microscope buying question

Everything relating to microscopy hardware: Objectives, eyepieces, lamps and more.
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starguy75
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microscope buying question

#1 Post by starguy75 » Sat Sep 10, 2016 11:37 pm

what kind or specific brand/model in the entry level budget range microscope would I need to buy to view living cells.. like for example water from a pond, if i wanna see things move, or blood cells, or anything that can be seen moving.. thanks

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Oliver
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Re: microscope buying question

#2 Post by Oliver » Sun Sep 11, 2016 5:36 am

Brand and model are irrelevant. You need a compound microscope with:
a. condenser (very low cost microscopes do not have them but it is recommended)
b. objectives 4x, 10x, 40x, (100x oil objective is expensive and not needed unless special purpose)
c. 10x eyepieces
d. mechanical stage recommended and not only stage clips
e. coarse and fine focus knobs
f. DIN 160mm ISO standard
pretty much all entry level microscopes have these (and also advanced)

Do not buy microscopes that:
a. only have one focus knob (you need coarse and fine focus)
b. have plastic objectives (toy microscopes)
c. have non DIN objectives (possibly toy microscopes)
d. have a built in camera (toy)
e. are historical (put them into museum)
f. are special purpose (inverted microscopes for cell culture, polarization for geology etc.)
g. do not buy used, unless it is over a shop, which did servicing.

in my view irrelevant:
a. halogen vs led
b. unrealistically high magnification (2000x) no image information gained and possibly marketing measure.

preferred, if money available,
a. trinocular head (for photography)
b. otherwise binocular
c. koehler illumination for photography
d. large and heavy for stability
e. wide field eyepieces

Minimum cost: about Eur 200, Usd 250 do not go much lower when new. If total beginner, then buy low cost minimum microscope (but not toy) to see if you like the hobby. Then invest in better microscope later, once you know what direction you want to go.

As these questions are so common, I will probably make a youtube video to explain these points.

Oliver
Image Oliver Kim - http://www.microbehunter.com - Microscopes: Olympus CH40 - Olympus CH-A - Breukhoven BMS student microscope - Euromex stereo - uSCOPE MXII

starguy75
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Re: microscope buying question

#3 Post by starguy75 » Sun Sep 11, 2016 12:35 pm

Excellent answer! Thank you so much.

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Re: microscope buying question

#4 Post by starguy75 » Sun Sep 11, 2016 5:01 pm

Oliver,

I think the microscope I had ordered and cancelled 2 weeks ago had all those requirements, can you confirm this? I will re-order it if that's the case.

http://www.microscopenet.com/omax-2500x ... 11398.html

I appreciate your input.

Regards

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Re: microscope buying question

#5 Post by zzffnn » Sun Sep 11, 2016 5:25 pm

For the cost of that Omax scope, some members here may be able to sell you a serviced scope with more features (such as phase contrast or darkfield) and better quality.

For example, I sold an AO scope that has all the features mentioned by Oliver plus oil darkfield objective and condenser, for $170 shipped, except that my objectives are not DIN. See my comments below for whether or not DIN is necessary. Rod sold his phase contrast Olympus scope for a bit less than that new Omax too. His optics are also shorter than DIN 45 mm. But both of those scope can accept DIN optics, without modification.

If you are in North America, American Optical (AO Spencer) branded scopes and parts should be considered. Some of their optics are not DIN and not 160 mm tube length, but many parts/features are easily available for cheap. DIN and 160 mm tube length is not necessary in that case, unless you have to have rare/expensive features like very high NA / plan apo objectives, DIC or water immersion objectives.

Many older 160 mm tube length non-DIN scopes can use longer DIN objectives too, without any modification.

But, for a newbie who knows nothing about microscopy, staying with DIN 160 mm tube length is probably the safest approach.
Last edited by zzffnn on Sun Sep 11, 2016 5:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: microscope buying question

#6 Post by starguy75 » Sun Sep 11, 2016 5:34 pm

I am not interested in anything used.

