Looking for first microscope

Do you have any microscopy questions, which you are afraid to ask? This is your place.
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sbaum
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Looking for first microscope

#1 Post by sbaum » Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:31 am

Greetings everyone!

I've been looking through many posts on the Beginner's corner trying to make sure I'm well informed before making my first post. I was hesitant to post because there are a bunch of these "help me find a telescope" posts, however none quite matched what I was looking for. My brain is now jumbled mess of various microscope brands and terms! I need help!

I'm mostly interested in studying pond life, at least at first. I'm sure other things will interest me before long. Before coming to this forum I did a good amount of research on new microscopes in my budget (~$450 US).

The one I was considering was the OMAX M837TL (appears to be the M837L with an extra set of eyepieces). I specifically was looking at the option that came with a darkfield condenser and a 3 MP camera (link). The main reason I was considering that model was because it was a full-size model which meant I could add accessories to it in the future if I felt the need (ex: phase contrast kit). Another reason I liked it was because it was trinocular and I would love to hook the camera up to the computer so me and my sons could explore the micro world together without needing to take turns looking through the binoculars.

With all that said, I've got a couple questions:
  1. I know OMAX is a Chinese "stencil" (I believe someone called it) brand, but what would be the biggest downsides of purchasing this as my first scope?
  2. Do I need the trinocular design to be able to watch specimens on a computer screen, or can I get a binocular design and somehow mount a camera to one of the eyepieces, and hook that up to the computer?
  3. Is there a better "cheaper" option for a camera that we can use to view on the computer? I saw some recommendations on Amazon to use an ELP usb camera (something like this I think) but I'm not sure how to mount it to the microscope.
One note on the camera, I'm not really that interested in taking pictures with the camera, it would mostly be for live-viewing with my kids. If I am observing alone I think I would just use the binoculars.

Lastly, It seems that a consistent recommendation from the experts here is to look to buy a quality used scope. My biggest fear with that is that I have no idea what would be good to buy. I have seen some of the brand names thrown around (like Zeiss, Leitz, American Optical, etc) and I see some of those on ebay but I'm not sure which ones are worth taking the plunge on. My other concern is finding accessories to upgrade them with. My final concern is that I'm not handy enough to fix or maintain some of the older models.

I appreciate any input on you have. I'm anxious to purchase my first scope and get into this hobby, however I want to make an informed decision. :)

Steve

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75RR
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#2 Post by 75RR » Tue Mar 06, 2018 6:52 am

Hi sbaum,

1) Just about every new microscope that is not one of the big four is a Chinese "stencil" microscope. They are all pretty much the same.
So the issue is not Omax or Amscope or whatever, the issue is how you decide to take your first step into amateur microscopy.

2) You can connect the USB camera to one of the binocular ports (you can also connect it to a monocular) - it is however much more convenient to be able to do it through a trinocular port.

3) If your goal is to share what you can see through the microscope with your kids - a USB camera is probably the best way to go.


It is important if your first microscope is to be a Chinese "stencil" microscope, that you keep the price as low as possible.

https://www.amazon.com/OMAX-40X-2500X-T ... microscope

Here is a link to an article that will hopefully help clarify a few things for you: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art ... oscope.pdf
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#3 Post by Hobbyst46 » Tue Mar 06, 2018 9:47 am

Hi sbaum

Option of a used microscope (especially if it is an old one) -
It would be best if you could touch it and check it a little bit before buying. So you will reveal any major mechanical or optical issue.
Upgrades are in general expensive, each might be of the same order of magnitude as your current budget. Microscope components are much more expensive when bought separately.

Option of a new microscope -
Verify that customer service is readily available.
Verify that upgrade accessories exist and know their prices.

In any case:
1. Buy a trinocular or at least a binocular scope. Avoid monocular scopes - they are not good for any prolonged watching. And the camera does not replace the eyepieces.
2. Upgrade possibilities are far less important than ease of use, good optics and good photography accessories - including the camera software. There is a high chance that on the long range, you will prefer to move to a higher-level scope than upgrade the one you have.

Good luck
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#4 Post by apochronaut » Tue Mar 06, 2018 4:34 pm

Upgrading a cheap stencil microscope is like adding velveeta to a baloney sandwich on white bread, to make it more nutritious. The on-line purveyors of stencil microscopes have literally slathered the internet with hundreds of options that are so similar, that it confuses novices. Best to ask a lot of questions about microscopes and read a lot of the explanatory sites before making a decision.

My advice is always , that if you are thinking you might want to alter your microscope's performance parameters in the future then , buy used and buy carefully and ask questions. If you are just buying a bright field microscope for light use and or for educational purposes then one of the stencil ones will probably do.

