Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

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krame
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Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#1 Post by krame » Thu May 07, 2020 2:47 am

Hello all,

I'm interested in purchasing a stereo microscope for myself and my 5 year old daughter. Given the pandemic, I'm looking for new ways to engage her creativity. She loves getting dirty, finding bugs and collecting "treasure."

This is day 2 of lurking around the forum, so to say I'm new is a gross understatement.

I'm trying to get a feel for how much magnification would be useful and further narrow down my selection.

Does anyone have a collection of photos, using a stereo microscope, that compares the commonly available magnifications? 10x - 40x? Maybe I only need a 10x ... Maybe I need an electron microscope. Never know. Can't be to careful... Buy once, buy right.

Thanks!

Mark

PeteM
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#2 Post by PeteM » Thu May 07, 2020 3:43 am

Mark, Particularly with your 5 year old daughter, I believe a low magnification will be most often used.

It's surprising how 7x to 10x magnifies something like a strawberry - turning it into an other-worldly object. From there, adding a 20x or 30x capability might also be useful. There are usable import stereo microscope for around $130 with a 10x and 30x magnification.

The higher the magnification, the less depth of field. It gets harder to prepare specimens so they will be in focus.

I actually think this is a case where buying something decent but not expensive makes sense to start. If you start with either a robust used 10x or so stereo microscope or one with dual magnification it could still be used in the future, say for your daughter to take to school or take along for family trips. Best if your daughter feels comfortable using it, so make sure the binocular eyetubes can get close enough.

Later on, possibly consider a higher quality used stereo microscope, perhaps zoom, from American Optical, Bausch & Lomb, Nikon, Olympus, etc. Those might zoom from something like 7x to 30 or 40x. They will also be a bit more likely to be out of alignment used, or get out of alignment if accidentally knocked. Much depends upon your budget.

What do you plan to look at? What other activities do you and your daughter enjoy? Best if you can merge your scope with other passions.

dtsh
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#3 Post by dtsh » Thu May 07, 2020 6:17 am

At that age I would go for some magnifying lenses.
I would think at that age, there would be a higher likelihood of acidental rough treatment which a lens should withstand much better, plus I think a hand lens is intuitive in ways a scope may not be and is easier to take along.

If however, you are looking for something for a slightly older child, one perhaps old enough to be her father, then I would go with either PeteM's advice or maye something nicer. I recently acquired a used AO Spencer cycloptic which I have been very happy with, but there are a great many other options to fit most budgets and needs; what you hope to see will likely help in getting advice on which models to consider. But in general my recommendation for some lenses should also work well for the larger child too, they certainly assist and entertain me frequently.

10x is very handy for general use, 40x will allow seeing things such as minor scratches on a coin's surface in detail, but too much for a hand lens I would think.
Magnification with my stereo microscope goes upto 80x, but above 40x seeing plant cells and microorganisms in pond water is possible.

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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#4 Post by Scarodactyl » Thu May 07, 2020 6:37 am

Any idea of your budget? I have a quite decent used Chinese head I could part with for 100 bucks including US shipping, but the downside is it also needs a stand (standard 76mm. I bought it for the stabd it was on, hence it being orphaned) which would add to the total cost (eg here is a genuine Leica stand from a seller who doesn't know what they have https://www.ebay.com/itm/193369129166 ). But it's a nice little unit with a good 8:1 zoom range and seems sturdily built (lots of metal). Lower mags might be more typical for use but having a wider zoom range does make it more versatile.
A used AO or Bausch and Lomb stereo is also a great option, the downside being they have been around a while so they sometimes come in damaged and need to be returned until you find a good one. But once you do they're still world class for a fraction of the price of other brands in their tier.
To answer the actual question, for my usage (inspecting gems) my first scope, which went up to 45x, felt a bit underwhelming. When I got a stereozoom 7 which went up to 70x it blew my mind a bit and got me really engaged (to be fair the optics were better too). That said I've ended up pushing for more and more mag since so that may be more individual.

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c-krebs
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#5 Post by c-krebs » Thu May 07, 2020 7:17 am

There are so many options these days. As to magnification 10-20X is a good start. A rough idea of budget would be good to get suggestions.

One thing I will mention. Stereo is great, but it takes a little effort to get the interpupillary distance right with a 5 year old. She might get it right away, but I've seen considerably older kids that don't get the concept. Be sure to spend some time on that, or else they end up seeing through one eyepiece and miss out on the stereo effect.
You might also consider a 10X/20X monocular dissecting scope, inexpensive and really easy for little kids to operate (but perhaps too basic for your wishes).

