Compound scope for home education

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opticnewb
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Compound scope for home education

#1 Post by opticnewb » Thu Aug 29, 2019 7:23 am

Hi All,
I feel like this question has been asked over and over, and answered so expertly - and yet, I struggle to find the correct direction.

I have several children (at this point, count doesn't really matter :) - and we home educate them. They're currently all under 13, however we've always been of the opinion that we should provide real tools to learn real skills. However, sadly, microscopy is well out of my normal wheelhouse of technology. As to what we'll be discovering, I'd like to leave that as broad as possible, but I expect most of it to be slide-based (filters? fluorescence? I don't know what I don't know, yet.). I have a feeling some of my children may pursue this type of skill, given their extreme interest in nature, biology, etc.

I've spend time looking at Accu-Scope (EXC-120, 3000, etc), Labomed Lx400, briefly at Amscope, etc. However, I'm not really a fan of what I'm seeing, and am coming around to realize that I probably should buy something used and of better quality and .. pedigree? :) At this point, my rough budget is probably at or around $1k. It should probably be less than that, but I'm willing to buy something that will serve us well and be flexible for years to come. I'm located in MN, USA as far as purchasing goes.

I'd like to go trinocular - photography isn't the first 'objective', but it ought to be an option. I don't need it to be portable/battery/etc. Plan optics would be nice, as would a good mechanical stage. Somewhat kid-proof is ok, but I'm happy to teach them to respect the equipment.

A quick glance through ebay shows several Olympus BH2s, with teaching arms, cams, etc. However, I'm stuck at knowing what to look for / how to spot the duds. PeteM - any chance I can get your famous PDF? :)

Thanks for any suggestions you might have. I'm open to specific eBay suggestions as well, or trusted used suppliers, etc too.

farnsy
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#2 Post by farnsy » Thu Aug 29, 2019 3:54 pm

One of the important considerations when making the new/used decision is how interested you are in the labor required to get a used microscope up to spec. This means (1) thorough and careful cleaning, almost for sure (2) scouting ebay and other markets for used parts, often over a period of time (3) doing maintenance/repair such as taking it apart to re-lube and tighten things up (4) doing enough research that you really know what to get. With a new scope, you only have the last consideration.

I was in your shoes very recently (I'm not a microscope expert) and I realized that the first 3 points here are something I really enjoy, possible more than actually using the scopes. As a result I currently have 7 used microscopes in my home. One I have fixed up as much as I am going to and have given to my daughter. Three are almost fixed up and for my own use. The others are currently used for parts and practice upgrading. I am actively working on retrofit filters and I have the parts for a DIY LED conversion coming in the mail. I have lots of things on my microscope repair/upgrade TODO list. It has been it's own kind of education for me and I'm very happy, though looking over all the random parts and materials I have bought, I could have gotten a pretty good mid-range new scope for this money.

So treat me as a cautionary tale or as an inspiration, depending on whether you count the time and effort I have spent as a cost or a benefit.

On the new microscope side, I'll add that I was close to purchasing a Motic scope before I decided to go used. Motic is one of the better Chinese manufacturers. For example, Jam's Germs (https://www.instagram.com/jam_and_germs/) uses a Motic BA310. Pretty close to your price range, at least before adding goodies like phase contrast and upgraded optics.

Sauerkraut
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#3 Post by Sauerkraut » Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:39 pm

Having been in a similar boat in the past, I agree with farnsy.

I was unsure if a used scope would be okay so went with a new Chinese scope some years ago (wasn't aware of this forum at the time). And although it has been a decent scope (with some upgrades, excellent for general viewing actually), my recent Nikon Optiphot project scope has given me an exponentially better appreciation of what a good microscope should feel like. And even the adventure of disassemble and cleaning has been a great educational experience - maybe even on par with actually looking at specimens. Shouldn't a person know the guts of the stuff they are using, whether it's their house or car or microscope?

What helped me the most in making a decision on a used scope, was reading up on posts from the many knowledgeable members of this forum until I had a better clue on all aspects of microscopes - especially optics, lighting, and special techniques. And then, also important was emailing with eBay sellers to get a feeling for what they are selling - ask lots of questions. If they say they don't know, then negotiate them down because the risk is yours. And eBay has a pretty good return policy. They tend to side with the buyer if the transaction goes awry to shady item descriptions.

So there is nothing wrong with buying a new budget scope, but if I could do it over, a used good one would have been my first purchase.

