Microscopes Buying Guide
Whether you want to explore the world around you a bit more closely or your budding young scientist is in need of the perfect birthday gift , microscopes are where it's at. From examining life in a backyard puddle to looking closely at stamp watermarks, these gadgets come in handy when the small things in life need to be brought into focus. So check out some of the information below to help get you started on your science shopping quest. You'll be discovering tiny specimens on your bathroom door handle faster than you can say Lysol.
Two Types of Microscopes
Although there are several different classifications of microscope from compound to stereoscopic and dissecting , the main thing that separates models is power, baby. High power microscopes are the most popular, used for looking at really tiny stuff like bacteria and cells--stuff that you can't see with the naked eye. Low power microscopes are more suited for the hobbyist, and are great for looking at slightly larger things like coins, stamps and some insects.
- High Power Microscopes .
- If you're shopping for a child, you do not need a high power microscope. These models are heavy and difficult for children to handle, made of metal frames and complicated glass optics with small knobs for viewing adjustment. Instead, opt for a plastic toy microscope that comes with slides and support material, as well as larger knobs and a mirror illumination. These models would be considered low power, beginner microscopes.
- High power microscopes are capable of magnifying something 1000X.
- These models should come with a light that passes through the viewing field and specimen, making it easier to see. Larger objects, like buttons or coins, would only appear as black circles because of this back lighting.
- Low Power Microscopes .
- These models have both a top and bottom light, sometimes created by mirrors, which makes them useful for looking at both opaque and transparent objects.
- Typically, low power microscopes can magnify a specimen from 10X to about 80X its natural size.
- Low power microscopes may also be called stereo microscopes because they have two eyepieces and a separate objective lens. This helps to create a stereo or three-dimensional image.
- More magnification is not always better, since you may see less of the object at higher powers.
Other Things to Consider
- What's this thing made of? You want to make sure your microscope is sturdy if you're going to be performing some serious scientific research. Stick to metal alloys and leave the plastic to the kids.
- Let there be light. Most microscopes should have some sort of built-in light source, whether it's a tungsten, halogen or fluorescent bulb. Fluorescents are more expensive that the others, but the quality of light is much brighter, and they don't produce a lot of potentially dangerous heat.
- Be brand wary. Hardly any microscopes are made in the United States, except for National Optical. Most are economy models shipped about of China and other parts of the world, so beware of mass produced, poorly built instruments.
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