Definitive Buying Guide for the Best Microscopes [2021 Edition]

Choosing the best microscope for your line of work or perhaps a new found hobby should not be an uphill task. If you are a researcher in a science lab, you definitely need a different types of microscope compared to a school kid who is starting to experimenting with looking at insect specimens.

Best Microscope Buying GuideWith the vast advances in the technical field of microscopy technology, there are many types and variations of microscopes that come with different capabilities.

It can be pretty daunting to pick one among the many different brands, types and features. In this buying guide, you will get to know how to pick and choose a microscope that is inline with both your budget and requirements.

How to Pick and Choose the Best Microscope

There are three main selection criteria which are crucial in helping you pick and choose the best microscope that truly fits your intended use for it.

There are obviously many others but these main ones should be enough to help you filter out unsuitable ones and shortlist a few that match your needs and budget.

[Selection Criteria #1] Understanding the Types of Microscopes and Their Intended Use (Applications)

In the microscopy industry, majority of microscopes fall under two basic categories (high and low power microscopes). As technology evolves, microscope manufacturers start to come out with many varieties of these two types of microscopes.

Below is a glossary of high and low power microscope varieties which are coined differently based on their individual functions.

High Power Microscopes

These microscopes are also commonly known as compound microscopes and biological microscopes. They are most used because of their ability to view (up to 1000x) extremely tiny things like plant and blood cells, tissues, micro-organisms and so on. These things are way beyond what our naked human eyes are capable of seeing.

Compound Microscope

All compound microscopes have high magnification of up to 3000X. Biological microscope is a variation of it that are used for viewing invisible things (to human eyes) like plant and blood cells.

These days, compound microscopes have the capability to connect to a separate USB digital camera to record a video clip of whatever that you see within the microscope eyepiece.

  • Fully featured compound microscopes should come with:
  • coaxial coarse and fine focus
  • LED transmitted illumination system
  • large double layer mechanical stage with scale and adjustment handle
  • 2000X magnification with 100X oil immersion objective

Inverted Microscope

Inverted microscopes are usually used for performing lab works like animal or plant cell analysis. For example, you will need one if you are looking to examine super tiny living microorganisms invisible to human eyes within contained environments like beaker or flask.

Biological inverted microscope and Metallurgical inverted microscope are two basic variations of inverted microscopes.

Biological inverted microscopes are mostly used for viewing and observing living microorganisms within a fluid-based environment. If you are looking to buy one, be sure to get one that comes with the ability to provide phrase contrast (epi fluorescence) and brightfield.

Metallurgical inverted microscopes on the other hand, are used for viewing opaque objects and are too “big” for viewing under a typical upright metallurgical microscope. In your line of work or study, if you need space for a manipulator tool to micro-manipulate tiny opaque objects, this is probably the type of microscope for you.

Low Power Microscopes

Stereo microscopes and dissecting microscopes are both low power microscopes that are used for viewing slightly “bigger” things and objects than that of high power microscopes. Things like old coins, stamps, insect specimens and so on.

Stereo Microscope (also known as dissecting microscopes)

Stereo microscopes have very wide applications that will work flawlessly in many industries.

We are referring to industries that require examination of three dimensional transparent or opaque objects like coins, soils or very tiny electrical components and solid surfaces like circuit boards or fossils.

Stereo microscopes have low magnification capability which are usually at about 4.5X to 80X.

If you are an archeologist who study human artifacts or a biology student who needs to dissect, inspect and observe the internal parts of plants and insects, then you will need binocular or trinocular stereo zoom microscopes.

Digital Microscopes

Digital microscopes can be both high and low power types depending on the application. There are also wide application for digital microscopes but is more commonly used in the manufacturing, inspection, quality control and R&D industries.

As technology continues to mature, manufacturers of digital microscopes (first invented in Japan in 1986) continue to come out with new features and upgraded functions every few months.

These days, it is not uncommon to find digital microscopes that come with (built-in or detachable) camera, crystal clear LCD digital display and high resolution LED display monitors.

New features and functions like those from electron microscope and viewing of atomic-scale images are relatively new inventions for professional lab use. If you are looking for industrial grade or research grade microscopes, you may want to check out some of these brands and models.

