Definitive Buying Guide for the Best Microscopes [2022 Edition]

With the relentless advances in the technical field of microscopy technology, the types and variations of microscopes that come with increasing advanced features are truly overwhelming for most people looking to get one for their personal needs.

Best Microscope Buying Guide

Furthermore, it can be pretty daunting to pick one among the many different brands, types, and features. Choosing the most suitable microscope for your line of work or perhaps a newfound hobby should not be an uphill task.

In this buying guide, you will get to know how to pick and choose a microscope that is in line with both your budget and requirements.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all type of microscope on the market. A researcher in a pharmaceutical lab apparently needs a different type of microscope compared to a school kid who is starting to experiment by looking at insect specimens.

How to Pick and Choose the Best Microscope

There are three main selection criteria that 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.

Feel free to drop us a note if you need help with some recommendations.

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

In the microscopy industry, most microscopes fall under two basic categories (high and low power microscopes).

As technology evolves, microscope manufacturers continuously come out with newer models of microscopes that fall under these two categories.

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

High Power Microscopes

These microscopes are also commonly known as compound microscopes and biological microscopes. They are mostly 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

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

Some compound microscopes even have the capability to connect to a separate USB digital camera to record a video clip of whatever is being seen through 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

Biological and Metallurgical Inverted Microscope

Inverted microscopes are usually used for performing lab works similar to that of 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 beakers 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 (epifluorescence) 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 “larger” things and objects than those 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 the 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 is usually at about 4.5X to 80X.

If you are an archeologist who studies human artifacts or a biology student who is required to dissect, inspect and observe the internal parts of plants and insects, then you might be looking at getting 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-range applications for digital microscopes but this type of microscope 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) cameras, crystal clear LCD digital displays and high-resolution LED display monitors.

New features and functions like those from the 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 a digital microscope if ergonomic and convenient (instant viewing of the image taken) is something you are looking for.

Drawbacks you should be aware of include rapid obsolescence of the features of the built-in cameras and sensors.

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

Light Microscopes

A light microscope is a variation of microscopes that has built-in LED transmitted illumination of variable intensity. Most compound and stereo microscopes come with an LED Ring light illuminator that acts 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 their versatility.

It is most suitable for people who are looking for a highly portable and lightweight microscope that they can fish out of pocket and use on the go.

It is one of the closest one-size-fits-all types of generic microscopes that can be used by most people. It does not matter if you are just a young kid, a research student, or a lab scientist, having a travel-friendly 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 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.

Microscopes with the most common features and functions 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 in line with the requirements of your school projects.

For example, you may need a biological compound microscope with eight magnifications levels (40x to 2000x) or perhaps 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 ideal for performing tasks like dissecting and viewing fossils and internal parts of insects and plants.

Lighting Options are another common feature found in most microscopes that come 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 option. 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 an Achromatic lens and a wider eyepiece (less strainful for the eye) are the other 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 a better level of adjustments in directing light sources from LED illuminators onto the samples you are viewing.

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

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

Monocular microscopes vs Binocular microscopes vs Trinocular microscopes

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

A trinocular microscope comes with a dedicated port for mounting the camera for the recording 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] Plan a Minimum and Maximum Price Range Within Your Budget

Certain brands and models of microscopes come equipped with premium features and state-of-the-art functions that are way better than others but their price points are also way higher than most – some are even in the 4-digit range.

Under you need it as per your job requirements, it is never a good decision to buy something so expensive yet you only need and use less than 40% 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 have a wider selection 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.

I have listed some popular microscopes below that might be of interest to you.

Comparison Table of the 10 Best Microscopes

Below is a 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

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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

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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 2022

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 that we hope will help you make better buying decisions when it comes to getting the perfect microscope.

What is a Microscope?

A microscope is a highly precise optical instrument that uses a 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 in retail stores like Amazon as neighborhood supermarkets and shops do not sell them.

Where to Buy Microscope Slide?

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

What is the Difference Between a Compound and Stereo Microscope?

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 Microscopes?

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 monocular microscope which has only one eyepiece.

What is a Digital Microscope?

Digital microscopes do not come with eyepieces and instead, they come with an LCD display panel for viewing 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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