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#5 Post by amanda1 » Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:05 pm

look at this microscope, I would choose OMAX rather than Amscope, but opinions are different about this: https://www.amazon.com/OMAX-40X-1600X-T ... MAX+M837TL , Also for your reseacrh I would suggest this program, no advertising, you can read about it here, good software: http://alelso.com/projects/altami-studio/

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#6 Post by Charles » Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:20 pm

Here is your best option in a used microscope which will out perform any of those Chinese made scopes. This is a research grade Zeiss WL trinocular phase microscope at a very good price.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Carl-ZeissTrin ... SwwkFanxEZ

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#7 Post by Hobbyst46 » Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:31 pm

Sbaum
The WL shown in the link appears to be a very good option. These are all brass and steel reliable mechanics and the optics are very good according to my experience. The Leitz eyepiece in the phototube might be a good feature, depending on how you will connect the camera. A manual is easily available but it is very simple to use.
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#8 Post by apochronaut » Wed Mar 07, 2018 12:00 am

Good call, Charles. Seems a nice fairly complete microscope for 450.00 + shipping. Minimal wear on the stage, transformer and even the enamel looks newish. Unless you were buying into a better Motic( at multiples of that price), I don't think any Chinese, commonly available microscope would top that, irregardless of price.

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#9 Post by sbaum » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:36 am

Thank you very much for all the replies!
75RR wrote: https://www.amazon.com/OMAX-40X-2500X-T ... microscope

Here is a link to an article that will hopefully help clarify a few things for you: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art ... oscope.pdf
That article was excellent. It outlines nicely why I was hesitant to buying used but also gives good reasons to possibly try out a new Chinese model. I believe I looked at the model you suggested and was hesitant to get that in case I wanted to purchase a phase contrast kit later. However, as apochronaut stated, it might not be the best choice to buy these higher priced accessories for these lower-quality microscopes. I think if I go the "new" route I might try this one instead of the $450 one.
Hobbyst46 wrote: Option of a new microscope -
Verify that customer service is readily available.
Verify that upgrade accessories exist and know their prices.
The main reason I was leaning towards OMAX instead of AmScope was because I kept coming across reviews for AmScope that stated their customer service was terrible. I didn't see that trend in the OMAX reviews.
Hobbyst46 wrote: In any case:
1. Buy a trinocular or at least a binocular scope. Avoid monocular scopes - they are not good for any prolonged watching. And the camera does not replace the eyepieces.
2. Upgrade possibilities are far less important than ease of use, good optics and good photography accessories - including the camera software. There is a high chance that on the long range, you will prefer to move to a higher-level scope than upgrade the one you have.
Thanks for this advice. My initial thinking was to buy a microscope that I could upgrade as my interest climbed. However it might be better to get a cheaper microscope first and then if I find that I'm getting serious with it I could look for a quality used microscope.
apochronaut wrote:Upgrading a cheap stencil microscope is like adding velveeta to a baloney sandwich on white bread, to make it more nutritious. The on-line purveyors of stencil microscopes have literally slathered the internet with hundreds of options that are so similar, that it confuses novices. Best to ask a lot of questions about microscopes and read a lot of the explanatory sites before making a decision.

My advice is always , that if you are thinking you might want to alter your microscope's performance parameters in the future then , buy used and buy carefully and ask questions. If you are just buying a bright field microscope for light use and or for educational purposes then one of the stencil ones will probably do.
Note taken. What would you say is the biggest differences between a stencil microscope and a "quality" used microscope? Are the optical differences really that noticeable? I know that the stencils have plastic on them but it is my understanding that the mechanical pieces are metal which is important.
amanda1 wrote:look at this microscope, I would choose OMAX rather than Amscope, but opinions are different about this: https://www.amazon.com/OMAX-40X-1600X-T ... MAX+M837TL , Also for your reseacrh I would suggest this program, no advertising, you can read about it here, good software: http://alelso.com/projects/altami-studio/
I believe that is the link I put in my original post. :) Do you have that microscope or another OMAX? Thanks for the link to the software. I will check it out.
Charles wrote:Here is your best option in a used microscope which will out perform any of those Chinese made scopes. This is a research grade Zeiss WL trinocular phase microscope at a very good price.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Carl-ZeissTrin ... SwwkFanxEZ
Thanks for the link. With shipping that puts the price right around $525. It doesn't come with a camera so if I went with a cheap 0.3 MP camera that would bring the total up to around $565. That's about $100 more than my initial budget. I'm not totally opposed to going this route. It's listed as a Phase Contrast microscope. Does that mean I can't do brightfield viewing with it? What kind of illumination does that have? It was my understanding the LED is generally preferable since it doesn't get hot.

