What is a Pocket Microscope?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A pocket microscope is a small microscope which is designed to be easily portable. In some cases, the microscope may literally fit in a pocket, while in other cases it may be more comfortably carried in a field bag or small carrying case. In all instances, the microscope can be used in a wide variety of situations, from inspecting jewelry in a fabrication studio to conducting scientific fieldwork.

Man with a backpack
Man with a backpack

Many science stores sell pocket microscopes. They can vary in quality from novelty items which are essentially glorified magnifying glasses to serious microscopes which can yield very precise, clear images at 100x magnification or more. Some include integrated cameras or camera attachments which can be used to photograph the specimens viewed through the pocket microscope. Especially good microscopes can be quite costly, although people may view the cost as acceptable, given the potential applications of the microscope.

In a typical pocket microscope, one end has a light and a staging area, and the other end has an eyepiece. Adjustments can be made to the microscope with focusing knobs or by moving the microscope around to get a good angle. In some cases, the microscope has an actual stage for small items, while in other instances, the staging area may be a clear plastic cone which is positioned over the object of interest while the lenses in the microscope magnify the object.

The image in a pocket microscope may be reversed, depending on how it is designed. These microscopes rely on mirrors and lenses to create a magnified image of interest, and there may not be enough room in the microscope to correct the positioning of the image, which means that the user may see an object in reverse. Users should be aware of this, as it can cause confusion, and it may take some time to get used to seeing an image in reverse.

As a learning tool, a pocket microscope can be very valuable, by getting children interested and involved in the surrounding environment. Pocket microscopes can also be used for fieldwork by scientists of all ages, as they allow people to quickly examine specimens of interest in the field, rather than needing to bring them back to a lab for study. They are also used in industries where microscopic components are used, for the purpose of quality inspections, and a pocket microscope may be useful in the practice of preparing specimens for analysis under a full sized microscope.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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