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Suggestions for entry level monocular microscope?

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#1 sarastro


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Posted 20 December 2020 - 09:40 PM



I'm looking for an entry level monocular microscope. I have a vision issue in which I only focus with one eye at a time. I don't have stereoscopic vision so no point in paying for the extra optics. Swift, Omax, Amscope, etc. all look pretty much the same to me. Does any particular brand have a reputation for higher quality? A vintage microscope would be fine, but on places like ebay it's a real crapshoot as to what you're getting. 


Any advice on brands and features I should look for will be greatly appreciated.



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Posted 20 December 2020 - 10:56 PM

Astromart has a great Microscope section in their classifieds. I've bought about five vintage B&L, AO, etc. and all are wonderful!    Tom

#3 db2005



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Posted 22 December 2020 - 09:52 AM

Today there are 4 "major" brands of very high quality microscope, which are (in arbitrary order): Zeiss, Leica, Olympus, Nikon, colloqually referred to as The Big Four. In addition there are many brands which primarily rebadge Chinese-made microscopes/components and sell them under their own name, such as Euromex, Novex, Optika, Swift, Omax, Amscope, Sagitta, Bresser, Celestron, Vixen... you get the picture. This is not to mean these are all identical, as they have different levels of QC and are targeted at different segments and may be sourced at different Chinese factories. Chinese microscopes can be fine microscopes indeed, but as with anything else in life you get what you pay for. Microscopes from "the Big Four" are almost invariably pretty expensive even for entry level models (think 500-1500+ USD for entry level models), while rebadged Chinese microscopes are much more affordable. Lower price means some concessions are necessarily made.


Buying used equipment allows you get to get a much better microscope for a given amount of money. Microscopes are often sold well below intrinsic value by institutions wanting to upgrade to the latest technology. 50 years old microscopes are routinely sold at 10-20% of original list value adjusted for inflation, and if well looked after and maintained will work like a new microscope. If looking for older microscope I'd advise sticking to old quality brands like Zeiss, Leitz (Leica today), Olympus, Nikon, Reichert, and a few more. Avoid "toy" microscopes like the plague. IME they rarely have optics that justify using more than 40x magnification even if they advertise 1000x or more.


Features to look for:

  • If buying used, buy from a reputable dealer, and reserve the right to return the microscope. You'll pay a premium for this, but unless you know how to service and evaluate old equipment yourself it's worth the premium.
  • 160mm tube length (DIN 160 mm objectives) used to be a defacto standard for many years, allowing users to interchange microscope optics between stands of different brands. Alas, no more: Microscope makers have since switched to infinity systems which are all different and not compatible between brands. Older microscopes using the 160 mm standard allow for easier sourcing of replacement optics. Please note that Leitz used 170 mm tubes for many years before switching to 160 mm like everybody else. The 170mm Leitz optics have a good reputation nonetheless, and can be had relatively inexpensively.
  • Mechanical crosstable for moving the specimen.
  • Real condenser with iris diaphragm and filter holder (which will make it easy to experiment with DIY darkfield, oblique illumination and Rheinberg illumination). You will want this.
  • High-eyepoint eyepiece if you wish to wear eyeglasses while working with the microscope.
  • Halogen light source.
  • A microscope with inclined tube and focusing which works by raising and lowering the specimen table rather than the tube. The older A-frame style went out of fashion around WW2 and has pretty bad ergonomics if you are working with live water critters because you'll need to keep the table horizontal and look vertically down the eyepiece.

Specific examples of what I would consider good entry-level microscopes: Olympus CH, Zeiss Standard, Including Zeiss Standard Junior. Other posters, more knowledgeable than me, may chime in with many more options. You don't mention a specific budget, but it's safe to assume that around 300 USD will buy you a very decent microscope which is worth much more than any factory-new microscope costing much more. In terms of optical performance, thirty to fifty years old standard quality optics IME surpass the performance of factory-new entry level optics.


And a final note:


The microscope's objective is the microscope. Everything else on the microscope is there to make sure the specimens is aligned and illuminated properly for the objective to do its work and to present you with a magnified view of the image formed by the objective. This is the reason why sticking to DIN 160 mm objectives is preferable if buying second-hand or new microscopes: it allows you to later upgrade the optics with better quality second-hand objectives, like plan achromat, fluor or even apo, without having to upgrade the rest of the microscope.





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#4 sarastro


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Posted 22 December 2020 - 03:28 PM

Thanks for that detailed post.

I think an older 160 standard microscope would be a good choice.

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#5 frank5817



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Posted 23 December 2020 - 12:30 PM

I will suggest what I suggested to my microbiology students over the last 40 years that wanted to buy a microscope. Contact the biological science departments of local universities and colleges in your area and get the names of the vendors that do microscope cleaning and repair. Most of  these vendors have refurbished microscopes of good quality they will be willing to sell to you.

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#6 kosmosoved


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Posted 10 February 2021 - 12:08 PM

Hello! Perhaps you will be interested in a Soviet microscope LOMO in excellent condition? The microscope has 4 lenses, a wide-angle eyepiece that allows you to take photos with your phone. Objectives: 8x, 20x, 40x and 90x (immersion). Eyepiece: 10x. 


Total price: 100$ (excluding delivery)


Best regards, Constantine!

#7 j.gardavsky



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Posted 10 February 2021 - 03:56 PM

Hello sarastro,


I am with db as above in the post #3.


Years ago, I have decided for the old Leitz Dialux binoviewer micoscope


to complement my ZEISS stereo microscope, and the choice has turned out to be very good.


Before choosing a microscope, download the users manuals.

Before buying a microscope, check out the included accessories, as they maylater cost as much as the microscope itself. Leitz used to make very good APO objectives, and even the Fluoride objectives (not full APOs) are still very good.


The Leitz Dialux, as that one in my equipment, costs typically around $200 in Germany.

Upgrading with the APOs and Fluoride objectives for the microphotography cost me about another $600, but the standard objectives are already super for visual use.

(The pic of the snow agate in my gallery has been made with one of the standard Leitz objectives.)




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#8 Javier1978



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Posted 12 February 2021 - 10:15 AM

I recommend this video:




and this scope:




Make sure not to buy the cheaper models with short objectives. I made that mistake and the optical quality is not that good.


This is about what you can expect from this scope, using a basic cellphone adapter:




Good luck!

#9 Javier1978



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Posted 12 February 2021 - 10:23 AM

From Oliver's video, the only part that I don't agree is getting a 60 x dry objective. They are quite difficult to use for begginers. If any, a good adittion would by a 20 x in the future.

Edited by Javier1978, 12 February 2021 - 10:24 AM.

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