Heather

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75RR
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#4 Post by 75RR » Thu Aug 29, 2019 7:14 pm

Perhaps this will help clarify things: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art ... oscope.pdf
Zeiss Standard WL (somewhat fashion challenged) & Wild M8
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MicroBob
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#5 Post by MicroBob » Thu Aug 29, 2019 7:25 pm

Hi farnsy and Sauerkraut,
that are both very thoughtful descriptions for a newbie to come to a buying decision!

Bob

apochronaut
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#6 Post by apochronaut » Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:15 pm

Ebay or other second hand options can be a minefield for an unknowledgeable microscope newbie but luckily there are some people around with a map of the location of those mines to share. Buying a new microscope unfortunately, is just as much of a minefield and the map pointing out those, although in existence, seems lost in translation.
I know that there are perfectly functioning used microscopes out there, many complete and in excellent to close to mint condition. The prices are well below those of a new instrument trumpeting similar performance but in actual fact, not delivering that performance , especially if one is logical about choice and bases there choice on qualities of performance and reliability and not on the emotion attached to a trade name.

You might as well buy a second hand, name brand microscope built with craftsmanship now, because if microscopy turns out to be in the cards for any one of your family, you will be buying one in the future, anyway. If it doesn't? At least you will have something that carries a resale value.

PeteM
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#7 Post by PeteM » Thu Aug 29, 2019 10:30 pm

opticnewb wrote: . . . PeteM - any chance I can get your famous PDF? :)

Thanks for any suggestions you might have. I'm open to specific eBay suggestions as well, or trusted used suppliers, etc too.
Once you have enough posts to send a message, let me know an email address and I'm happy to send it your way.

The BH2 could be a great choice, along with several other microscopes discussed here.

With a range of kids under 13, I'd seriously considering adding (or starting with) a stereo microscope. There's a lot to be enjoyed and learned at that scale - you won't regret having one in addition to a compound microscope.

If you get a stereo microscope with an illuminated base, it can also work up to about 60x with slides. However, it's the low powers (7x to 10x, maybe 20x to 30x) that can be most useful.

If you can let us know your budget and your comfort level with a bit of DIY that could help narrow it down.

Scarodactyl
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#8 Post by Scarodactyl » Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:09 am

There is also the option of buying a professionally serviced used scope, somewhere in between a new one and straight off eBay or a surplus sale. I haven't taken this route because they're priced a little more appropriately given their value, but it takes out a lot of the guesswork too if you get one from someone reputable.

opticnewb
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#9 Post by opticnewb » Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:36 am

Thank you all for your thoughtful replies -- still deciphering things a bit.
PeteM wrote: Once you have enough posts to send a message, let me know an email address and I'm happy to send it your way.
...
If you can let us know your budget and your comfort level with a bit of DIY that could help narrow it down.
My budget is roughly $1k or less. Feel free to PM me your email and I can send you an email, or I'm sure I'll hit the post limit eventually. With regards to my level of comfort for DIY - ordinarily I'd say high, but in this case I'd like to get something functional sooner than later, and probably shouldn't commit to the the requisite learning/research time of "high".

It seems like much of the stuff on eBay is along the lines of, "Super clean, works perfectly! I picked it up at a university sale, I have a low number of ratings, and I know nothing about these things." :) Perhaps those really are the good deals, but I'm not sure if it's possible to know that without purchasing.. which is a bit of a leap.

Tom Jones
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#10 Post by Tom Jones » Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:53 am

opticnewb,

Where are you located? Maybe someone is close enough to provide a bit of assistance.

Tom

farnsy
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#11 Post by farnsy » Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:40 am

My budget is roughly $1k or less. Feel free to PM me your email and I can send you an email, or I'm sure I'll hit the post limit eventually. With regards to my level of comfort for DIY - ordinarily I'd say high, but in this case I'd like to get something functional sooner than later, and probably shouldn't commit to the the requisite learning/research time of "high".

It seems like much of the stuff on eBay is along the lines of, "Super clean, works perfectly! I picked it up at a university sale, I have a low number of ratings, and I know nothing about these things." :) Perhaps those really are the good deals, but I'm not sure if it's possible to know that without purchasing.. which is a bit of a leap.
This is a forum frequented mostly by hobbyists. For us concepts like buying something upgrade-able or with resale value makes sense because we, ourselves, are interested in the scopes and would not be satisfied with something cheap. However, you are beginning to sound a little more like you might be a typical "I want to buy a microscope as a consumption item for my kids, not particularly for myself" type of person. Nothing wrong with that. The usual person who buys a microscope for their kids doesn't upgrade, they don't sell their microscope (unless it be at a garage sale), the scope doesn't get all that much use, the extra little bit of quality the best brands offer is not noticeable, and things like setting up Koehler illumination are unwanted hassles. For that type of consumer, a not-perfectly-functional scope is a significant problem.