When looking on ebay are there certain models I should be looking at for the big 4 in my price range? Or is every Zeiss/Leitz/etc model a good choice if it looks to be in good working condition?

Thanks again for all the responses!

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#10 Post by 75RR » Wed Mar 07, 2018 5:45 am

Thanks for the link. With shipping that puts the price right around $525. It doesn't come with a camera so if I went with a cheap 0.3 MP camera that would bring the total up to around $565. That's about $100 more than my initial budget. I'm not totally opposed to going this route. It's listed as a Phase Contrast microscope. Does that mean I can't do brightfield viewing with it? What kind of illumination does that have? It was my understanding the LED is generally preferable since it doesn't get hot.
This microscope at that price + shipping is the sort of microscope you would hope to find when you had gained a little experience, fallen in love with microscopy and decided to venture into quality used microscope territory.

Brightfield is the default viewing mode, so in this case you get Phase + Brightfield.
Led is not necessarily better, though it does run cooler.

You will love Phase:
http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/ind ... phase.html
http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art ... phase.html
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#11 Post by sbaum » Wed Mar 07, 2018 6:48 am

75RR wrote: This microscope at that price + shipping is the sort of microscope you would hope to find when you had gained a little experience, fallen in love with microscopy and decided to venture into quality used microscope territory.
I'm actually very close to taking the plunge on this. It sounds like this is a pretty good price so if later I decided to sell (because of losing interest) I could recoup some of my investment back. Is there anything else I should be aware of with this microscope? The only thing I thought of is that it could be expensive to get some different objectives in the future? It looks like magnification is 100x-160x-400x. I checked some Zeiss 100x objectives and they run upwards of $90.
Last edited by sbaum on Wed Mar 07, 2018 7:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#12 Post by 75RR » Wed Mar 07, 2018 6:59 am

I'm actually very close to taking the plunge on this. It sounds like this is a pretty good price so if later I decided to sell (because of losing interest) I could recoup some of my investment back.
You should pretty much get all of it back.
Is there anything else I should be aware of with this microscope?
It is an advanced research microscope - that means that you can upgrade it pretty much as far as you want.
It also means that there are a lot of fiddly bits that need to be adjusted.
Which makes it a big step up from a chinese "stencil" and therefore a double step up (i.e. quite challenging) as your first microscope.

It is also one of the most beautiful microscopes out there.
The only thing I thought of is that it could be expensive to get some different objectives in the future? It looks like magnification is 100x-160x-400x. I checked some Zeiss 100x objectives and they run upwards of $90.
The price of Zeiss objectives is comparable with those of other major brands. You could sell the non Phase 10x and put the money towards another objective. I would start with either a 25x or a 6.3x rather than a 100x. You will get more use out of them.

You may find this article interesting: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art ... iss-WL.pdf
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#13 Post by Hobbyst46 » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:36 pm

Sbaum:

Illumination: the original lamps of these standard scopes were incandescent, tungsten 6V 15W. Supplied with a transformer power supply. As show in the link that Charles found. Or a similar one.
The lamp resides inthe base but behind collector optics. It is not too near the stage and the slide. So it is unlikely that your slide will be heated by the light beam.

What becomes warm though is the power supply itself. In general with those microscopes and lamps, the common recommendation was to avoid setting the power supply at its maximum setpoint, unless you really needed it for observation or photography. In other words, when you take a break from the scope, set the voltage to a low setpoint.

Later Zeiss models were fitted with halogen lamps, up to 100W, which were better but I do not know if they fit the standard like WL. The standard has Kohler illumination owing to a specific location of the bulb within the base, near the collector optics.

LED upgrade is possible but I would use the scope with its original lamp as long as possible. Do not jump into such upgrade before you are familiar with the scope and the quality of the eyeviews and camera photos.

Objectives for this model are often found at modest prices, even below 50 USD for plan achromats.

For viewing cells, for example, a good 63x/1.25 or 63x/1.4 is in my opinion a more useful immersion than a 100x of the same NA.
Last edited by Hobbyst46 on Wed Mar 07, 2018 7:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#14 Post by sbaum » Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:01 pm

I purchased it this morning. :) I'm really looking forward to using it. Do you know of a good resource for me to read about this particular model? The first thing I plan on doing it just looking over all the different parts and understanding what they do. I'm looking at the virtual build article you posted 75RR. Lots of good info in there about the different parts. Are there other things I should do when I first receive it?

