Best Compound Microscope – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

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Compound microscopes are very common and quite traditional too. They are the standard lab equipment used to magnify small objects for closer analysis. Although traditionally these microscopes are mostly used in medicine, they are finding applications in other industries too.

Compound microscopes are often compared to stereo microscopes. However, they are far more powerful and can achieve much higher magnification with the help of their dual lens design. Because of this, compound microscopes are perfect for analyzing small biological matter that cannot be seen by the naked eye. They are probably one of the best microscope options for the average person.

The microscopes have also been used in analyzing the non-biological micro-structure of rocks, metals, and even textiles. Despite this power, compound microscopes are useless in other cases. For example, analyzing much smaller specimens like viruses, cells, or small proteins requires powerful electron microscopes.

But these scopes are not accessible to the public. You will also need specialized training to actually use them. Besides, the microscopes are too expensive and large in size. That’s why a lot of people stick with compound microscopes.

The History of Microscope

The microscope origin is not really known. There are many myths and legends about the origin. However, there are still a few things that are actually accepted. The first microscope was built in the 1500s.

Two Dutch glassmakers developed and started to experiment on a very basic microscopic design. The two glassmakers were Zacharias and his son Hans Janssen. However, in 1906, popular Italian mathematician and scientists Galileo Galilei learned about the work they were doing and started to refine the whole system.

Galileo would eventually add the focusing mechanism on the crude microscopic device that was developed by Janssen. This design became quite popular and spread around the world. The funny thing is that it didn’t change or improve for nearly half a century. It wasn’t until the 1670s when changes in this crude design started to come up.

Dutch tradesman and scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek was the first to work on an improved microscopic design. He learned how to polish up lenses. Van Leeuwenhoek was able to improve magnification by 270x.

He also became the first person to use a microscope to observe yeast, plants, bacteria, and life in a drop of water in 1674. Van Leeuwenhoek is regarded as the father of the modern microscope because of these achievements.

But the development of the microscope didn’t end there. In the mid-1800s, Carl Zeiss and his company Carl Zeiss Jana began making smaller and simpler microscopes. Zeiss was instrumental in the creation of the first compound microscope.

The initial design by the company has actually remained literally the same till today. Although the advancement of technology has brought about digital elements in the best microscope for students, the traditional design in the mid-1800s developed by Carl Zeiss Jena has remained quite dominant.

PLAN - PRICE

Description

OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Microscope

Very affordable, one of the best microscopes under $250


Offers 100 free glass slides and lens cleaning papers


Reasonably good magnification, especially when you consider the price

AmScope M150C-I Compound Microscope

Costs less than $100 making it one of the most affordable units


Easy to carry and use


Has great reviews on Amazon


Offers great value for money

AmScope PZ300T-5M Digital Microscope

Comes with a built-in 5 MP camera that can transfer specimen images to digital devices


Innovative trinocular lens construction for better images


Excellent magnification and image quality

National Optical D-ELDB Digital LED Microscope

Top brand with a very good track record of quality


This microscope has enough power for scientific and research use


Superior features especially compared to other units in this list

Levenhuk D70L Digital Biological Microscope

Can be used by both professionals and amateurs


Comes with a big retractable LCD color display


Levenhuk D70L Digital Biological Microscope is strong and durable build

Microscope Anatomy

The microscope has a number of important parts that make it function effectively. Some of the most important parts include; the Base, the Light Source, the Diaphragm, the Specimen Stage, and the Objective Lenses that are normally mounted on the Nosepiece.

Just above the Nosepiece, you will find the Head that holds the Draw-tube and the Eyepiece. Finally, a microscope will also have a focusing system that allows you to magnify the specimen. All these features work together. They contribute to the effectiveness of the device and its usability.

Here is a simple breakdown of some of these components.

Light Source

The light source in traditional microscopes originally involved a mirror placed on a pivoting mount just beneath the specimen stage. The user would then have to move the mirror manually to reflect light from an external source into the specimen. Advancements in microscope design later saw the introduction of incandescent bulbs as the main light source.

Modern microscopes now use LED light for the same purpose. Despite this, there are still so many beginner microscope models that have the reflecting mirror as the light source. They are harder to use though compared to modern LED light.

Specimen Stage

The specimen stage is where the specimen is placed for observation. The size of the tray is not standard and will vary based on the model that you are using. However, as a general rule, a bigger specimen stage is always better.

