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What is your microscopy history? What are your interests? What equipment do you use?
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Highplains_Sailor
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Hello. New to the Forums

#1 Post by Highplains_Sailor » Sat Nov 30, 2019 10:07 pm

Hello all

I live near Denver, Colorado. When I was stationed in Charleston SC back in the early 90's I took a microbiology course. Turned out to be very interesting so I bought a Wolfe microscope that was oil immersion capable. I enjoy looking at the various microbes in pond water. I moved to Colorado in 94 after I retired from the Navy. Around 2005 I bought a Ken-A-Vision PupilCam 1401KEM which I've used to make videos of various microbes I've found.

RIght now I am thinking about getting a Phase Contrast microscope. Been doing research on exactly how they work (there are no microscope stores where I can go to actually try one) and have found there are lots of good Youtube tutorials in addition to websites on the subject.

Would like an opinion. I spoke with a sales rep from one website (he was very nice and very knowledgeable). He asked what price range I was looking at for a microscope. I said that if I really wanted to I could spend $5k on a microscope, but I thought that considering I'm just a retired hobbyist trying to keep busy, buying an expensive scope would be analogous to someone spending $1500 on a business accounting program to balance a checkbook. The person said its not an accurate analogy, that a very expensive scope isn't going to give you a bunch of extra capabilities you'll never use. He said its more a matter of the quality of lenses, construction, etc. That makes sense to me. What do you think?

Look forward to using the forums here and getting to know you.

HP Sailor
Last edited by Highplains_Sailor on Sun Dec 01, 2019 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PeteM
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#2 Post by PeteM » Sun Dec 01, 2019 12:27 am

Mechanical and optical quality does go up as you spend more, though with diminishing returns for the typical hobbyist.

FWIW, $5K could get you into a pretty nice used DIC microscope. That would be an added capability you might really like.

$500 to 1K+ would get you a very nice used phase scope. Same phase capability maybe $2-3K in a new decent quality Chinese-made scope.

You probably already have enough experience to know if this is going to be a serious avocation. If so, I'd be inclined to buy a phase trinocular microscope with a good chance of adding DIC later on. Best bet might be a Nikon Optiphot -- easier/cheaper to find DIC for that compared to Olympus and Leica. The better Nikon CFN phase contrast objectives are outstanding.

Highplains_Sailor
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#3 Post by Highplains_Sailor » Sun Dec 01, 2019 5:08 am

PeteM,

Thanks for the response and information. I honestly do not know much about DIC, but I've seen some image comparisons between them on the Microscopyu.com website. I've seen images of Phase Contrast phase turrets with Darkfield and DIC prism slots, so it appears you can view specimens in both modes in addition to phase. At first I was under the impression that if you want to use a brightfield, phase contrast, darkfield and a DIC, you needed to get four separate microscopes.

I was looking at a Leica DM 750 phase scope and getting a used ICC50 W camera. What I like about the camera is that it fits between the body and the binocular head, removing the need for the trinocular. It also allows more light to go to the camera. Yes, they are quite pricey, and I'm the kind of person who will engage in a hobby a lot for a while, then not do it for months or even years. So will a $1k to $3k setup do me just as well? Perhaps. But then I think to myself "you ain't getting any younger, so why not get a really good one?" But I'm in no rush. So any advice people can give will be greatly appreciated.

The only experience I have is with my Wolfe brightfield, and I've been happy with it. I learned about Phase Contrast scopes in my biology class years ago and figured it might be interesting to try one. If a more expensive scope lets me switch between difference viewing modes, that may be worth it.

Been learning about the difference corrective lens types: PLAN, PLAN APO, etc, and I see some of the lens can be quite expensive, but that's not surprising. I'm sure I can probably find perfectly good used lenses for a good price. If you were going to get a nice phase contrast that comes with the standard achromatic objective, what lenses would you get to improve your images? I've read that Apochromatics are the most expensive. Have you used one? Do you see a big difference between that and a Achromatic?

Thanks again for the input.

