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5 Features to Look for in a Professional-Grade Microscope

The world is a beautiful place on many different levels. In order to see the wonders that exist only on the microscopic level, is important to have a good quality microscope. In the professional world, is even more important that the microscope has the features that make it suitable for its purpose.

A professional-grade microscope is used differently depending on the situation, and this affects the type of features that most benefit the user. The microscope features that a professional researcher uses to study the insect world are different than those a lab tech needs to examine blood. In order to determine the best choice when it comes to a professional grade microscope, a consumer should consider the different uses and these five features found on the most common professional models.

Different Uses for Microscopes

There are many different uses for a quality microscope in a professional setting, including medical research and diagnosis, forensics, educational uses, scientific research, and the list goes on. Because each of these industries uses microscopes to look at different sized items, the way the microscope is used for each purpose is different, and this has a significant impact on the features to look for when purchasing one.

For instance, low power microscopes offer the best close-up view of small items that are visible to the naked eye.  Stereo Microscopes are a type of low-power microscope that amazingly makes relatively large items, such as bugs and particles, almost come to life by creating a 3D image. These microscopes are highly prized by the professionals who use them, but they do not present an adequate view of the microscopic world needed for use in many medical and research labs.

Many professional uses for a microscope require closely examining things that cannot be seen by the naked eye. This requires the use of a high power microscope, which is ideal for looking at bacteria, examining the life that is present in water samples, and looking closely for diseases or abnormalities in blood. These are some of the more common uses for professional microscopes, but high-power microscopes are used in many more situations. Most professional-grade microscopes include features that make them invaluable in these settings. Five of the most useful features are described below.

1. Compound Microscope

A compound microscope is a high-power professional-grade microscope. It includes at least two lenses, one in the lower end of the cylinder, called the objective, and one in the top of the cylinder, called the eyepiece. It may have many more lenses, each of which increases clarity and allows for stronger magnification. Several features of the compound microscope make it more valuable in a professional setting, including its power of magnification, the focusing and lighting it utilizes, and whether or not it includes a mechanical page.

2. Magnification That Provides the Required Viewing Power

When it comes to magnification, it is important to keep in mind the type of viewing the microscope will be used for. The objective lens, or the one that is closest to the specimen, is the one that provides the image that the user views. The strength of this lens determines how large and clear the image is. Most professional grade microscopes include several objective lenses at differing powers.

A 40x objective lens is great for viewing larger specimens, which is often necessary in a professional setting. Smaller specimens and the finer details of larger items are clearer when viewed with a higher resolution. Most professional grade microscopes include at least a 40x, 100x, and 400x objective lens. Many also include a 1,000x objective or even greater.

The eyepiece magnifies the image produced by the objective lens. It does not make the image any clearer, only larger. In order to determine the magnification of the item being viewed, multiply the power of the eyepiece by that of the objective lens. Eyepieces commonly provide 10x magnification, so if a specimen is viewed using the 400x objective lens, it has been magnified 4,000 times (400 times multiplied by 10 times).

When looking for a professional grade microscope, be sure to consider the type of magnification required for the situation. Scopes with higher resolution often cost more, and higher magnification is not always a necessary feature. Also, purchasing a high power lens separately is always an option for later if the need arises.

3. Necessary Focusing Features

When it comes to choosing a microscope, how well it allows the user to see things does not matter much if the specimen cannot be brought into focus with ease. Most professional grade microscopes offer both coarse and fine focusing. Both are important in order to produce the best possible image at any magnification.

Coarse Focus

The coarse focus knob, which may be the only focus on a base model microscope, moves the stage closer or farther away from the objective lens quickly, without much adjustment to the knob. Because it is so easy to adjust, it can be hard to obtain a clear, sharply focused image. Most professional grade microscopes include a fine focus knob that makes the job of focusing much easier.

Fine Focus

Fine focus is a necessary feature to look for if a clear, sharp image is important, especially when looking at truly microscopic specimens. This focus knob allows the user to adjust how close the stage is to the objective lens in very fine increments. These adjustments are crucial in some lab situations where the specimen may have such fine features that the coarse knob adjustment cannot bring them clearly into focus. Fine focus makes it possible to observe the individual features of the specimen clearly by allowing the user to adjust the magnification slightly, in contrast to the large adjustment that the course focus makes.

4. The Right Lighting

A modified compound microscope uses light cast at right angles to the viewing plane to illuminate the specimen. In the microscopic world, many things are transparent. This sort of lighting makes these difficult-to-see microorganisms and cell walls much more visible. A microscope can use any one of several different types of light sources, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, as described in the table below.

Type of Light Source

Description and Benefit

Incandescent Bulb

Basic lighting technology; inexpensive to manufacture and buy; used on all older scopes; not a clear light source; casts a yellow light; can affect the coloring of the specimen; produces a large amount of heat, which can be damaging to the specimen

Fluorescent Bulb

Generally more expensive to manufacture and buy than an incandescent bulb; more energy efficient to operate; produces a whiter light than the incandescent bulb, which means the colors are more accurate; produces a crisper, brighter image with a fraction of the heat, preserving the specimen

Halogen Bulb

A very bright option with the white concentrated light source necessary to see many thing in the medical and research fields; a dimmer helps decrease the amount of heat expelled by the bulb; often used on a binocular microscope because they require more brightness

LED

An inexpensive and energy-efficient light source; also a cool, white light source that does not overheat the specimen or change its color; because they use so little energy and last a long time, LED bulbs are often powered by a rechargeable unit, and the microscopes are often cordless; LED technology keeps advancing and these very bright, dimmable lights are becoming more and more popular on many microscopes

This list makes it clear that the light source should fit the use of the Amscope Microscope . In situations where heat can easily damage the specimen, florescent or LED light is a good choice because it produces little heat. However, when extremely bright light is required for clear viewing, halogen bulbs can often perform better than the others, although LED technology is becoming more standard. In fact, LED is surpassing the other light sources in almost every instance, as well as being a lighter weight, more environmentally friendly option. While manufacturers still produce microscopes that use the other lighting options, more and more are turning to LED in new models.

5. A Mechanical Stage

A mechanical stage holds the slide in place and allows the user to change the view by adjusting the location that the objective lens is pointed at. This is done by moving the slide left or right using one knob and forwards or backwards using another. It is one of the most useful features on a professional-grade microscope, but it has little to do with the quality of the actual image that the microscope produces for viewing. While it does not make the image clearer or more vibrant, it does make it much easier to change the view and locate specific structures and features of the specimen.

At a strong enough magnification, a specimen viewed under a microscope can represent a very large area that can equate to that of a small city, with all sorts of different structures, features, and organisms to cause confusion and allow the user to get lost in the slide. Without the mechanical stage, the user has to maneuver the slide by hand. This takes steady hands, as each tiny adjustment can move the view from one section of the slide to somewhere completely different and unrelated to the intended view. The mechanical stage solves this problem by keeping the slide secure and using fine adjustments to move it around the viewing plane. A mechanical stage is standard on many professional microscopes and is an available upgrade option on others.

Conclusion

A good-quality microscope opens a new world of visual possibilities. They are used in professional settings in many different ways to collect data, examine specimen, and conduct research. Professional-grade microscopes are typically compound microscopes, unless viewing a larger object is necessary. Several features that may be included on a compound microscope can make one much more appropriate for a specific use than others. These features include the microscope's resolution, represented by the magnification of it objective lenses. Coarse and fine focus are also important features to consider, as well as lighting and the inclusion of a mechanical stage. Many but not all of these features may be available on a professional grade microscope. Determining which are the most important helps the consumer make a wise choice.

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