This is because a bigger stage means that you can observe larger objects. The best microscope brands will often have the stage articulated on one, two, and even three axes. This ensures that these specimens can actually be moved up and down, or left and right.

The ability to move the stage in various directions is important for one reason. It actually allows the user to view large specimens without having to move them. The moving stage can also be able to accommodate tall specimens that may not fit on a fixed standard stage.

The specimen stage also comes with clips that hold the slides into place. Some specialized stages can be heated or cooled down to make sure biological specimens are alive for the entire duration of the analysis or observation.

How Do Compound Microscopes Work?

The most defining attribute of a compound microscope is simply the fact that it features two convex lenses. The first lens is known as the ocular lens which is built into the eyepiece. The other lens is called the objective lens and it is placed very close to the specimen. The configuration of these lenses can deliver a magnification power of nearly 2000x.

Some of the best microscope in the world will also allow you to switch between three lenses at different magnifications until you are able to focus on the desired image. Compound microscopes also have the condenser lens and iris diaphragm.

These two features are essential in regulating how light is directed into the specimen. Additionally, the microscopes use transmitted light illumination. This simply means that, in order for a specimen to be observed accurately, it will need to be divided into smaller components.

Aperture Diaphragm

You may notice that in some microscope designs, the hole in the center of the stage will have an adjustment mechanism that allows you to control the amount of light surrounding the specimen.

This adjustment mechanism is actually known as the Aperture Diaphragm or just simply the Diaphragm. Modern diaphragms are designed to offer precise control over the amount of light getting to the specimen and they are crucial in focusing and enhancing image quality.

Features to Look for in the Best Compound Microscope

There are of course many compound microscope brands out there. Each of them has specific features and it can be hard to know the best option. Well, here are a few things that you should always look out for before you buy any compound microscope.

Magnification

Compared to stereo microscopes, compound microscopes actually have quite literally an unlimited magnifying potential. The minimum magnification on a compound microscope is normally 500x, which is still huge. Some units in the market can offer up to 2000x magnification.

The higher the magnification capability, the higher the price of the unit. In that case, it is important to asses your needs very carefully and decide on the magnification that will work best for you. It doesn’t make sense paying extra for higher magnification when you need something a little less powerful.

Lenses

Different types of lenses are used in compound microscopes. However, optical glass lenses are often highly recommended. There are two types of high-end optical lenses in the market including the “Deutsche Industrie Norm” also known as the DIN and the Japanese standard lens also known as JIS. The DIN lenses are simply perfect. This is because they are easily repairable and replaceable in case of any damage.

Additionally, buy a microscope that has achromatic lenses. This helps to reduce image aberration. Achromatic lenses also tend to offer better color correction. In case these specs sound technical for you, don’t worry.

You can always rely on reviews of other customers to understand them better. Product ratings on websites like Amazon could help you choose the best microscope for viewing bacteria.

Adjustment

It’s also important to make sure the microscope that you are buying has coarse adjustment options. This will help you focus the image better. Additionally, don’t forget about the fine adjustments. This feature actually allows you to throw the projected image into sharper focus and detail.

In case you are looking for a significantly higher magnification, it is advisable to go for microscopes that also offer better fine adjustment. Highly magnified images look sharper and more detailed with high fine adjustment.

Usability

Different microscopes come with different designs. This means that the ease of use varies a lot. However, even if you were to choose the most basic student grade microscope, if you are a beginner you will definitely have a hard time using it at first.

A lot of manufacturers are trying to make microscopes as user-friendly as possible. But there is still some level of technique needed to make good use of the units. It is based on this that most compound microscopes are recommended for medium or advanced users.

These are basically people who have some background in using the devices and can get around the basics with ease. The great thing is that you can still learn how to use a compound microscope. There are so many guides online to help you. But you must be a little patient since this process takes time.

Digital Features

Digital features are relatively new to microscopes but they are extremely important, especially in enhancing the ease of use and image quality. Modern compound microscopes may have a number of digital features to look for. For instance, an integrated camera built into the unit could provide additional capabilities that you wouldn’t normally get in a traditional compound microscope.

The cameras differ in terms of features too. Some have better resolution than others but even then, it’s still a great feature to have. You may also get high power binocular and trinocular microscopes that feature an eyepiece that can easily be replaced with a high-resolution camera.

This allows you to reproduce the specimen under observation through digital prints. The prints can then be stored and analyzed later without the need of going back to the microscope.