Oktagon
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Re: microscope buying question

#7 Post by Oktagon » Sun Sep 11, 2016 6:37 pm

You can find unused LOMO Biolam scope for about $200-250. Better quality then Chinese Omax.

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Re: microscope buying question

#8 Post by billben74 » Mon Sep 12, 2016 5:45 pm

Do you plan to take photographs? Do you already own a digital SLR or other camera?
The link you showed has 5mp camera, is photographing important to you?

To look at living cells/pond life you might consider a darkfield condenser in addition to the normal "brightfield" - although this could (probably) be done later. Note this is not essential although it can be nice...

One of my most exciting first experences was to look at live onion cells after placing in sugar solution using a darkfield ondenser.
You can see very active movement of vesicles inside the (large) onion cells and its easy to set up.

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Re: microscope buying question

#9 Post by starguy75 » Mon Sep 12, 2016 5:50 pm

yes of course, that's why I choose that kit because of the 5MP USB camera and software.. And yes an optional darkfield kit is available and comptatible for that microscope as well, but out of the box will I see live cells moving? or does it require the darkfield kit?

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Re: microscope buying question

#10 Post by billben74 » Mon Sep 12, 2016 6:14 pm

You will see lots of living cells in brightfield, so you don't need the darkfield.

But do you already have DSLR?
The 5mp is fine, and indeed a great solution for starting out, although I was very interested in the photography side of things so from the start I hooked up my cheap (ish) chinese scope to a canon 1200D which definately gives you more options photographically.

The lenses on the scope you have posted will show considerable curvature towards the edges of the field of view, although as they are DIN standard you can upgrade them easily.

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Re: microscope buying question

#11 Post by starguy75 » Mon Sep 12, 2016 6:28 pm

I don't have a DLSR camera.. also how do you know the unit I want to buy is brightfield? i did a search in the specs and don't see that mentioned or is that the default for compound microscopes ?

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Re: microscope buying question

#12 Post by 75RR » Mon Sep 12, 2016 7:08 pm

I don't have a DLSR camera.. also how do you know the unit I want to buy is brightfield? i did a search in the specs and don't see that mentioned or is that the default for compound microscopes ?
Read up on this link: Understanding the microscope.

http://www.quekett.org/resources/understanding
Zeiss Standard WL (somewhat fashion challenged) & Wild M8
Olympus E-P2 (Micro Four Thirds Camera)

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Re: microscope buying question

#13 Post by admin » Mon Sep 12, 2016 7:56 pm

Hello,
I think the microscope I had ordered and cancelled 2 weeks ago had all those requirements, can you confirm this?
From a first quick glance, it does seem to have these features, but the choice of a microscope (especially if used for hobby purposes) can, in my view, not only be limited to the features. The "best" microscope is the one that you like to use most often and the one that gives you most enjoyment. And therefore there is also an element of personal preference involved. Concerning the Omax brand, I have to admit, I can not say anything, because I only know it by name, and I therefore do not want to give a recommendation for or against it.

Just a few other points, for clarification:
About darkfield: simple darkfield can be obtained by placing a home-made dark field patch stop (cardboard etc) into the filter holder of the condenser. Rheinberg and Oblique illumination also work this way. Darkfield not needed to observe living cells, of course, but nice to have. For this, you do not need different objectives. This works well only for lower magnifications. Good dark-field requires special darkfield condensers, as has been mentioned by a previous poster, which are found on research microscopes and probably not manufactured for microscopes on this low price range.

Objective standards: There is also a 170mm standard (more rare than 160 mm) and infinity. I have never seen Infinity objectives on microscopes of this price category, and they are not needed for entry-level. They can be found on more expensive research microscopes of "brand" microscopes (Olympus, Nikon, Leica, Zeiss). They are proprietary and not interchangeable between manufacturers.

I have a EUR 200 educational microscope and a EUR 3000 Olympus CH40, both 160mm standard. I can see cells with both. With the Olympus a bit nicer (brighter, larger field of view, a bit crisper at the edges) but essentially I can see the same things. I love my Olympus, many personal experiences attached, it's not only the features.

