How Do I Choose the Best Simple Microscope?

T. Carrier

Simple microscopes are differentiated from other types of microscope by their use of a single lens. In general, these products are handheld and useful for beginners. Examples of simple microscopes that amplify and enlarge objects include magnifying glasses and loupes, so these two objects are ideal for most simple microscope choices. Factors such as magnification, portability, and specific visual needs are important when choosing these products. For a slightly more advanced microscope that is still simplistic in function, the following features are advisable: metal composition, glass lens, specimen holders, and light fixtures.

A basic compound microscope.
A basic compound microscope.

Microscopes are devices that help enlarge small objects for viewing, and lenses are the main component of a simple microscope. Lenses are devices that bend and change the direction of light waves. A quality lens is most crucial when choosing a simple microscope, and as a general rule of thumb, the smaller the lens, the higher its magnification capabilities. For projects such as examining pictures and words, a smaller magnification will do, while scientific projects will typically necessitate larger magnification. A small light source added to the magnifier can also be useful.

A basic microscope.
A basic microscope.

Your manner of using the simple microscope might be another consideration. Some types such as magnifying glasses typically affix the lens to a handle. A loupe device, on the other hand, is generally smaller and more portable. The lens is encased inside a metal device, and it can be swung out for use. Other varieties can be placed on a flat surface, with the lens attached to a bendable fixture that allows viewing adjustment and hands-free viewing.

Although microscopes are traditionally used for up-close viewing, more distant objects can be magnified with a monocular. These simple devices are like miniature telescopes. They use a series of lenses to manipulate light and produce a magnified image. The compactness of monoculars makes them easily portable as well.

For individuals with sight problems, a monocular can sometimes prove helpful when attached to a pair of glasses. In addition, as individuals age, their sight will likely diminish, necessitating a lens with a larger magnification. Objects such as bar magnifiers that can be placed directly on top of objects could also prove useful as simple microscopes for seeing-impaired individuals.

You can even create your own simple microscope. For one, a simple drop of water placed inside a paperclip loop or a hole punctured in a tin can serve as a rudimentary lens. Another type can derive from modifying a penlight light bulb. Effective simple lenses can even be created from a glass rod and a Bunsen burner flame.

If you desire a more traditional multi-lens compound microscope that is low in price and easily functional, some simple compound microscopes are available. A quality microscope will typically be made from metal, with glass lenses that can reflect different colors. A basic stereo microscope will contain two eye pieces that allow three-dimensional viewing, and additional fixtures like a stage to hold the specimen and a simple light fixture such as a prism or mirror. Magnification will not be as high as in more complex microscope designs, but a respectable range of 10x–40x magnification could be chosen. This means that the microscope will generally enlarge the object to anywhere from 10 times to 40 times its normal size.

Three paramecia are seen under a microscope.
Three paramecia are seen under a microscope.

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