Microscope Recommendation

OMAX portable 400x inverted scope, an AlgaeLab favorite!

Hello fellow algae-nauts!

I am often asked to provide a recommendation for a microscope for looking Spirulina and other algae. The most important consideration is that the scope achieve at least 400x true optical magnification, so you can see enough detail to recognize cellular features relating to the identity and health of algae. Many digital scopes advertise ridiculous levels of magnification (1000x or more), based on comparing the size of the object to the size on a computer screen, but often the image quality is very poor, so this is basically false advertising. In my experience the best inexpensive scopes are the non-digital types where you use your eye to see the image; often you can stick a camera up to the lens and snap pictures as well.

Also, I recommend an inverted (looking up from underneath) microscope over the usual type, as then you can simply put a drop (or several drops!) on a slide and look at them immediately; with top-down optics you must use a cover slide, which is time-consuming, and you can only get one sample per slide.

Here is the one I recommend; it is highly compact — you can take it on a hike to look at pond critters — and fairly inexpensive. I’ve seen it for $200.

Eventually, I will recommend a cheaper, digital scope, once I’ve found a model I like…

From the heart of the chloroplast,
Dr. Baum

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