Which digital microscopes are best?
Whether an academic researcher or a casual hobbyist, the microscope is an essential part of nearly every scientist’s toolkit. While all microscopes let you examine small samples with incredible detail, digital models make the process even more convenient by offering high-tech features and USB connectivity.
Although it is their primary function, there is more to these devices than simple magnification. The Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope is the top pick as it has a flexible arm and adjustable brightness settings.
What to know before you buy a digital microscope
When shopping for a digital microscope, perhaps the most crucial detail to consider is the device’s magnification power. Most microscopes have at least 40x magnification, but you can find certain high-end models with 1,000x magnification or higher. This means that you are viewing samples 1,000 times closer than you would be able to with the naked eye.
Digital microscopes with that much power can discern fine details on the cellular level, but this won’t matter much if your device doesn’t have sufficient resolution.
The resolution determines how well-defined your sample will be under the microscope. This is typically measured in megapixels and directly corresponds with the size of your computer’s monitor. Devices on the low end usually have a resolution of around 0.4 to 1 megapixels, which will appear normal on a 640 by 480 screen but may look blurry on anything larger. Other digital microscopes may boast a resolution of 2 or more megapixels, providing an image that’s large and detailed.
Nearly every digital microscope will have some kind of light source built into its design. Most devices use light-emitting diodes to illuminate your sample and make it easier to inspect. Look for a device that offers adjustable brightness levels so you can have complete control over the lighting.
Look at the product details closely to make sure that the microscope you choose will be compatible with your laptop or device. Keep in mind that most digital microscopes connect via USB cable. If you use a newer computer that lacks a USB port, opt for a microscope with wireless or Bluetooth capabilities. Similarly, if your microscope uses specific software, make sure that you have all of the proper system requirements to run it.
What to look for in a quality digital microscope
Some high-end digital microscopes have Wi-Fi or other wireless capabilities. This makes the device much more portable and gives you a better reach without the clutter of wires.
Make sure that your microscope comes with a free software download. These programs will allow you to display the image on your computer screen and may come with essential tools like image capture, video recording and even effects like sharpening or color correction.
If you buy a digital microscope for portability, look for a model with a built-in display screen. These screens are much smaller than computer monitors, but they let you take your digital microscope anywhere without the need for additional devices.
Depending on the objects that you intend to examine, a microscope with an adjustable stand can be extremely helpful. In addition to vertical height adjustments, many of these devices have a flexible arm that can be bent to any position imaginable. Other digital microscopes are completely handheld, eliminating the need for an arm altogether.
How much you can expect to spend on a digital microscope
The cost of a digital microscope can vary widely depending on its power and any included features. A simple device can usually be purchased for around $40-$100, while a microscope designed for professional labs can cost $1,000 or more.
Digital microscope FAQ
How much magnification do I need?
A. While you can find microscopes that offer 1,000x magnification or more, a device with 400x magnification is more than enough for most purposes.
Can kids use a digital microscope?
A. Digital microscopes can provide a great educational opportunity for curious kids, but make sure that you choose a durable, handheld device that’s not overly complicated.
What are the best digital microscopes to buy?
Top digital microscope
Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope
What you need to know: This popular digital microscope is extremely versatile and easy to install.
What you’ll love: Simply plug this microscope into your USB port, and you’ll be ready to examine your samples. This device provides up to 250x magnification with 2 megapixels for crystal clear images. The brightness is adjustable, and you can move the arm in any direction.
What you should consider: This microscope can be challenging to focus, depending on the object you’re inspecting.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top digital microscope for the money
Jiusion Endoscope and Digital Microscope
What you need to know: This compact digital microscope is budget-friendly with solid metal construction.
What you’ll love: This affordable device can connect to your personal computer, Mac or smartphone and is powerful enough for 1,000x magnification. The microscope includes eight LEDs and a knob to adjust brightness and image focus.
What you should consider: While this microscope is compatible with Android phones, iPhone users will need to look elsewhere.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Carson zOrb USB Digital Microscope
What you need to know: Perfect for students and aspiring academics, this simple microscope features a unique look and durable construction.
What you’ll love: This digital microscope has an ergonomic, handheld design, making it extremely portable. It can magnify up to 65x and can capture images and record video. It’s also compatible with both PC and Mac operating systems.
What you should consider: The included USB cable isn’t very long, and the magnification power is only suitable for casual users.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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