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5 Best Microscopes

We take a close look at the top microscopes currently available. Get the perfect microscope for your next project with our guide and reviews.

Microscope

Microscopes are perfect for viewing the tiniest of objects. While some people use them for professional or educational purposes, others simply enjoy the fascinating experience of viewing bacteria and other microscopic items.

There are many types of microscopes for sale. While some are made from simple glass and metal, others feature digital aspects which enable users to capture still images and videos and then analyse them.

Many of the top microscopes are classic bulky models which would be commonly seen in classrooms and labs, however some are handheld, allowing them to be used on the move.

Whether you’re looking for a model suitable for a child to use, or whether you need the most powerful microscope on the market, our selection of the leading microscope models on the market will help simplify the decision for you.

When it comes to microscope price tags, we've been sure to include models covering a variety of budgets.

Check out our microscope reviews and make a well-informed decision about which model is best suited to your individual needs and requirements.

The Top Microscopes Compared

See how the finest microscopes available compare in the table below.

Model

Details

OMAX 40X-2000X Lab LED Binocular Microscope

Our Top Pick

OMAX

LED Microscope

Price: $$$

Magnification: 40x - 2000x

Warranty: 5 years

Backlit: Yes

Type: Compound

AmScope M150C-I 40X-1000X

Perfect for Students

AmScope M150C-I

Price: $$

Magnification: 40x - 1000x

Warranty: 5 years

Backlit: Yes

Type: Compound

Carson 60X-75X MicroMax LED Lighted Pocket Microscope

Best Pocket Microscope

Carson LED Pocket Microscope

Price: $

Magnification: 60x - 75x

Warranty: Lifetime

Backlit: Yes

Type: Pocket

AmScope B120C Siedentopf Binocular Compound Microscope

Most Powerful

AmScope B120C 

Price: $$$

Magnification: 40x - 2500x

Warranty: 5 years

Backlit: Yes

Type: Compound

My First Lab Duo-Scope Microscope - MFL-06

Best for Kids

My First Lab Duo-Scope

Price: $$

Magnification: 10x - 400x

Warranty: 1 year

Backlit: No

Type: Compound/Stereo


The Best Microscopes Reviewed

In this section we review each model and give the pros and cons that help make a decision easier.

OMAX LED Microscope    *** Our Top Pick ***

If you’re looking for a great blend of value and high quality, the OMAX is a great fit.

It's well suited to educational use, clinical examination, demonstration or laboratory use.

It's one of the most powerful microscopes on this list, giving magnification of up to 2000x.

This figure is only bettered by the AmScope B120C which gives 2500x. Despite being similarly priced, this model offers better value due to the extensive features and accessories included.

Details

  • $$$
  • 40x - 2000x
  • 5 Years
  • Compound

Users can see the detail of microscopic objects including cell nuclei and if they require digital capabilities, this can be accommodated too. This microscope can be connected to any USB digital camera to record images seen in the microscope then save them onto the PC as a video clip or picture.

There are no less than 8 different levels of magnification. The lowest is 40x and the highest is 2000x. This product also comes complete with a sliding viewing binocular head, 2 widefield eyepieces, 4 achromatic objectives, a big double layered mechanical stage and scale, a condenser with an iris diaphragm, fine and coarse focus knobs and an LED variable intensity illumination system. Not only that, but the set comes with 100 blank slides, 100 sheets of lens cleaning paper and 100 cover slips.

This compound microscope is seriously full of features, and thanks to the convenient adjustment handle on the mechanical stage, it’s easy to get the right focus for each slide. The LED light provides optimal brightness for clear viewing, and the intensity can easily be customized to suit each situation. The light bulb also has a long lifespan, especially when compared to standard bulbs, and with so many different magnification levels, you can easily see the detail you were hoping for.

The mechanical stage is double layered. This means users can benefit from full sample movement for scanning and centering. The whole stage can move in the X, Y or Z dimension to suit your needs at any one time, and the slide will never slip off the stage when searching for a particular point of focus.

As one added bonus, there is a five year manufacturer’s warranty against any possible manufacturing defects, so you can enjoy complete peace of mind in your purchase.

