Microscopes offer you a new way of looking at the world. Once you start looking at things under a microscope, you realize just how much more there is to see in the world that the naked eye shows you. However, choosing the right microscope when you’re new to them can be daunting. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of great starter microscopes.
Our top pick is the TELMU Compound Monocular Microscope. This is a good choice for most beginners, no matter what your goals are.
- Best Microscopes for Beginners in 2021
- Best Overall – TELMU Compound Monocular Microscope
- Best Digital Microscope – Celestron LCD Digital Microscope II
- Budget Option – Carson MicroMini Microscope with Built-in LED and UV Flashlight
- Best for Field Experiments – Swift Compound Monocular Microscope with Cordless Capability
- Best for Connecting to Your Computer – Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope with Flexible Arm Observation Stand
- Best for Sharing Images – Celestron MicroDirect Handheld Digital Microscope
- Best Mid-Power Portable Microscope – Carson MicroBrite Plus Microscope
- Best for Those Who Want a Trinocular Microscope – OMAX M83EZ-C50U Trinocular Digital Compound Microscope
- Best Binocular Microscope – AmScope B120C-E1 Binocular Compound Microscope
- What to Consider When Buying a Microscope for Beginners
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Microscopes for Beginners in 2021
Best Overall – TELMU Compound Monocular Microscope
The TELMU Compund Monocular Microscope is an excellent option for most beginners. It comes with a few extras that make it stand out from other similar microscopes. These include 5 prepared slides as well as 5 blanks ones. That means you can get started with nothing else needed.
You also get a smartphone adapter. This allows you to attach any smartphone to the microscope so you can easily take pictures of your slides.
It has two LED lights that you can choose between. It runs on two AA batteries, so it’s only one light or the other. However, this choice means that you can use it for either transparent or solid samples, making it a flexible option.
You get the standard objective lens magnifications of 40x, 10x, and 4x. There are also two wide-angle eyepieces at 10x or 25x.
This is a good multipurpose microscope that is easy to get the hang of. It also offers good quality images. For the price, you really can’t get anything much better for a beginner.
Best Digital Microscope – Celestron LCD Digital Microscope II
The Celestron LCD Digital Microscope II is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to squint down the barrel of a microscope but still want a high-quality microscope experience.
With this microscope, the image is displayed on a 3.5” full-color LCD screen. This lets you and anyone around easily see all the detail from the lenses.
Even though this is a digital microscope, it doesn’t rely on digital zoom to get its magnification. It has the standard 4x,10x, and 40x objective lenses of all good compound microscopes.
There are two light sources to choose from. This lets you use the microscope for looking at all types of samples.
As you might expect from a more expensive option, this microscope does come with a selection of added accessories, including a carry case.
A really nice feature of this microscope that is decidedly useful is the ability to measure sample size. You can use the LCD screen to carefully and accurately measure the size of samples. This is a very nice feature to have.
This is a great option for any beginners who want an easy to use and versatile microscope that has a little extra excitement to it.
Budget Option – Carson MicroMini Microscope with Built-in LED and UV Flashlight
The Carson MicroMini is a great microscope for introducing yourself or your kids to the wonders of nature. With this handheld microscope, you can quickly have a peek into the fine structure of anything you come across while you’re out and about.
With 20x magnification, you won’t be using this microscope to look at bacteria. You can, however, use it to discover the amazing structure of everyday objects. As it comes with a universal smartphone adapter, you can also, very easily, get some amazing pictures to share.
This microscope has both LED lights and UV ones. This combination is especially beneficial for looking at plant samples.
This microscope is a great option as a portable field microscope, as it literally fits in your pocket.
Best for Field Experiments – Swift Compound Monocular Microscope with Cordless Capability
The Swift Compound Monocular Microscope SW200DL is a really flexible microscope. It comes with two LED light sources, which makes it a good option for looking at both transparent and solid specimens.
The LED lights are dimmable and run cool. This is good if you are looking at live specimens. The LEDs are low power, so this microscope can run on batteries, giving you a more portable and cord-free option.
There are three objective lenses, which are the standard choice of 4x, 10x, and 40x. However, you also get a choice of eyepiece. There is a 10x and a 25x as well. This gives you a large amount of flexibility in the view you get.
A nice feature of this microscope is that the head rotates by 360o. This makes it a great option if you are going to be looking at samples with other people.
This is a good option if you’re not sure what types of specimens you’re most interested in. This is a good all round microscope.
Best for Connecting to Your Computer – Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope with Flexible Arm Observation Stand
This Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope is a great option if you want to be able to capture your images on a computer. It’s plug and play and should work with pretty much any OS. It’s really easy to use, and you’ll be up and running instantly.
The microscope has a ring of LED lights to provide illumination. As this is shining from above, this really is a microscope that is optimal for solid samples.
The microscope offers a 40x optical magnification. However, using the software, you can then push that to 250x using digital zoom. As it’s a 2.0-megapixel camera, you will still get reasonable amounts of detail at that level of magnification.
This is a great option for anyone interested in dipping their toes into microphotography and the examination of solid objects.
Best for Sharing Images – Celestron MicroDirect Handheld Digital Microscope
The Celestron MicroDirect Microscope is a great option if you are looking for a simple to use a microscope that will allow you to share images. Or if you just want to be able to see your images on a large screen.
You can plug this microscope directly into a screen or projector using an HDMI cable. You also have the option of saving images to an SD card.
You can power the microscope through a USB connection or the mains. So it’s easy to use anywhere.
