Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

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Oceanfrank
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Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:25 am

Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#1 Post by Oceanfrank » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:16 am

Hi, New member, first post, great Board!! Spent the last couple weeks reading through a lot of posts on this site. Started out looking to buy a $49.95 OMAX microscope starter kit with 2500X Zoom for my kids, until I ran into Oliver's video's which educated me enough to realize I was making a number of mistakes. Then I found this board and wow, spent several weeks reading many expert posts and tips and tricks. Can't thank Oliver and this community enough. Thank you.

As for my question. I am looking to get my kids some equipment to assist them with school earth science activities and also expand their interest in microscopy in general, they are 6 and 8 years old. As such I immediately went to get them a microscope, but after several weeks have come to the conclusion and that I should be targeting a Stereo Scope for them to facilitate ease of use, fast start up, and backyard exploration.

With that said I am looking to get them an end to end solution as I do not have any equipment yet other than their computer (Mac MIni with Monitor). So proposing the following setup and wanted to get some feedback on your thoughts on this or comparable solution.

Trying to keep the total package under $2500
Looking for system to be easy to use for young kids (hence elimination of the microscope and focus on Stereo Scope.
Want to be able to take pictures easily and transfer them to a computer with ease
Looking to Stack (for myself :-)

Hence,
Scope
Z4 Zoom Stereomicroscope Trinocular
http://www.greatscopes.com/zoom.htm ~$1000
or
3.5X-180X Simul-Focal Trinocular Stereo Zoom Microscope with Dual Lights $650

Camera
EOS Rebel T7i EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens Kit - $700
Camera Attachments - $100 https://www.amscope.com/accessories/ada ... copes.html

Software
Helicon Focus Premium package $250
Adobe Lightroom $100

Computer
Mac Mini (bought already)

I know there is a strong debate of getting Used High Quality versus Chinese. However, Given even after weeks on this site, I would have trouble determining a quality eBay purchase from a bad deal, and therefore I figure at least a new purchase, those less value for money, reduce the risk of getting stuck in a bad situation and can save the quality upgrade for when it is time to get a microscope and we are able both tell and appreciate the differences of quality equipment.

Again appreciate any feedback as towards this or a better combination of equipment. Thank you
Frank

apochronaut
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#2 Post by apochronaut » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:32 am

A stereo microscope is the best option for children in the age range that your's are. They can relate to what they are seeing under the microscope because they can already see it with their own eyes, usually.

Just make sure the interpupillary distance is narrow enough for your kids. Sometimes very small children or children with very narrowly set eyes have an interpupillary distance of less than 50mm, the minimum your chosen scope goes down to. many others get to as narrow as 45.

PeteM
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Location: Santa Cruz, CA

Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#3 Post by PeteM » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:40 am

Especially for the kids, I'd agree -- start with a stereo microscope. It's much easier to find (rather than laboriously prepare) specimens than for a higher power compound microscope. Just something like a dead bug or a strawberry (only fruit with its seeds on the outside) looks very cool. Chances are you're already doing something with your kids that can also be an occasion to collect something, say once a week, to look at and learn about.

I wouldn't recommend that particular zoom stereo microscope. You might search for an article along the lines of "stereo microscopes to buy and avoid." Try to get the somewhat earlier and uncensored version. My own experience is somewhat similar, the cheaper zooms (yes, $1000 is cheaper for a new zoom stereo microscope) can have alignment problems, more frequent optical defects, and not hold up over time.

One way to get started with a stereo microscope is to buy something with a few fixed magnifications (say 10x and 30x) new. Cost around $130. The microscope will be pretty usable and (because it's fixed rather than zoom focus) tolerate a bit of rough handling. The price is low enough, the kids can take it to school, out and about, etc.

Another way is to buy a used pro-level stereo microscope, maybe a zoom model, around $200-400 or so. For a used microscope you want to either be able to personally check it or get it from someone who can verify it is properly aligned, etc. That used microscope could/should be better than the near $900 new one you've listed. If you go trinocular, budget maybe $500 used.

For the kids, a cheap drop-in USB camera (replaces an eyepiece) or a bracket to hold a cell phone or tablet computer camera is a good way to start capturing images. Your choice of a camera is likely a good one -- there's a Web site that rates various DSLR's for microphotography use and the Canon Rebels usually do pretty well. That site is worth finding and exploring for what sounds like your own more serious interest.

Be advised that a trinocular stereo microscope typically uses just one side of the stereo pair to take images. Many low power micro photographers will skip the microscope and just put a good 10x or so objective on extension tubes or bellows -- or go to higher powers.

PeteM
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Location: Santa Cruz, CA

Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#4 Post by PeteM » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:48 am

To add, if you happen to be in the Bay Area of California, our local Children's Museum still has a number of good stereo microscopes for sale to parents and kids at decent prices - around $200 for something like a Bausch & Lomb or an Olympus or Nikon stereo zoom.