    Pros

  • 5 year warranty
  • Double layered mechanical stage
  • LED light with customizability
  • 8 magnification levels
  • Comes with lots of accessories

    Cons

  • Fine focus can be tricky to keep in position
  • LED bulb is hard to change

  Bottom Line: In our opinion, this powerful microscope is an excellent investment for anyone who wants a high quality microscope for either professional or educational use.




AmScope M150C-I    * Great for Students *

Anyone looking for the perfect microscope for children will appreciate the benefits that the AmScope M150C-I can provide.

Its monocular head can rotate through a full 360 degrees and has five different magnification settings between 40x and 1000x – perfectly adequate for use by elementary or high school students.

Its widefield all optical glass elements include a single lens condenser with a disc diaphragm and all of the framework is made from sturdy metal for a long lifespan and outstanding robustness.

Details

  • $$
  • 40x - 1000x
  • 5 Years
  • Compound

For added convenience, there is an inbuilt LED illumination system so you can easily see the contents of the slides without having to worry about an external light source. The LED light can either be powered using AA batteries or by plugging it into a power outlet, for minimal fuss and maximum productivity.

Students can choose either a coarse or a fine focus thanks to the easily adjustable knob controls, and, due to the stain-resistant finish, this microscope will stay looking great for many years to come.

You can expect impressively sharp images thanks to the precision ground glass lens, and the five year manufacturer’s warranty will protect your purchase from any unexpected faults or damage.

Since this microscope has been manufactured to meet the ISO 9001 quality control standards, you can rest assured you’re buying an excellent product which won’t disappoint when it comes to amateur hobbyist or educational use.

    Pros

  • Meets ISO 9001 quality control standards
  • Stain resistant finish
  • Integrated LED light source
  • Fully rotating monocular head
  • 5 magnification settings

    Cons

  • Really only suitable for use by amateurs and children

  Bottom Line: If you need to choose a high quality microscope for educational use by children or for amateur hobbyists, this is the ideal model for you.




Carson LED Pocket Microscope   * Best Pocket Microscope *

When it comes to portable microscopes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better model than the Carson MicroMax.

Designed for use on the move, this microscope measures just 1.25” x 3.25” x 0.75” and is surprisingly lightweight, so it can easily be popped into a bag or pocket on the way out the door. You can easily use it to look at all kinds of specimens in the field, and this makes it a highly convenient instrument that will see many years of use.

Details

  • $
  • 60x - 75x
  • Lifetime
  • Pocket

This model features integrated LED lighting so you can easily see the samples without the need for an external light source – essential for use in the field. It runs on three SG3 button cell batteries which come supplied for extra convenience.

This microscope features zoom and power controls up to 75x magnification so you can enjoy clear and bright images whether you’re examining insects or blood samples! The eyepiece is rubberized to ensure comfortable viewing and for extra peace of mind in your purchase, you’ll even benefit from the manufacturer’s 100% satisfaction guarantee.

    Pros

  • Portable lightweight design
  • Rubberized comfortable eyepiece
  • 100% manufacturer’s satisfaction guarantee
  • Integrated LED light

    Cons

  • The batteries are expensive to replace

  Bottom Line: When you’re looking for a lightweight microscope which can be taken anywhere without compromising on quality, this portable model is ideal for you. Suitable for use out in the field, this high quality microscope is perfect for inspecting samples like insects and bugs.




AmScope B120C  ** Strongest Microscope **

Whether you need a compound microscope for educational purposes or for biological use, this model is the ideal choice.

Its Siedentopf binocular head comes with both 10x widefield and 25x widefield eyepieces featuring 53 - 77mm inter-pupillary adjustment.

There is also fixed 30-degree vertical inclination so neck and eye strain is effectively reduced.

As an added benefit, this model also features 360-degree rotation capability so users can enjoy a dully comprehensive view while also enabling sharing of images without having to move the entire microscope.

Details

  • $$$
  • 40x - 2500x
  • 5 Years
  • Compound

There are six magnification levels to choose from between 40x and 2500x to obtain the perfect view while the DIN achromatic objects provide impressive color correction of images. There is also integrated LED illumination as well as a condenser with an iris diaphragm to allow excellent light control and clearer examinations.