Go for digital microscope if ergonomic and convenience (instant viewing of the image taken) is something you are looking for. Drawbacks you should be aware of includes rapid obsolescence of the features of built-in camera and sensors.

There are no eyepieces as images are displayed on the LCD monitor. You will also need a USB connection to computer system for backup and retrieval of images.

Light Microscopes

Light microscope is a variation of microscopes that has built-in LED transmitted illumination of variable intensity. Most compound and stereo microscopes come with LED Ring light illuminator that act as a visible light source for enhancing close-up examination of tiny objects.

There are even detachable light illuminators that you can buy online.

Handheld Pocket Microscopes

Handheld pocket microscopes are very popular due to its versatility. It can be used by anyone. It does not matter if you are a young kids, a research student or a scientist, having a portable microscope allows you to venture beyond the lab and out into the wild to further explore the microscopy world.

Handheld microscopes are also relatively cheaper than the rest and most of their replacement parts and accessories can be easily found online.

Now you have a basic glimpse of the various types of microscopes, it is time to match them with the kind of intended use you have in mind.

The types of samples or objects that you plan to view on will help define what types of microscope you will need at the most basic level.

For example, you will want to get a biological compound microscope if your aim is to study the movements or finer details of cells or tissues and biological specimens.

Beyond this , you will need to look at the various features and functions that you will need in your course of study or research work. Most common features and functions from most microscopes will be listed in the next section.

[Selection Criteria #2] List Down Features and Functions that Match Your Needs

Once you are aware of the intended use (application) for the microscope, it is time to pen down a list of specific features and functions you will need on a regular basis.

If you are a biology student looking for a microscope, you will want to first understand the specific features and functions that are inline with your school project requirements.

For example, you may need a biological compound microscope with eight magnifications level (40x to 2000x). You also need a sliding binocular viewing head to study the finer details of cell walls and membranes of plant cells and so on.

Common Features and Functions

Below are some common features you should look out for when shopping for a microscope. Depending on your needs and budget, not all features and functions are absolutely necessary.

Magnification levels (zoom capability) are always on the rise as better lenses are being made. There is no need to get the latest. Just choose one zoom range that is suitable for your needs.

Stereo microscopes have low magnification capability yet they are most ideal for performing tasks like dissecting, viewing of fossils and internal parts of insects and plants.

Lighting Options is another common feature found in most microscopes which comes with tungsten, halogen or fluorescent bulbs. Choose one that comes with the level of brightness most suitable for whatever you are doing. Getting the brightest light source may not always be the best options. LED illuminator is another very popular lighting option you may want to consider as they emit no heat and consume much lesser power than the rest.

Optical Quality is an important feature in which you want to consider a few things like getting DIN (Deutsch Industry Norm) compatible objectives.

Having quality objective lenses like Achromatic lens and wider eyepiece (less strainful for the eye) are another two features you want to consider when choosing a microscope.

Abbe Condenser and Iris Diaphragm are another two key features you will want to consider well before getting a microscope. Good quality Abbe condenser provides better level of adjustments in directing light source from LED illuminator onto the samples you are viewing.

Decent quality Iris diaphragm allows better control of lighting shone upon the micro object you are viewing.

Mechanical Stage is crucial when viewing specimens under high level magnification. Having a better quality mechanical stage would means better ability to follow moving cells or organisms across the slide.

Monocular microscopes vs Binocular microscopes vs Trinocular microscopes

In a nutshell, monocular microscope comes with a single eyepiece while a binocular microscope comes with two eyepieces. No, a trinocular microscope does not comes with three eyepieces. 🙂

A trinocular microscope comes with a dedicated port for mounting of camera for recording of images.

A binocular microscope would be highly recommended as it will be less stressful for the eyes compared to viewing via a monocular counterpart.

Once you know what features and functions you need in a microscope, it will be relatively easy to shop for one that fits your budget which we will discuss below.

[Selection Criteria #3] List Down the Minimum and Maximum Price Range You Are Willing to Pay

Some brands and models of microscopes have features and functions that are way better than others but their price point are usually in the 4 digit range.

