Advantages of Koehler Illumination
Found in: Theory


Koehler illumination offers a range of advantages over “critical illumination”. Illumination is more uniform, specimen heating is reduced as well as light reflections for photographic work. Some microscopes are equipped with a field diaphragm in the light source. This Koehler illumination, while not absolutely required for simple microscopic work conducted in schools, does offer several advantages:

  • Uniform specimen illumination: Before the advent of Koehler illumination, a diffusing glass was placed over the light bulb. This had the disadvantage of reducing the light spectrum.
  • Reduction in specimen heating: A heated specimen increases evaporation of the water beneath the cover slip and also reduces the dissolved oxygen, a potential problem when viewing live organisms.
  • Reduction of light reflections in photographic work: Excessive light is eliminated reducing reflections inside the optical system. As a consequence the contrast of the photographic image increases.

The Koehler field diaphragm is designed to restrict the light beam only on this part of the specimen which is actually observed. Especially at high magnifications only a very small part of the specimen needs to be illuminated.


An opened field iris diaphragm increases the width of the light beam. This setting is used for low magnifications (large field of view)


An closed field diaphragm decreases the width of the light beam.


A closed field diaphragm.


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