We will start this journey through the initial experiences with microscopy with an an important question – how to find the best microscopes for beginners? – and then provide answers. Deciphering the secrets of teeny tiny objects starts with one decision – owning a quality microscope. Microscopes for beginners come in a variety of types and a lot depends on what you are looking for.
Among the microscopes reviewed below, you will find budget priced scopes with two levels of magnification, slightly pricier ones that are more authentic, and ones that are simple enough for kids.
A List of the Best Microscopes for Beginners
Magnifies up to
Coaxial coarse & fine focusing
A Great Affordable High Power Student Microscope with Coarse & Fine Focusing
Over 20 tools and accessories Ages 8 and up
The MicroBrite plus is an extremely powerful, compact and lightweight portable microscope.
Internal LED illumination ensures bright, crisp on-screen image | Capture detailed digital images or record video with the click of the shutter button.
Simul-focal trinocular head boasting unique features
Upper LED Illumination, With Stand and Remote, Includes 5MP Camera with HDMI Output
Bundle – 2 items: Microscope Kit + Book
Monocular viewing head with LED and mirror illumination and built-in color filter wheel
The Duo-Scope is an authentic, scientist-grade, biological microscope and is not to be confused with TOYS,
Beginners need to have a quality instruments that are capable of rendering high quality images. The C&A Scientific MSK-01L is a professional research instrument that doesn’t cost much and can help users research whatever they need. It features a 10X eyepiece that is completed by forward facing nosepieces with objectives.
It is also fitted with a solid, mechanical slide locking system, making each session more intuitive. The head is set at 45-degrees to reduce neck strain as well as apparition of the eyes. The microscope offers new scientists access to brightfield illumination that allows for high visibility of translucent and transparent specimens.
The LED light source enables you direct cool and bright light to study specimens that are sensitive to temperature changes. Moreover, the MSK-01L incorporates a six-hole disc diaphragm that allows one to control the amount of light. It has coarse & fine focus knobs and comes with 4X, 10X & 40X objective DIN achromatic lenses for a comprehensive study experience.
While it may not be the first choice for expert scientists, the AmScope M150C/M150C-1 is a budget model that serves an educational purpose for those who want to venture into science. It is a versatile microscope that can be powered by both AA batteries and an electrical outlet. It’s important to keep in mind that this model doesn’t come with any collection bottles, slides, tools or a carrying case, which explains why it costs less than $100. Nevertheless, it does have some incredible features.
The 360-degree rotating head allows the user to do major adjustments to view specimens at different magnifications. It also comes with a dust cover that keeps it and the lenses from gathering dust. The microscope has five levels of magnification i.e. 40X, 100X, 250X, 400X and 1000X. It comes with three objective lenses as well as 10X and 25X interchangeable pieces.
The all-metal body makes this model quite sturdy and durable. The range of users that may find this useful include children aged 8-12, high school students and adults who want to use it with their kids.
One of the things that make the Thames and Kosmos TK2 incredible for beginners is that it comes with a 48-page experiment manual that not only tells you how to use the microscope; but also proposes 20 experiments to help beginners further explore the world of science and microscopy. Of course, a comprehensive user manual doesn’t make a great microscope - quality optics, ease of use, sturdy construction, image quality and useful accessories do. The above combined with an affordable price and easy-to-use controls make this an excellent educational tool for beginners.
The body is made mostly from plastic but it’s still quite sturdy and sits well without wobbling. The handle on the side makes it easy to carry the microscope while reducing the risk of accidents. Specifications include 10X ocular lens, dual focusing knobs, rotatable head, optical grade glass, aperture with 6-holes, 4X, 10X & 40X objective lens, LED light source, 20-piece accessory kit, and powered by AA batteries.
There are two light sources and hence two modes for use. The light can either shine from above as a stereo dissecting microscope or from below as a compound microscope. With a maximum magnification of 400X, this model shows crisp, detailed images. Of course, the TK2 for beginners gives you everything you need to make your own slides, a topic covered in great detail in the manual.