Thanks again for all the expert advice. I feel like I made a good choice but still have a lot to learn. I'm looking forward to the challenge!

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#15 Post by Charles » Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:20 pm

Congratulations!

If you give me your email, I can send you the manual.

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#16 Post by Charles » Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:38 pm

sbaum wrote: I'm looking at the virtual build article you posted 75RR. Lots of good info in there about the different parts.
As you can see from the build article, if you broke it down and sold all the pieces, you would get twice your money back from this scope. It's wonderful scope which you can grow with and expand.

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#17 Post by 75RR » Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:05 pm

Congratulations
If I did not already have one I would be jealous. ;)

Here is a little reading: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=4323
Good rundown of what parts are available. Just about everything in that brochure will fit on your microscope.
Read the intro as well, lots of good info.
+
Microscopy Primer:
http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/index.h ... uk/primer/
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#18 Post by Hobbyst46 » Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:19 pm

Congratulations. A very good decision.
Some tips: it comes in parts as I have seen. Some parts are dovetail with thumb screws. Others are screw threads. Assemble them slowly, with patience. Do not force anything - threads are dense and fine. Insertion of dovetails is against spring loaded pins. Do not start using tools and do not lubricate - If in doubt about anything - ask first. Clean glass surfaces only after you know the rules ( find them in any primer book or in posts in this forum).
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#19 Post by apochronaut » Wed Mar 07, 2018 3:44 pm

apochronaut wrote:Upgrading a cheap stencil microscope is like adding velveeta to a baloney sandwich on white bread, to make it more nutritious. The on-line purveyors of stencil microscopes have literally slathered the internet with hundreds of options that are so similar, that it confuses novices. Best to ask a lot of questions about microscopes and read a lot of the explanatory sites before making a decision.

My advice is always , that if you are thinking you might want to alter your microscope's performance parameters in the future then , buy used and buy carefully and ask questions. If you are just buying a bright field microscope for light use and or for educational purposes then one of the stencil ones will probably do.
Note taken. What would you say is the biggest differences between a stencil microscope and a "quality" used microscope? Are the optical differences really that noticeable? I know that the stencils have plastic on them but it is my understanding that the mechanical pieces are metal which is important.
[/quote]

I think that was a good choice, given that your stated budget was about what that Zeiss cost you.
To answer your question above, about the differences. I go back to catalogues from Chinese manufacturers from the 80's. They are quite splashy, with full page colour photos. Although, many contemporary Chinese microscopes have changed cosmetically, from the 80's, with what would be called more ergonomic designs; basically copying the lead of the Japanese and Germans ; in order to keep the cost down, they have replaced some parts that would have formerly been made of aluminum with some plastic and nylon parts. The fit and finish of the parts is below what would be acceptable from a major maker, in some cases. There is no doubt that the Q.C. standards are lower. You will occasionally find questions on this forum from members who have bought new Chinese microscopes and within a short period, after they know more and expect more of their chosen model, the lack of precision becomes a problem and failures of some functions begin to take place.
The noticeable thing about the microscopes in those catalogues is that the same objectives are still in production and show up on the OMAX and Amscope models today. It is theoretically possible that they have made some improvements in the coatings but they are still making 160mm achromat and planachromat designs from the 1980's and they were not comparable to those made by the major companies then! They would have been putting their efforts into infinity corrected optics, from then until now anyway, and having tested quite a few of them against better than average infinity corrected optics made up to about the year 2000, they fall dismally short in contrast, parcentering, planarity and I would also say resolution. They might be as good as some poorer quality optics from the 1990's but I can't really think of who would have made those, except those from China. It's fast production line stuff, made to meet a minimum quality for cheap sale.

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#20 Post by 75RR » Thu Mar 08, 2018 5:42 am

Hobbyst46 wrote: Some tips: it comes in parts as I have seen. Some parts are dovetail with thumb screws. Others are screw threads. Assemble them slowly, with patience. Do not force anything - threads are dense and fine. Insertion of dovetails is against spring loaded pins. Do not start using tools and do not lubricate - If in doubt about anything - ask first. Clean glass surfaces only after you know the rules ( find them in any primer book or in posts in this forum).
Excellent advice. Could not agree more!

Couple of links:

viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1428

viewtopic.php?f=15&t=4731

Fun Köhler alignment tutorial. Tip: Start by aligning the filament first.
http://zeiss-campus.magnet.fsu.edu/tuto ... flash.html
Last edited by 75RR on Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#21 Post by apochronaut » Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:40 am

A decent article covering repair and maintenance.

http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/ind ... epair.html

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#22 Post by Nance » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:56 pm

great ending to this story - read it with increasing tension to see which scope
he would choose!!