PeteM
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#4 Post by PeteM » Sun Dec 01, 2019 8:14 am

I do think you can do better for the money you're planning to invest, which sounds like around $4K?

The DM750 doesn't have the slots for future polarization or DIC work. There needs to be a place for a polarizer and one or more DIC prisms above the objectives. To get that you'd have to go higher in the Leica DM series. All the newer Leica objectives are decent (likely Hi Plan or C Plan on the DM750), but not higher end (N Plan >, Plan Fluotar > Plan Apo). What you get for even more money (new) is better color resolution and a wider field of view.

I'm not sure where the cut-off is, but something like DM100 to DM1000 scopes are now made in China. Others might know.

The 5mp or so camera is limited and near $2000 in price - more with a power supply etc. ( https://www.microscopeinternational.com ... ega-pixel/) Even a high end cell phone camera would be better in terms of resolution and likely color fidelity. For the same money you could get a proper full frame DSLR with 5x the resolution and better color fidelity, WiFi, movies, etc. It would also useful for macro photos and anything else you'd want a camera for. Most trinocular heads will let 100% or near 100% light to the camera, and a proper DSLR will also be more sensitive, so the bit about more light reaching the Leica 5mp camera is maybe a bit of salesmanship. Unless you really want a turnkey solution, I'd consider your other options for the camera.

The Leica camera you're considering IS good for something like a school, where you want to put images up on a projector with minimum fuss. A $1500 DSLR sitting on top or hovering above a scope doesn't want to be in a room full of kids jostling about. But the DSLR will take better pictures and movies for the same price, and little concern of being knocked about if you have a suitable place to set up your microscope And you might already have a good digital or cell phone camera?

You could get an older and better built Leica, something like a DMLB or a massive DRM, with phase contrast objectives, a huge field of view, high end Plan Fluotar objectives, and a path for most any upgrades for maybe $2500. A Nikon Optiphot similarly equipped (trinocular, plan fluor phase objectives, etc.) would likely be around $1000. Add a DSLR or your cell phone camera and you're good to go. Either of those microscopes (and a dozen more) would then offer the possibility of adding high end objectives, polarization, dark field condensers, and even DIC in the future. With something like the DM750 you'd be selling it to take a step up to a "system" microscope.

If it's to be just pond critters, you might also consider an inverted microscope. Kurt and others here have posted their work and impressions of various scopes.

MicroBob
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#5 Post by MicroBob » Sun Dec 01, 2019 8:43 am

Hi Sailor,
welcome to he forum!
I try to add some useful hints that might help you with your decision. It is good that you already have some experience in microscopy. You are beyond the very first stage where one tries to find out whether microscopy is an attractive hobby at all.
There have been several threads about microscope purchase in the recent past in this forum where you can probable find valuable information too.
Depending on your demands and funds the "right" microscope can be quite different. Generally plancton is a topic where highly corrected objective are least helpful since the objects don't stay close to the cover slip and are in different water layers. Where planapochromatic objectives shine is in micro photography of really flat, finely detailed objects in finely made slides, like histologic sections, botanic sections, diatom slides.
Both phase contrast(PC) and differentiating interference contrast (DIC) enhance transparent objects in a medium of different refractive index. PC really makes the objects stand out from the background, but the look is often a bit gritty, like old newspaper images. DIC gives more beautiful images, less but nicer enhancement. The plastic look it creates is an artefact, DIC creates relief even where there is none. The resolution is slightly higher with DIC that with PC.
Different contrasting techniques on one microscope: For DIC you need plan objectives, and they have to fit to the DIC prisms. PC plan objectives usually don't work for DIC. For PC you need PC objectives (with a ring on one lens) that fit to your PC condenser. Both types of objectives can be used for bright field (BF), some PC objectives work very well here, some ond marginally. Many turret DIC condensers have PC or brightfiled ports too. I have a 1960s Zeiss Phomi with Zeiss DIC "old" from around 1970. The condenser carries 4 DIC prisms and PH2 and PH3 phase annuli. For BF use I draw the analyser in the BF position and swing out the polarizer below the condenser. Then I use a DIC prism setting that I would use for the tye of objective in use. So switching between these 3 contrast methods is easy. Dark field is also available for lower to medium power objectives by using one of the phase annuli as a dark field stop. So this is a very universal and productive setup.
When you are prepared to invest into DIC now you should try to find a complete working used instrument. Hunting for DIC components can take years! A used DIC set is much more expensive than a complete used PC microscope. So you could buy a PC microscope used for 500$ and exchange it for a 3000$ DIC instrument if you find a good one on offer later.

