Research microscopes can be easily converted to allow for polarization work or phase contrast microscopy. Filters can be inserted at different positions of the light path. Some microscopic techniques, such as polarization or DIC require a filter which is located above the specimen. Research microscopes sometimes have the possibility to insert a filter in the appropriate place. The lower priced (and much smaller) educational and laboratory grade microscopes do not have a filter holder there. Some of these devices even permit the easy exchange of the illumination system or the whole revolver carrying the objectives. Research organizations which have to use different microscopic techniques may find research microscopes to meet their needs better than purchasing several separate smaller microscopes for the different purposes.
Research microscopes often provide a higher light intensity. This allows for shorter exposure times when doing photography. Older research microscopes have a powerful lamp which is located outside the body of the microscope (with separate cooling mechanism), and where the light is directed to the specimen over prisms. Some research microscopes allow users to connect more than one camera to the microscope.
In summary, research microscopes are characterized by:
- Higher modularity and more options for extending the microscope
- Better optics: apochromatic, plan objectives
- Higher light intensity
- Larger size and lack of portability