Construction

Traditionally, compound microscopes have been built using metal. The reason for this is actually very basic. Metal tends to be strong and durable. It can last for a long time and withstand the wear and tear of daily use with ease.

We have however started to see some brands offering plastic-based units. Don’t get us wrong, plastic is not a bad material to use. But it’s not nearly as strong as metal. The reason why a lot of people prefer plastic over metal construction is actually the cost.

Plastic-based designs are actually very cheap. Besides, you still get the optical benefits of the microscope even if it’s build using plastic. In case you are not buying the units for scientific purposes, then there is nothing wrong with plastic. You will need to be careful though with the maintenance to ensure it gives you long term service.

Compound vs. Stereo Microscopes

Compound and stereo microscopes are two of the most common types in the market at the moment. Typically, a compound microscope is used to analyze specimens that require greater magnification levels. Stereo microscopes, on the other hand, are used for large objects that require less magnification such as rocks, insects, and bugs.

Here is a basic breakdown of these units and their differences.

Compound Microscopes

A compound microscope has many objective lenses. They can go from a magnification of 4x to 100x. The microscopes offer very high magnification power.

Stereo Microscopes

Stereo microscopes normally feature a magnification of 6.5x to 45x. They use the least powerful eyepieces which make magnification less powerful compared to compound units. However, stereo microscopes provide three-dimensional images of the sample with greater depth and better perception.

Uses of Compound Microscopes

Compound microscopes are used in a wide variety of industries due to their high power magnification. They are however very common in the medical and scientific industries.

The following are some of the main uses:

Biologists

The magnification power of the compound microscope makes it possible for biologists, biomedical science students, and researchers to examine small specimens. The superior resolution ensures that even the smallest details of each specimen can be viewed clearly.

Forensics

Compound microscopes have also been used in solving the finest of details in crime scenes. Gathering important clues like hair, skin, and blood is made possible with the help of compound microscopes.

Researchers and Scientists

Medical professionals are not just there to treat people. They are also tasked with developing a new understanding of their craft and this requires a lot of research. Compound microscopes are essential in this.

Best Compound Microscope

Now that you have all the information you need about microscopes, you may still be wondering which units are ideal for you. Well, there are so many factors to consider as you decide. But we also know that there are a few products in the market that are way better than others. We have narrowed down this list for you.

Here are the top ten compound microscopes on the Marketplace

1) OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Microscope

It’s hard as it is to get a high-quality compound microscope that fits your budget. However, the OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Microscope offers you the best choice. It’s a basic microscope perfectly suited for students or the eager learner. The great thing about this unit is the price. It’s one of the best compound microscopes that cost under $200.

The unit is also binocular, and unlike some of the most modern designs, it doesn’t have a camera. So if you are looking for a high powered option for scientific uses, the OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Microscope would probably not work for you. The unit comes with 100 free glass slides as well as 100 lens cleaning papers.

It’s magnifying capability is also quite good at 40X to 2000X. This is more than enough for basic projects. The unit uses a transmitted LED light illumination system as its light source. The intensity of the light can be customized too for better versatility. It’s an affordable microscope that works.

Pros:

Very affordable, one of the best microscopes under $250
Offers 100 free glass slides and lens cleaning papers
Reasonably good magnification, especially when you consider the price

Cons:

Doesn’t have digital features which can be limiting in some cases
Can only be used for basic purposes

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2) AmScope M150C-I Compound Microscope

The AmScope M150C-I Compound Microscope is one of the best monocular microscopes out there. It’s also an ideal option for people who are new to microscopic adventures. The only challenge with the M150C-I is the fact that its magnifying capabilities are a little limited compared to the other units in our list.

But despite that, it’s still powerful enough to take care of normal and basic needs. When you also consider that it’s one of the most affordable options, there’s definitely so much value to gain from it.

The AmScope M150C-I Compound Microscope costs less than $100. It comes with an all metal frame for extra durability and glass based lenses that are easy to maintain. The magnification specs stand at 40x to 1000x. In essence, you can still use this unit to look at cell structures as well as bacteria.

The unit is compact and light too making it very easy to move around. The AmScope M150C-I Compound Microscope has great reviews on Amazon. A lot of customers think that it offers a lot of great features for its low price. So, if you are looking for value at a low price, the M150C-I will not let you down.