Some of the accessories that come with the kit include two bottle of non-toxic stain, pipette, slide labels, 1 concave lens blank slide, cover slips for slides in the separate box, 4 prepared slides, 5 blank slides, lens cleaning paper, tweezers, dust cover, scalpel, dissecting needle, as well as Petri dish with cover.
Pocket microscopes are not easy to come by and when you do, you get a nifty educational tool. It is not a distraction toy, but a threshold toy or rather something with a little guidance that opens a whole new level of complexity that many don’t know existed.
One of the things I love most about the Carson Microbite is that it is ergonomically designed for adults and children alike. It comes with a large side grip with a LED light button at the top, as well as a wide focus adjustment wheel and a slider for adjusting the magnification. It’s portable design is optimized for indoor and outdoor use.
The Microbite is a sturdy microscope that offers 60X – 120X magnification, which is more than can be said for other pocket microscopes, as well as a sturdy design. It is powered by one AA battery, not included in the package, and comes with Carson’s one-year limited warranted. It is mostly made from plastic, something that some consumers don’t like.
All in all, a good pocket microscope is a must have for all beginners and children. It doesn’t just magnify everyday objects as it opens a whole new world of discovery. It is solid, surprisingly robust for something with a plastic body, small, lightweight and easy to hold.
If 200X magnification is overkill for you and you are in the market for something that costs less than $50, we highly recommend the Dion Lite AM2011. It only zooms to 53X, which is enough for some beginners and kids. You would be surprised how much detail you can see when an image is 53 times larger.
The microscope comes in a fun egg shape, is incredibly easy to use and image quality is good. It also features internal LED illumination, resolution of 640x480, connectivity to both Mac and PC as well as ability to capture photos and videos. The company warns that it cannot be used with a tablet or phone, so ensure that you have a computer when purchasing the Dino Lite AM2011.
While the software doesn’t ship with the microscope kit anymore, it is easily available for download from Carson’s website. That said, this is an excellent choice for anyone who needs low-level magnification for a cheap price.
The AmScope T490B is a sublime combination of sturdy precision with magnification power. It is a great microscope with solid construction as well as multiple features that deliver an amazing research experience. It has a user-friendly design that allows users to benefit from its research functions.
Its advanced optical system means that every study will register a major boost in quality when it comes to accuracy of data. The T490B comes with a 20mm photo port that allows users to project images onto a computer screen while observing highly focused images through the eyepieces. It is perfect for beginners who need something for laboratory applications, teaching demonstration as well as clinical examinations.
The microscope comes with a 30-degree incline and 360-degree swiveling trinocular Siedentopf head. It also features a 3-D mechanical stage. The AmScope T490B utilizes an intensity variable halogen illumination source to brighten up the specimen and ensure better visibility. It offers 40X – 1600X magnification levels, which is more than enough for beginners to work with. Every microscope comes with its cons, and this model is no exception.
The major complaint about the T490B has to do with the lighting source, which most users don’t think is sufficient. All things considered, this model can be used to set the basis for productive learning experience.
Aven Cyclops digital Dissecting Microscope
Digital microscopes are very popular now and a handy asset for those who want to explore the microscopic world. Out of the manufacturers that offer digital microscopes, Aven makes some worth considering. The 26700 – 400 Cyclopes Dissecting microscope , for instance, is a great choice for those who want to venture into science
What I love most about this microscope is that it comes with a versatile design that makes studying easier compared to other models. It also features a 5 megapixel camera with a CMOS sensor that records videos and captures stills while you work. It can be connected to a computer using a USB or HDMI cable. Activating the HDMI mode will allow you to view 1080p image resolution on high definition monitors.
This model offers impressive magnification settings ranging from 15X to 270X, which is more than enough for studies. It has a working distance range of 22.0 to 21.3mm. The 26700-400 Cyclops incorporates a 30 LEDs system with sector and brightness control to match various study applications.
It is integrated with software that allows access to functions like compare modes, management and device control that come in handy during study. It also comes with a remote control that makes it easier to control the microscope’s functions.
