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Thread: A good microscope for under $200?

  1. #1
    Keeper of the Frop Bog How To Go
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    A good microscope for under $200?

    Is this an impossibility? I have my 40th birthday coming up in a few weeks and so far my family thinks my birthday list sucks:

    * Discovery Magazine subscription.
    * Peace and prosperity for Planet Earth.
    * Red Faction for Xbox 360?


    What I'd like to use the microscope for is two-fold.
    For my own curiosity. If it could see "large" mounted single cells like an Amoeba that'd be great. But primarily I'd like to be able to view the little Daphnia, parasites that might grow on our fish, and developing fish eggs. This would also give me a great educational way to open up a whole new world to the kids in the area. This fall (if I'm not sick), I'll be having groups of elementary school children in and after-school program come over where I'll be teaching them the basics of environmentalism, ecology, & genetics using our pond and bogs ()and the life there-in) as the example. If I had a decent microscope I could really open up a whole new world for them as well. Show them the macro and micro basics of ecology.

  2. #2
    "WHY WON'T HE DIE!" Social Worker
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    Typical Earth-first reasoning from jpinard - he wants peace for Earth but not for Mars.

    Pssh!

  3. #3
    New Romantic
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    jpinard, have you looked at the Eyeclops, or do you want something more powerful and hard-core? My nephew got one for Christmas, and we had quite a good time finding various things and viewing them on the TV in the living room. It's a really cool little gadget.

  4. #4
    Keeper of the Frop Bog How To Go
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerri blank View Post
    jpinard, have you looked at the Eyeclops, or do you want something more powerful and hard-core? My nephew got one for Christmas, and we had quite a good time finding various things and viewing them on the TV in the living room. It's a really cool little gadget.
    Probably more powerful... but that sure looks cool. Does it plug into the computer too?

  5. #5
    Account closed World's End Supernova
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    No, I won't buy you anything for your birthday.

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    Social Worker barstein's Avatar
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    New Romantic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eyeclops site
    I won't return anything I get, so please don't send your baby pictures or trial evidence.
    HAHAHA. I can imagine the stuff people send this guy while expecting him to go all CSI on it.

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    Keeper of the Frop Bog How To Go
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles View Post
    No, I won't buy you anything for your birthday.
    I had a remark I was going to write as I was a little insulted by your insinuation - but in case you were just having fun I'll acquiesce.

  9. #9
    New Romantic
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    I played around with one of those Eyeclops devices at the Boston Museum of Science gift store the last time I was there. It really is pretty cool, though I imagine the guy that was linked to above is right and you quickly run out of stuff to use it on. It certainly isn't a replacement for a real microscope, but it will grab the attention of kids a lot faster.

  10. #10
    New Romantic
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpinard View Post
    Probably more powerful... but that sure looks cool. Does it plug into the computer too?
    IIRC they have two different models, the BioniCam and the BionicEye, and the BioniCam is the more computer-oriented one, I think the original BionicEye model just has a standard TV composite output and nothing else, which could of course still be used with a computer but you'd need a TV in device (you can get USB composite TV in devices for like nothing these days) and the results wouldn't be quite as good.

  11. #11
    Neo Acoustic
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    Don't suppose you have tried googling for microscopes and getting an idea of price that way?

    Presumably you want to observe the micro-organisms on a slide, with a coverslip over the top to make a wet prep. That is probably the best way to observe the parasites and other microscopic pond life you want to demonstrate. Just looking myself, I saw a few going fairly cheap, and cover the sort of magnification range you would need, with objective lenses ranging from x4 to x40, with a x10 ocular. Therefore, you would have x40 to x400 magnification which would be sufficient, certainly in human disease, I can identify parasites reliably up to x400 magnification. By the looks of things, Daphnia is actually rather big, so you may not even need a x40 objective, though it will certainly give you a nice "up close and personal" view with plant and animal cells (eg: onion cells, or the epithelial cells from the mouth).

    Anyway, I am not to sure about the quality of the lenses though, and how well it will provide contrast for the observation of amoeba and other similar organisms. In other words, I can not really give you any recommendations, the microscopes I use for work cost in the order of US$5000 - $8000, however they have a few extra odds and ends to them which mess around with the emitting light.

    Also, if you do find yourself a decently priced microscope, don't rush in with the added option of buying TV/external monitor connections. What you see on webpage advertising vs what you might get in real life are two different things. If you can get a real world example of the image capture, then that would be best, considering many images picked up by a fixed camera can be washed out due to the light from the lamp, or, if the lamp is dulled, be unable to see any real detail. Just think of what happens when you point a camera at the sun, or take a photo in a darkened room.