On page 8 here, I compare the objectives of my 2 microscopes:
http://www.microbehunter.com/wp/wp-cont ... 012_10.pdf

What might be of interest: the objectives of my low-cost educational microscope look the same as your Omax from the outside, I do not know if they are the same though.
$350 seems to be about normal, considering that camera is included. In my view 100x oil is not necessary and also not the 25x eyepieces. You can not use 100x oil on permanent slides anyway, without ruining the slides.
also how do you know the unit I want to buy is brightfield? i did a search in the specs and don't see that mentioned or is that the default for compound microscopes ?
Bright field is pretty much default for microscopes of this price range. Phase contrast is more expensive (double the price), DIC almost unaffordable.....
Phase contrast upgrade kits are available, but I would probably wait with these (you need to exchange the phase contrast rings of the condenser every time when you change magnification, etc... =more cumbersome to use, unless you have a research grade microscope, which allows you to rotate the rings into position.)

Oliver.
Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.
(Bertrand Russell)

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Re: microscope buying question

#14 Post by starguy75 » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:01 pm

Thank you for the detailed clarifications, so far I'm going to go with the Omax.

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Re: microscope buying question

#15 Post by Oktagon » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:15 pm

Sometimes get some flak for steering new hobbyists towards used stands from the "Big 4", but I contnue to insist that this is probably the best way to go. Not only those stands will grow with your hobby (will accept standard accessories), but they are typically much higher quality. For example, $350-400 will get you a nice shape Zeiss Standard stands with 4-5 achromatic, or potentially plan objectives, a propper condenser woth capability to DF illumination and good quality illuminator. Nothing fancy, but serviceble very high quality scope. An older Olymbus stand will cost you even less. With time, you can add almost anything you want on it, including photo, video, polarized light systems, DIC/Nomarski systems, as well as reflected light capability and Epi-FL. Right now all these terms might look like jibrish, but with time as you progress in your experience with microscopy, you will find more and more desire to experiment with these techniques. Having a "kit" microscope with few expantion capabilities, you will end up purchasing a more advanced unit in any case, so your initial investment will be lost (very little re-sale value in new lower end microscopes). Search this forum, great majority of those who post items for sale here will advertize a well serviced and taken care of unit. I have been in this hobby for well over 20 years, and I have never purchased a brand new microscope for personal use (It would cost me $30-40K for a new unit with capabilities I prefer, and that's if I dont' go with Zeiss).

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Re: microscope buying question

#16 Post by billbillt » Mon Sep 12, 2016 8:28 pm

Thanks Oliver for the link to an interesting comparison..
BillT

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Re: microscope buying question

#17 Post by Charles » Mon Sep 12, 2016 11:08 pm

I will echo Oktagon's views. I can understand getting something brand new, shiny and clean right out of the box but the used microscope market is so much better for getting an inexpensive but high quality microscope which can be more easily accessorized as your experience grows. If look in the photos section of what people are using most are mostly high quality used microscopes like AO, Nikon, Olympus, Zeiss, Leitz and others. Most of these used scopes were made in the days where they were built with excellent precision and engineering with high quality optics. These scopes were built to last with all or mostly all metal construction and precision. And like Oktagon states, it's harder to get a good resell value of these new scopes in the market ,where as with the high quality used scopes, you can probably sell them for what you bought them for.

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Re: microscope buying question

#18 Post by einman » Tue Sep 13, 2016 1:59 am

Well in the words of my local microscope service guy.. current crop of Chinese scopes can almost be considered throw away. If they break..they can't be serviced as parts are not sold...older big 5 scopes have been around for decades and still perform better than most of the "new" scopes sold on E-bay etc.

But being inexperienced probably safer to purchase new then when and if he gets into the hobby donate it ( cant sell it wont have any re-sale value) and buy an older scope.

