So you want to buy a microscope! The first thing you need to do is define why you need the microscope and how you plan to use it. For instance, is this a microscope to help you complete your collegiate studies? Are you planning to give your child an inexpensive microscope for his or her birthday? Or are you just interested in making this wonderful tool a part of a new hobby for yourself? Each purpose will require different features and considerations.
Let’s get started! (And don’t forget to check out our summary report at the end of this page.)
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Basics of Microscopes
- Buying Microscopes for Children: This Frequently Asked Questions guide was written by a science teacher as a collection of the advice he’s given parents over the years.
- Before You Buy a Microscope: Here are some simple questions to ask yourself about the quality of the microscopes you’ll be researching. Consider, for example, what kind of lighting system you need.
- Which features are worthwhile?: The Microscopy Association of America reviews some clever advertising terms that you should watch out for if you’re looking to save money.
- Recommended Books on Optical Microscopy: These books are for the intermediate to advanced amateur user. The
links go to Amazon where you can buy the books used for a significant discount, sometimes up to 95% off.
- Microscope Books for Children: Some of the selections in this Barnes & Noble list of paperback books cost as little as $1.99
- Microscope Books for Pre-Teens and High Schoolers: Here are some books hand-selected by Microscope World that are more appropriate for older children. These are also available with used edition discounts.
- Microscopy Online Campus: This free education portal is hosted by Carl Zeiss AG, one of the leading microscope manufacturers in the world.
- Microscopy U: Sponsored by Nikon, this is another free, online education portal with tutorials, galleries, and an online museum.
- Education Image Library,: Here you’ll find microscopic photography of everything from arachnids to crystals and even interesting manmade objects.
Microscope Accessories & Maintenance
- Make Your Own Microscope Slides: Making your own slides can be much cheaper than purchasing pre-made ones. Learn about the two kid-friendly kinds of slides, wet and dry mount, and how to make them yourself to save money.
- Microscope Slides Preparation: For the adults, this website includes tips on more advanced slide preparation techniques, including the flat and concave styles.
- Buy Microscope Slides Direct: This is a compilation of slide suppliers. Ordering directly from a manufacturer instead of through a retailer can save you up to 50%.
- Microscope Maintenance Tips: Learn what you’ll need, from Q-tips to lithium grease, to properly maintain your microscope for years of functionality and to prevent costly repairs.
- Student Microscopes: Here’s a source with recommendations for user-friendly, affordable student microscopes. This includes prices and ratings.
- Gift Idea: Beginner Microscope: Read this mom’s experience buying an inexpensive beginner model for her child. She recommends the brand she researched and ended up purchasing.
- Choosing a Middle of the Road Microscope: This source gives a great breakdown of “entry level” and “midrange” microscopes at various magnification levels, all with your budget in mind.
- Low Price Guarantee: Look for a company like Great Scopes; they guarantee their low prices. Just let them know where you found the model you want cheaper, and they’ll match the difference and include a lifetime warranty.
- Buying a Cheap Microscope for Home Use: From The Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Oxford University, this PDF full of amazing photographs gives you information on finding a microscope within your budget.
- Side-by-Side Comparisons: This article gives you a ‘Top 10’ list of microscope brands which range in price from $40 to $153. All of the information is in a neat, side-by-side format for easy comparison.
- Turn an iPhone into a Microscope for $5: Depending on what you need your microscope to do, this could be a fun, kid-friendly alternative to a normal microscope. Learn the how-to for this $5 microscope here.
- DIY USB Camera Microscope: Here’s another one for the handier folks out there. Using an old web camera, some wire, and a few tools, you can make your own easy-to-use microscope for less than what the stores charge.
- Buying a Used Microscope: This handy guide from eBay is especially useful if you’re planning to buy the microscope online or sight-unseen.
- Daily Deals: This website offers daily deals with steep discounts on select microscopes. Check back every day to find their lower-end units going on sale for up to 50% off.
- Handheld Digital Microscope: Another option you have, depending on your purpose for your microscope, is a handheld digital microscope. Some are more kid-oriented than others, so make sure to shop around.
Ready to get started with your budget-friendly hobby?
Whatever your purpose is, you’re probably looking to stay within a budget. The next thing you need to do is determine your budget. If you’re looking to spend less than $100 or so, know that you’re probably going to get a “toy” microscope for this price, i.e., the kind you’ll see at Christmas time at your local department store. For kids, this is often a great option. You’ll need to be realistic about how much you’ll need to spend if you really need a quality microscope.
Third, you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re doing with your new microscope. Take advantage of the many free online educational resources, and consider picking up a few used books from an online retailer. These low-cost contributions to your base of knowledge will make your microscope much easier and more enjoyable to use.
Although your initial investment in a microscope may be somewhat sizeable, anybody can make it an affordable experience with a little bit of planning.
You’ll need to keep an open mind when it comes to ideas like a handheld digital microscope. Although these look a little different from the microscopes you’ll see in a lab, they can work incredibly well for their price, and you can often use a USB connection to see the image on your computer screen rather than through a small eyepiece. That’s pretty awesome technology, and it can save you a lot of money.
Learn to shop online for big discounts. This can include knowing how to find or ask for low price guarantees or coupons. You’ll also want to research how to purchase directly from the manufacturers to see if you can avoid the retail markup.
Know what it costs to maintain your microscope. Don’t flake on these minimal costs if you plan to use your microscope for years. An ounce of prevention can save you a lot of money by avoiding repairs and replacements in the future.
If you’re buying this microscope for a child, know what they can handle. Children can be forgetful, rough, and less-than-responsible. “Toy” microscopes can be a fine first purchase because they reduce the loss if your child breaks or damages the device in any way. You can always upgrade later if they have a proven interest in the hobby.
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