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I have a need for a stereo microscope to do electronics work. I also have a strong desire for a stereo microscope to do mycology. I would like to be able to,

  • Clearly identify mycelium, from bacterial contamination (no interest in bacteria).
  • Be able to isolate spores of mycelium.
  • Identify dikaryon, from monokaryon
  • Ideally, but not required be able to identify different types of mycelium that are undesirable (mold).

Could I take a trinocular stereo microscope and add a barrow lens that increases the zoom and decreases the focal length, and use it for biology as desired above? Some stereomicroscopes that have 2x Barlow advertise 225x, like the AmScope ZM2225NT.

What would the downsides of this approach be?

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I'm not sure, but I suspect the answer here is a general "no".

The reason I say this is that stereo microscopes typically do not have the magnifications needed to see the mycelium and other structures needed for ID of fungi clearly. For this you need a minimum of 100x (total magnification) and ideally 400x - 1000x magnification (that's 10x, 40x and 100x objective lenses on a compound microscope respectively). The one you mentioned from AmScope should just be capable of this range with a maximum magnification of 225x. I don't know if that magnification is with a Barlow fitted or not.

Fungal ID is typically done by staining the hyphae and fruiting structures, mounting on a slide, and then observing these via transmitted light - brightfield illumination, with the light shining from the bottom, directly through the object. Some stereomicroscopes will have this capability, but definitely not all. Those that do won't have a condenser, which converts the point illumination of the bulb into a parallel or converging beam, which is needed to provide even illumination of the right angle for the objective lens being used so that you can see the object clearly.

Stereomicroscopes would be useful for observing a fungal colony from above, but this isn't often all that useful for identification purposes.

Barlow lenses will help provide more magnification, I think at the expense of depth of field, though this shouldn't be much of a consideration for mounted specimens. Nikon's Microscopy U has lots of really good information on stereomicroscopes, including Barlow lenses (they call them "attachment" lenses) that you might find useful in determining for yourself.

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  • $\begingroup$ Some stereoscopes do have condensers, for example, the Nikon Diascopic Stand that I have for my SMZ-U, has a condenser. It is a rarer feature for sure, but even some of amscopes offerings have it $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Apr 12 at 3:46
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for some things sure, like looking at surface structures in more detail, and with 200x power you might see micro structures including perhaps cells. but most fungal microscopy is done with a compound microscope of 400-1000x power, which allows you to clearly see cells and cell types, hyphae, and spores

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