Oceanfrank
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#5 Post by Oceanfrank » Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:57 am

Here are two pictures that I took and modified with Helicon. Also I add two more that show a single shot. Through one eye of the eye piece I was able to see the fine detail around every crystal like object in the view. The camera, being attached to the other eye piece, can only see a softened view of the crystals. So my question is this a product of a low end camera (which some said no, others ok), bad technique/settings/ poor quality adapter, or too high expectations using a microscope instead of a stand along photo stand?

The files with IMG count names are stand alone. Proper Names are Helicon merged pictures
Attachments
Gummy Worms copy.jpg
Gummy Worms copy.jpg (411.52 KiB) Viewed 2217 times
IMG_0031 copy.JPG
IMG_0031 copy.JPG (323.41 KiB) Viewed 2217 times
IMG_0013 copy.JPG
IMG_0013 copy.JPG (392.21 KiB) Viewed 2217 times
Three peppercorns copy.jpg
Three peppercorns copy.jpg (349.71 KiB) Viewed 2217 times
Peppercorn Yellow copy 3.jpg
Peppercorn Yellow copy 3.jpg (349.95 KiB) Viewed 2217 times
Last edited by Oceanfrank on Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.

PeteM
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#6 Post by PeteM » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:20 am

Oceanfrank -- I can send you a PDF of a guide to microscope brands and makers once you have enough posts to send messages.

It sounds like your kids are into geology, so I'd try to get a stereo microscope that also has a clear space or lamp under the stage so you can light specimens from both the top (reflected) and the bottom (transmitted light). That way you will be able to kluge together a setup to look at chemical or geological crystals under polarized light as well as all the other cool stuff. They'll look pretty good at 30x.

A new AmScope stereo microscope with 10x and 30x magnifications could work if you want to buy new. Probably around $130 from Amazon. As noted before, this will be more robust than a $900 import zoom microscope and not so much of a big deal if the kids break it, drop it taking it to school, etc.

Something like a Bausch & Lomb Stereo Zoom 3 or 4 (has a knob to zoom), an American Optical "Cycloptic" (has 3 or 4 magnifications) or a Nikon or Olympus stereo zoom (has a ring to zoom) or a Meiji fixed or zoom microscope could all be good choices. Maybe there's something on Craigslist near you?? Best if it has a transmitted base, but you can also just set it on some sort of cheap light table for the polarized crystals.

Depending upon your luck and patience, maybe $150 to $500 for a very nice used scope. You will need to learn how to judge if it is in alignment (an "X" on the stage should be in the same place in the view through both eyepieces and -- once properly adjusted -- the image should stay in focus throughout the zoom range).

I wouldn't get hung up on a trinocular head as a "must" for a stereo microscope. I strongly urge them for higher power compound microscopes, but taking pictures through a single tube of a stereo microscope really isn't all that much of a hassle.

A cheap gooseneck LED lamp is fine for normal illumination.

One you have a stereo microscope around you and the kids will find all sorts of uses for it -- even if you decide to upgrade later.

Scarodactyl
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#7 Post by Scarodactyl » Thu Apr 04, 2019 1:40 am

There are a few places on the other side of the country from California, but if you're anywhere near Raleigh NC I have a few scopes here I could show you.
Consider this another vote for used, by the way. You can get something excellent for under your budget. I started on a cheap chinese Amscope stereo, but I didn't get super excited about microscopy until I looked through a bausch and lomb stereozoom 7.

Hobbyst46
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#8 Post by Hobbyst46 » Thu Apr 04, 2019 9:05 am

Welcome,
My humble experience with a stereoscope is:
1. It is great to have one at home for grown-ups and kids alike.
2. Zoom is great but two mags, 10X (or 7X) and 20X-40X are just fine.
3. For true enjoyment, choose a trinocular, not binocular. The camera is a very important accessory, but not at the expense of stereo eye vision.
4. A simple inexpensive eyepiece USB camera, 5MP, that costs less than $100 and is tethered with freeware software, is just fine. Forum member @mrsonchus has good ecperience with Toupcam and Toupview software, although I think that some Toupcam cameras are more expensive, but they do not even scrape the DSLRs price range.
5. There are freeware software for stacking, I use Picolay.