With which name can we adress you?

Bob

PeteM
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#6 Post by PeteM » Sun Dec 01, 2019 8:48 am

Just to add to Bob's points, I hope "Sailor" gets a terrific scope for the considerable sum he's planning to spend. The DM750 with phase contrast lists around $5K, the camera a couple thousand more. Even after a healthy discount, it's a lot of money for a mid-range phase contrast microscope.

As Bob says, an equivalent optical quality phase scope used (and maybe better mechanically and more upgradeable) might be as little as $500. $2500 to $3500 might get a phase and DIC scope, but probably best to start with phase.

FWIW, I've seen two complete Nikon DIC units come up for sale recently for the Nikon Optiphot in the $1200 to $1500 range - and from trusted members on this forum. So, starting with something like phase contrast on an Optiphot seems a viable approach - and for well under $1000. Nikon phase contrast, using either the E Plan or CFN Plan (semi-fluorite) phase objectives is excellent. So, sometime and maybe $1500 later, that under $1000 phase scope could also become a DIC scope super suitable for pond critters and more.

Phase contrast is also very good on Olympus, Leica, Reichert, and Zeiss (we have had all those) - and those scopes are in the $400-$900 range used in good shape and with phase contrast and a trinocular head. Any of those would be of similar good optical quality and offer a better mechanical build than a $1500 Leica DM750 with Hi Plan objectives. But looking ahead, it will be harder in my experience to find complete sets of DIC prisms, unless PZO, for most these scopes.

Dave S
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#7 Post by Dave S » Sun Dec 01, 2019 12:51 pm

High, and welcome to the forum. 👋
Suffolk, UK

Brunel SP100 (with 4x, 10x, 40x,60x, and 100x (oil) plan objectives), and Canon EOS 4000d Camera (microscopy use only)

Highplains_Sailor
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#8 Post by Highplains_Sailor » Sun Dec 01, 2019 5:28 pm

Thank you all for you great information. It's a lot to digest, and I will be taking notes. A lot of notes.

When I was talking with the sales rep at microscopecentral.com I was thinking of just a PC microscope, and his responses / recommendations were based on that. I knew a PC microscope can function as a brightfield, but I didn't know enough at the time to ask what other kinds of viewing the DM-750 can and cannot do. This is an example of how a lack of subject knowledge prevented me from knowing what questions to ask. I think all sales reps have their own idea of what brands / models are good, okay, trash, etc, and that is where my inexperience is a hindrance. I'm quite sure many people get overwhelmed with trying to figure out what to get. One rep says X is a good deal, and another rep says its not that great, etc. I end up tearing out what little hair I have left, thinking 'what do I do? I'm gonna go INSANE!' (Or, in my case, going insane may mean I go 'normal') :D

I've read about people getting a scope for say $900 and finding out later the plastic fine tuning gears break, or the base slips down at times, etc. Because of my inexperience (again, I've only used my old Wolfe brightfield) I tend to think 'spend more on a good brand and get something that will last'. However, what Pete said about the DM-750 not being DIC compatible made me realize that getting an expensive scope may not be worth the price if there are limitations on upgrades. Why spend $5k on a good scope that later, if I should decide I'd like to try DIC, can't be upgraded? In that case, a 'cheaper' (but still good) scope capable of future upgrades may be a better 'bang for the buck'. Again, I will be looking mainly at pond critters. I'm not a teacher, doctor, researcher, etc. I have done some staining for bacteria in the past but I do not anticipate doing that very much.