    Plus, I thought 40th birthdays were all about fast cars, bungee jumping, sky diving, and base jumping adventures?

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    Mad Chester
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    RF on 360 is a terrific game, btw.

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    Social Worker
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    You might want to check out the Carson pocket microscopes:
    http://www.amazon.com/Carson-MM-200-.../dp/B000P8AUMU

    I don't have one, but Cool Tools gave one of the other Carson scopes a good review.

    Edit:
    Quote Originally Posted by Strato View Post
    Plus, I thought 40th birthdays were all about fast cars, bungee jumping, sky diving, and base jumping adventures?
    Any of these activities would crush jpinard like a bug.
    Last edited by Union Carbide; 07-13-2009 at 03:06 PM. Reason: .

  14. #14
    Keeper of the Frop Bog How To Go
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    Strato - I did google and was fairly overwhelmed. My big problem was thinking I have fields of view which may be incompatible with each other: Tiny Crustaceans vs. Parasites vs. Single Celled Organisms. So whereas a smooshed coverslip would work nicely for single cells, I'm not sure the weaker magnification will function with Daphnia that are trying to swim all over in a drop of water?

    Jerri - the eyeclops looks fun, but I'm wondering if it could compensate for the refraction water causes when samples are suspended in water?

    UC - I might put that on my list too. Super portability would be nice. But it might not have enough power for looking at parasites and protozoans? I'm not sure.

  15. #15
    Neo Acoustic
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    Regarding Daphnia: One technique might be a hanging drop motility despite the fact it recommends usage of a slide with an indentation, I've had some luck in the past with ordinary slides. Normal wet preparations don't really smash organisms. For instance, Strongyloides stercoralis quite happily flicks and swims around under a wet preparation when I'm looking at infected faecal samples. The other 'large' organism I regularly look for/see under a microscope is going to be dead and surrounded by skin, so it is more difficult to determine if it gets smashed up.

    That said, I'll go further and say that using plain old light microscopy may not help you much anyway. In my first post, I made mention of the fact that the microscopes I use for work mess with the emitting light. They do this by way of phase contrast, which basically increases the contrast in a specimen, and is the best way to view wet preparations.

    Any chance you could go to a local high school and see if you can use their microscope? Even just to see if the purchase of one will help achieve what you want to do.

    A stero microscope is anothe option, however I don't have any experience with those things, and the sorts of magnification they provide.

  16. #16
    Broad Band
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    I would check into used medical microscopes. Just about every medical school requires that there students provide their own microscope for classes. There is a large used/resale market for these since most students will use them for a year then never need them again. You should be able to find one that is medical grade and around the price you are looking for.

  17. #17
    New Romantic Miramon's Avatar
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    Not that I know much about microscopes, but by analogy with telescopes I will suggest that you don't really want to get the maximum possible power so much as you want a nice deep, wide, and brilliant field of view, especially for your animaculae or whatever it is you want to look at.

  18. #18
    Social Worker barstein's Avatar
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    CNET just wrote about a cell phone microscope called a CellScope.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10291371-1.html (via Engadget)

    Well, the device just got even more powerful. The group announced Tuesday that the CellScope is now capable of taking color images of malaria parasites and even of tuberculosis bacteria labeled with fluorescent markers.

    The version of the Cellscope introduced in April works with handhelds and even Netbooks and can be used for bright field microscopy, which uses simple white light--such as from a bulb or sunlight--to illuminate samples. The new version adds fluorescent microscopy to the repertoire. The device can now take pictures of a target--such as a parasite, bacteria, or cell--tagged with a specific fluorescent wavelength emitted by a special dye.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by barstein View Post
    CNET just wrote about a cell phone microscope called a CellScope.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10291371-1.html (via Engadget)
    I watched this vid: http://link.brightcove.com/services/...tid=1849024673
    and I wonder if there's a device that clips onto the end of a digital camera like what they show (instead of a cellphone)? That would be the most perfect option for whart I'd like to do.

    What kind of tags would I use to look for something like that on Google (my searching skills suck)?

  20. #20
    Social Worker barstein's Avatar
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    Good question. "Bright field microscopy" and "microscope image processing" are probably good strings of text to use in searches (in combination with "digital camera"). Using those strings exactly might also exclude other valid and helpful search results, and of course there are probably other good terms, techniques and products to search for that I'm not aware of. But here's example to get you going: Google search for "bright field microscopy" and "digital camera".

    Somehow I ended up on microscopyu.com and they look like an interesting resource for this sort of thing. No forum there, but here's a google search that might steer you toward a decent microscope-related forum. Science museum giftshops might also be good places to phone up, if you're really serious about it. There are usually one or two resident experts who get questions like that a lot.

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