Choosing a Microscope

Choosing a Microscope

When choosing a microscope for purchase there are several factors to consider. First, you need to decide what kind of microscope will suit your needs. Are you a young student working on projects for class? Chances are you are looking for a light microscope. Other microscopes, like ultraviolet and electron, are much more costly and typically used in a scientific or commercial setting. Light microscopes are more common for basic use.


A light microscope boasts two magnification sources, the objective lens, being the primary source, and the eyepiece lens as the secondary source. The total magnification of a microscope is determined by the magnification power of the eyepiece lens times the power of the magnification of the objective lens.

You may be tempted to choose a microscope with the highest level of magnification, but do your research before dropping extra cash on power you don’t need. Most specimens viewed on a light microscope only need magnification levels of 60x or less.

You also need to determine which type of microscope you need: stereo or compound. Stereo microscopes allow you to view larger objects rather than tiny specimens. You will use a stereo microscope when viewing specimens found in nature. These are commonly referred to as “low power” microscopes because the objects viewed using the microscope require lower magnification levels.


Compound microscopes, also often called high power, is needed for viewing more typically “microscopic” items such as bacteria, blood samples, aquatic organisms, etc., because higher magnification power is needed to observe detail. This is why compound microscopes are referred to as “high power.” If you plan to purchase a compound microscope, you need to consider magnification, comfort, price and application in order to find the right one for you.

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