Which brand of microscope should I buy?

I often receive emails which the question on which brand of microscope I recommend. This question can not be easily answered. I am inclined to say that microscopes from the “Big Four” manufacturers Olympus, Zeiss, Leica and Nikon are probably of highest quality, but this does not mean that I automatically recommend microscopes from these brands (also because of the generally high cost). You see, quality is a relative thing and depends much on the individual expectations and individual satisfaction with a particular microscope. It is about matching the expectations and needs of the microscopist with the microscope. And often this is independent of a particular brand and depends more on the individual microscope and personal preferences.

The Big Four: Leica, Nikon, Olympus, Zeiss

There are 4 big name microscope manufacturers around (alphabetical order): Leica, Nikon, Olympus and Zeiss. They produce microscopes of high quality and, of course, the cost is also much higher. In contrast to many other brands, these “big four” all produce infinity corrected optics, so their parts are not compatible with each other. Among these microscope manufacturers, the quality difference is really small. Much is a question of personal preference and taste. Visit the website of these companies and compare their lines of introductory microscopes. If you choose to buy from these manufacturers, then you can expect outstanding mechanical and optical qualities, good support, many accessories and comparably high resale values and a second-hand market.

These companies primarily target the research market, but some lower-end models are also for routine laboratory, for doctor’s offices and – yes – even amateur microscopists and for education. One of the big advantages of these brands is the incredible support that one gets. Accessories are readily available and there is a wide range of objectives to choose from. If you are interested in upgrading your microscope to different techniques, such as phase contrast, then you will find it much easier with microscopes of these companies. The reason is that their microscopes are much more modular and spare parts are also more readily available also on the second hand market. When buying a microscope from these brands, then you will have to contact the company directly to get an offer. They will also then ask you what objectives, eyepieces etc. you would like to have. They will then put the microscope together based on your own needs. If you tell them that you want to have a microscope for amateur and hobby use, then they will already offer you a package, that includes appropriate components. If you are interested in these microscopes, the I recommend that you visit the company’s website to download some pamphlets of the microscopes that they offer. You will then be able to see a list of all of the components that can be attached to the microscope. These components are proprietary. This means that it is not possible to interchange the parts between the manufacturers.

Other brands

There are countless other microscope brands around. Some of them market their microscopes primarily over Amazon, while others have their own online shops (and might therefore not be as visible to the consumer). When having a closer look at the product pictures, one can see that the eyepieces and objectives are often very similar among many of these models. I was also able to find the same optics in the Chinese online shop Aliexpress. Many of these microscopes are made either in China or at least their parts and are then imported and branded. The fact that they are made in China says nothing about their quality. Some of these microscopes are of excellent quality. I mention this because the term “China microscope” has become synonymous with a low quality microscope, which is not (always) the case. Even some models of the high-end (big 4) microscope manufacturers are made in China. It is the responsibility of the importing company to make sure that they have a minimum quality.

The following list of microscope brands is by no means complete. Not all companies sell their microscopes on Amazon or an online shop but they might require you to contact them personally for a quote. Different brands are more common in some countries than in others. I suggest that you first visit the website of the different companies to get an overview of what they offer. Some of these companies also have quite advanced microscopes in their portfolio, targeting the industry/research market, while others also focus on the introductory or educational market. Also check if the company has a seat in your country (import tax issue).

  • Amscope: https://www.amscope.com/
  • Bresser: https://www.bresser.de/en/Microscopes-Magnifiers/
  • Euromex: https://www.euromex.com/
  • Meiji Techno: https://meijitechno.com/product-new/biological-25
  • Motic: https://www.moticmicroscopes.com/
  • Omano: https://www.microscope.com/omano-microscopes/
  • Omax: https://omaxmicroscope.com/
  • Swift: https://www.swift-microscopeworld.com/