As far as the camera goes, the picture of the unknown cilia on my initial post was taken with my Ken-A-Vision 2 MP 1401KEM PupilCam, and to be honest I'm pretty happy with the video and pics I've seen. So I may not even need a new one. But I have no comparison. How much better is a 3 or 5 MP video than mine? I don't know. The one issue with my PupilCam is that sometimes I see vertical or horizontal 'bands' on the image. They're faint, not a huge distraction. The Ken-A-Vision rep said it's caused by the Halogen light source, and that an LED light source won't have that issue. The rep at microscopecentral.com says he has some used (but good) ICC50 W cameras for $1k vice the $1.7 for the wifi capable ICC 50 HD.
And it just dawned on me that I have a Casio Exilim EX-Z85 digital camera that is 9.1 MP, so heck, if there is a microscope adapter for it I could try that.

I will have to peruse the other posts about what microscopes to get.

Again, thanks so much for your detailed responses. It is so helpful.

Joe (Highplains Sailor)

PeteM
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#9 Post by PeteM » Sun Dec 01, 2019 5:42 pm

Joe, if you'd like I have a write-up on dozens of microscope brands and models we use for mentors considering a new or used microscope in our "Micronaut" program. Happy to send you a PDF copy. Just message me an email address when you have enough posts on this forum to do so.

The used microscopes can and often do have problems. However, with a bit of knowledge and a knowledgeable and honest seller you can work around those -- and get a far more capable scope for less money than buying new. Zeiss is (in)famous for delaminated optics. That said, there are still wonderful systems out there. Nikon often have a broken plastic gear (easily replaced if its the fine focus gear). Nikon "chrome free" optics are excellent. Leitz/Leica have a complicated history and some incompatibilities between components one might not expect. But an original configuration can offer excellent images. Olympus BH2 models often have damaged power supplies (and a member here who does a fabulous job fixing them). And so on.

If you ever make it down to the Bay Area, happy to show you half a dozen different phase scopes so you can form your own opinions of what to look for.

The reason I seem to have harped on about DIC is that you have the means to afford it at some point and there are at least a half dozen protist hunters on this site who prefer it in most cases to phase contrast. As Bob suggests, I'd get started with phase contrast -- as with anything worth doing there's lots to learn. But it's an option that's within your means, if you consider used scopes as well as new.

Adding simple polarization to a microscope also opens up some wonderful images. Since it is relatively easy and inexpensive to add to the right microscopes, I'd recommend it as an option to begin. Thin sliced mineral sections, many dried chemical crystals on a slide, many fibers, and some living things look amazing with polarization -- and it can add contrast to most subjects.

Highplains_Sailor
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#10 Post by Highplains_Sailor » Sun Dec 01, 2019 6:38 pm

Pete,

Thank you very much for the offer to check out your scopes. Yes, I will get you an email address via PM when I can. I'm sure that information will help. Are there any special sites that people here go to when looking for used scopes? The microscopecentral place sells both used and new of various brands, whereas a brand name website (like Accuscope) only sells scopes of their brand (unless I missed something).

The reason I'm interested in phase contrast was I learned in my microbio class they let you see more internal details. At the time there was no internet / Google, just BBS's, and there were/are no 'microscope stores' with all the various types available to see, so I had no way of actually knowing what PC images looked like. Now that I can look up info and images I've seen that PC images often have a 'halo' around things like a nucleus, and that DIC images tend to look 'cleaner'. I saw one Youtube video where a guy uses pieces of circular plastic cut from a document protector which he fills in with magic marker colored circles to turn his brightfield into a darkfield. The images it produced looked pretty good!

As you mentioned, Bob suggested I start with phase contrast, get experience with it. Perhaps that is a good way to go vice trying to find an 'all-in-one' microscope. You've said I can find a very good PC scope for around $1k. Then when I'm ready to upgrade, it'll be easier to figure out what to get (I'll know better what questions to ask, etc).

I was reading about inverted scopes. In the past I've put a petri dish with some pond water on the stage vice using a slide, and it seems that the uprights are designed for that. I will try to find those posts you mentioned by Kurt.

Been looking to see if I can find an adapter to try my Casio EX-Z85 dig camera on my microscope, see how it looks. No luck yet.