The mechanical stage is double layered, and has stage divisions of 1.0mm which lock the slide firmly into place while providing the most precise manipulation of slides along the X/Y axis for precise recording of coordinates. With control knobs to adjust between fine and coarse focusing and the ability to dim the single LED bulb, it couldn’t be easier to view slides comfortably.

The body of the microscope has been crafted from cast-steel with an enamel coating not only for extra durability, but also to resist corrosion and stains effectively.

    Pros

  • Integrated LED lighting
  • Strong cast-steel enamel-coated construction
  • 6 magnification levels
  • 30 degree vertical inclination to reduce eye and neck strain
  • 360 degree rotation

    Cons

  • Thicker slides have no space for adjustment
  • No ability to adjust slides along the Z axis

  Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a strong and multi-functional microscope that is easy to use and yet produces impressive results, the AmScope B120C is the ideal model for your needs.




My First Lab Duo-Scope   ** Best for Kids **

When you’re searching for the ideal microscope to encourage a child to become more interested in science, the My First Lab Duo-Scope microscope is the perfect choice.

Having won awards for its impressive design and functionality, this microscope functions as both a stereo and compound microscope all in a single unit.

This means you can either view 3D items like leaves and rocks or 2D objects on microscope slides. With so much versatility, it comes as no surprise that this ranks highly as one of the top microscope models for children on the market today.

Details

  • $$
  • 10x - 400x
  • 1 Year
  • Compound/Stereo

This product comes complete with a fifty-piece accessory kit so children can enjoy using the microscope from the moment they open the box. There are five plain slides and a concavity slide as well as four ready-prepared slides, a plastic dropper, a cover glass, slide labels, forceps, lens paper, a Petri dish made from strong plastic, a straight teasing needle and a plastic test tube. Basically, it’s everything that any young scientist needs to get started with their first STEM project.

This product also comes complete with a user-friendly instruction manual containing helpful hints about its use, so children can easily learn how to use their new microscope and paper their own slides. The included experiment guide also encourages more exploration.

Unlike many other models aimed at children, this microscope features optics made from real glass and comes with a 10x eye piece. There is a choice of three magnification levels – 40x, 100x and 400x. This makes it an ideal product for introducing children to the use of microscopes for scientific purposes, although it would not be powerful enough for adults’ requirements. This product is also protected by a one year manufacturer’s warranty so your purchase will be well protected.

Providing hands-on fun and learning for children from age 9, this kit is also lightweight so it can be taken anywhere, both outdoors and indoors. Thanks to the integrated LED illumination, it’s possible to see easily.

    Pros

  • Great for children
  • Real glass optics
  • 1 year manufacturer’s warranty
  • 3D and 2D functionality
  • 50 piece accessory kit included

    Cons

  • Led lights are very bright and can’t be dimmed
  • Stage can’t be moved sideways

  Bottom Line: If you’re looking for an excellent quality microscope for a child, this model is perfect for you. A great improvement over other children’s models, this is an award-winning product that comes with everything you need to encourage a child to become more interested in science.



Summary

If you need to choose a microscope, it can be difficult to know which one to buy. There are plenty of different models on the market today, and since all haven’t been created equal it can be all too easy to make an expensive purchasing mistake.

If you want to avoid wasting money on an inferior product, our microscope reviews will help you to make the right decision so you can have complete peace of mind.

When it comes to choosing the right microscope, it depends on the functionality that you’re looking for as to which is the right model for you.

Perhaps you want a multifunctional model that would be suitable for amateurs and professionals alike.

laboratory Microscope isolated on white

Or perhaps you need an affordable model that would be perfect for enjoying your hobbies. Or maybe you want a model that would be suitable for a child to use to foster their love of science but which won’t break on first use.

Whichever you’re looking for, you can be certain that one of the five microscopes featured here will tick all the boxes for you.

Overall, we recommend the Omax microscope as our top pick. Offering powerful magnification and plenty of functionality, this microscope has been designed with usability in mind.

It can be used by anyone who wants to view samples in closer detail, and thanks to the ability to move the stage along the X, Y and Z axis, it’s easier to get a perfect focus on any slide.

