Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

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farnsy
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Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

#1 Post by farnsy » Wed Jun 26, 2019 12:49 am

I'm considering purchasing a Motic B3. This microscope uses 160mm finite optics, and when you purchase, you get two options:

1. Achromatic Super Contrast
2. Full Plan

with not a ton of difference in price between them. I have no idea how to compare these. This seems like a reasonably popular brand. Does anyone have experience with these classes of lenses?

Microscope world did a lens shootout but that was national optical, and I'm not sure it applies to motic (or do they use the same parts?)

https://www.microscopeworld.com/t-lens.aspx

The other question is whether the M3 is a desirable route at all. Consider the following options:

* For more money (but not a ton more) one can get one of their infinity corrected line, like the BA310E. Hurts my wallet to think too hard about it, but it's doable if there are noticeable gains. I had thought 160mm would be good for later additions (a 60X, phase contrast, etc.). I'm not too much a fan of using proprietary infinity optics outside the major 4 brands but I don't want to be closed minded about it either. If I did go this way, I would be interested in the quality differences between their EF-N plan line, EC plan, and EC-H plan lines. Unfortunately I don't know of an easy way to compare these optics other than ask people who may have used more than one.

* For much less money, one can get one of the better cheap scopes, like one of the top AmScopes. 160mm PLAN lenses for these are surprisingly inexpensive. But I don't know how they compare to these Motic ASC 160mm lenses or their infinity optics lines.

Any insights from folks who have used these?

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lorez
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Re: Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

#2 Post by lorez » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:01 am

What is your personal microscope experience ?

farnsy
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Re: Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

#3 Post by farnsy » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:21 am

lorez wrote:What is your personal microscope experience ?
I'm a hobbyist who likes to look at pond scum and the like--I don't work in this field but I do like to research and implement all the technical aspects of microscopy that I can. Currently I use an American Optical 1036A I picked up used. It had a lot of hard use before I got it and has some things wrong with it, though it works. Rather than put effort and money into fixing it up or upgrading it (that's a whole different hobby), I am looking to get a shiny new scope that's set up to do some good video and photography. I would be unhappy with a microscope without features I now enjoy, like Kohler illumination. In terms of optics I'm not sure how much lenses have improved in the last 60 years, especially comparing cheaper current devices to high-ish quality ones from decades before I was born. It goes without saying that I wouldn't want to take a step down from my current optical level. My 4x is PLAN, the other ones are marked as achromatic, but they also have some abrasion on the glass, etc.

Do you ask because you want to establish a benchmark for my perception of quality optics? Can't say I have used any real good quality microscopes, but I have a very powerful sense of buyer's remorse to contend with. :)

PeteM
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Re: Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

#4 Post by PeteM » Wed Jun 26, 2019 5:08 am

Farnsy, If you're doing brightfield, darkfield, and simple polarization microscopy, I don't believe you'll gain much from an infinity microscope, Motic or otherwise.

The main advantage is that "infinity" makes it easier to add a bunch of intermediate attachments without needing compensating lenses. And, in general, those won't be readily available from Motic. So, sticking with a finite 160mm tube scope would make sense unless you're doing things like DIC, advanced polarization, reflected illumination etc.

As for microscope and objective recommendations for under $1500, that amount could get you something like a used Olympus BHS with SPlan objectives or a Nikon Optiphot with CFN or maybe even a few Apo objectives. That is would be what I would try to find if a friend wanted to spend around $1500.

Assuming they're in good shape, those will have better mechanical and optical quality than the Motic example I've owned -- which was a $3000 new Motic BA400 with their top fluorite objectives, that I bought used for considerably less (these don't hold their value). The Motic BA400 was a fine microscope -- competing at half the new price with scopes like Olympus BX40 or a Nikon E400, but half a step behind in both mechanical and optical quality. That scope was likely built quite a bit better than their Motic microscopes selling for half that price, but I'd still rather have a used Olympus BHS or Nikon Optiphot than a half price BA400 -- and much more than a new Motic B3.

