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Frequently Asked Questions About Microscopes

1. Which microscope is most suitable for my application?

Your choice of microscope is highly dependent on how it will be used. Once you determine whether it will be used in the lab, in an educational setting, or for kids new to the world of science, you’ll be able to determine which characteristics are the most important.

The options include power level or total magnification, corded or cordless, various magnifications, objectives, eyepieces, plan stage or mechanical stage and light sources. There are also several accessories and extras that can be effective for your application.

2. Do I want a compound or stereo microscope?

The answer depends on what, exactly, you plan to examine.

Compound microscopes are designed to view tiny microscopic organisms, like protozoa, amoeba, or paramecium found in pond water or blood, onion or plant cells, etc. They are a high-powered option that transmits light through the sample.

Stereo (or dissecting) microscopes are used for viewing large, opaque specimens in 3D. They are meant for close-up looks at small items such as rocks, leaves, coins, circuitry, insects, and more.

3. Why can’t I focus on the specimen?

There are some simple ways to ensure you get the best focus on every sample. Make sure the coarse and fine focuses are engaging properly and cans spin and rotate freely. Also double check that the eyepiece is in place and not removed from the microscope.

Make sure the cover slip on the slide is facing upwards. If it is facing the wrong direction, it will be very difficult to focus the 40x objective.

Too much illumination can also be problematic and may white out the specimens. You may need to lower the condenser to close the iris diaphragm or position the disc diaphragm to a smaller hole to decrease the amount of light. This can also increase the contrast, especially when viewing unstained specimens.

4. Why do I see things moving when I am viewing through the eyepiece?

This may be related to the part of your eye called the “vitreous humor.” There are often things floating in the vitreous humor of one’s eye that can be reflected in the eyepiece.

5. What magnification I should be using?

This all depends on the specimen you are viewing. For tiny microorganisms, you will need the very high magnification that can be found in compound microscopes – upwards of 400x to 1,000x.

If you are looking at gross specimens, such as leaves, rocks, insects, and even slightly transparent specimens, you will need a stereo microscope with a variety of magnifications. This could include 10x/20x, 20x/40x, and 10x/30x zoom and other models are all available.