Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

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hatchna
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Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#1 Post by hatchna » Thu Oct 03, 2019 7:17 pm

I need a bit of help choosing a first time microscope.

I'll admit front up that I'm a microscopy newbie with little experience. I have a background in astronomy, and have a good SCT telescope I use often for astronomical viewing.

My wife and I home school our children, and being more of the science nerd between the two of us, teaching my children science falls mainly onto me. My oldest child is nearing upper elementary school age now, and we are looking to move beyond basic magnification and into more advanced microscopy. Our course work for this year will involve viewing various plants at the cellular level, and also trying to view living objects in water and such among other areas. For these purposes, I'm looking for a compound microscope, rather than a stereo scope, though I'll likely get a stereo scope at some point as well.

I've been scouring the internet and this forum looking at microscopes, and learning all I can about he various brands, features and such that are out there. In the end, I've developed information overload, and I'm unable to make a decision. I almost went for an Amscope, but something inside held me back. I like to make sure I'm buying quality hardware. I have difficulty with purchases when there's the possibility of buyers remorse getting something that is of poor quality, etc. I certainly cannot afford the most expensive scopes, and I would say right now my budget is about $700-$800 to start with. Ideally, I'd like something that will last as my children grow and move through the high school years. Something that can expand with our needs would be ideal.

Being a scientific mind myself, I also look at this as a new hobby for myself. One my kids and I can enjoy together.

As I've investigated and learned what I have recently, I know that I want a trinocular setup so that photo and potentially video will be a possible add-on in the future. I have an older Canon EOS Rebel XSi that could be of use there. At least 4 objectives is a must, which seems to be kind of the standard anyway. 5 would be ideal so I have something either to have a 20X or 60X objective in addition to the seemingly standard 4x, 10x, 40x, and 100x (that I likely won't use often).

Being able to upgrade it with darkfield and possibly phase contrast in the future could be of interest as well.

In short, I want to make sure I buy something that ideally should last through my kids schooling years and beyond. I do anticipate this getting regular use both by them and myself. I'm just not sure that I'l get something with longevity if I buy something like an Amscope.

My location is Utah in the US. I've tried looking at the local used market, but there doesn't really seem to be much here.
Last edited by hatchna on Fri Oct 04, 2019 5:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

hatchna
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#2 Post by hatchna » Thu Oct 03, 2019 7:21 pm

One more thing. I've spent days on this forum as well, going over old recommendation threads and such as well, trying to figure things out. There's a wealth of information here, which I'm grateful for. Hopefully I can get my brain settled down, and get this sorted out soon. Thanks in advance for the help!

Hobbyst46
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#3 Post by Hobbyst46 » Thu Oct 03, 2019 8:18 pm

With all respect, especially if you wish that children will use and enjoy using it, I would suggest that you take a different route. Buy a good quality (a used AO 570/580, an Olympus, B&L etc) stereoscope with a trinocular head, top illumination and bottom illumination (original or improvised). Add a good (read: fast video rate) 5Mp Toupcam or similar eyepiece USB camera. At least, for a start.

The reasons for that choice over a compound scope are:
1. Much easier to use, at least for a child. I daresay, an average 7-12 years old child will easily operate a stereoscope. Not a compound scope. If the child neads a parent to operate the scope for him, the fun becomes a burden.
2. Much less sensitive to careless handling and tinkering, easier to clean and maintain.
3. Always attractive, for ages 8-80!. With a stereo you easily view insects (lice from children hair have become very common in many parts of the globe), sand, plant parts, even plant cells, identify small suspected objects, observe miniature works of craft and art, coins and more. A magnification range of 0.7X-40X covers a large variety of specimens.
4. Many of the specimens can be viewed as-are, without special preparation.

The compound scope can and should be added later, they complement each other anyway.
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

apochronaut
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#4 Post by apochronaut » Thu Oct 03, 2019 9:50 pm

I will second that advice. Stereos are the immediate showstopper for children. They can easily and quickly access magnified views of many smaller aspects of their world that they can see with their eyes and relate to. Actually though, for 7-800.00 you can put together a nice quality used stereo and a 4 or 5 objective biological scope package.

hatchna
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#5 Post by hatchna » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:11 pm

I do agree with the show-stopper immediate interest grabbing nature of the stereo scope. If I can get a package of both, that would be ideal. The curriculum we're using for my kids science courses leans more the biological side and recommends a compound microscope, but I can see where both will come in handy there. I got your PM apochonaut, and replied via email. I'm greatly intrigued by what you could offer there.

Thanks for the advice, I'll be sure to keep it under advisement as I figure things out.

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#6 Post by wstenberg » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:30 pm

I know this in an ongoing discussion. I remember my professor in college debating which microscope to buy for his children, whether children need less magnification than adults. Everyone is making valid points. I had four kids, all grown up now. We had a Meiji Stereomicroscope in our house. We found a thousand uses for it. However, I felt I still needed a compound microscope for myself.

