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Microscope on a budget


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I’m interested in what people use in the way of microscopes. I’m toying with the idea of buying one but would need to be on a budget and frankly not sure what to get. I’m not able to spend hundreds so looking for something that will do a basic job.

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Depends on the budget and do you need something that can only be seen on computer monitor (Cheap) or something optical (more expensive)

A cheap usb microscope will be under £$20 a low end stereo optical will be around $£250

What's your requirements.

If you just need something to give a closeup image for simple inspection the USB one will be fine, if you are using it for repairs were you will benefit from depth perception then a stereo scope will be a must.

Edited by Paul80
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Hi  I think Paul80 is right in his assesment  in as much as usage and requirement. First thing is to see what it is you want or research both options and when you have a descision as to which way to jump put it to the forum and get some opinions by way of help. You couled spend £30  or £250 +  quite easily.

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Working distance and power.  The cheaper ones have something like 50mm working distance, less at high power.  That is not enough to get tools under it.  The scopes with the correct working distance start at about $250.  I bought an Amscope SE305.  It was an Amazon flash sale for something like $40.  After I learned the shortcomings, I spent $350 on a better one.  Mostly because it had variable power and a huge working distance.  It lacks one feature I really would like.  I can't tilt the head so I look straight down on the work.  It prevents me from seeing anything when I use screw drivers. 

10x is about perfect, 30x for close inspection.  Any more than 10x reduces how much you can see and it is difficult to work with. 

I would look for, in this order: 

1. 10x or less max for working.  Higher magnification for inspection. 

2. Long working distance. The 305 has a 50mm working distance The SE400 has 200mm working distance. 

3. Stand that lets you tilt the head.  All you need is a few degrees so you are not looking straight down.  There is enough depth of field at 10x so not a problem. 

 

Don't buy twice like I did.  And, don't go looking at your "perfect" watches.  At 30x, you will see all sorts of flaws. 

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There's a lot of good information in the stereo microscope thread linked up there. Unfortunately, due to moderator practices, it's a jumbled mess, and borderline unintelligible. 

A "real" microscope costs many thousands of dollars (my friend just bought one for her lab, and I think she said it was something like $300K). The AmScope options in the few hundred dollar range ARE the cheap ones. They're plenty functional for our purposes. Depending on you're location, you might be able to find a used one for cheaper, but without knowing what you're looking at it can be a real crapshoot.

The only "cheap" thing you're likely to find is going to be a digital camera thing. They're not the easiest to work with/under, but it can be done. This just isn't a very cheap hobby, I'm afraid...

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It's the old don't buy what you like, buy what you need, 300k for a scientific grade scope is miles OTT for watch repairs, where a few hundred for an Amscope stereo type is much closer to a watch repaired needs.

Unless you need to see a pivot blown up in super high resolution on a massive monitor then you will need to dig very deep for the out of all proportion price tag the scientific scop will cost you.

Still no one said this hobby was cheap, even if you are like me and are always looking for a tool bargain, have you seen the quality Chinese tool thread (plug plug 😎).

This is the one I use.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/124373214244?mkcid=16&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-127632-2357-0&ssspo=PNBmY-cRSd-&sssrc=2349624&ssuid=cJqjENlHSBe&var=&widget_ver=artemis&media=COPY

Can be had cheaper direct from China or for more if you want a boom type base.

A 0.5 Barlow lens is need to give more space between the lens and base but that's only about £20 so not big deal really.

One thing I would recommend if going down the stereo scope route and that is get one with simulfocus, so that if you add a camera to the camera port otherwise you will loose one eyepiece when using the camera. The one listed above is simulfocus

Using a camera to video a strip down is a boon in helping remember where all the parts go. The cameras for these scopes are not too expensive either.

 

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Oh yeah. I'm not in any way advocating a scanning electron microscope capable of video, in part because I'm pretty sure that's not a thing; she's an RNA researcher with some patents around getting video of metabolic processes or something insanely awesome like that, and it's on that level of insane. I'm just saying that if these were cars, we're already in jazzy scooter territory. Optical microscopes don't get much cheaper before they're just children's toys. What we get for our $250, or whatever they start at, is pretty impressive; especially for what it unlocks for us.

Edited by spectre6000
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Re: Camera port. I've second guessed that a bit here recently for what it's worth. Mostly, it's due to not understanding how to use my wife's old DSLR camera, but the one photo I've taken so far in anger, I did with my phone through the eyepiece. It was a PITA, but apparently not as much of a PITA as figuring out how to work the camera.

If you don't anticipate taking a bunch of photos, it may be worth the pass. I'm genuinely of split mind on the subject... The money wasn't much of an issue for me, and I already had the camera (and grand ambitions for my daughter's scientific education), so I didn't give it much thought. Were circumstances different, I might have skipped the third port for the savings.

Also, there are eyepiece cameras as well for a relatively inexpensive outlay (quick google, first result, and $50). You wouldn't be taking video of what you're working on, and I'm sure you'd have the same magnification differential, but you could probably save a reasonable amount of money.

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I purchased one of these recently, which helped massively when it came to oiling jewels https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jiusion-2560x1440P-Microscope-Cellphone-Magnification/dp/B09653SCG6/ref=sr_1_5?crid=137B17LJY16FR&keywords=usb+microscope&qid=1655394331&sprefix=usb+microscope%2Caps%2C168&sr=8-5

making sure you hadn't over or under oiled.  You can also take still's and video too using the camera app in windows 10.

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For me personally I have found my stereo microscopes invaluable. I have one above my watchmakers lathe and on my benches I have a AmScope which has a large working space and for very close work I have a Olympus linked to a Inralux 250HL which can give 40x magnification. Over the top I agree but I have poor eyesight with cataract issues.  
Overall once you own a stereo microscope you will find what you once thought was clean (such as jewels)was actually not and what you thought was a nice polished surface is far from being smooth. 

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1 hour ago, clockboy said:

Overall once you own a stereo microscope you will find what you once thought was clean (such as jewels)was actually not and what you thought was a nice polished surface is far from being smooth. 

This. All those fine details that were so impressive to the naked eye suddenly start to look pretty crude to boot.

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On 6/15/2022 at 5:12 AM, Tiny said:

I have one very similar. The 10x mag can be a little too high for just stripping down and putting back. I magaged to get a 5x mag but still only had the same field of view of around 18mm so is no better if not worse then the 10x

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And to make matters more complicated, I have posted a few shots of the AmScope SM-3T that I got about a week ago showing the DSLR adapter mounted (that arrived today) as well as a couple of first attempt shots through the third tube of the tri-nocular scope over here:

https://www.watchrepairtalk.com/topic/294-stereo-microscope/page/24/#comment-192678

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  • 6 months later...
On 6/14/2022 at 1:08 AM, Edifred said:

I’m interested in what people use in the way of microscopes. I’m toying with the idea of buying one but would need to be on a budget and frankly not sure what to get. I’m not able to spend hundreds so looking for something that will do a basic job.

I picked up a used Celestron stereo microscope on Ebay for less than $100...delivered.  It only came with the WF10x eyepieces and was missing a lower bulb and the translucent stage plate but other than that.  it works perfectly.  I'm looking into getting some 15x eyepieces for higher mag with the 2x objective which would allow a 30x total and would give me 60x mag with the 4x objectives....more than I'll ever need as a hobbyist.

 

image.thumb.png.0b0ac52485e63a048e65f6133625a5f2.png

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