Portable microscopes?
July 27, 2006 3:52 PM   Subscribe

I have always been intrigued by the micro world. I am looking for a tool to help me enjoy it further. What better tool than a microscope, however I want it to be portable and allow me to examine things with out too much preparations. I saw some of the small microscopes like 'pocket scope' 30x, and 'illuminated microscope' between 25x and 50x.

Are these any good? Do they offer good enough clarity or not worth the money.
I am not looking to examine things at a cellular level, how much magification is enough? (Just things around us, bugs, pollen, plants, dirt, water from swamps, etc...)
Do you have experience with similar instruments that you would recommend?
posted by convex to Technology (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've tried a couple of the portables, but they were unsatisfying. I carry a good magnifying glass when hiking and a stereo dissecting scope later for closer looks.
posted by jsteward at 4:14 PM on July 27, 2006

I have a little 20x pocket scope, which combined with a small halogen flashlight, makes a highly portable, reflectively based system for on-the-spot investigations of the "small world" that makes up the larger one. Pollen and swamp water won't reveal much at 20x, but a butterfly's wing will. Not what you see in a "microscope" photograph, but interesting none the less. More than 20x, and you begin to need a frame to support the lens and prevent hand shake, and your field of view becomes annoyingly narrow.

You would see greater detail in some things with a true portable microscope, if you were willing to section samples and prepare slides. There are things about microscopic structure you can learn no other way. And to see microorganisms well, you are going to have to carry around something that will get you into at least the 150x range. But these higher magnifications call for substantial light sources, too. At some point, carrying around the microscope becomes impractical, and you get more done bringing samples back to the microscope, and preparing slides with precision sectioning equipment, if what you want to look at is very small.

But these little folding loupes are fairly inexpensive, and highly portable. Even if you only use it a couple of times a year, you'll be glad of having it, and keep it handy always.
posted by paulsc at 4:18 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: jsteward "and a stereo dissecting scope later for closer looks."

Does the one you have like this
Why are they so expensive!
posted by convex at 4:22 PM on July 27, 2006

I used to have acces to a Wild dissecting scope in the lab I worked in. Man, that thing was awesome. If only they weren't multi-thousands...
posted by Good Brain at 4:39 PM on July 27, 2006

I don't know how well this fits your "portable" criterion, since it needs a computer and you can't really use it in the field, but I really love these little guys. We have like 5 of them in the lab for doing quick-and-dirty inspections of stuff, and we're actually getting ready to publish a paper that uses data taken with one! I know they're marketed as toys, but I've found them to be really handy (and cheap) tools to have around...
posted by mr_roboto at 5:02 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: mr_roboto; You know I don't mind sacrificing portability for quality and x factor.
I checked the QX5 and read some reviews sounds like a good item. But I think it is a bit expensive for me. I wonder if any of these is good 1, 2, 3
Would it be fair to ask for the best microscope for the money, for let's say no more than $50 ? Or am I stretching it?
posted by convex at 9:57 PM on July 27, 2006

Intel made a "play" USB microscope that was good enough for the company that I work for to buy five of them for our product development group. They can resolve a feature of about .0005 In. These can create JPGs and can print in real time. I do not know if they function on any systems other than W98SE. They do crop up on Ebay from time to time.
posted by Raybun at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2006

Should have read mr_roboto s post first. I just described the QX3 version of the same scope.
posted by Raybun at 11:57 AM on July 28, 2006

convex writes "I checked the QX5 and read some reviews sounds like a good item. But I think it is a bit expensive for me. "

You could always pick up a used one off of eBay...

I don't know much about those handheld portable scopes, but I imagine that your main problem is going to be with illumination. That last one you linked to might be alright... Believe it or not, one of the most important aspects of doing light microscopy well is getting bright, even illumination on your sample. Having a CCD detector (like on a digital camera, or those toy computer 'scopes) lets you get away with less illumination, because these devices can "integrate" the light they're collecting: like taking a photograph with a long exposure.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:24 PM on July 28, 2006

convex: Thanks for asking! Been wanting something like this for several years, but with a computer interface.
mr_roboto: Thanks for the recommendation. I went over and bought two, one for me and one for the rugrat (who's 6).
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:11 PM on July 29, 2006

Response by poster: unrepentanthippie: Let us know your feed back, how do you like it so far?
posted by convex at 7:34 PM on July 29, 2006

"Went over" in this context means to their website, as I couldn't find it on any of the big box websites they claimed carried it, but I will post an update when they get here, I promise.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:51 PM on July 29, 2006

I apparently ordered these from an affiliate of the manufacturer, who apparently cancelled the order at some point, and did not notify me. I spoke to the manufacturer today, they recommended an online company they will be shipping a crate of them to in the middle of September. I ordered two more of them again, but they won't be here very much before the end of September. If you want to buy one, they will be available at etoys.com, and you can pre-order them.
I will post pics, eventually.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:39 PM on August 14, 2006

Response by poster: unrepentanthippie thanks for the update, sorry to hear about the delay.
posted by convex at 2:54 PM on August 19, 2006

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