MicroBob
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#6 Post by MicroBob » Thu May 07, 2020 7:24 am

The microscope is a good idea even if your daughter is quite young for using one. I can second that a low start magnification of 7x or 10x is one of the most important properties. An LED light would be an advantage as it makes the microscope quick to grab and suitable for the short attention span of a 5 year old. This could also be added later in form of a battery light.
I have such a magnifier and it gives a great image: https://www.ebay.de/itm/Light-Loupe-LED ... 1261188592. They used to cost 16€ incl. shipping so the linked offer is much too expensive. Most so called "Triplets magnifier" on ebay are just junk but this one is a real triplet and gives a good image. For a 5 year old a stereo microscope might be a bit intimidating but also may lead to a more concentrated use.

Bob

Charles
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#7 Post by Charles » Thu May 07, 2020 2:22 pm

Good choice on a stereo for a first scope for your child. If you're wanting to buy once-buy right, go for the 10-40X. IMO with a stereo scope, slide prep is not really an issue. You can pretty much throw anything from flat items like coins, feathers, leaves or non-flat things like insects, rocks and such, on that stage with or without a slide and view it with the stereo scope.

krame
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#8 Post by krame » Thu May 07, 2020 10:48 pm

Thank you everyone for your advice.

So after furthering attempting to parse out my daughter's interest, I think she'd actually be best suited with a magnifying glass or one of those containers with a screw on lid with magnification.

Sigh

So...what I want..... 7x-45x trinocular stereo microscope similar to...

https://www.amscope.com/stereo-microsco ... micro.html

.... wait.... Do I want a zoom?

PeteM
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#9 Post by PeteM » Fri May 08, 2020 2:06 am

Mark, My experience (based on owning and disassembling several) is that lower priced (under, say, $1000) Chinese zoom microscopes aren't particularly good. The zoom adds significantly to the mechanical and optical complexity. Making one to a low price means short cuts in design and manufacturing.

The same $300-400 might get you a superb used zoom microscope from a top brand. Be sure to know how to check one out and buy either in person or from a source that will let you return one that isn't well aligned and parfocal through the entire range.

Might add, I've seen several 5 year olds, with a bit of parental help enjoy a simple stereo microscope.

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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#10 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Fri May 08, 2020 2:36 am

Other benefits of stereo microscope:

Always get the splinter out, every time
Fix jewelry
Fix small electronics
Threading needles now simple
You can use to inspect microscope objectives for flaws
See if your diamonds are real

My go to stereo scope is a fifties gunboat grey Bausch and Lomb, the kind with three boxy objectives you push back and forth. I love it, and don't think zoom would make it better for most things. Zoom would be handy if I had a pod head on a boom and would swing it around to look at machinery or something , or if it were attached some assembly line inspection and putting my hands near the fov was not convenient. For sitting at the desk looking at junk i find around the yard, the three objective scope is ideal. I bought it for $16, and it wasn't even that dirty. Its also built like a tank, and a troop of cub scouts was unable to upset it in any meaningful way.
1942 Bausch and Lomb Series T Dynoptic, Custom Illumination

Scarodactyl
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#11 Post by Scarodactyl » Fri May 08, 2020 3:19 am

PeteM wrote:
Fri May 08, 2020 2:06 am
Mark, My experience (based on owning and disassembling several) is that lower priced (under, say, $1000) Chinese zoom microscopes aren't particularly good. The zoom adds significantly to the mechanical and optical complexity. Making one to a low price means short cuts in design and manufacturing.
Qc and alignment can be iffy, but I tried one lower cost Nikon clone at a dealer that really impressed me. Things have come a ways, though there is likely some luck involved too.

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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#12 Post by PeteM » Fri May 08, 2020 4:06 am

I've bought most of these scopes import stereo microscopes used, hoping to find bargains for parents and grandparents.

Quite commonly the import (under all sorts of brand names, Scienscope etc.) will look almost identical to an Olympus or Nikon model on the outside. But, because they're used they often come with problems requiring a look inside. There's where I'm finding the differences that lead to early wear problems and little or no easy provision (compared to the original) to get them back in focus and alignment. Could well be that a carefully used import scope would last a decade. So many of the used ones I've ended up have ended up worn and sloppy, I've ended up deciding that even a "free" one that's not aligned and parfocal to begin isn't worth effort.

