In this day and age, science is available to anyone who is interested, so tools like microscopes have become increasingly popular. This is a specialised instrument with many peculiarities to pay attention to. Here we tell you everything you need to know to choose the perfect one.
Microscopes are devices that are used to magnify very small images, in order to be able to observe them in detail. It is an essential instrument for the development of countless sciences, such as medicine, biology, geology and many more. But it is also widely used by amateurs looking to experiment for themselves.
The thing about microscopes is that they are instruments that have a lot of specifications and requirements. Aspects such as the number of eyepieces, illumination and optics are some of the aspects that define the profile of the microscope. We will discuss these and other criteria in more detail below.
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- 2 Summary
- 3 The Best Microscope: Our Picks
- 4 Buying Guide
- 5 Buying criteria: factors that allow you to compare and rate different models of microscopes
- Microscopes are essential tools for various sciences, as they allow the study of living and non-living objects of small sizes. The development of this tool represented a major step forward for the knowledge about the universe of micro-organisms and micro-particles.
- The number of eyepieces is one of the most important aspects of a microscope. The greater the number of eyepieces, the larger the field of view to study a sample. Therefore, microscopes with several eyepieces have a professional profile. The intended use of the microscope is the main criterion for choosing a number of eyepieces.
- There are digital and optical microscopes. The difference between these is that the former work by digitally magnifying the image, while the latter work with lenses that are treated and arranged to magnify the image through optical strategies. Both have advantages and disadvantages, which will be discussed in more detail below.
The Best Microscope: Our Picks
One of the characteristics of microscopes is that they are instruments with many technical specifications. It is therefore important to be familiar with how they work in order to understand what to look for in a good microscope. Here we explain not only what it is, but also other particularities of this useful instrument.
What is a microscope and what are its advantages?
In the case of optical microscopes, the approach is through the refraction of light passing through the lenses, while digital microscopes zoom in electronically. Although the basic operation is the same, today's microscopes have many features that the pioneers could not even imagine. But the truth is that microscopes are an everyday part of many professional and amateur laboratories around the world.
Monocular, binocular or trinocular microscopes - what should you pay attention to?
Microscopes with multiple eyepieces are therefore considered professional, while those with a single eyepiece are considered simple, simple and in some cases for amateurs. There are three types of microscopes according to the number of eyepieces they have: monocular microscopes, which have one eyepiece; binocular microscopes, which have two eyepieces; and trinocular microscopes, which have three eyepieces.
|Number of eyepieces||One eyepiece||Two eyepieces||Three eyepieces|
|Complexity of use||Low||Medium||High|
|For use in||Student experiments||University laboratories and research||High level professional research|
|Convenience of use||Low||High||High|
How much does a microscope cost?
Where to buy a microscope?
Buying criteria: factors that allow you to compare and rate different models of microscopes
We are sure you already want to rush out and buy a microscope, but first read our last section and consider these criteria when you are making your decision between different microscope models.
- Type of microscope
- Portable microscopes
Type of microscope
There are many types of microscopes on the market that are classified by various aspects, but the most striking is the type of operating mechanism. According to this classification there are numerous microscopes, but most of them are for very specific uses, while the common ones are summarised as optical, digital and compound.
They have the simplest mechanism and were the first to be developed. They work with illumination and mixtures of optics that magnify the image of the sample, which is placed over the well illuminated focal zone. Current models are inspired by Anton van Leeuwenhoek's model.
These are those with a second system to magnify the image. The first system is the one that projects the image on the optics, while the second approach is on the eyepiece. They are also more robust than simple digital microscopes, which is always an advantage for the user.
Digital microscopes are a revolution in the microscope mechanism, as they do not use light to magnify the image, but use electrons instead. Digital microscopes are not used to view the image directly, but the user observes and studies a digitally magnified image. Choosing between these types is not a matter of whim, but of intended use. If you need to record observations, a digital microscope with which you can save the images obtained is very useful. Whereas if you are looking for sporadic observations, an optical microscope offers a direct experience with the sample.
This is an essential aspect of optical microscopes, as illumination is part of the image magnification system. So it is an aspect that must be considered with due attention, as it can degrade the functionality of the microscope. The cheaper models do not have their own illumination, but use angled mirrors to take advantage of natural light. This is not the most advantageous, as the light can be poor, so it is preferable to opt for microscopes with their own illumination, and an extra advantage is that it is adjustable.
The most common illuminations are tungsten, fluorescent and LED. Tungsten is the most common and cheapest, but generates a lot of heat. Fluorescent is a bit more expensive and reigned supreme until the advent of LED. These are ultimately the most popular, as they give good illumination, consume much less energy and do not emit heat.
Of course, one of the most important criteria for evaluating a microscope are the optics. These are the components in optical microscopes that magnify the image, so they need to be of excellent quality. Most microscopes have 3 objectives with 4x, 10x and 40x optics. These are suitable for the study of many fields, but there are also calibres that go up to 400x magnification, but these are already part of professional microscopes and are used in laboratories that have large budgets.
Microscopes are usually fixed, and the sample must be placed on the light source in order to be observed. This is because the optical mechanism requires the sample to be fixed, at a certain distance from the optics, and as mobile as possible.
But the advent of digital microscopes has given freedom, as they do not need to be fixed to be effective. This is how portable microscopes came about, allowing the camera to be manipulated and the sample to be studied wherever it is. These do not usually offer as much image magnification, but are very useful in field work.
(Featured image photo: kkolosov / pixnio.com)