I must add though, that my computer experience is limited to MS Windows, not Mac computers.
Good luck.
Last edited by Hobbyst46 on Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

MicroBob
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#9 Post by MicroBob » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:35 am

Hi Frank,
it a good idea to offer your kids an introduction into microscopy and nature research. The chance exists that people who know nature treat it a little bit better than we do today.
From my experience with my two sons it is good to offer them different opportunities and let them try out what captures their interest.
You already got a lot of valuabe information here and I can only add some aspects:

- Your kids are small and may be intimidated by a professional looking big stereo microscope with camera
- Kids need a microscope that offers a "good" image but it doesn't have to be high end, their expectations are not that high.
- Toy quality is not enough, they are used to the image quality of flat screen displays and artificially improved images
- They might like to have a portable solution to take into the yard or carry it to their parents to show their latest find.
- Battery powered ligh is very useful for this reason
- Very soon their most beloved possession will be a smartphone. Their way of sharing images will be based upon the smartphone
- There are smartphone-eyepiece adapters availabe that offer really good image quality with a better smartphone, acceptable image quality with a cheap one.
- Many smartphone offer a way to connect to a display or computer wirelessly (forgot the name of the system, it was shown on this forum a while ago)
- It might be an idea to start with something acceptable but simple and save most of the money for a future upgrade


Bob

billbillt
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#10 Post by billbillt » Thu Apr 04, 2019 3:08 pm

Please look at AmScope... A great value for your money...

BillT

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wporter
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#11 Post by wporter » Thu Apr 04, 2019 6:07 pm

Don't neglect Craigslist, if you have nothing against used microscopes. The advantage here is that you get to inspect the microscope before you buy. Here is an example listing around the San Diego area. Note that there is a B&L stereozoom for only $75 (no, it's not mine). Some of these microscopes are vastly overpriced, some look like real bargains:

https://sandiego.craigslist.org/search/ ... stal=92069

MicroBob
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#12 Post by MicroBob » Thu Apr 04, 2019 7:57 pm

Another interesting source could be a professional microscope dealer.

My general impression is that buying used stereo microscopes is more problematic than buying used biological compound microscopes.
Many stereo microscopes had a hard life and end on ebay when they get scrapped. A stereo microscope is also typically just one thing where as a compond microscope is an optical construction kit. When 2 out of 12 components of a cheaply bought used compound microscope are beyond repair it is usually no big problem to find spares for acceptable money.

Enclosed is a picture of my firsts stereo microscope. It was a typical chinese microscope that was sold under lots of nemes. It worked very well for normal expectations. What I didn't like was that the lower of the two magnifications was 20x. This is often too much for my applications. One of the mis removing splinters and metal chips from fingers and for this the high colum was very good. If I remember rigth it came from a Roboton printer from the DDR, east Germany.
They were availabe in 10x /30x configuration and would serve most purposes quite well.

Bob

ChrisR
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#13 Post by ChrisR » Thu Apr 04, 2019 8:04 pm

Agree with all, especially, as of late,
- There are smartphone-eyepiece adapters availabe that offer really good image quality with a better smartphone, acceptable image quality with a cheap one.
- Many smartphone offer a way to connect to a display or computer wirelessly (forgot the name of the system, it was shown on this forum a while ago)
I went to a micsrosopy enthusiasts' meeting recently and was fairly blown away by the on-screen quality coming from a phone strapped to an eyepiece with an ebay holder.

Also:
I see on the Craiglist page , for $25, a Koch microscope (Rowland Hts, LAX) which looks very much like ones used by 11yr olds at a school near me. Magnifications are 40, 100 and 200. If it's like the ones I know, it's not junk; you will see beyond what the Stereo would show you, and add an extra piece of scientific equipment to their experience. One need the school has is to see cells in leaves - which it'll allow adequately. AVOID the $25 ones which promise 1500x magnification!

Oceanfrank
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#14 Post by Oceanfrank » Fri Apr 05, 2019 1:59 am

PeteM, Scarodactyl, Microlbob, billbilt, wporter, ChrisR….again appreciate all the very useful feedbacl.

Spent some time last night reading the feedback and doing some reach based on it. Big issue I realize I have with used equipment is 1) I cannot tell and outdated piece of equipment from a current one at a good price. Also with all the optical switch outs, and potential accessories that should have originally come with the equipment’s, again make it very hard for a novice to differential.

Hence though I appreciate the advice of looking at used equipment, and agree for an experienced person, it can be very valuable, for me I simply am lost and probably need to stick with new equipment this go around. Though I have to admit I did like the expandability Pete mentioned with the better equipment (e.g. polarization, florescence, , etc. and the setup of the Olympus (A-D) and the Meiji (E-F) versus the non-expandable, but known AMSCOPE (G) below, but unfortunately could not tell if these were overpriced or if equipment was replaced.

A
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Olympus-4045-s ... 4246977933

B
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Olympus-4045-s ... Sw5atbyLi-

C
https://www.ebay.com/itm/OLYMPUS-Binocu ... OSwiuRcmz5~

D
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Olympus-Stereo ... SwcGtcZ6h7

E
https://www.ebay.com/itm/333089603023?s ... Track=true

F
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Meiji-EMZ-Ster ... SwMnZcfZSY


AMScope
G
https://www.amscope.com/stereo-microsco ... x-45x.html
Pete, good guess, yes they are into rocks, geodes, crystals, bones, you name it and also live next to a lake so of course you have all the sea creatures. And thank you for the Model ideas. Those companies have some great scopes

Scarodactyl, though I used to live in Charlotte, I am in North Florida now, so it is a good distance away, though I do appreciate the offer!!!

