Since nabbing my old brass Spencer just over a year ago, I've been happily using it to harass the local pond life. I've captured and identified quite a few "animalcules," from bacteria on up through protozoa, rotifers, hydra, etc. However, while I thoroughly enjoy the feel and beauty of antique equipment, I began to wonder if I was handicapping myself in actually seeing the finer details of my little jar dwellers. I've been using more modern wide field eyepieces since you can just plunk them in, but I realized that aside from a few glances at prepared slides in college, I'd never looked through an objective made after 1930. My father's scope I used as a kid in the late 1950's - early 60's was patented in the 1890's. My present Spencer ones had passed the century mark.
My most used objectives were a 10x and a 20x, the 20x hitting a sweet spot, allowing me to chase little creatures through a well slide without crunching the cover slip. It also allowed the use of a 20x eyepiece to give a magnification of 400. (Some would argue vehemently with this, but "empty magnification" is a concept I'm intimately familiar with as a long time amateur astronomer, and I wasn't seeing it here.)
Not wanting to break the bank, I opted for some inexpensive Amscope examples. The 10x was $16.99, supposedly marked down from 33.99, and the 20x was 22.99, supposedly marked down from 45.99. These aren't top of the line, most likely Chinese made, but I figured they'd do, and I probably wouldn't notice the flatter field etc, of more expensive objectives. But I may be wrong.
For the last few days, I've been mounting the objectives next to each other so that I can compare views as best as possible. This takes a little fiddling, since the old and new objectives obviously aren't parfocal with each other. I've been comparing views of cilia, flagella, and any other details that may give a hint at the limits of my powers of observation. This morning, I spent most of an hour flipping back and forth looking at the straight tufts of cilia on a fascinating Floscularia from a local pond. And so far, I've seen very little difference. I'd been expecting to see some advantage in the newer objectives. Maybe in contrast, due to modern coatings, versus no coatings at all. No, they aren't top of the line, most likely Chinese made, but they aren't 100 years old either. I didn't have to disassemble them to dump the dirt out, and they've never been wiped off by some Philistine that didn't appreciate the delicacy of such matters.
So there it stands. Right now, I'm leaning toward mounting the new objectives on my old Spencer just to save the beautiful lacquered brass finish from constantly being nudged around by my grubby fingers. No, they don't look right, but nobody ever goes down in my little room anyway. But... I don't know.
Anyway, did I run a fair comparison? Were my antique Spencers really that good? Should I opt for more expensive modern objectives? Any advise, insults, or name calling would be greatly appreciated.