I work in a biological research lab now. We have every kind of microscope, fluorescent, two-photon, light sheet, Scanning electron microscope, and more. But we do have stereomicroscopes on every bench, and we use them all day long. Just bringing this up to emphasize that there is nothing less scientific about a stereomicroscope.

Again, I wouldn't be happy without a compound microscope, so I understand.
My solution: buy both.
For your budget you can afford it if you stick to older used microscopes, especially the second line brands. For stereo, look at the Meiji microscopes. While no Zeiss, they are good enough. I have used them for years. I have one at home, and I have them in my lab at work. I have one with a trinocular, and works well with a video camera (you can add this later).

For a compound scope, Look at Tiyoda. They are out of business now, but they are still available on Ebay at very inexpensive prices. They were made in Japan using much of the technology that Japan got from Germany during the War. You will notice a resemblance to the Zeiss scopes, and some parts are interchangeable. I often see them for around US$ 100 on Ebay, so not much of an investment, or risk. And there always seems to be objectives available. One of my heroes in biomedical research (Balint Orban) made all of his discoveries with a 1950s Tiyoda. Again, It's not a brand new Zeiss, but you will be able to see all the pond life and cells that you want to see. I have two Tiyoda microscopes at home, both from the 1940s, and really they are OK.

Start with these, then you can upgrade to a Zeiss Standard later on...
William
Dallas, Texas

Zeiss Standard WL with POL
Zeiss Axiomat
Zeiss Universal
Zeiss Stereomikroskop

Scarodactyl
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#7 Post by Scarodactyl » Thu Oct 03, 2019 11:50 pm

Meiji has an excellent reputation for stereos, but they actually run kind of expensive used in my experience. You'll tend to have more luck finding a bausch and lomb, american optical, olympus or nikon at a lower price point.

PeteM
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#8 Post by PeteM » Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:16 am

Just a note on Tiyoda. While they are well made (we have 3 of them), the 1950's optics lag behind most any top brand (Leitz, Nikon, Olympus, etc.) made from the 1970's on. True enough that for around $100-150 a Tiyoda could be a very good starter scope. I'd put an old American Optical 150 in that category as well.

For more money, however, you get DIN optics, a wider field of view, better contrast, far more options for upgrade, and usually somewhat better corrections in one of the lab quality scopes made from around 1970 on. At that point we had things like computer ray tracing in optical design and the Japanese (Nikon, Olympus, Meiji in stereo scopes, etc.) had enough design iterations to be making excellent scopes.

Decades ago, Chuck House, who was then Hewlett Packard's chief technology officer told me that it took even a good company about 3 tries to get something right. First time you make mistakes. Second time you fix the major mistakes. Third time you have enough time to see and fix some of the lesser mistakes. That was his experience with things like the HP Laser Jet (v1 never made it to market) and, back then, with things like Microsoft Windows. Only by 3.0 was usable, for those old enough to go back that far.

Could also be that by the time marketeers get in charge of subsequent versions (e.g. Windows XP, 7, 8, 10 . . .) new features often mean new problems.

hatchna
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#9 Post by hatchna » Fri Oct 04, 2019 5:29 am

This is all great information. I really appreciate it. It will be really nice when I have something decided upon and can really start passing things on to my kids. PeteM, thanks also for the PM. I sent a response earlier as well. I'm highly interested in the information you can provide.

hatchna
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#10 Post by hatchna » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:04 pm

As I'm looking into things further, I've encountered new questions I've been unable to find an answer to through my searches here or on Google.

With these older used trinocular scopes, what do I need to connect various camera types to the trinocular port? For example how would I connect a Canon APS-C DSLR to the trincular port of something like a Nikon Labophot or an AO series 10? What would I need if I wanted to swap the DSLR out for a USB microscope camera like the aforementioned 5MP Toupcam? The trinocular port looks much too large for these USB cameras since I believe they were designed to work with full frame 35mm SLR's of the time, so some kind of adapter would be needed, but I'm not sure what.

Also, do trinocular microscopes allow simultaneous viewing from the binocular viewer and through the trinocular port?

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#11 Post by Scarodactyl » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:54 pm

There are a variety of solutions depending on the system. Many of the older systems have solutions for small sensor sizes because people wanted to use video cameras, so that isn't a huge concern usually. There is always some way to get it done, one way or another.
Some trinocs are set up with a fixed 50/50 eyepiece to camera light ratio. I think that' more typical with stereos and similar. Some have a moveable prism which goes from 100% eyepiece to 100% camera. Others have three settings, something like 100% eyepiece, 50/50 or 20/80 and 100% camera. It varies, and what is best depends on your application.

hatchna
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#12 Post by hatchna » Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:22 pm

I decided to purchase a used Nikon Labophot with a phase contrast condenser and objectives from PeteM. I'm going to look at getting a stereo scope in the next few months as well. The compound scope was the immediate need for now. The scope is a little overkill for the level my kids are at, but my hope is that it will last through their schooling years and beyond without needing tons of upgrades. When it arrives and I get it all up and going, I'll let you all know how things are going with it. For now, we're pretty stoked. My kids can't wait to get started using it.

