.