Despite its excellent quality and durable construction, this microscope is also affordable, putting it within easy reach of amateur hobbyists and parents as well as professionals.

On the other hand, if you want a microscope for a child, the My First Lab DuoScope is hard to beat. With its strong construction, quality components and user-friendliness, it is ideal for encouraging young children to develop an interest in the scientific field.

Whichever of our picks you choose, you can be confident that you’ll be selecting a high quality product that will stand the test of time and will allow you to effortlessly examine scientific samples clearly.

Using a microscope in the lab


Need something a bit less complex for the kids to learn with? Check out our guide to microscopes for kids, teens, and students next.


Microscope Buyer's Guide

When you’re choosing a microscope, it can be difficult to know what you’re looking out for, especially if you’ve never bought one before.

In this buyers’ guide, we take a look at the various things you need to keep in mind before you make a final purchasing decision so you won’t make an expensive mistake.


What Will You Use A Microscope For?

The very first thing you need to consider before you purchase a microscope is what exactly you’ll be using it for.

Identifying your own needs will help you to determine the type of product you need to buy. While some models are ideal for viewing larger objects, they may not be effective when it comes to examining very small samples, such as bacteria.

If you need a very powerful microscope, you will need one with a strong zoom of 2000x or 2500x. On the other hand, if you’ll be taking your microscope out and about for use in the field, you’re going to need a portable, lightweight model.

Finally, if you’re purchasing a microscope for a child to use, you’ll need to pay attention to its strong construction to ensure it won’t easily be broken with rough usage.

Once you’ve pinpointed the purposes for which you’re going to use your microscope, you’ll be able to make the right decision about which type of model is best suited to your needs.

Microscope close up


Magnification Power

The magnification power that you need will play an enormous part in making the right decision about which model best suits you.

If you need very strong magnification, you’ll need a microscope which exceeds 1000x magnification.

Even some children’s models are designed to magnify to these levels, so you should be able to find a model that allows you to easily see details in bacteria and blood cells if that is your goal.


Lighting

It’s important to have high quality lighting when looking at samples under a microscope. You probably don’t want the hassle of having to use a separate light source to view your slides, and therefore choosing a model which has an integral LED light is always the best option.

While some models rely on batteries, making them ideal for taking between different locations, others require a power outlet in order to make the light work. While these models are fine if they’re being used in a single setting such as a laboratory, they aren’t ideal if you want to move them around.

Some models allow you to choose whether to plug it in or whether to use a battery. These are the most versatile options, especially when they’re paired with the ability to dim or brighten the light as necessary.

Whenever possible, choosing a model with an adjustable light is always a good idea so that you can get the ideal level of light to see your sample as clearly as possible.

close up of lab microscope


Digital Components

Some of the best microscopes today are able to be connected to your PC or laptop. This gives you lots more features when it comes to manipulation of the image and in-depth analysis.

Although models which offer connectivity to a PC do cost a little more, they may be well worth it if you want the extra functionality that being able to view your samples on a computer screen and save images and videos can bring.

On the other hand, if you don’t require this functionality, you may be able to save money by choosing a model which doesn’t boast this feature. If you’re just a keen hobbyist, for example, digital components may not be essential to your enjoyment.


How Should I Use My Microscope?

If you’ve never used a microscope before, you may be wondering how to get the most out of yours. Here, we look at how to use your compound microscope.

  1. Set your microscope so it is at its lowest magnification setting on its objective lens. Often, this is 4x but it may be higher depending on your model.
  2. Put the slide which you want to inspect onto the microscope’s mechanical stage.
  3. Clip the slide down using the stage clips.
  4. Use the focus knob to move the mechanical stage upwards until it reaches the perfect spot close to the microscope’s objective lens. Ensure that the lens doesn’t actually touch the slide.
  5. Look into the eyepiece.
  6. Use the fine focus knob to adjust the image until it becomes clear.
  7. Adjust the condenser to allow the perfect amount of light to come through.
  8. If you wish, choose to one of the higher power lenses.
  9. Use the knob to readjust the condenser and focus again if necessary.
examining a sample using a compound microscope


Is There More Than One Type Of Microscope?