Pros:

Costs less than $100 making it one of the most affordable units
Easy to carry and use
Has great reviews on Amazon
Offers great value for money

Cons:

The magnification could be better

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3) AmScope PZ300T-5M Digital Polarizing Trinocular Microscope

The PZ300T-5M is probably the best product on this list. It’s an excellent trinocular microscope that can be used for a wide array of purposes. It comes with infinity plan achromatic objectives, a high-quality Bertrand lens, and a Kohler condenser.

These are some of the features you will normally get on a high-end microscope. The PZ300T-5M is most popular with toxicologists, geologists, and pharmacologists.

The unit delivers a magnification capacity of 40x to 600x. It features a halogen illumination system to deliver excellent lighting. The light can also be customized based on the type of specimen that you are observing.

Unlike two of the units we have listed above, the PZ300T-5M has inbuilt digital features too. The unit offers a quality 5 MP camera that can capture specimen images and transfer them into a laptop or computer.

The model comes loaded with its own software too and it’s fully compatible with all operating systems. Don’t also forget to check out a few accessories in the box including a USB 2.0 cable, a dust cover, a spare fuse, a polarizer, and a blue color filter.

The PZ300T-5M may be an expensive option but it has some amazing features. If you are looking for a powerful, modern, and highly versatile unit, you won’t find many brands better than this one.

Pros:

Comes with a built-in 5 MP camera that can transfer specimen images to digital devices
Innovative trinocular lens construction for better images
Excellent magnification and image quality

Cons:

Relatively expensive especially for new users

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4) National Optical D-ELDB – Digital Binocular Compound LED Microscope

The National Optical D-ELDB is a little expensive no doubt but make no mistake, it’s one of the most notable brands in this space. The unit is very popular too and this says a lot about the quality. In that case, don’t pay too much attention to the price unless of course you are on a tight budget. But if quality is what matters for you, then you will find the National Optical D-ELDB quite satisfying.

The unit offers superior magnification, high image quality, great digital features, and extreme versatility. It’s mostly used for medical and scientific purposes too. Although there are other microscopes that match the National Optical D-ELDB in terms of quality, it has to be among the top two or three options out there.

Pros:

Top brand with a very good track record of quality
Enough power for scientific and research use
Superior features especially compared to other units in this list

Cons:

The cost can be off-putting for some people

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5) Levenhuk D70L Digital Biological Microscope

The Levenhuk D70L Digital Biological Microscope features a high-quality build and impressive optical capabilities. It also comes with a large color LCD display too. The great thing about this unit is its versatility. It can be used by both amateurs and professionals for hours without the risk of eye strain.

You also don’t need to look down a tube when using it. The image is simply availed on the screen. The tube is a common feature of many traditional microscopes but the Levenhuk D70L Digital Biological Microscope takes it away. If you wear glasses or perhaps you have sensitive eyes, it will be very easy to use this unit.

The price point is not that bad and it’s one of best microscope for the money. The Levenhuk D70L also has a few digital features to make your work easier. It’s professionally made, packaged, and marketed.

Although it’s a relatively new brand compared to other units, so far we have not heard complaints from users. It’s definitely a solid option, especially if you are looking for a unit that offers super versatility at a good price.

Pros:

Can be used by both professionals and amateurs
Comes with a big retractable LCD color display
Strong and durable build

Cons:

Some users have complained that it’s a little bit bulky

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6) Celestron 44341 LCD Digital Microscope II

The Celestron 44341 is a highly professional biological microscope that comes with a built-in 5MP digital camera. The camera is capable of capturing high-resolution images of the specimen. The unit also features a TV output that makes it easier to display the specimen on large monitors or TVs.

This makes it ideal for a classroom demonstration. We also liked the fully adjustable mechanical stage that provides easy slide movement. The box has a number of important accessories too including a 1GB SD card, a dust cover, five prepared slides, a carrying case with a shoulder strap and an AC adapter.

Pros:

Comes with a fully adjustable mechanical stage that allows simple slide movement
TV output that can project specimen images on larger screens
Comes with a measuring reticle to compare specimen size
Built-in 5 MP camera for high-resolution specimen images

Cons:

Some people have had problems using the focus knob effectively

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7) Vision Scientific VME0007B-100-LD Binocular Compound Microscope

The Vision Scientific VME0007B is a high-quality option that comes with a 10x wide field eyepiece and a pointer. You also get a pair of 25x widefield eyepieces too. The unit will deliver 40 x 100x objectives that are all retractable and spring loaded to prevent any damage to the slides below. The Vision Scientific VME0007B features a Brightfield LED illumination system too.