Happyst46, I think I am leaning toward a trinocular from the get go, as it is less parts to move around once set up correctly. Also interesting idea with the freeware. And Toupcam. I see most are USB 2.0 though which makes me nervous. However I need to read up on this with along with the freeware.

MicroBob, all excellent points and you added some that I did not even think about – portability bringing size into the equation, the battery option, and the iPhone option. I have to admit I was a little stand off from the camera phone, even with an older iPhone we have for them to use for just this situation. But you make very valid points about point shot take without having to transfer and also the mirror capability to transmit directly to the TV live. I will certainly have to consider this now. Any idea if this works on the tri tube also? I also like the recommendation of 10/30. I would have gone 20 until you pointed out 20 was probably too high for simply applications.

BillBilt – definitely my new choice at the moment

Wporter, Craigs list is a no go where I live, just not that must listed other than toys

Chris R..yes Olivers videos taught me all about Magnification gimmicks so well vetted there. I noted earlier that I am surprised to see so much support for iphones, so definitely looking more at that solution now as an start up option just to see how well it works.

Frank

MicroBob
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#15 Post by MicroBob » Fri Apr 05, 2019 7:58 am

Hi Frank,
with the trinocular tube it depends on how it is made. Most just offer on more tube that is of the same optical length as the eyepiece tubes are. Some trinos have a 100:0 vs. 0:100 switch, some offer continuous 50:50 output.

If you want to study pond life you would profit from a means to concentrate it: A plancton net or sieve, ca. 50µ mesh size. Without you can get samples by collecting plants and mud but in the free water the life is not conentrated enough. Most useful magnifications for pond life are 100-200-400.

Bob

Hobbyst46
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#16 Post by Hobbyst46 » Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:12 am

Oceanfrank wrote:I see most are USB 2.0 though which makes me nervous.
USB 2.0 devices are less expensive than USB 3.0 devices; their main disadvantage is a limitation on the streaming of video clips (resolution and/or frame rate) to computer. If that is important, I would choose a USB 3 eyepiece camera.
...iPhone option...I will certainly have to consider this now. Any idea if this works on the tri tube also?...
It will work great with trino, provided that there is an eyepiece in the trino photo tube. The difficulty with smartphones is the alignment of the phone camera lens - tiny circle on the phone - with the optical center of the microscope eyepiece. That depends on the person, if done free hand. There are various phone clamps and holders on the market, not all of them are convenient and good, sorry that I can't recommend any.

About the eBay links
Microscopes A-D and F are all binocular.

A) The shown illuminator is type is available from the Far East on eBay, for a small cost. It is not great for photography, yet is useful in general for opaque objects. A trans-illuminated can be inexpensively constructed and added.
B) Appears to be the same as A.
C) No details about the optics are given. Also, the base is plain, without provision for trans-illumination and the inspection of transparent specimens. So it would be of limited use.
D) Needs a base plate: a 10cm (or so) circle made of transparent glass, and/or circle made of a sturdy plastic. Such plates are third party, easily and inexpensively available from the Far East on eBay. A trans-illuminator can be constructedand added.
E) Appears to be complete and the correct range of magnifications.
F) Appears to include an illuminator. The lowest magnification, owing to the 20X occular, is 20X0.8=16. Too high IMO, not recommended.
Amscope (link): The advantage of this scope seems to be the additional degree of freedom in height of the head above the base.
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

Scarodactyl
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Re: Choosing Stereo Scope over Microscope

#17 Post by Scarodactyl » Fri Apr 05, 2019 10:02 am

The Olympus szx7 is in their current top line of research stereos, though at the bottom of the top. It has some modularity and high quality apochromatic optics. In theory you could get a trinocular head for it, though this being a newer line means I don't rember seeing any for sale loose and it would cost an arm and a leg. Also this one is from China, which means returning it would not be straightforward if something is wrong. The olympus 4045 and such are routine stereos meant for more basic applications but they are probably still good, but not as good. Meiji has a reputation for having maintained build quality in their stereos which are quite well rated overall. They are built to last.
I am not certain that transillumination is going to be that important on a stereo to be honest, at least for earth sciency stuff. If you shell out ~150$ and a chunk of desk space for a 150 watt fiber optic illuminator with dual poseable goosenecks that will probably be more generally useful, and it is essential for stereo photography as well. That's not to say transillumination isn't nice to have, but I have it on my main scope and don't end up using it that much.

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