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Two choices for microscopes: legendary and Chinese

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#1 semiosteve


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Posted 02 September 2013 - 03:53 PM


I am thinking about buying a decent compound microscope for studying protozoa (cloudy night desperation). I have an old Unitron MK 473XX currently.

I just want a good experience at the eyepiece; relaxed well illuminated, views that are reasonably flat not narrow. For perspective, I am not a "space walk" eyepiece fanatic with my telescope. Sold my "Terminagler" and am happier with more modest, but flatter FOV EP's.

I've watched the telescope market evolve for almost 50 years, and I must admit it feels pretty hard to understand the amateur web community perception of compound scope choices.

As far as I can tell from a week of web surfing on the topic, my choices boil down to used legendary microscopes from Zeiss, Nikon, Olympus or Leica starting well over $1k to start OR recent Chinese scopes (Amscope or Omano) at $500 to $1k.

Most of the sites tend to recommend only the former. In fact, only at this forum have I found any discussion of the latter.

If I've missed something on what options are viable, I hope someone here might help me, but the choices seem pretty 2 dimensional, with a strong undercurrent of " if it ain't one of the Big 4 and didn't cost well into thousands, don't bother."

Bottom Line? After a week of web surfing I'm more discouraged than enlightened. Maybe I'll just buy a better light for the old Unitron...sigh.




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Posted 03 September 2013 - 06:12 AM

Hi Steve,
Don't Despair yet. I was Exactly in Your Situation a few month ago. ( I chose to get an Old (but not so legendary) Zeiss AxioStar Plus because I got a great Deal on one including a Vid camera). You can see the description of what I went through a couple of posts below yours.- I recommendc that you read it.

I think you should not hurry in making a decision here and go by the following steps:
1) Define Your observing needs - Brightfield, Darkfield, Phase contrast, DIC, Fluorescence, and whether you want to do Photography with Your Microscope.
2) Decide What your Budjet is for the Microscope.
3) Look for what new chinese brand Microscope satisfies your needs and falls within your budjet.
4) Lurk on eBay to see if you can find a good old microscope that will satisfy your needs and still fall within your budget. - This is the step that requires most patience and quick reflexes to act if you find a good deal.

5) If your needs are modest just darkfield and brightfield visual observastion with NO photomicrography - and there is no chance you would want to expand in the future). I would recommend getting a binocular Amscope or OMAX compound microscope. These are reputed to be of good (but not excellent) optical and mechanical quality. The local Amscope vendor in the US has good service, so you cannot realy make a big mistake here. Just Make sure you get with it a good pair of widefield 10X 20mm eyepieces and verify that the condenser can do Darkfield.
Dont be impressed by unreasonable magnifications like X2000. This is rubbish promo stuff as almost no one uses anything above X600 with Normal (non-oil immersion)objectives. Most of the practical visual observing will be at Maximum X600 unless you want to study bacteria which is where the x100 Oil Objective comes in. Anything above X1000 magnification, is not practical and should not be taken into consideration.
Also check the optical arrangement and choose a 160mm standard tube length because this is quite adequate for simple purposes and it is cheaper and has an active market for compatible used parts like objectives, eyepieces, etc.
If you go for the newer Infinity corrected optics (ICS) you will give up a lot of flexibility because you become locked to getting only proprietary objectives from the scope manufacturer. However, If you decide on a Used Microscope from the Old Big Four, You may want to reconsider this, if a good deal comes on an ICS type system ( You would still be locked to getting only proprietary parts for your system so be careful as parts may be very expensive even when they are used on eBay).
Regarding Objectives, get some good ones (at least Plan-achromatic objectives for good color correction and planarity of field. Do not go for cheaper non-planachromatic objectives to save a few dollars, you will not enjoy them, particularly at high magnifications)
Regarding Lighting system - I recommend getting Kohler Illumination here, if possible, because it is important to good lighting and maximizing optical performance. But I also recommend not getting LED illumination but stick with plain old Halogen Lamp illumination (Halogen has better color spectral spread and the LED light and particularely Blue enhanced LEDS may damage your retina).
Hope this helps a bit. :grin:

If you have any other questions, Shoot !

#3 semiosteve


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Posted 03 September 2013 - 12:10 PM


I think it was your posts on both your original Amscope consideration and your subsequent Zeiss choice that got me thinking of this as a "legendary vs Chinese" either/or situation.

I was in fact tempted to go with your own original choice of an Amscope 490PCT if not for it costing about twice what I would prefer to sink into this "astro-withdrawal" cloudy sky fallback hobby.

You have given me some great things to look for that will help a lot.

Just wish I could find more posts of happy Amscope users somewhere. And of course I note that you yourself choice the other path in the end...



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Posted 03 September 2013 - 06:41 PM

Steve,I indeed chose the other path because of two reasons.
First I wanted a do it all microscope that would also allow me to do microphotography of bright field , dark field and possibly later phase contrast or even better DIC. I think the Zeiss can do it better than an amscope .
I got a very reasonable Deal on the microscope which was only slightly more expensive than an equivalent Amscope.
if you just want good performance on visual bright field on a limited budget, I think a new medium level Amscope will Do quite well.
if you want more than that choose a used Big four brand name and be prepared to pay significantly more.
As everything in life this involves giving up something in exchange for something else. There is no perfect solution to your dillema :lol:

#5 Mentor


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Posted 12 November 2013 - 12:44 AM

I purchased an Amscope trinocular with a field iris for Kohler illumination. Very happy with it. Optically and mechanically it is solid, certainly not the limiting factor in my observing to date.

Amscope's service was impressive as well. One of my objectives arrived with a tiny clamshell chip. Also one set of objectives had an OD too large to fit into the eyepiece tubes. I informed Amscope and they sent replacements for both, no questions asked, and they did not even want the damaged items returned.

I also got a 3 MP camera for the trinocular port, to show my 5 year old son some views in a more comfortable fashion than through the eyepieces. After some initial struggles I got the amera working well. The stock software is not very user friendly, but workable.

For the price differential, I can recommend Amscope without hesitation. They make fine instruments and stand behind them. Thge "legendary", unless purchased as vintage used pieces, are also Chinese, so there really is little distinction other than price.

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