Microscope Magnification

We’ve all heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, in microscopy one might say “a microscope is only worth 1000x”.  

How can that be? After all, there are ads promoting microscopes with 2000x magnification, and bigger is always better, right?  

Well, all I can say is don’t believe the hype.

Let’s take a look at how a microscope’s total magnification is calculated.  There are two variables: 1) objective lens  2) eyepiece.  To calculate magnification, you simply multiply them.  For example, 

(10x) objective  x  (10x) eyepiece = 100x total magnification 

The highest possible EFFECTIVE magnification is 1000x by pairing a 100x objective with a 10x eyepiece.  Anything above this is not useful.  Yes, pairing a 100x objective with a 25x eyepiece will produce 2500x ON PAPER.  However, while the image will be larger, resolution will be degraded. Basically, you will get a big, blurry image.  Not to mention, higher magnification eyepieces reduce field of vision.

So, there it is. 1000 is the limit.  Embrace it and don’t waste your time and money trying to top it.