It is never a good decision to buy something so expensive yet you only need and use less than 50% of the features and functions.

As mentioned earlier, always list down the features you need and functions that you will use on a frequent basis. In addition to that, it is recommended to have a price range in mind that you are willing to fork out. E.g. between $150 to $250. The purpose of doing this is for you to get a wider selections of microscopes that fit your requirements.

Once you have shortlisted a list of brands and models that meet your requirements and budget, it is just a matter of choosing one that you truly preferred.

Comparison Table of the 10 Best Microscopes

Below is comparison table where 10 of the top brands and models of microscopes are being shortlisted based on their features and reviews from online buyers.

Best 10

Brand|Model

Variation Type

Microscope Head

Magnification

How Much?

Amscope Compound Microscope

Amscope M100C-LED



Compound



Monocular



40X - 1000X

My First Lab Duo Microscope

My First Lab MFL-06



Compound/Stereo



Monocular



10X to 400X

Koolertron Digital Microscope

Koolertron AS-SM



Digital



5 inch LCD Display



Up to 260X

<br />
Jiusion Digital USB Microscope

Jiusion-1000x



Digital



USB Connection to Phone/PC



40X to 1000X

OMAX Compound Microscope

OMAX M82ES-SC100-LP100



Compound



Binocular



40X to 2000X

Opti-Tekscope Digital Microscope

Opti-Tekscope OT-HD



Digital



USB Connection to Laptop/PC



Up to 200X

Carson MicroBrite Plus Handheld Microscope

Carson MM-300



Portable Handheld



N.A



20X to 200X

<br />
Andonstar Digital Microscope

Andonstar ADSM302



Digital



1080P Display



Up to 560X

Celestron Handheld Digital Microscope

Celestron 44308



Handheld Digital



USB Connection to Laptop/PC



20X to 200X

C & A Scientific Premiere Compound Microscope

C & A Scientific Premiere MSK-01L



Compound



Monocular



40X to 400X

Our Top Editorial Picks for 2021

Below are some of our editorial picks of microscopes most suitable for specific use and requirement. They may not be the best in the market in terms of features and pricing but they do perform well for their intended use.

Editorial Picks

Best Rated Microscope

OMAX 40X-2000X Digital LED Compound Microscope with Built-in 1.3MP Camera and Double Layer Mechanical Stage Compatible with Windows and Mac

OMAX 40X-2000X Digital LED Compound Microscope with Built-in 1.3MP Camera and Double Layer Mechanical Stage Compatible with Windows and Mac

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Best Digital Microscope

Koolertron 5 inch LCD 1080P Digital Microscope Wireless Remote Control Up to 560x Magnification with Adjustable Stand, USB/HDMI/AV Output Camera Video Recorder with 8 LED Adjustable Light Source

Koolertron 5 inch LCD 1080P Digital Microscope Wireless Remote Control Up to 560x Magnification with Adjustable Stand, USB/HDMI/AV Output

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Best Monocular Compound Microscope

AmScope M150C-I 40X-1000X All-Metal Optical Glass Lenses Cordless LED Student Biological Compound Microscope

AmScope M150C-I 40X-1000X All-Metal Optical Glass Lenses Cordless LED Student Biological Compound Microscope

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Best Compound Microscope

Awarded 2018 Best Compound Microscope - OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Microscope with Double Layer Mechanical Stage w Blank Slides Covers and Lens Cleaning Paper

Awarded 2018 Best Compound Microscope – OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Microscope with Double Layer Mechanical Stage

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Best Budget Pick Microscope

Carson 60x-75x MicroMax LED Lighted Pocket Microscope (MM-200)

Carson 60x-75x MicroMax LED Lighted Pocket Microscope (MM-200)

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Carson MicroBrite Plus 60x-120x LED Lighted Pocket Microscope

Carson MicroBrite Plus 60x-120x LED Lighted Pocket Microscope with Aspheric Lens System (MM-300 or MM-300MU)

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Highest Magnification Microscope

OMAX 40X-3000X 18MP USB3.0 Digital Quintuple Infinity Plan Darkfield LED Kohler Compound Microscope