I have mixed emotions about the Microscope World evaluation because it was so poorly controlled and the company has a sort of "moral hazard" in promoting its own lines of microscopes and objectives. Many of the regular and semi-plan achromats (judging by similar looking ones I've viewed) have such terrible contrast most anything looks better. Did they then close down the condenser a bit to increase the perceived contrast on the "super contrast" achromats even more? They also tested only the 100x oil immersion objectives. In my experience, the 40x is the one which will get more use and where differences tend to show up. I also think that most users might want to add the rarely-included 20x to the usual 4x-10x-40x-100x lineup. It's a great combination of good working distance and sufficient magnification for lots of subjects.

I will say that I've seen decent Chinese plan achromats of recent manufacture and would be inclined to choose that level (not achromat, semi-plan, or "super contrast" achromat) if you're uncomfortable evaluating and buying a used microscope. The plan image will be appreciated if (likely when) you start taking photos or make videos of your finds.

If you want to spend less, I think a new AmScope T490 with plan achromat objectives or a used Olympus BHTU, Nikon Labophot (or Reichert MicroStar etc. etc.) would be wonderful and cheap enough (say, $400-700) to avoid buyer's remorse. The used ones will hold their value if you decide to upgrade later.

If you want to spend still less, more recent plan achromat objectives (big barrels, not so tapered with all the colored lines) and perhaps a brighter stand for your present American Optical setup would also be a step up in optical quality and likely your cheapest option. A forum member here ("Apochronaut") has in the past listed all the available objectives and their relative quality, which can be quite good for a 50 year old system. A search would find it. I doubt you could tell much difference between Motic B3 plan achromats and AO's better plan achromats -- and things like phase contrast will likely be more affordable with used A.O. gear.

As has been offered to others, I've put together a guide to new and used microscopes to help parents and mentors choose a decent scope -- and if you want a copy, message me and I can send a PDF to your email address.

farnsy
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Re: Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

#5 Post by farnsy » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:24 pm

PeteM, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Overall my takeaway from your comments is that Motic, while a decent manufacturer, is really not that special, optically or functionally, when compared with other Chinese manufacturers. That's kind of the information I was looking for.

I actually misclicked a bit ago and purchased an AmScope T530, which has not yet arrived (I can refuse delivery if I decide I don't want it). That model is better than the T490 because it has Kohler Illumination capability and has one of those switches on the side that redirects more or less light to the camera tube if you want.

Based on your comments it might make sense for me to accept delivery on this and then buy some upgraded objectives as desired--since it's 160mm, there is a whole universe of options, though the AmScope ones are more likely to be parfocal. The phase contrast objectives from that brand are quite inexpensive and it takes 37 mm condensers so I should be able to get a reasonable price on a phase condenser (or use one of the filters that are designed to mimic that behavior). I can put the extra money into a good camera solution that I can use on this and future microscopes.

I don't have plans to get rid of my A.O., so in light of your comments about the quality of some old optics, I may indeed end up performing some upgrades there--I've already done a little repair work on it and enjoyed it. If nothing else, repair and upgrade is sort of a fun hobby. Ultimately I may end up using one microscope for brightfield and the other for phase contrast or something like that. If I had a trinocular head for my A.O., I'd be a lot less inclined to look at new scopes at this time...maybe I should keep a lookout for that.

Still interested in other opinions on Motic's ASC vs PLAN lenses (which are also possible to use in an AmScope) or between these and their infinity lenses. Tentatively I'll plan on accepting the AmScope, for now.

apochronaut
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Re: Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

