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Which microscope, stereo or compound, should I buy?

Found in: Buying Advice

If you do not already own a microscope, then you should first ask yourself which type of microscope, stereo or compound, is most suitable for your needs.

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The choice depends almost entirely on your observation interests and on the specimens that you want to look at and the magnification that you need. Many microscopists who are very enthusiastic about their hobby will, sooner or later, probably buy both types of microscopes. If you want to observe larger, opaque objects (rock samples, minerals, stamps, whole plant parts or insects), then get stereo microscopes. Also get stereo microscopes if you want to do uncomplicated natural observation with your children. If you are interested in observing the much smaller cells, cuts through tissue (histological sections), or if you are interested in making a slide collection, then compound microscopes are something for you.

Arguments that speak for stereo microscopes include:

  • If you buy microscopes for young children, stereo microscopes are much to be preferred. They are less delicate, give an upright image and objects can be looked at without much preparation. There is also less parental supervision needed, because they are easier to operate.
  • If you already have a hobby that could benefit from stereo microscopes: Collectors of stamps, coins, minerals and insects will benefit from stereo microscopes, as they allow you to observe these objects directly without any preparation.
  • If you do not want to, or can not engage in sample preparation: Object viewed using stereo microscopes do not have to be mounted on slides (even though this is possible). Slide mounting does require a little bit of laboratory technique.
  • If the objects are quite large: large objects (which can not be cut into sections) can only be observed using stereo microscopes.
  • Choose stereo microscopes if you do not need large magnifications, but would like to view at objects stereoscopically (3D view).
  • If you are interested in quick, uncomplicated exploration of the environment, without sample preparation.

Arguments that speak for compound microscopes include:

  • Older children probably prefer compound microscopes, as they give them more possibilities to explore the unseen.
  • If you want to see cells, then you must use compound microscopes.
  • Choose compound microscopes also if you are interested in learning specimen preparation and basic laboratory work.
  • Some people like to collect slides. If your interests are in making and collecting specimen slides, then compound microscopes are also better suited.

Further Reading:

  • Types of light microscopes
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