6 Things to Decide Before Buying a Microscope

Before you go to the chemical supply store to pick up new laboratory supplies, is a good idea to think carefully about some of the lab supplies you’re going to need and what specifically you want to look for. If your visit to the chemical supply store is for the purpose of getting a new microscope, here’s what you need to consider to choose the right one:

What Type of Microscope You Need?

There are basically three types you’ll find available at the chemical supply store. Each has different features and is more or less suitable for different functions.


The compound microscope uses slides to look at very small specimens and offers a very high magnification level. It’s excellent for looking at biological organisms, cross-sections of metals, or slices of rock.


A digital microscope uses a camera to project what it sees onto a monitor or screen. This type of microscope is particularly useful if you need to regularly take images of what you’re studying or need to look at larger specimens.


The stereo microscope is especially good for looking at larger specimens like insects or flowers. This type of microscope does not have high magnification capability but is also easier to use. These are a great choice when you have many items that need fast and immediate inspection at a lower magnification.

What Type of Head You Need?

The microscopes at your lab supply store will come with either a monocular or binocular head. The former are cheaper. However, the head angle is set and cannot be adjusted and it is not as suitable for looking in great detail at the specimen. The binocular head provides a better view and is easier to look through over extended periods. They also feature adjustable angles and distances or permit two people to use the microscope at the same time. They are typically much more expensive, however.

What Type of Stage Do You Need?

The stage of the microscope refers to where you place the object you are looking at. Cheaper microscopes use clips to hold slides and objects in place and the stage must be adjusted by hand. This can make it very difficult to make micro adjustments accurately. More expensive microscopes feature mechanical stages for precise adjustment at predetermined intervals.

What Kind of Camera Do You Need?

Today’s typical microscopes will come with one of three types of cameras:

Multiple Signal Output Camera

this camera is the most expensive and comes in a variety of resolutions. It’s best feature is that it allows you to switch between displaying on a monitor, television, or screen with ease so that images or video can be directed where you want them.

Wi-Fi Eyepiece

This type of camera fits onto either a compound or stereo eyepiece and allows you to upgrade a less expensive microscope. With this eyepiece installed, you can take high-resolution images from the microscope and display them on a computer monitor via a cord.

Digital Video Camera

this camera captures images and transmits them to a computer or monitor. Some models look through the eyepiece while others are fixed to a flexible neck in order to focus on an object directly on a slide.

What Type of Lens Do You Need?

It’s also important to decide in advance what kind of lens you need on your microscope. The most important lens is the one nearest to the slide or specimen being observed. Most microscopes will have three to five lenses to allow for varying levels of magnification. The higher the power of the lens, the more detail you can expect.

What Type of Eyepiece Do You Need?

The eyepiece itself will have magnification, usually not adjustable. One of the most common types defined is 10x magnification, however, some microscopes now come with a screen instead of an eyepiece which makes them more suitable for groups. Screen microscopes also come with cameras built in so that it’s possible to take picture and video of whatever is being studied.

The microscope is just one tool in your laboratory, but it’s a crucial one. Before you check out the chemical supply store be sure to think carefully about what you want in a microscope.

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