#6 Post by apochronaut » Thu Jun 27, 2019 1:39 pm

If you are contemplating purchasing a phase condenser with a 37mm sleeve mount, be aware that you must also purchase phase objectives that are matched to that condenser. It would only be by accident for instance, that Amscope phase objectives would work with a Tiyoda phase condenser. Well, they will work but the resulting phase image will be far from good. The important point is that your Amscope and in fact all Chinese microscopes of the past 30 years or so, whether 160mm or infinity are based on a 45mm parfocal D.I.N. pattern. You would most likely be limited to 45mm D.I.N. objectives, unless you purchased adapters to increase the length of shorter tube objectives but generally speaking; 160mm Chinese microscopes are like Popeye.
One advantage of getting into an infinity corrected Chinese microscope is that a large proportion of them are similarly corrected to Olympus oo and the D.I.N. AO/Reichert oo corrections. There are also probably those corrected similarly to Nikon but I am not as clear on that. Perhaps Pete M knows. Primarily, it is the tube length that varies by 20mm, so there is about a 10% less difference in magnification , if you went to AO/Reichert optics in a Chinese scope for instance.
Getting better optics into them is the principle way of improving a Chinese microscope. Not a lot can be done to the stand itself, the stage or the illuminator but objectives with better contrast and colour correction and possibly a wider f.o.v. may be possible. With a bit of D.I.Ying, even some intermediary optics could probably be adapted too but primarily, with a basic Chinese scope, upgrading means better optics. This means that upgrading a Chinese oo corrected microscope is easier than upgrading a Chinese 160mm tube microscope, where only a small # of economical options exist for the improvement of the objectives and they are hard to find. With an oo system one can always buy into a set of 45mm parfocal Reichert planachros for peanuts because they fly in under the radar. I've seen entire sets go for under 100.00 and they are almost always free of delamination. I've had hundreds of them go through my hands and have only ever seen about 2 with problems. They are about twice as good as standard Chinese oo corrected planachros, especially in the 2.5x, 4X and 10X magnifications, which are exceptionally good; the upper two overall better than even Chinese planfluorites I tried. There are also planfluorites and planapos in the same series, harder to find and obviously more money but even they are often cheap.....under 150.00 is not that uncommon. It would probably be best to get the correct eyepieces and even for those those 22mm f.o.v. Chinese versions with 30mm bores, can be stepped up with a pair of Reichert 10X W.F. with 24mm f.o.v. sets from a Polyvar....if the head in the Chinese instrument can provide that field. It should.

farnsy
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Re: Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

#7 Post by farnsy » Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:59 pm

Apochromat, thanks for your reply. The situation is evidently more complex than I had thought. I had the impression that 160mm stuff was all pretty much compatible, including the phase contrast lenses and condensers, but I can see that is not necessarily so. Additionally I thought every company (including some Chinese companies) had their own, incompatible, standards for infinity corrected stuff. If the Chinese are coalescing around Olympus' standard, that would be a good thing. One of the reasons I have been considering Motic's infinity stuff (BA310E is what I had in mind) is that it seems like they and other manufacturers are only kicking out low or medium quality glass for 160mm and reserving their better stuff for their infinity lines. If those scopes additionally allow me to purchase Olympus objectives or accessories, that would be a big plus on the infinity corrected side.

Ultimately, for me, purchasing a more valuable microscope also means choosing a standard for optics and accessories. I'm going to have to do some more research on the secondary market for these objectives and accessories. Probably what this means is that, for now, I'll buy some more stuff for my AO (phase contrast, I'm looking at you) and play with it while I really decide what brand, level, and age of microscope to purchase to be a more permanent solution. I did ultimately cancel my AmScope purchase--no need to get rushed into a decision when I already have working scope.

I feel like we (or at least, I) would benefit from a compatibility chart of all the various systems. It's straightforward to look up the focal length, parfocal distance, and thread-type for the big four, but

1) I'm not sure these four characteristics are enough to define compatibility. Like is there additional chromatic correction required in the scope or eyepiece?
2) It does not seem so easy to tell which standard another brand uses. For example, Motic or Labomed.

apochronaut
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Re: Achromatic Super Contrast versus Full Plan (Motic)

#8 Post by apochronaut » Thu Jun 27, 2019 4:22 pm

Take note that the AO/Reichert D.I.N. optics are different than the 34mm parfocal infinity optics , not directly compatible with them and not interchangeable without also changing over to a 400 series head too. Switching to the longer barrel allowed for more complete corrections to be made in the barrel but it is possible to install those optics in a 10. Better to bite the bullet and look for a good Diastar.
Personally, if it came down to a choice between upgrading a series 10, purchasing a 160mm new Chinese scope, purchasing a new infinity corrected Chinese scope or a used BH-2; upgrading the series 10 would win hands down.
For about 300.00 you could have all plan objectives and a 5 hole nosepiece. If you went with the latest plans; the 1309 40X and the 1311 100X, plus the venerable 1022 20X and a 1017 4X you would have a microscope optically as good as any in their era( 1985), possibly excepting the Balplan, and capable of being further upgraded with phase more cheaply than most others. I think you would have to spend heavily on a Chinese infinity corrected scope to get a better performing microscope. It certainly wouldn't be more durable.

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