You want to buy a microscope? Before you start researching what's on offer, there are certain things you need to know if you want to avoid making a mistake. You know that a microscope is essentially an instrument in which one lens is placed in front of another lens, to make objects look big. But that does not mean that a microscope is all about magnification. All depends on what you want to use it for.
One mistake many people make is to buy one with too high a magnification. The greater the magnification, the less you can see of an object at any one time. So here's a brief guide to the options.
If a microscope has x30 magnification, it means that an object seen with it is 30 times bigger than as seen with the naked eye. To see tiny bacteria, you would need x1000 magnification, but you can see a human blood cell at x500. Magnification of around 400X is enough for most people.
There are, essentially, two basic types of microscope:
These have just one eyepiece, so you keep one eye closed. They give you a three-dimensional (3D) view of an object. The magnification is typically low, between x20 and x40. An advantage of using them is that you can examine samples in their natural state, and need to do little or nothing to prepare them.
They are good for looking at insects, coins, stamps, gems, plants and so on, so are especially suited in education and for collectors and naturalists. But they are no use for looking at cells. They are also good for children since they can look at something immediately and they can relate to the object as it's simply a much larger version of what they can already see.
These have a much greater range of magnification: between x40 and x1500. They can be either monocular or binocular. People use them to study minute objects or sections of larger objects that are thin enough to be transparent (for example, cells). You have to prepare an object and place it as a smear or a section between a slide and a coverslip.
You can see now why you needed to know some essentials about microscopes. Imagine if you rushed out and bought a high-power/compound microscope with a magnification of x1500, to look at plants or for your child. Great disappointment and frustration would result, as well as a waste of money.
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