Take care

Joe

Hobbyst46
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#11 Post by Hobbyst46 » Sun Dec 01, 2019 7:10 pm

Hi and welcome.

Phase contrast images are often less impressive than DIC images, and they indeed display halos around objects. Yet, they are much better than brightfield for transparent water organisms. I highly recommend PC. And I think that a trinocular head for the microscope is a must. Remember, that original PC accessories on the microscope always yields acceptable to excellent images. By contrast, DIY (or commercial) darkfield black stops and Rheinberg filters often fail to deliver. Either because the size is not optimal, or the location relative to the condenser iris, or imperfect centration, or just because...Polarization filters, on the other hand, are easy to install and perform well, as said be PeteM.

For PC, there are achromatic PC objectives, Plan achromate PC objectives, fluorite PC objectives, etc etc. I suggest to avoid the simple achromatic objectives, and prefer Plan (or better) PC objectives, despite the higher cost.

About the Casio Exilim EX-Z85 digital camera: IMHO, the first (or second in your case) camera to play with had better be (1) a DSLR or, alternatively (2) an eyepiece USB camera, rather than a compact fixed-lens camera that needs mechanical coupling accessories and cannot be remote controlled. Not because of image quality, but because of the ease of installation and use on the microscope. For about 100$ or less, you get a 5-10MP camera that you simply stick into the phototube or eyepiece tube. Such cameras can be directly tethered to laptop or desk computer and controlled with software, so you get experience with photography. The images will be decent at least, although the field of view will be small and colors might need tweaking.
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

apochronaut
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#12 Post by apochronaut » Sun Dec 01, 2019 9:14 pm

You can easily buy a a first rate used phase contrast microscope using a portion of your budget and then source out further components for the same scope extending it's capabilities, spending the rest up to your budget.
$5,000.00 will get you a very good system and in fact also a good stereo microscope as well. You might not think you need a stereo but if you are really interested in pursuing microscopy as a hobby, you will use one and enjoy it. There are just some things a compound microscope is not good for.

You have some questions about achromat vs. apochromat corrected optics. You do see a difference between them but it is not as striking as one might think and certain achromats are better than others, whereas apochromats are a bit more uniform in performance. What I would do, is start with a good set of dark phase planachromats on a microscope stand that is convertible and that further components can fairly easily be purchased for. All microscopes worth considering have a base illumination system and then 1 or 2 possible upgrades to the base system. For some component additions to work properly, you will need a higher illumination. Most such systems are 100 watt halogen. I would start with such a system , then you won't run into any surprises when you come to add equipment on because some contrast enhancement techniques require more light.
Be careful of DIY systems . Some work well but a lot of them only sort of work. You mentioned someone making cheap DF patches. These are only useful , and when well made below 400X and some only below 200X . Chromatic aberration free oil immersion DF condensers aren't 1000.00 for no reason. It's because they are precise and work about as perfectly as is possible. You cannot DIY a duplicate of one, at least I have never seen one. It doesn't sound like you need to scrimp.

Whatever you choose; get a guarantee and beware of some dealers. Some are hucksters. Make sure the future upgrades are available and you don't need to buy everything at once. I would be leaning towards an infinity corrected system. The optics will be better in the long run and there will be more versatility for building a system.

Highplains_Sailor
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Re: Hello. New to the Forums

#13 Post by Highplains_Sailor » Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:46 am

Thanks again all for the great information. For Hobbyist46, my current PupilCam is a USB camera that goes in the eyepiece and I can then look at the video on my PC (which is nice). I am 6' 6" so hunching over a microscope a lot can get uncomfortable after a while. It's nice to be able to just lean back a bit and watch a PC monitor. Was thinking about using my Casio camera mainly because its 9 MP and was just curious to see how much of a difference it would make over the PupilCam that is 2 MP. I'm happy with the way my PupilCam videos look so getting a new camera really isn't a big priority.

All this information is going to be very helpful to me when I am ready to get my next microscope. If anyone has a website they really trust I'd be happy to check them out.

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