There are actually four main kinds of microscope.

  • The compound light microscope is the most affordable type of microscope on the market today. They combine light with optical glass lenses so that they can magnify objects up to around 1000x. These microscopes are regularly seen in school science classes.

  • The stereo microscope is sometimes called a dissecting microscope. This type of microscope features two optical glass lens paths at different angles so a three dimensional image can be seen of the sample. These lower power scopes only magnify between around 10x and 200x.

  • Digital microscopes are a relatively recent invention. First developed in 1986, these microscopes can be connected to a computer using a USB cable. The user can then use the image and video capturing functions. There are now also portable handheld digital microscopes which are small and lightweight enough to take anywhere but with all the functionality of a static model.

  • Pocket microscopes are portable, hardy and tiny devices which are capable of magnifying from 25x up to 100x.


How Do Microscopes Work?

Microscopes work by using a lens to bend light waves and provide magnification.

Compound microscopes have at least two lenses which combine power so that the sample can be further magnified. These allow the user to see their selected sample at a size that is up to 2500 times bigger.

If the microscope is going to see the sample clearly, however, it requires high resolution and this can only be achieved by having a high quality lens and by the frequency of the light waves. Shorter, light wavelengths ensure optimal resolution but adequate lighting is important too.

Sometimes, samples need to be stained in order to get the contrast right. Some microscopes also have condensers which can change the brightness and size of the light beam, with narrower beams giving higher contrast and therefore greater visibility.

Microscope in a Scientific Research Laboratory


Binocular Or Monocular Microscopes?

Microscopes can either be binocular i.e. with two eyepieces, or monocular (with one eyepiece). You will need to decide which is best to suit your needs. Anyone who is likely to use their microscope very regularly should have a binocular microscope.

This is because it will be more comfortable to use two eyepieces on a long term basis than just one eyepiece. Professional users will require a binocular microscope.

On the other hand, if you’re a casual user such as a hobbyist, or if your microscope is for a child, a single eyepiece monocular microscope could be the better choice. This is especially important for children since they struggle to cope with interpupillary adjustment.

Although binocular microscopes can be adjusted to allow people of different sizes to see clearly, this can be difficult for children. Therefore a monocular microscope is often a better option until they are old enough to properly manage a binocular model.

Alternatively, you could buy a binocular model and simply cover one eyepiece until they are ready to focus it properly.


The Parts Of A Microscope

If you’re considering buying a microscope you need to know the terminology in order to determine which parts are which. Here are some of the key terms which you will need to know when choosing and using a microscope for the first time.

Eyepiece tube – this is the part of the microscope that holds the eyepiece lens

Nose-piece – this is the part of the microscope that houses the objective lens. This may combine a number of different lenses

Focus knobs – these knobs are used to achieve the correct focus of the objective lens

Stage – the is the flat platform on which the slide holding the specimen will be placed

Illuminator – this is the device’s light source for the device. Usually, the light source will be at the base of the microscope and it will usually take the form of a low voltage halogen bulb or LED

Condensor – this is used to collect light from the illuminator then focus the light onto the slide and its specimen

Condensor focus knob– this knob is used to adjust the position of the condenser either down or up in order to concentrate the light more effectively onto the sample

Iris diaphragm – this is used to effectively control the light which reaches the specimen. The iris diaphragm is located below the mechanical stage and above the microscope’s condenser

Aperture– this is the hole inside the mechanical stage through which the light from the base can reach the stage.

Microscope Camerathis type of digital camera is a high definition USB imaging system which is capable of connecting to a computer then transmitting live video and images to it. Usually there will be software to power the camera included as part of the package


In Conclusion

Microscopes can be a costly investment. If you’re just starting out as a hobbyist, you may be better off choosing a portable, affordable beginner’s microscope with minimal additional features until you’ve decided what you really want from your chosen device. The same holds true if you’re purchasing a model for use by a child.

Whatever type of microscope you want to buy, you should always take the time to do your research properly before you buy. Be sure you know how you’ll be using your microscope, the strength of magnification you require, the power source you’d prefer and whether you need digital functionality. If you don’t know which features you need before you buy you could easily end up making an expensive mistake.


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