A "light" microscope is one that
relies on light to produce the viewed image. There are other types of
microscopes that use energy other than light. Examples are electron
microscopes that use electrons and scanning
probe microscopes that use electromagnetic fields or tiny probes which
If we study light microscopes, we will find
that there are many different types,
each one designed for a specific
application or job.
Below are some of the most common types and a short
description of each.
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Click on the small image for a
||National model 185.
This is the most basic microscope. It has one eyepiece lens and a
single magnification power of 20X. It relies on ambient light for
illumination and is used for reflected light observations (where the
light bounces off the specimen and up to your eye). A young person will enjoy looking at bugs, sand grains, fabric weaves etc. with this microscope.
||National model 186.
This is called a shop microscope. It uses a small flashlight to
illuminate the specimen. This type is placed directly on the
specimen and with the flashlight on, you can look through the top and
focus on the image. It is used in the publishing industry to look
at printed material and in the textile industry to look at fabric weaves
and color. It has one magnification and can be ordered with 20X,
40X, 60X or 100X powers. It also has a measuring scale imbedded in the eyepiece.
109-L. The microscope at the left is an introductory biological
compound microscope. It is compact in size (about 12"or 30cm
tall) and is used in elementary schools. It has three powers (40X,
100X and 400X) and a 110 volt illuminator which is located under the
stage (where the slides are placed). This is a transmitted light
microscope, where the light goes through the specimen (like a fly wing
or cells or pond water critters)
||National model 138.
This is a full size biological compound microscope, typically used in
high school biology classes. It is about 15" or 38cm tall and
has three powers (three objective lenses) providing total magnifications
of 40X, 100X and 400X. It also has a light source under the stage
for transmitted illumination.
||National model 163.
This is an advanced research grade microscope with two eyepiece for the
researcher and a third port on the top for mounting a camera (called a
"trinocular head"). It has four objective lenses with
powers of 40, 100, 400 and 1000X and, again is a biological microscope
with the illuminator under the stage. It uses a more sophisticated
light focusing system (under the stage) called an Abbe
||Meiji inverted microscope,
model VT-B-2. This is an interesting biological microscope that
has the light on top and the objective lenses under the stage.
Everything seems to be upside down! With this type, you can put a
large object like a petri dish on the stage and easily move it around
without the lenses getting in the way. This is also for
transmitted light observations and has powers of 40X, 100X, 200X, and 400X. You would find this type in a university biological lab or in the medical profession.
microscope, model ML8000. A metallurgical microscope has a top
light, for reflected light observations. The top light (in the
box, upper right) is directed through the optics, bounces off the
specimen then goes back to your eyes. Some also have a bottom
light. They are used to look at opaque samples at high
magnifications. This model holds 5 objective lenses and is capable
of magnifications of 40, 50, 100, 200, 400, 500, 600 or 1000X
microscope, model ML9000. A polarizing microscope is a very
special instrument that uses a polarizer and an analyzer to look at
materials under polarized light. The stage rotates around and with
special plates inserted in the light path, you can measure the angles of
brightness and color and from a chart of known specimens, identify your
sample. Many specimens look quite spectacular under polarized
an example here. A geologist would use this type of microscope. They are also used in medicine (example: urine analysis)
microscope, model MT5550. This is a specialized microscope used to
make very accurate measurements. It has fine controls that move
the stage and measure small distances in the X, Y and Z direction and
also, the stage rotates for radial measurements. This particular
model has a binocular head, three types of illumination (transmitted,
oblique, and reflected) and powers of 40X, 100X and 400X
||Meiji stereo microscope,
model EMZ-5TR. This stereo microscope has both a top and bottom
light and works best at lower magnifications. This model has a
continuous zoom range of 7X - 45X and with special lenses can go as high
as 270X. There is an eyepiece and objective lens for each eye so
you will see the specimen in 3D or stereo. It also has a
trinocular head for a camera. Stereos are very popular in industry.
||National digital stereo
microscope, model DC3-420T. Like the one above this is a stereo
zoom with a range of 10X-40X. It also has a built in digital /
video camera, mounted in the "hump" at the top. It sends
digital images to your computer or video signals to a TV monitor.
Other types of microscopes above have digital options, and cameras can
also be placed over eyepiece lenses.
microscope, model GEMZ-5TR. This stereo uses the same head as the
EMZ-5TR above but has a special illumination system for looking at gems
and minerals. The lower illuminator is brighter and has darkfield
operation and the upper illuminator (black box) is an adjustable
fluorescent light. It also has a small clip to hold the specimen. When you look at a gem, it is brightly illiminated and displayed against a black background.
||National stereo model
420T on a universal stand. Stereo microscope bodies can be mounted
on a variety of stands. If you wanted to look at large circuit
boards for example, you might use a universal stand as shown here.
The microscope sits out on a long arm and the circuit board doesn't get
in the way. An auxiliary top light will also be required.