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#13 Post by 75RR » Thu Oct 10, 2019 3:22 am

hatchna wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:22 pm
I decided to purchase a used Nikon Labophot with a phase contrast condenser and objectives from PeteM. I'm going to look at getting a stereo scope in the next few months as well. The compound scope was the immediate need for now. The scope is a little overkill for the level my kids are at, but my hope is that it will last through their schooling years and beyond without needing tons of upgrades. When it arrives and I get it all up and going, I'll let you all know how things are going with it. For now, we're pretty stoked. My kids can't wait to get started using it.
Good choice getting phase included starting out.

You will want to look into Oblique as well (fortunately it is mostly DIY) http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/ind ... uetip.html
Zeiss Standard WL (somewhat fashion challenged) & Wild M8
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#14 Post by PeteM » Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:53 am

One of the cool things about a Zernike type phase condenser is that it's usually possible to get decent oblique effects by rotating the phase stops out of position (so only a portion of a phase ring illuminates the specimen).

Hatchna, hope you keep us posted on what your kids find interesting and if they turn this into sustained curiosity and interest.

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#15 Post by jfiresto » Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:15 am

hatchna wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 10:22 pm
I decided to purchase a used Nikon Labophot with a phase contrast condenser and objectives from PeteM.... My kids can't wait to get started using it.
I bet your kids will have a lot of fun. My parents, both scientists, gave me a brass, compound, student microscope when I was 7 or 8. I think my worst mishap with it was discovering the short working distance of the high dry, by crunching a cover slip. I did that just once.

I might drill into your kids a few important points that will keep them out of trouble, especially if your youngest is toward that age. One thing my parents taught us was that broken glass was sharp, or as my father put it, "atomically sharp". That distinction puzzled us kids, but we took the gist to heart. I only fully grasped just how sharp that is, after I learned about dislocations. (Another thing that was drilled into us, was to stay clear of blasting caps. I am not sure how useful that will be. My mother's father was a civil engineer.)
-John

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#16 Post by apochronaut » Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:03 pm

PeteM wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:53 am
One of the cool things about a Zernike type phase condenser is that it's usually possible to get decent oblique effects by rotating the phase stops out of position (so only a portion of a phase ring illuminates the specimen).
What other types of phase condensers can't you do this with?

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#17 Post by PeteM » Thu Oct 10, 2019 3:45 pm

Some have a fixed annulus that inserts (one at a time) up into the condenser body. The only adjustment is to move the condenser off a bit and it is both limited in range and a pain to for what little tweaking is possible.

The sliding types work, of course. What I like about the rotary dial types is that it's so easy to get access to five or so phase & DF rings, any amount of offset, and from either side and somewhat above and below. Typical slider has just a couple of phase rings.

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#18 Post by Hobbyst46 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:06 pm

apochronaut wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:03 pm
...
PeteM wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:53 am
...
In the ZeissOpticalSystems Catalogue, several phase and simple condensers, whether simple slide-in models or multi-port (multi-phase) turret models, are designated by "Z" in the model name.

Which brings my possibly dumb question : does "Z" refer to Zeiss, or to Zernike ? or none of them ?
(I remember that Zernike had some business relations with Zeiss)
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#19 Post by apochronaut » Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:27 pm

Frits Zernike invented phase contrast, licensed it to Zeiss and shortly thereafter, numerous other companies. All phase contrast systems , whether the annulus being used is in a rotary dial or a fixed condenser housing are Zernike phase contrast.
In fact Zernike's prototype microscope had a single annulus condenser as did all of the early production models.
https://microscopy-analysis.com/sites/d ... lach_1.pdf

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#20 Post by hatchna » Sat Oct 12, 2019 5:43 am

Well I have to say, many, many thanks to PeteM. He got my microscope out to me quickly, and it arrived earlier today. Very impressed, and it's in very good shape. Took some time looking at a few prepared slides he was kind enough to send as well. My kids are amazed by it. I love the simple joys, like the wonder of seeing them in awe looking at a small piece of onion, and seeing individual cells, and such. They love it, and are already trying to think of things we can look at next. This is going to be a great thing for us going forward. Thanks again Pete!

Here's a shot of the beauty. We opted to get a teaching head, rather than the trinocular head, and already, that's proving to be of benefit, as the two older ones don't have to fight for who's looking next.
MVIMG_20191011_233259.jpg
MVIMG_20191011_233259.jpg (58.56 KiB) Viewed 3950 times

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#21 Post by PeteM » Sat Oct 12, 2019 6:25 am

Hope you and our kids have a blast.

There are several members here who run programs for kids -- so any thoughts you have on what interests your own kids, what difficulties they might have, how they use the photos they take, etc. etc. will be of interest.

Hobbyst46
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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#22 Post by Hobbyst46 » Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:11 am

Congratulations. Nikon optics are superb.
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

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Re: Newbie with information overload looking for first microscope

#23 Post by mrsonchus » Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:34 am

What a lovely-looking 'scope that is!
I must agree with your choice of teaching-head, perfect for the kids.

You're all in for a real treat, great to see microscopy being explored together, congratulations! :D :D
John B

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