You can operate this microscope with one hand if you choose. The focusing wheel is at the base of the microscope and can be twisted as you aim at your target. It does also include a stand, so you don’t have to worry about your hand getting tired.
The included LED light makes this a good option for looking at solid samples. This is a great choice for people who want to look at things like insects or coins and don’t want to be hunched over a microscope eyepiece.
Best Mid-Power Portable Microscope – Carson MicroBrite Plus Microscope
The Carson MicroBrite Plus is a fantastic handheld microscope. This pocket-sized microscope has a zoom lens. For such a small microscope, it offers a surprisingly powerful magnification range of 60x – 120x.
This is a great microscope for looking at anything you can find. If you want to wonder at the hidden glory of nature, this is a great option. With its LED light and adjustable zoom, this is an ideal and easy to use microscope for taking out and about with you.
This would be a great microscope for kids or for taking out to look at nature. Given its low price and high power, this is a great introductory microscope that will get anyone excited about the world around them.
Best for Those Who Want a Trinocular Microscope – OMAX M83EZ-C50U Trinocular Digital Compound Microscope
The OMAX M83EZ-C50U Digital Microscope is a great option for anyone who wants both the comfort of a binocular microscope and an easy to use camera system.
This microscope comes with a 5-megapixel camera that you can connect to your computer with a USB connection. Using this camera, you can take pictures and record video. You can also use the included software to measure distances and angles, which is a handy feature.
The microscope has four lenses to give you a wide range of magnification levels. You can get from 40x – 2500x.
With its high power and single illumination source, this is a true biological microscope. So this is a good choice if you know that your interest lies in biological samples.
Best Binocular Microscope – AmScope B120C-E1 Binocular Compound Microscope
It’s a lower-priced option because the camera that comes with it is of lower quality and is attached to one of the eyepieces rather than a separate connection. This makes it a great option if you primarily want a good binocular microscope and would occasionally use the camera.
What to Consider When Buying a Microscope for Beginners
Before you delve too far into choosing a microscope, you should consider what you plan to use your microscope for. The types of specimens that you plan to look at will go a long way towards dictating what type of microscope will be the best option for you. So before going any further, just take some time and consider if you are more interested in looking at microbiological specimens like bacteria and cell samples or if you are interested in looking at more macro objects like insects.
Compound vs Stereo
The first big decision you need to make is the type of microscope you will choose. This will be driven by the type of object you’re interested in viewing. If you’re uncertain about the types of samples you want to look at, the best option is to get a compound microscope with two illumination sources. This will let you look at both transparent and solid samples.
If you are planning to study smaller samples, you’ll be better served by a compound microscope. These allow you to get a higher degree of magnification. With a compound microscope, you can choose to have a monocular, binocular, or trinocular scope.
Monocular microscopes tend to be cheaper. They work perfectly well up to around x1000 magnification. If you require higher magnification, you’ll need a binocular microscope. Binocular microscopes tend to come with more advanced features, such as automatic stages. These can be helpful for some applications.
Trinocular microscopes will only be needed if you are interested in microphotography.
Stereo microscopes are ideal for looking at larger specimens. They are good for things like gems, rocks, insects. These are things that don’t need as much magnification but do benefit from a 3D view.
All stereo microscopes are binocular. This is a result of how they work. You can get trinocular versions for photography as well.
Lighting is a vital component of any microscope. Better microscopes will allow you to vary the intensity of the light as you need.
The quality of the light is also important. There are four options for the type of light you can have. The cheapest option is a tungsten light. This does give bright light, but it can also distort the color of that object you are looking at.
LEDs offer a good option as they are low power but bright, so they can often be used for battery-powered microscopes. So you’ll often find these on portable microscopes.
Fluorescent lights are the best option, but they are usually only found on higher-end and specialist microscopes.
There is one final option that you might find on some of the cheapest microscopes. Older types of microscopes use a mirror to direct natural light through the sample. These are a great option to try if you’re interested in the history of science, but they are a lot harder to get genuinely good views with, so they are probably best avoided for beginners.
The magnification from the microscope will be due to a combination of the eyepiece and the objective lens. A standard microscope eyepiece has a magnification of 10x. You then multiply this by the lens you choose to get the total magnification.
Most Compound microscopes have three objective lenses. Typically these objective lenses will be 4x, 10x, and 40x.
You don’t really need to go overboard with magnification. There is a limit to what you can see by increasing the magnification anyway. You will never need anything over 1000x for any biological investigation anyway.
In low power stereo microscopes, you may have a zoom magnification option. This will allow you to adjust the magnification to any value within a range.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the easiest thing to see under a microscope?
When you first get a microscope, you can start to explore a whole range of things. It can be a good idea to start with some pre-prepared slides as this will often be easy to get in focus as you learn how to use your microscope. There are loads of great options, and many microscopes come with some slides to start you off.
I also encourage you to look at some everyday items through your microscope. Lots of household items are fascinating under a microscope and really easy to view. Salt, for instance, is a great place to start. Velcro, chalk and even orange juice are definitely worth looking at up close; they all have some hidden surprises for you.
What magnification should you start with?
You should always start with the lowest powered lens on your microscope. This gives you the biggest field of view and allows you to find and center items of interest. Once you have something of interest in focus, then you can start to climb up the magnification scale.
What’s a good microscope for beginners?
All the microscopes on this list are good options for beginners. If you’re really not sure where to start, then why not go with our top pick. The TELMU Microscope 40X-1000X is, in our opinion, the best option for most beginners.
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Last update on 2021-01-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API