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Re: microscope buying question

#19 Post by Oktagon » Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:20 pm

Charles wrote:I will echo Oktagon's views. I can understand getting something brand new, shiny and clean right out of the box but the used microscope market is so much better for getting an inexpensive but high quality microscope which can be more easily accessorized as your experience grows. If look in the photos section of what people are using most are mostly high quality used microscopes like AO, pNikon, Olympus, Zeiss, Leitz and others. Most of these used scopes were made in the days where they were built with excellent precision and engineering with high quality optics. These scopes were built to last with all or mostly all metal construction and precision. And like Oktagon states, it's harder to get a good resell value of these new scopes in the market ,where as with the high quality used scopes, you can probably sell them for what you bought them for.
Thank you Charles. This is sactually very important point. The mictoscopes we are talking about were designed for indefinite service life (50-75 years or more), and companies like Zeiss used to advertize the fact that their scopes have not changed in the quater of a century, rather then push the newest greatest joystick-drivven gizmo down their customer's throat (not that I have a problem with motorized microscopes). This was a recent as early 80s (well, even if I'm dating myself by calling early 80's "recent". Sometimes about 20 or so years ago it changed, and now you only see precision-machined brass/bronze components only in the highest priced reserch mictoscopes. True, the quality of optics has improoved, but again, in order to enjoy the greatest quality of optics, you will need to buy the newesrt planapochromatic objectives and couple othem with compatible eyepieces. How would you like to spend about $7500 for a single objective? Purchasing a used top of the line microscope from the fixed tubus length era you are getting 99% of what the newest and greates will provide for about a nickel on the dollar. You can buy into DIC microscopy for under a $1000! The only method which still stayes relatively expensive is LSM/Confocal scanning.

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Re: microscope buying question

#20 Post by Oktagon » Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:51 pm

einman wrote:Well in the words of my local microscope service guy.. current crop of Chinese scopes can almost be considered throw away. If they break..they can't be serviced as parts are not sold...older big 5 scopes have been around for decades and still perform better than most of the "new" scopes sold on E-bay etc.

But being inexperienced probably safer to purchase new then when and if he gets into the hobby donate it ( cant sell it wont have any re-sale value) and buy an older scope.
I have a compromize idea. What about Olympus BH2 scopes? It is workhorse (still!) of many clinical labs, relatively inexpencive and is well made of mostly metal. It is very servisable with parts available everywhere. Allot of new chinese scopes are basically poor quality copies of it. $450-500 will get you one recently serviced and cleaned with at least 3 objectives, condencer, WFV eyepieces and internal light source.

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Re: microscope buying question

#21 Post by apochronaut » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:12 pm

This topic has been clubbed to death on this forum, almost weekly. If I was a complete novice, I would be very confused right now. It makes buying a new Amscope or Omax , kind of easy.
Often such a discussion about second hand equipment gets derailed by brand allegiance and that doesn't help a novice, because brand allegiance can be based on emotion, not features or logic.
This forum needs to develop some sort of reference chart, so novices can do a quick comparison . I'd be willing to participate in developing such a resource. I too believe that the best choice for an initial purchase is a second hand instrument but the information out there to support that idea is confusing to newbies.

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Re: microscope buying question

#22 Post by lorez » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:57 pm

I agree with Mr Apochronaut that there should be some sort of reference guide to help those who are just getting started. Were I embarking on such a project I would start with a glossary of terms that were defined in the simplest accurate terms. After that, who knows?I

I also agree with Mr Oktagon that the Olympus BH2 is a good rugged choice in the used market place. I did a bit of window shopping in the BH2 aisle on the Ebay. What I found was not what I would lead a beginner to. There are all manner of listing with an incredible variety from which to choose, but therein lies the problem for someone with no experience. What is a legitimate listing? I saw BH2 models in all sorts of configurations and price ranges. What I noticed was how many of the scopes were configured with components that were not original, not proper, and not disclosed as such. I did not see any bargains today... maybe tomorrow that will change.

If you are new to the hobby and want to invest in a used scope shop where there are good warranties.