The zoom ones are the worst. An import with a couple of objectives that rotate to give different magnifications seems to hold up OK. They don't give the same large view and large working distances of their higher priced brethren, but they're entirely usable to begin.

Could well be the newer zooms are better. Ones I'm seeing are likely 10+ years old. I'd guess, though, that there are still shortcuts inside. Indeed, even the newer name brands now being made outside of Japan and Germany etc. seem to have been cost reduced to their detriment. Something like an Olympus zoom was once a marvel of precision machined brass. With a bit of lube, still tight decades later. Now the entry level models have molded-in plastic guides and the like.

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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#13 Post by 75RR » Fri May 08, 2020 4:26 am

Indeed, even the newer name brands now being made outside of Japan and Germany etc. seem to have been cost reduced to their detriment. Something like an Olympus zoom was once a marvel of precision machined brass. With a bit of lube, still tight decades later. Now the entry level models have molded-in plastic guides and the like.
Blinkered short-termism by Suits trying to justify their silly salaries.
Zeiss Standard WL (somewhat fashion challenged) & Wild M8
Olympus E-P2 (Micro Four Thirds Camera)

Scarodactyl
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#14 Post by Scarodactyl » Fri May 08, 2020 4:57 am

It definitely varies (and for the record the one I offered retails for around 1k usd through Brunel, so it's one tier up--probably not bad for an intro piece)--some of the low cost fixed mag ones I looked at at the same time had an amazing image for the price but strained my eyes a bit to look through even though the images were aligned (not sure why that would be but it happens on some scopes).
(That said, my Motic-made wild clones are amazing. Bought the m7 clone in heavily used condition and it works like a champ. The m3 clone needed one fix so I know it looks just like a Wild inside.
Then again, a Leica mz8 clone I picked up looks almost exactly like an mz8 on the inside but both head and body were badly misaligned when I got it. The big objective it comes with is decently planar but also noticeably yellowish in the hand lol)
Edit: I was wrong about the Nikon clone, it was not low cost https://www.microscopesolutions.com/pro ... hted-stand 850usd, binocular on a basic stand. Nice view though! It seemed equivalent at least to ky used smz1b. But as a hobbyist, for 850 you can get something spectacular if you buy used.

dtsh
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#15 Post by dtsh » Fri May 08, 2020 2:19 pm

krame wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 10:48 pm
Thank you everyone for your advice.

So after furthering attempting to parse out my daughter's interest, I think she'd actually be best suited with a magnifying glass or one of those containers with a screw on lid with magnification.

Sigh
I think that's an excellent option, when she's outgrown that she can move up to a scope. Think of it as an opportunity to allow her to explore while you sort out the next step in the process....
krame wrote: So...what I want..... 7x-45x trinocular stereo microscope similar to...

https://www.amscope.com/stereo-microsco ... micro.html

.... wait.... Do I want a zoom?
I went through this pretty recently myself, a link to my thread is here
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=8935

I think there are likely better threads, but this was my experience. I asked for and received a number of very good suggestions. Apochronaut asked if I needed zoom and at the time I felt it wasn't a hard requirement. Here I am a month later and I still don't think I do. It would be handy, I'm not disputing that, but having multiple levels of magnification is what I needed and it does that very well. I think I would have been pleased had I gotten any one of the other suggestions, so don't take this as an endorsement to get an AO Cycloptic over the others as it might not be what you want/need. I will say that adding and removing the barlow is a little annoying, but it would be the same with the scope you linked to get higher magnifications. I haven't used any of the amscope products, so I can't honestly comment on them. I had no direct experience with stereoscopes over about 40x previously and that was limited, but I found having the capability of over 40x to be a nice addition for the things I tend to do. My original reason for getting a steroscope still haven't emerged in numbers I need yet, but early looking suggests that what I got will exceed my needs. It seems that upto about 50x or 60x is probably the realiztic limit of what I would need, not that I am complaining about clear sharp images above that.

Also, don't forget lighting. I used it initially with a flashlight pointed at my subjects and it works, but I later acquired a gooseneck illuminatior and I find it significantly nicer to use.

krame
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#16 Post by krame » Fri May 08, 2020 6:07 pm

All of these things, yes.

Thanks again!

Honestly, my budget would be sub $200.

Regarding used microscopes... even if I had the knowledge to know a good deal when I saw one, waiting around for one to come along is just more time that I don't have a microscope.

I guess I'm looking more for something to play with, rather than a serious tool.