The system actually illuminates the specimen from below making it look brighter and more detailed. There is also an iris diaphragm that offers precise light control. The unit will feature a built-in low profile mechanical stage and ball bearing for easy movement. The scope is ideal for microscopy instructions at middle school and high school levels.

Pros:

Affordable at less than $200 in cost
Easy usability especially for new users
Innovative LED illumination system for quality images

Cons:

Very basic features, only ideal for high school and middle school microscopy teaching

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8) My First Lab MFL-06 Duo-Scope Microscope

The My First Lab Duo-Scope MFL06 is an authentic science grade biological microscope. The unit is able to deliver very high magnification with outstanding clarity. It features real optical glass lenses with a 400x magnification.

You will also be able to view specimens through the removable 10x eyepiece that also doubles up as a magnifying glass. The My First Lab Duo-Scope MFL06 is designed for maximum portability. It also comes with an impact resistant frame.

Pros:

Authentic scientific grade microscope
Offers high magnification with excellent clarity
Removable 10x eyepiece that can be used as a magnifying glass
Impact resistant frame

Cons:

Some users have reported issues on one of the lenses on the microscope

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9) C & A Scientific Premiere MSK-01L

The C & A Scientific Premiere MSK-01L is a basic monocular compound microscope that offers a 10x eyepiece, a forward facing nosepiece, and three objective lenses. The unit also delivers LED illumination and incredible fine focus.

The stage is mechanical too making it easy to move the specimen for better observation. It also features the innovative Brightfield illumination technology that enhances image quality substantially. The C & A Scientific Premiere MSK-01L uses an LED light source which can be perfect for temperature sensitive specimens.

Pros:

Comes with a 10x eyepiece and three objective lenses
LED light source for temperature sensitive specimens
Features six hole diaphragm for better light control

Cons:

It takes some time to get used to it

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10) Celestron CB2000CF Compound Binocular Microscope

The Celestron CB2000CF Compound Binocular Microscope is one of the best microscopes for high school students. These are basically people who are looking for the most basic microscope out there. Despite this, the unit also packs some great features.

It has a dual eyepiece that renders images on three dimension and four objective lenses. The lenses are also achromatic and can deliver a magnification of up to 2000x. There’s an adjustable halogen bulb as the light source.

Pros:

Perfect for hobbyists and students
Very affordable unit
Delivers powerful magnification at 2000x

Cons:

Some users have complained that the light source may sometimes flicker

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Conclusion

PLAN - PRICE

Description

Celestron 44341 LCD Digital Microscope II

Comes with a fully adjustable mechanical stage that allows simple slide movement


TV output that can project specimen images on larger screens


Comes with a measuring reticle to compare specimen size


Built-in 5 MP camera for high-resolution specimen images

Vision Scientific VME0007B-100-LD

Vision Scientific VME0007B-100-LD Binocular Compound Microscope is affordable at less than $200 in cost


Easy usability especially for new users


Innovative LED illumination system for quality images


Comes with LED illumination with active intensity control

My First Lab MFL-06 Duo-Scope Microscope

My First Lab MFL-06 Duo-Scope is an authentic scientific grade microscope bar-none


Offers high magnification with excellent clarity


Removable 10x eyepiece that can be used as a magnifying glass


My First Lab MFL-06 Duo-Scope Microscope comes with an impact resistant frame

C & A Scientific Premiere MSK-01L Microscope

C & A Scientific Premiere MSK-01L Basic Monocular Compound Microscope is truly budget friendly


Comes with a 10x eyepiece and three objective lenses


LED light source for temperature sensitive specimens


This compound microscope features six hole diaphragm for better light control

Celestron CB2000CF Compound Microscope

Celestron CB2000CF Compound Binocular Microscope is perfect for hobbyists and students


Celestron CB2000CF is very affordable unit


The Celestron CB2000CF Compound Microscope is made to enable powerful magnification at 2000x


Comes with ready to use 4 fully achromatic objective lenses

From the list above, you can definitely see that compound microscopes vary in terms of function, design, and usability. However, for people who are looking for something basic that won’t cost a lot of money, the OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Microscope and the AmScope M150C-I Compound Microscope are highly recommended.

The units cost less than $200 and $100 respectively. As for people who want high-quality scientific grade units, the AmScope PZ300T-5M Digital Polarizing Trinocular Microscope and the National Optical D-ELDB – Digital Binocular Compound LED Microscope are great options. They might be a bit expensive but they come with several excellent features.

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