I'm still trying to decide whether any microscope is better than no microscope. Some days it is and some days it's not.

lorez

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Re: microscope buying question

#23 Post by Dale » Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:49 am

Welcome Starguy, you are in a forum populated with incredibly knowledgeable, experienced, and helpful to
all microscopists, and those who want to be. I was in your shoes a very short time ago, and it was this same
advice that steered me away from a new scope. I googled every term I did not understand, and I was soon able
to see how deceptive the advertising for a new scope was.
Your worst pitfall would be Ebay. If you are an expert you can find bargains, but most sellers are not capable
microscope operators, some are just just reselling what they bought from a surplus auction. You have not
indicated any inclination to shop there.
You will be in a much better position to buy a scope that you will enjoy by learning the basic terms used here.
Here are a few site that I have found very helpful:
http://www.olympusmicro.com/index.html
http://kv5r.com/microscopy/
http://zeiss-campus.magnet.fsu.edu/arti ... trast.html
http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/index.h ... llumin.htm
http://www.microscopyu.com/
Hope I didn't over do it. Learning one term saved me big bucks, that term was 'empty magnification.'
Best of luck,
Dale
B&L Stereozoom 4. Nikon E600. AO Biostar 1820.

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Re: microscope buying question

#24 Post by einman » Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:30 am

Oktagon wrote:
einman wrote:Well in the words of my local microscope service guy.. current crop of Chinese scopes can almost be considered throw away. If they break..they can't be serviced as parts are not sold...older big 5 scopes have been around for decades and still perform better than most of the "new" scopes sold on E-bay etc.

But being inexperienced probably safer to purchase new then when and if he gets into the hobby donate it ( cant sell it wont have any re-sale value) and buy an older scope.
I have a compromize idea. What about Olympus BH2 scopes? It is workhorse (still!) of many clinical labs, relatively inexpencive and is well made of mostly metal. It is very servisable with parts available everywhere. Allot of new chinese scopes are basically poor quality copies of it. $450-500 will get you one recently serviced and cleaned with at least 3 objectives, condencer, WFV eyepieces and internal light source.
I have sold BH2's to forum members. They are awesome microscopes. Highly recommended. But as mentioned you need to know what you are looking for.

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Re: microscope buying question

#25 Post by apochronaut » Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:36 am

Good links, Dale and Lorez; a glossary is a good idea for an initial primary resource...... A is for abberration

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Re: microscope buying question

#26 Post by apatientspider » Wed Sep 14, 2016 6:49 am

apochronaut wrote:Good links, Dale and Lorez; a glossary is a good idea for an initial primary resource...... A is for abberration

I had thought A was for Abbe, as in Ernst. ;)


Jim

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Re: microscope buying question

#27 Post by apochronaut » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:42 am

apatientspider wrote:
apochronaut wrote:Good links, Dale and Lorez; a glossary is a good idea for an initial primary resource...... A is for abberration

I had thought A was for Abbe, as in Ernst. ;)


Jim
yes,correct abbe before aberration
Isn't that where aberration comes from? .....his condenser?

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Re: microscope buying question

#28 Post by apatientspider » Wed Sep 14, 2016 2:58 pm

apochronaut wrote:
apatientspider wrote:
apochronaut wrote:Good links, Dale and Lorez; a glossary is a good idea for an initial primary resource...... A is for abberration

I had thought A was for Abbe, as in Ernst. ;)


Jim
yes,correct abbe before aberration
Isn't that where aberration comes from? .....his condenser?
If you are asking in earnest, well then yes, at least one of them produces some aberration. ;) But I have read that he formulated another - not often seen - that was much better corrected. Three elements instead of two, I believe.

Jim

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Re: microscope buying question

#29 Post by Tom Jones » Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:00 pm

einman is right.

The Olympus BH-2 series are very, very nice microscopes. The very common DPlans are great objectives. BH-2's are very sturdy as well. Lots of parts available. I have several I use in outreach. I bought those as I had used them in a clinical lab for 20+ years and found them almost bulletproof. Over 25,000 kids have had the opportunity to look through them so far at STEM demonstrations, and there has been no damage at all. Another 6,500 or so at two events in the next three weeks.

Tom

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Re: microscope buying question

#30 Post by apatientspider » Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:20 pm

I've never had the opportunity to use an Olympus, but if the scopes are as good as their eyepieces, then they must be superb instruments.

Jim

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