OMAX 40X-3000X 18MP USB3.0 Digital Quintuple Infinity Plan Darkfield LED Kohler Compound Microscope

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Most Suitable for Kids Microscope

Omano JuniorScope Microscope for Kids Microscope Science Kits for Kids Science Experiment Kits

Omano JuniorScope Microscope for Kids Microscope Science Kits for Kids Science Experiment Kits

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Most Suitable for Students Microscope

AmScope 40X-1000X Dual LED Light Student Microscope Package with Optical Glass Lens, All-Metal Framework, and Complete Accessories Kit

AmScope 40X-1000X Dual LED Light Student Microscope Package with Optical Glass Lens, All-Metal Framework, and Complete Accessories Kit

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Best Lab Research Grade Microscope

AmScope B610-IPL 40X-1000X Plan Infinity Kohler Laboratory Research Grade Binocular Compound Microscope

AmScope B610-IPL 40X-1000X Plan Infinity Kohler Laboratory Research Grade Binocular Compound Microscope

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Best Industrial|Professional Grade Microscope

AmScope T690A Trinocular Compound Microscope, 40X-1500X Magnification, WH10x and WH15x Super-Widefield Eyepieces, Infinity Objectives, Brightfield, Kohler Condenser, Double-Layer Mechanical Stage

AmScope T690A Trinocular Compound Microscope, 40X-1500X Magnification, Infinity Objectives, Brightfield, Kohler Condenser

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Related Product and Resources

Accessories for Microscopes

Rs' Science - 43-Piece All-in-One Microscope Slide Preparation Kit

Rs’ Science – 43-Piece All-in-One Microscope Slide Preparation Kit

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AmScope BS-50P-100S-22 Pre-Cleaned Blank Ground Edge Glass Microscope Slides and 100pc Pre-Cleaned Square Glass Cover Slips Coverslips

AmScope BS-50P-100S-22 Pre-Cleaned Blank Ground Edge Glass Microscope Slides and 100pc Pre-Cleaned Square Glass Cover Slips Coverslips

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AMSCOPE-Kids 48pcs Kids Plastic Prepared Microscope Slides of Animals Insects Plants Flowers Sample Specimens for Stereo Microscopes

AMSCOPE-Kids 48pcs Kids Plastic Prepared Microscope Slides of Animals Insects Plants Flowers Sample Specimens for Stereo Microscopes

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AmScope MD35 New Microscope Imager Digital USB Camera, Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10

AmScope MD35 New Microscope Imager Digital USB Camera, Compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10

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AmScope BS-72P-100S-22 72 Pieces of Pre-Cleaned Blank Microscope Slides (2 Count)

AmScope BS-72P-100S-22 72 Pieces of Pre-Cleaned Blank Microscope Slides (2 Count)

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AmScope ML-A-A Microscope Immersion Oil, 1/4 Oz

AmScope ML-A-A Microscope Immersion Oil, 1/4 Oz

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions which we hope will help you make better buying decision when it comes to getting the perfect microscope.

What is a Microscope?

A microscope is a highly precise optical instrument that uses lens or multiple lenses in order to observe objects that are too tiny and even invisible to the naked eye.

Where to Buy Microscope?

Microscopes are usually purchased online retail stores like Amazon as neighborhood supermarkets and shops do not sell them.

Where to Buy Microscope Slide?

Unless you are living a microscope specialty shop otherwise ordering them online would be a more convenient and cheaper solution.

What is the Difference Between Compound and Stereo Microscope?

A compound microscopes come with high magnification and are usually used for viewing things that are “invisible” to our human eyes. On the other hand, stereo microscopes come with low magnification zooms and are typically used for viewing the finer details of small things like coins, stamps and fossils.

What is the Difference Between Binocular and Monocular Microscope?

Binocular microscopes come with two eyepieces and monocular microscopes come with a single eyepiece. Binocular microscopes are generally less strainful for the eyes compared to that of monocular microscope which has only one eyepiece.

What is a Digital Microscope?

Digital microscopes do not come with eyepieces and instead they come with LCD display panel for viewing of samples and very tiny objects. They may not be as good as their optical counterparts but they do make it easy to snap pictures and record movies of specimen samples.

 

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