I am a mathematics student looking for a hobby and this has come up as a potential hobby. Thus I am interested in buying a high-magnification microscope that is within the limits of my budget.

My first question is, is high-magnification always better? That is, what are some examples, if any, where high-magnification isn't preferred?

Secondly, I am thinking of getting either the "OMAX 40X-2000X Digital Lab LED Binocular Compound Microscope with Built-in 1.3MP USB Camera and Double Layer Mechanical Stage". I have no idea what most of that jargon means, except that it is digital and it can magnify up to 2000x. http://www.amazon.com/40X-2000X-Binocular-Compound-Microscope-Mechanical/dp/B006MX03Q0/ref=pd_sbs_indust_4

Is there any reason I shouldn't get this microscope?

  • $\begingroup$ What are you trying to look at? I think without a sense of your goals, it would be hard for people here to help you with your question. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2013 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ That's the question; what are then possible goals, @Oreotrephes? $\endgroup$
    – Don Larynx
    Oct 25, 2013 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ Got it. I think others can answer this better than I can, but I think your first point of differentiation is going to be whether you want a "dissecting scope" which is easy to use and lets you look at things that aren't squished flat; or a "light microscope" (like the one you link to) which gives much higher magnification but for which you'd have to prepare slides. The former is great for looking in more detail at macroscopic things (e.g. living insects, whole flowers); the latter is appropriate for looking at things that are truly tiny (e.g. cells). $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2013 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ Why would I want to use it for macroscopic things if I can use my eyes? Also, what magnification do you need to see cells? @Oreotrephes $\endgroup$
    – Don Larynx
    Oct 25, 2013 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ For anything more than about 40X you will also need a preparation laboratory and very good/expensive lighting. $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2018 at 1:14

2 Answers 2


Higher magnification is definitely NOT always better. Indeed, the microscope you are considering is designed for maximum magnification of 1,000x. The 2,000x is achieved by adding 20x eyepieces BUT it creates what is known as 'false magnification'. 2,000x is beyond the resolving power of a light microscope so what happens is that the image is magnified 2,000x but without a corresponding improvement in resolution. In fact, you will notice a degradation in image quality....it's like magnifying a pdf on your computer....it gets bigger but you still can't read it! And in any event, you will never use 2,000x let alone 1,000x! Read this article http://www.microscope.com/education-center/articles/false-magnification/

Second, I advise against buying an integrated digital microscope. Far better to buy a standard trinocular microscope and add a microscope camera. The reason is that the camera will be obsolete within about one year while the microscope should last a lifetime. If anything goes wrong with he camera, you will have to buy an entirely new microscope. Moreover, with separate scope/camera, you can switch cameras on the same microscope or use the camera on a different microscope. For more info read this article http://www.microscope.com/education-center/articles/digital-microscope-options/

Look for a lifetime warranty. A mechanical stage is standard and helps move the slides on the stage.

In full disclosure, I own www.microscope.com so give me a call if you would like any further assistance. You will not find false magnification or false advertising on our website!

  • $\begingroup$ I'm using oil immersion @Charles. $\endgroup$
    – Don Larynx
    Oct 25, 2013 at 14:28

To answer your other question, you need a low power (also known as dissecting or stereo) microscope in order to see close-up views of specimens visible to the naked eye. For example, you can see a bee, but you need a stereo microscope to see the wonders of its eye. Similarly, you can see a rock or a diamond but you need a microscope to see the crystalline structure. Typical magnification ranges are 7x-45x or 50x with most work undertaken in the 20-30x range.

For viewing cells on slides, you need a high power (also known as biological or compound) microscope. Typically, these range from 40x-1,000x.


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