While searching the internet for a microscope you will find microscopes from all different price ranges. With an untrained eye one may see a microscope from one company for $100 and see what looks to be the same microscope offered by another company for $300. You may find yourself wondering why the difference in price?
Below we will review the difference in parts that result in the price differences:
The field of view (F.O.V) is one specification that factors into the price. F.O.V is measured in millimeters and is the diameter of the specimen you are able to see while looking through the eyepieces. The most common are 18mm, 20mm, & 22mm. The field of view can often be found in the specification commonly after the magnification of the eyepiece. For example: 10x/18. This means the eyepiece has a magnification of 10x and F.O.V of 18mm.
You can also gain this information from the eyepiece itself:
The magnification and quality of the optics in the eyepiece also play a role in the price. The most common magnification eyepiece is 10x. 10x is really the highest magnification eyepiece you will need otherwise you will have empty magnification. If a website is offering 10x, 15x, and 20x eyepieces all included chances are they are low quality and they are tricking you into thinking you can benefit from the extra eyepieces.
There are multiple factors in the head of the microscope that go into the total price. From what you cannot see (quality of the prisms, how clean they are, etc) to the specifications that you can see. A monocular head is the least expensive, followed by binocular, then trinocular.
Some factors that determine price are:
- If the head rotate 360 degrees - good for storage, sharing, or using the microscope at a position that is comfortable to you.
- Doe the eyepieces lock in place to avoid tampering
- If trinocular is it a 50/50 split (least expensive) or does it have a beam splitter for 20:80 or 0:100 split.
It may not seem like a big deal but the design of the nosepiece reflects the cost. One specification you will need to investigate is if the microscope has a ball bearing nosepiece. This is desirable as it ensures smooth operation and positive stops. You may need to look in the brochure in order to confirm that the nosepiece is ball bearing. 99% of the microscopes we sell use a ball bearing nosepiece.
- How many poistions does the nosepiece have? The number can be anywhere from 3 - 7. This determines how many objectives can be mounted on the nosepiece
- Is the nosepiece reversed or forward facing? Forward facing nosepieces are bad as they leave the front of the objective lenses facing foward which makes them prone to damage or tampering. You can tell by looking at the microscope:
Foward Facing Nosepiece Reversed Nosepiece
The most influential components (s) on a microscope are the objectives(s). Today all manufacturers have their own nomenclature for their objective grades which makes it confusing and frustrating for users to compare "apples to apples". There are two factors that play into the grade of the objectives- the color correction and flatness of field.
Color correction - Achromatic lenses are corrected for chromatic aberration at two wavelengths of light and Apochromat are corrected for three. Therefore Achromatic are less expensive than Apochromat lenses.
Flatness of field- Standard objectives have limited correction for spherical aberration which results in 60-70% of the field of view in sharp focus.Semi-Plan objectives have 75-90% of the field of view in sharp focus. Plan objectives extend the to 90%.
There are lots of other variables such as parfocality and parcentrality. All of our microscopes are parfocal and par-centered which is an important aspect of microscopy.
There are different types of stages: fixed stages, glide stages, mechanical stages. Fixed stages use stage clips to hold the slide in place. Glide stages have stage slips to hold the slide in place and the entire stage is able to move in order to manipulate the specimen. A mechanical stage allows you to control the movement of the specimen on an X & Y axis. A mechanical stage should be on any microscope with a 100x objective.
There are two types of mechanical stages and they play a role in the cost. There are fixed built in stages, and attachable stages. A fixed built in mechanical stage is sturdier than an attachable one. It is also more ergonomic and easier to use as the controls are in a low position. We are constantly replacing attachable mechanical stages due to their poor design.
Built In Mechanical Stage -Stage controls hang down Attachable Mechanical Stage - Stage controls on top sticking out on the side
All professional microscopes will have a standard condenser with iris diaphragm. Specialty condensers such as phase turret condensers, and darkfield condensers greatly increase the cost of the microscope. Entry level student microscopes have options. The microscope could come with a cost effective disc diaphragm or a standard condenser. A microscope with a disc diaphragm would be less expensive than one with an iris diaphragm.
All microscopes need to be able to focus in order to see your sample. Most microscopes have both a coarse and fine focus. These focus controls can either be separate or coaxial. Separate controls are less expensive than coaxial controls. Any professional microscope should have coaxial controls.
Separate Coarse & Fine Focus Coaxial Coarse & Fine Focus
There are various lighting options for microscopes. Today the two most popular are halogen or LED. LED is more expensive upfront, but in the long run is more cost effective as you do not have to buy replacement bulbs as often as you would with halogen. A microscope with variable illumination which you can increase or decrease the light intensity is more expensive than one that does not have variable illumination.
Another feature associated with illumination is koheler. Kohler illumination is an option on many microscopes, and buying a microscope with kohler illumination increases your cost. Kohler illumination is found on professional microscopes and is not necessary if you have LED illumination.
When shopping online you do not have the benefit of getting a hands on feel for the item you are purchasing. You only have a picture of the item which leaves a lot to question - what is the stand made of (Plastic? Cast Metal?), what is the size of the microscope? Is the microscope sturdy and built well?
Some websites have pictures of their microscopes next to a booklet that is packaged with their microscope they are selling. You can use this as a judge for the size of the microscope. Another reference- some websites have their microscopes next to a laptop. Take a look is the microscope the same size as a laptop?
Overall there are lots of small features to take into consideration when comparing or shopping for a microscope. Even with all of the above information there are still other things to consider that factor into the price. Many of these are "under the hood" items. Does the microscope have any plastic or nylon gears internally? If so its only a matter of time before these break. Will there be support and parts available should you need them?
Besides the obvious brand name microscopes may be more expensive than no name imported microscopes for a few reasons:
1. A brand name microscope is supported not only by the company selling the microscope but by the manufacturer.
2. Brand name microscopes are reliable and go through strict quality control. The no name imported microscopes do not go through quality control in the USA. Sure they offer a return period if it comes in damaged but you are then responsible to pay both ways for shipping. If you are lucky to receive the microscope in okay condition, it is only a matter of time before you have to get it repaired.
Just remember like anything sometimes investing a little more in a quality product pays off. Nothing is more expensive than having to buy the same product twice!
Need help comparing microscopes? Contact us and our experts will give you honest and helpful information!