Microscope Buying Guide

Microscopes vary greatly in power and purpose. Finding the right one for you will greatly depend on your personal preference and how you are going to use the microscope. With the right microscope, you'll be able to examine plants, animal cells, and other microscopic organisms in great detail.

Types of Microscopes

Compound Light Microscope

The compound light microscope is the most familiar type of microscope because it is most often found in labs and science classes. With its binocular scope (two eyepieces), this type of microscope combines the power of lenses and light to enlarge the subject matter. Many come with lenses that enlarge by 10x and 15x all the way up to 1000x. They are frequently used by botanists to view plant cells and biologists to view parasites and bacteria. Forensic labs use them to identify drug structure. Because of their popularity, there are many good inexpensive models available.

Stereo Microscope

The stereo microscope, also known as a dissecting microscope, has two scopes set at slightly different angles to allow you to see objects three dimensionally. This type of microscope generally views objects at a low power, around 100x but as low as 10x or high as 200x. When purchasing you often have a choice of a fixed view or zoom. Stereo microscopes are used for looking at surfaces such as for watch making, microsurgery, and making circuit boards.

Digital Microscope

Digital microscopes connect to a computer using a USB cable. Once plugged in, you can view the object of the computer screen. Digital microscopes often do not have eyepieces as you view everything on a computer. You can take a picture of the image or watch the specimen as it moves on the screen. Images can be emailed and saved. Many people like them because they allow you to watch moving objects comfortably for long periods of time. They are becoming more common in schools because an entire class can see what is under the microscope.

USB Computer Scope

The USB computer scope allows you to view objects without preparing them on a slide and can be used to view almost anything. The microscope plugs into a computer and uses a macroscope to view the object. Their maximum magnification is around 200x. They are popular amongst hobbyists and children for their ease of use.

Pocket Microscope

Pocket microscopes are very small and portable. They are used by scientists to take images of specimens while in the field. They are also popular amongst students and children because they are easy to use anywhere. They have a magnification between 25x and 100x.

Pay Attention to


Microscopes come in high and low power. Depending on your needs you may be happy with either. High power microscopes allow you to view very small specimens or objects such as individual cells, hair, and blood. The light is located underneath the specimen which means the specimen must be thin enough for the light to pass through. Low power microscopes usually have a light that shines from underneath and above the specimen. They are good for looking at surfaces such as a penny, rock, or sand. They can be bought with an eyepiece that only views in one magnification level or in a zoom model that ranges from 10x-40x. Digital microscopes can use high or low power giving you the benefits both.


A quality microscope should be made of metal from the focus gears to the frame. Quality construction materials will be sure that the microscope will function properly and lenses won't get out of alignment easily. Microscopes made with metallic alloys can help minimize vibrations and help maintain temperature. Plastic is not a recommended material for microscopes. Many follow the rule that the heavier the microscope is, the better the quality.


Having quality lenses assures that you'll have good viewing. If possible, find a microscope that uses DIN standards. These standards will allow you to replace your lenses, should they become damaged, from any microscope manufacturing company.


The eyepiece, also called the ocular, should be wide field. This type of eyepiece allows you to align your eye more easily. Wide field eyepieces also allow you to see more of the specimen or object you are viewing.

Monocular vs. Binocular

Having one eyepiece or two is greatly a personal choice. Professionals that use microscopes all day will most definitely need binocular. They are more comfortable and easy to look through. However, monocular microscopes can be easier for children. This choice greatly depends on your personal preference.

Top Brands and Product Lines


Amscope microscopes come in a wide variety from digital to compound with monocular or binocular scopes. They consistently perform well.

My First Lab

Their Duo Lab Microscope MFL 06 is a popular microscope for children. It has a light underneath and above. It runs on batteries, which allows it to be used outdoors if necessary. It is economical to purchase, yet sturdy enough to withstand use by children.


Omax makes quality digital microscopes that can be used by professionals.

There are many high-quality pocket microscopes that have good viewing and power. To name a few companies that carry them - Olympus, Nikon, American Optics, and Carson.