If that is the case, something like an OMAX or an AmScope t490 is a perfect option. It will be functional, new, and have optics that are good enough that a non-hobbyist and non-professional won't notice. It won't be built for frequent use over decades but it will be flexible and cheap and it will come without damage or dirt. There are plenty of upgrades you can buy for it as well, both in terms of optics and accessories, if you want them later.

The question of what microscope to purchase is less about what is a good option out there and more about who are you, really, as a microscope user. That's a hard one to get input on. We can sort of show you what we are interested in and what options are out there, but in the end only you know yourself.

My personal feeling (which probably does not represent a consensus view here), after having gone the used microscope route, is that ebay and craigslist microscopes are best reserved for people who see microscopy has a hobby, not those who want it only as a homeschooling tool.

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75RR
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#12 Post by 75RR » Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:26 am

My personal feeling (which probably does not represent a consensus view here), after having gone the used microscope route, is that ebay and craigslist microscopes are best reserved for people who see microscopy has a hobby, not those who want it only as a homeschooling tool.
I would agree with that. A $300 dollar trinocular microscope from amazon (which has a good return policy) and an eyepiece usb camera from ebay (cheaper than amazon) will do what you need.
The camara can be hooked up to a monitor so everyone can see.
Zeiss Standard WL (somewhat fashion challenged) & Wild M8
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billbillt
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#13 Post by billbillt » Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:29 pm

If a re-seller on Ebay states" I know nothing about microscopes", beware.. There is usually something wrong with it and/or parts missing..

BillT

Sauerkraut
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#14 Post by Sauerkraut » Fri Aug 30, 2019 6:31 pm

Maybe I got lucky BillT. So far there is nothing wrong with the scope except for a scratched eye piece. The phase condenser knob was stuck from old lube but that was an easy fix. Lenses needed light cleaning. And the condenser carrier gears need lube and perhaps a little freeing up of the slide mechanisms due to old grease.

I would have been at least slightly disappointed if it was perfect with nothing for me to tinker with.

The flip side is the guy could have killed the scope with his lack of understanding of proper packing protocols for precision instruments. So that's something to be aware of also when buying used.

opticnewb
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#15 Post by opticnewb » Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:35 pm

So people don't think I just hit and run, I'm still here.. :)

apochronaut has been kind enough to take me under his wing and discuss a fair bit more detail of some AO options. I believe a combination of the AO StereoStar/580 and the AO 110 will be a good fit for both the stuff I'm interested in, as well as my kids' discoveries. Time will tell. :)

Jonathan

Scarodactyl
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#16 Post by Scarodactyl » Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:52 pm

These are very nice tools that should sustain a serious interest in microscopy if things go that way.

Hobbyst46
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#17 Post by Hobbyst46 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:54 pm

According to my personal experience, the AO 580 is a fine and sturdy kid-proof stereoscope.
Good luck!
Zeiss Standard GFL+Canon EOS-M10, Olympus VMZ stereo

opticnewb
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#18 Post by opticnewb » Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:59 pm

Hobbyst46 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:54 pm
According to my personal experience, the AO 580 is a fine and sturdy kid-proof stereoscope.
Good luck!
Oooh, kid-proof, that's a brave claim! Perhaps you actually meant kid-resistant? Great feedback, thanks.

farnsy
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Re: Compound scope for home education

#19 Post by farnsy » Mon Sep 09, 2019 5:10 pm

The good thing about AO is that this forum has lots of people with great knowledge about and interest in the brand. And it can be had cheaply. And their scopes are often really built to last. All of those are worth a lot.

The bad thing is that most of those scopes are old and the ones from ebay frequently have significant need of cleaning in the optical path, if they don't have mechanical problems. I just bought a 110 and found that a corrosive powder had been poured into the head through the trinocular port and had eaten some internal bits. Didn't see that on the listing. Powder didn't make it to the objectives or stage, though, so I'll use those parts.

Anyway, if you like to tinker, AO is perfect, especially the 10 series. The 110 is similar in most respects (and tends to come with goodies like quintuple nosepieces and plan objectives) but the lighting stuff inside the base is more complicated and cramped--ironic, since the base is much larger--while in the 10 those parts are very modular, interchangeable, and have plenty of space. I like the stage on the 110 series better, though--centerable condenser fork and it's ambidextrous. Plus it aesthetically looks like a modern scope. Of course, the 110's are, by definition, less old.

I don't have a stereo microscope (excerpt a toy one in my kids' room) but I may have to look at the 580 at some point as well.

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