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Recommend me a good microscope?

  1. Feb 19, 2008 #1
    I was wondering if someone would recommend me a good microscope? I am majoring in Molecular Biology, and would like a decent optical microscope for viewing cells and bacteria.

    What is a good and reliable model that is not too expensive? I see a lot of microscopes on ebay for around $250-$350, but I am not sure of the quality and ease of finding replacement parts like bulbs and lenses.

    A few things that I wouldn't mind is a high maginification, ability to view on computer/tv monitor (this may be a seperate camera, but many of those ebay scopes are included) and so forth.

    So if anyone could direct me to a reasonably priced microscope with the above mentioned in mind, I would appreciate it!!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2008 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    I have extensive experience with microscopes, including running a Core facility.

    The only question you need to think about is "what do you want to do with the microscope"? Goof around? Do you need to acquire images? Do you want to do advanced techniques like phase contrast or fluorescence? These techniques require specialized equipment.

    Personally, for a hobby microscope, you can do a lot worse than the Digital Blue QX5 (I think that's the lastest model). It's quite good and fun to use.

    Moving up, I would look for a microscope with the following features:

    1) A condenser. Essential.
    2) Use of DIN standard lenses. You are not likely to find infinity-corrected systems for the price you are talking about. You can buy 160mm Zeiss lenses CHEAP on ebay, and these will outperform any of the lenses that come with a $300 scope.
    3) Good z-focus system. Unfortunately, its hard to know what you are getting by looks alone.

    Generally, the microscopes on ebay are crap. There are on-line companies that deal with used microscopes, you may have better luck finding something.

    Other than that, talk to people on sci.techniques.microscopy, and the many, many hobbyist websites out there. You will not be lead astray- no one who uses a microscope would intentionally recommend something to give you a headache.
  4. Feb 19, 2008 #3
    Well it pretty much is for hobby purposes, but a good hobby microscope that I may be able to do some research or observations with.

    I would like to be able to get a good glimpse of blood cells, pond water organisms, mold, algae, and yeasts.

    One thing I was wanting it for is to view yeasts during fermentation. I brew beer (and cider, mead, etc.,) as another hobby usually during the summer when I'm not in school. I would like to take samples out of my brew during fermentation to look at the yeasts and also to maybe check and see if the batch is infected with bacteria, without the need of a taste test. Maybe from there I could even go further from observations to perhaps thinking stuff up and brewing in more of an arts and scientific means. (and perhaps poke around with different yeasts and try to specialize yeasts for certain temperatures or conditions; this is further down the road but definitely a possibily.)

    Like I said, I am majoring in Molecular Biology. For right now, it will be a hobby scope. But I also would like a decent one as well. I hope this helps.
  5. Feb 20, 2008 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    To be able to visualize individual bacteria, you need a higher-end scope than $300 will get. However, you don't need a lot of fancy stuff- phase contrast will work well for you.

    One possibility to think about, ask around the Department or the School- see if someone has mothballed a 70's era research scope.

    Another possibility, around here anyways, is that every year upper-level med students sell their scopes to incoming students for Histology class or whatever- you may be able to try one out before buying it.
  6. Feb 20, 2008 #5


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    Andy is giving solid advice here. The scopes on eBay are mostly crap. If you were picking up something for a kid to dabble around with, they might be okay, but if you want to use it for anything else, those are not going to be very useful.

    An excellent suggestion. Every university I've ever attended/worked at has had a surplus distribution department of some sort that will sell off used equipment fairly cheaply (and furniture and ancient computers too). Microscopes might be hard to find, because if they work well enough, they often float from one start-up lab to another while folks are working on getting set up with newer equipment, but you might find something that needs little more than a new lamp and a thorough cleaning. You won't find microscopes with cameras that hook up to computers for what you're willing to pay, though, unless you get really lucky and someone has just upgraded an older teaching scope.

    That won't work everywhere...not all med student have to buy their scopes outright. On the other hand, the last bit of advice is pretty important. I wouldn't buy any scope sight-unseen. The only way to be sure you're getting something that will serve your purpose is to bring a slide with whatever specimen you're interested in using it to study and see if it works for you.
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