How I started with Microscopy

I have been interested in microscopy for very long time and the recent flurry of articles (io9.com, twitter, and telegraph.co.uk) showing very nice images further fueled my interest. These images were taken using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) which can magnify objects up to 500,000 times whereas a simple light microscope can only magnify up to 1,000X or 2,000X but still the prospect of being able to look ordinary household things not visible to naked eye is really exciting to me.

Microscopy is the field of observing used to study objects, both living and dead, which are too small to be seen by naked human eye.

I live in Singapore and it is rather difficult to buy a decent and cheap microscope to start with microscopy here. I have found only one shop in Singapore selling microscopes: Astro Scientific Center Pte. Ltd (located in the Singapore Science Center). Astro Scientific Center have two good biological microscopes: Advanced Biological Microscope 500 (500$) and Professional Biological Microscope 1500 (1600$). Digital imager have to be bought separately at 266$. There are few more online stores (Carolina, Monotaro, and VWR) in Singapore which sell microscopes and other supplies but they cater to schools and other scientific institutions and are pricier for amateur microscopy.

Disappointed by the lack of local stores, initially I tried to order it online from overseas. But due to very high shipping costs, almost same as the microscope itself (microscopes are heavy!) I refrained from ordering. Then as luck would have it, my wife had to go to US for a two weeks business trip. I took advantage of the opportunity and ordered Amscope Binocular Compound Microscope B120B and 3MP USB2.0 Microscope Digital Camera MU300 from Amazon and get it shipped to her hotel :-). In addition to the microscope I order few other things as well since they are not easily available in Singapore:

All these items costs only 600$ (shipping was free!). To keep the microscope safe, I also decided to buy a Digi-Cabi DHC-100 dry cabinet from Harvey Norman for 378$. Below are some picture of the things I ordered from the Amazon.

The microscope is of good quality and build for its price range. The optics are of good quality as well and looking directly into scope specimen appear clear and sharp. However, the 3MP camera I ordered with it is not as good as microscope. It has a slow response and thus not suitable to observe fast moving microorganism (they appear as fast moving lines on the screen). The camera also have a problem with white balance. Even on clean slides there is a slight greenish-blue tint, although the software that comes with it is great and can be used to fix the white white balance. Overall, it is still a decent camera and can take good pictures with some effort.

To test the microscope, the first slide I did was of an ant trapped between a glass slide and cover slip :-).

Ant magnified 40 times

Ant magnified 40 times

credit for pollen image on the top: William Crochot (http://www.science-et-vie.net)


4 Comments
  • David Reply

    absolutely, I too have a new one, a trinocular with a Nikon DSLR adaptor, looks similar to yours. Also a mid-20C old piece that still works reasonably, not as bright, though a better condenser. Mostly I share things with my 3 1/2 year old daughter at present. I plan on making some focused stacked images quite soon.

    • Saurabh Garg Reply

      Thats nice. I too do it with my 5 year old son. Focus stacking is pretty easy with Amscope software.

  • david Reply

    How is your microscope doing?
    Are you still at it or was it a passing interest?

    • Administrator Reply

      Hi David,

      Yes I am still doing it but a bit too busy to post more about it.
      Are you into microscopy too?

      Regards,
      Saurabh

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