2
$\begingroup$

I'm 26 and where I grew up the schools were complete crap so I've never really used a microscope much or learned much about them. And I want to learn some science and look at some microscopic things, like organisms in water, how tiny bugs or dirt looks up close, blood cells, and whatever else there will be to discover.

So my questions are about magnification and what I will be able to see at various magnifications. How much magnification would I need to get a detailed look at tiny insects like a gnat or tiny aphid? Or to see microscopic organisms in water, or our blood cells, or the fibres in my microfiber glasses cleaner. And If i was looking at stuff like blood cells, or food, would i be able to see anything like viruses or diseases? (And as an extra question, any good books for self learning about microscopic organisms like that?) I was looking on amazon and found 500x max up to 2500x max, and would like to be able to see living microscopic organisms if possible.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Decide what you want to do; A 2X to 40X binocular is fine for insects and other stuff . But things like blood cells require serious microscopes. And magnification is a small part of defining the characteristics of a microscope . $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Jun 3 '18 at 14:44
2
$\begingroup$

You'll be able to see something that is 1 micrometer as a slightly formed (meaning you can decide whether it's more oblong ore more round) dot. So any structure that is bigger than that can be better observed. Unfortunately, viruses are far smaller, and many interesting cel organelles are too.

enter image description here

Also, many things (like parts of cells) are not visible until they are stained. There are many stains that are suitable for beginners (others are quite toxic or teratogenic). I'd recommend buying a book from 1970 or before (no re-issue), because many stains and chemicals are nowadays deemed too dangerous (although they are not that dangerous if used in amateur-microscopy volumes) and normal light microscopy technique has not changed since then.

With a used microscope from a reputable manufacturer (inquire beforehand whether the tubes are of a standard size so you can get replacement oculars etc.) you are on a good way. Schools and universities will sometimes purge their stock, which is where you can make incredible deals.

Get a microscope with mains-fed light, ideally LED. Some 'tricks' like Dunkelfeld are very interesting to use, but require a good light source and non-broken iris.

Also look at the table, it should have a smooth, no-hysteresis (meaning if you go left, and then right, there should be no 'slack' to take up before the picture moves the other way) x/y platform, ideally with a measure attached.

Total magnification is ocular*objective, and many microscopes offer the possibility to attach a camera, either additionally or as replacement ocular. that is a great thing, as you can take pictures and zoom in (real magnification will not change, but still, some things are easier to see that way) or later tweak the colors or contrast.

Depending on whether you mainly want to look at things that can be put between two glass slides (cells, bacteria, small parts of insects, ...) or at 3D things (insects, flowers, minerals) you can either buy a two-ocular microscope or binocular (3D) or a one-ocular microscope.

Objectives and oculars are small tubes with many lenses built into them - this means humidity and even rot can slip between those, so be sure to check used material (especially from learning institutions) for clear pictures.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

My own experience, as a complete amateur who just bought one for curiousity's sake, is that anything over 400-500X is like doing your daily commute in a car with a 500 HP engine. All that extra power is just going to waste.

20-40X is good for looking at insects (if you can get them to hold still :-)), feathers, and various materials. 200-400X gets you to microorganisms like protozoans in pond water, blood cells (which are pretty uninteresting, IMHO) or plant cells. I have never tried to look for bacteria, and I don't think there's any hope of seeing viruses with a light microscope.

Another thing I've discovered is that if you wear contacts, or have floaters in your eyes, you're going to have a good bit of trouble distinguishing what's on the slide from what's inside your eyes. I think one of the USB cameras might help: I haven't tried one yet, but it's on the wish list,

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

I recommend no more than 40 X in a macro binocular, zoom or turret . Nikon is a good name that makes some inexpensive lines. For about $ 500 you could get a good one with light source. I have used over a hundred optical devices ( not counting birding binoculars). From 2 X hand glass to mega X scanning electron microscopes. Over 3,000 hours looking through microscopes in my 40 yr career. What you may not have considered is that for every hour on a microscope , a technician spent about 4 hours cutting , mounting, polishing and etching a metallurgical sample. Prep is just as necessary for biological samples, cutting, slide prep, staining and stuff I don't know. This expensive preparation is required for about anything viewed at 50 X and more, and maybe for lower X. Light sources also become much more expensive as you get to 50 X. So stay below 50 X to start. Or get a job in some sort of lab .

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.