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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#17 Post by PeteM » Fri May 08, 2020 6:29 pm

Helps to know where you're located.

If in the US, here's a new scope that's reasonably good, at a modest price, for those who wish to buy new:

https://www.amazon.com/AmScope-SE305-P- ... NrPXRydWU=

Do check that it is aligned upon arrival. A tiny fraction of these aren't and need to be returned.

dtsh
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#18 Post by dtsh » Fri May 08, 2020 6:54 pm

krame wrote:
Fri May 08, 2020 6:07 pm
All of these things, yes.

Thanks again!

Honestly, my budget would be sub $200.

Regarding used microscopes... even if I had the knowledge to know a good deal when I saw one, waiting around for one to come along is just more time that I don't have a microscope.

I guess I'm looking more for something to play with, rather than a serious tool.
IMO, I would look for used. As far as evaluation goes, all moving parts should move without issue or slop, non-moving parts shouldn't move, and it should deliver crisp, clear views that stay in focus; if it doesn't perform to your satisfaction send it back (new or used). Also, anything where the alignment of the view in each eye isn't in sync should also be returned, there's no reason to accept something that isn't as advertised.

Buying via eBay these days is relatively risk free, if the seller lists it as in working order and it's not, they have to take the return at their expense; if it's listed as not working or for parts, look at something else. There is the risk of losing some time in buying and returning, only to select and try another one; there's some risk of that new too, but I suspect it's probably lower. I would post a want-ad here first, stating your budget and expectations and see what offers you get. I feel there's a higher liklihood of getting an instrument which has been better tested here than among eBay vendors and $200 should get a nice instrument, mine all decked out with extra eyepieces, barlow, etc cost under $300. It arrived with alignment issues, but the seller went above and beyond my expectations to make it right, a week later and I had an effectively brand-new 50+ year old scope. It's hard to beat the price on a used unit as someone else has already taken the depreciation, but I do understand the desire for new and the expectation of warranty that (might) come with that. As I said, I've not dealt with AmScope much (I bought an illuminator from them, which seems as-advertised) so I can't comment in that regard. A similar model from them was on my list as well, but I was skeptical how a new scope at that price could leave much margin for quality materials. The reviews at least seemed decent. Either way, that's what I would recommend. Whatever you choose to get, I hope you'll share your experiences here and I look forward to reading your posts for years to come.

krame
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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#19 Post by krame » Fri May 08, 2020 7:04 pm

PeteM wrote:
Fri May 08, 2020 6:29 pm
Helps to know where you're located.

If in the US, here's a new scope that's reasonably good, at a modest price, for those who wish to buy new:

https://www.amazon.com/AmScope-SE305-P- ... NrPXRydWU=

Do check that it is aligned upon arrival. A tiny fraction of these aren't and need to be returned.
This is probably more up my ally.

I am living in the US

When I get closer to pulling the trigger, I'll explore the wanted section and see what comes up!

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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#20 Post by Scarodactyl » Fri May 08, 2020 7:04 pm

One other offer if you're interested--I have a nikon smz1b on an illuminated stand that you can have for 160 including shipping. It is recently serviced and in great shape--that's less than I have into it but I am trying to downsize. I've been trying to sell it on eBay but there's no way I'll get my money back out of it any time soon, and I'd be happy if it went to a young microscopist.
It's a nice lower-mag zoom scope, not many bells or whistles but a great intro to stereos. Also easy to get compatible third party accessories because of how many Chinese clones were made.

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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#21 Post by Hobbyst46 » Fri May 08, 2020 7:22 pm

Just leisurely paging through eBay reveals several used AO stereo microscopes, relatively inexpensive, some are bids and some - Make Offer.
Just an example:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/AMERICAN-OPTIC ... Swb5ZeAM8K
From a short term experience with a model 570 - superb stereo scope. Unfortunately I could not keep it so found an Olympus instead.
Also from personal experience: as MicroBob and others mentioned, low magnifications are more useful than high magnifications. X7 to X 40 would be great. And, the zoom feature is not important. Two magnifications, say X10 (or X7) and X40 (or X30) are just fine.
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

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Re: Stereo microscope magnification comparison?

#22 Post by Scarodactyl » Fri May 08, 2020 7:28 pm

The AO 470 is a phenomenal scope, easily professional grade. The only downside is that auxiliary objectives are a bit harder to find now.
I'll admit I rather like continuous zoom even if it isn't the most important part of my workflow. There's a reason that it totally took over as a feature, even if it's certainly not necessary.

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