GREAT CHOICE - a scope that you can most likely pass on
down through your generations, with it retaining consistent quality...
one that was manufactured by a well-paid craftsman, not a
mistreated factory slave. you've spent your dollars well.

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#23 Post by sbaum » Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:54 pm

Thank you everyone for all the links. I started reading through some of them last night which lead to more questions and research. I'm sure I'll have some more questions.

One thing that immediately popped out at me is how modular the Zeiss is. Is this true of all their microscopes or just certain models?

I'm still not exactly sure how to define the "model" I purchased. Is is based off the stand? I believe the stand I bought is called a standard WL. I did some searching on the forum and also saw other Zeiss stands like the standard 18, the Junior, and the GFL. Is there a good website that shows the different models of Zeiss microscopes? Is "model" even the correct term?
Nance wrote:great ending to this story - read it with increasing tension to see which scope
he would choose!!

GREAT CHOICE - a scope that you can most likely pass on
down through your generations, with it retaining consistent quality...
one that was manufactured by a well-paid craftsman, not a
mistreated factory slave. you've spent your dollars well.
I almost didn't post on this forum because I am a bit shy and didn't want to ask stupid questions. However, with the amount of money I was going to spend I wanted to make sure. I'm very glad I did!

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#24 Post by billbillt » Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:30 pm

Hi,

There are some problems with delamination on some of the Zeiss objectives.. Zeiss went through a bad period at one time.. I am sure there are folks here that know a lot about it, just something to be aware of..

BillT

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#25 Post by Hobbyst46 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:42 pm

sbaum

Google the string "Zeiss, Winkel und Standard" and you will find a short history of these Standard models, in German.
In spite of the photos in that document, there can be a minor confusion between the WL and GFL, for example the shape of the base might be round or oblong, but they are mostly negligible. On one model the nosepiece (objective turret) is fixed, on another it is interchangable, can be easily removed and replaced.

Parts are mostly interchangeable among the Standards. The objectives are even interchangeable with larger scopes like the Universal. They are all 160mm objectives - not infinity corrected.
Delamination might be a problem with eyepieces, not just objectives. However, from my experience, most used optics are fine.
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#26 Post by Charles » Thu Mar 08, 2018 5:02 pm

Zeiss models are varied. They are all considered Standard from the very large Ulraphots to the small KF-2 and they all can interchange heads, eye pieces, objectives, stages, condensers and lighting. The research grade Standards are the Ultraphots, Photomicroscopes, Universals and the smallest is the WL (black and white bodies). Student grade are the older Juniors (black body) and newer KF-2s (white body). Then in between you have GFL (black) and models 14-20, each with varied configurations. Such as the 14s have in base illuminators and the objective turrets are fixed where as the 18s, you can interchange the turrets and configure for different liighting...internal or external, ranging from 6V, 15W to 12V 100W. These are all 160mm TL so most everything is interchangeable They also have the inverted microscopes with parts also interchangeable with the regular scopes. After the 80s they started into the Axio stands, which are infinity based scopes. The Zeiss stands are very versatile, with the WL being the most in such a small research stand.

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#27 Post by 75RR » Thu Mar 08, 2018 5:06 pm

You definitely have a Zeiss Standard WL

The proof - in german: https://www.dropbox.com/s/5czbydoytn53e ... L.pdf?dl=0

Note: No need to join dropbox to download anything.
Just scroll to the bottom of the 'invite page' and press on 'No thanks, continue to view'
Then press download on top right of the page.
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#28 Post by Charles » Thu Mar 08, 2018 5:10 pm

If you want to see a small sampling of different Zeiss scopes:
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=629

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Re: Looking for first microscope

#29 Post by Hobbyst46 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:18 pm

@Charles:
Saw it now for the first time. Spectacular. That is true love.



@75RR:
Thanks for the dropbox link! I had original manuals but not this one and there are important details in it.
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Re: Looking for first microscope

#30 Post by sbaum » Fri Mar 09, 2018 2:19 pm

Had a couple more questions while reading:
  1. The microscopy primer link that 75RR posted mentioned that covering the microscope with a "plastic bag" is fine. So the plastic bag I get from the grocery store is okay?
  2. I bought some glass slides and cover slips. Any other items I should get? I thought about getting a dust blower (something like this) to blow away dust from the eyepieces. I also thought about getting some tweezers since my wife probably doesn't want me using hers. :)
  3. Do I need to get pipettes for putting water on the slide? I saw in Olivers videos that he uses tweezers sometimes to put water on a slide
The microscope is on its way and looks like it will be here in the middle of next week!

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