Despite having a long and unclear model number to a common observer, the Omano OM115LD-XSP2 offers the best in terms of a beginner microscope. The package comes with everything a student of microscopy would need to get started including slide preparation tools, prepared slides, blank slides, a guide book, stains and more. For that reason alone, I feel that this is excellent for kids, students and anyone who wants to venture into the world of science.
Quality wise, the optics on this are solid and the microscope uses LED illumination to improve visibility of specimens. It is not the cheapest model of the ten reviewed here, but it is not so expensive as to put it out of your budget.
The guide book provides a comprehensive a practical introduction to the world of science, something that beginners need direly. It is powered by both AC/DC for use plugged in as well as AA batteries.
If you are strictly in the market for a compound microscope that is a little more up to speed for educational purposes, this would be appropriate. I would find it more ideal for beginners who want to study things on a molecular level. The microscope uses LED illumination for viewing specimens.
It also comes with a built-in color filter wheel and is equipped with a metal arm for better viewing. The model offers three levels of magnification i.e. 300X, 600X and 1200X with a rotating turret. It features spring action clips that hold the specimen slides in place on the mechanical stage.
I was quite impressive to find that the accessory set has 49 pieces which include a shrimp hatchery and brine shrimp eggs. It also comes with its own hard case for storage when not in use. The microscope is powered by 2 AA batteries and features holder type single eyepiece.
The main downside to this model is that rather than glass lenses, it comes with plastic lenses which may affect the clarity of images. It also uses mirror illumination, which poses a risk of eye strain as well as vision damage when used in the direction of the sun.
In terms of stereo or a compound microscope, this model offers the best of both worlds. It allows novices to observe objects like rocks or bugs using the top light as well as specimens prepared on slides using the bottom light that shines through it. It is way more advanced than typical stereo microscopes. It uses optical glass lenses that magnify at 40X, 100X and 400X to allow for clarity when studying microscopic objects like the red blood cells. As a bonus, the 10X eyepiece can be removed and used as a magnifying glass when turned over.
Accessories that come with the package include 4 prepared slides, 5 blank specimen slides, slide cover, Petri dish, test tube, blue and red non-toxic stains, plastic dropper, forceps, a teasing needles and more. And while some users may not like its plastic construction, the fact remains that it is impact-resistant and easily portable. It only weighs three pounds and is powered by three AA batteries, which aren’t included.
Other notable features include 2 LED lights, full instruction manual and useful hints, CPSIA approved, dual focusing knobs as well as real optical glass lenses. It’s important to note that this microscope comes with glass and sharp instruments; and as such, parental supervision may be required when handled by children.
How to buy a beginner microscope
Stereo or compound microscope: are you interested in observing large and opaque items or do you want to observe small, transparent items? You will need a stereo microscope and a compound microscope for the above tasks respectively. For beginners who are still in school, a stereo microscope will do.
Light intensity, extensibility, stability, magnification and resolution play an important role when it comes to the choice of a beginner's microscope. While getting the highest magnification may be the easiest thing to achieve, you should be on the lookout for more important features like ability to project pictures onto a computer screen or quality eyepieces. Magnification without resolution is useless while a shaky microscope will be unstable and not of any good to you.
You want to ensure that the microscope you purchase comes with interchangeable objective lenses manufactured according to the “160mm” standard. This will allow for a wide selection of different eyepieces from different manufacturers. The idea here is to consider possible future uses and interests.
Monocular or binocular: There is no one size fits all answer to this. It partially depends on your budget and how you intend to use the microscope. A binocular (two eyepieces) will be more suitable if you will be using your microscope day in day out, for hours at a time. The reason is that binocular viewing is more comfortable as one doesn’t have to train their brain to ignore information from one eye.
You may not purchase a beginner microscope with all the bells and whistles but with this guide, you will make an informed choice. I know it can be overwhelming trying to make sense of all the terminologies, features, and options. This is for beginners out there who want to venture into microscopy, know more about the world around them, and be an insider who wants to make the most of their purchase.