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Microscope for reefing

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seabass

So I've been seeing some posts which say that even a toy microscope (as cheap as $10) provides enough magnification for things like identifying dinos.  So now I'm getting interested in getting an inexpensive microscope.

 

It looks to me that AmScope makes some basic inexpensive toy and student microscopes.  I assume that this M28 (1200X max resolution) is the "$10" scope that people are referring to.  I'm tempted to try it, as I wouldn't be out very much.

 

Maybe more sturdy (with a metal arm and plastic storage/carry case), but doesn't seem substantially superior to the "$10" scope, is their M30 (1200X) scope, for $35.

 

For $56, you can get an entry level student microscope.  The AmScope M102C (1000X) appears to be less of a toy.  However, it doesn't offer a fine focus adjustment, and the light isn't adjustable.

 

I'd like to keep it under $100, but now I'm kind of drawn towards an OMAX (2000X to 2500X max resolution), which starts between $200 and $300 depending on the model.  Plus I sort want to have a camera to capture photos and videos. :unsure:

 

However, back to reality, I'm really just going to use this for reefing (plankton, diatoms, dinos, maybe pods), so I don't want to get ahead of myself.  I mean, I was initially going to get an $11 scope. :rolleyes:

 

Still, I don't want to spend $56 on something that's frustrating to use.  For $90, I think I like the AmScope M150C (1000X) which has coarse and fine adjustments, and the light is also adjustable.  Plus, I could add a camera later on.

 

I thought I'd share what I found.  But I'd also like to know if I'm on the right track.  Would I be that much better off getting an OMAX (2000X to 2500X), or is the $11 toy scope (1200X) actually good enough?  Currently I'm thinking that the AmScope M150C (at just 1000X) might fit the bill, as well as my budget, pretty well.

 

61T3mDOl6wL._AC_SX200_SY200_.jpg

 

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mcarroll

I think the plastic toy scope is the only one that will be annoying to use.  It's so light an the build quality is so low that it's just plain shaky.  It can be used.  I have one and used it. 😉 But if you aren't flat-broke I'd definitely go for the best all-metal scope you can afford....even if it's only the $35 model M30.

 

I would not worry about a camera if you're on a budget....your cell camera will actually take really good photos just by laying the lens right on the eyepiece of the scope.

 

AmScope (and others) also sell universal adapters to clamp your cellphone in position if you plan to do more than a little picture taking.  I have one.

image.png.2d515c0177cc1817244d8f67235732fe.png

image.thumb.png.d3ba0f2fc33303d8fbf5b10d97e253b4.png

 

I would recommend checking Goodwill, Craigslist, and your other local classified and used goods sources....schools upgrade scopes every so often, which puts quite a few used scopes out on the streets on a semi-regular basis.

 

I scored a nice, basic Lasco scope for $10 this way.  It's so basic that it even lacks stage clips, but it's still 1000x nicer than that plastic toy scope – it's a real microscope!   (Only 400x and still totally adequate to our needs.....we don't even require 1200x.)

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mcarroll

IMO, @seabass, you're in about the same position I am....where I don't know enough about scopes to know what kind I'd buy even if I wanted to spend "some money".  

 

Start with a low-end, but not bottom-of-the-line scope so that it's enjoyable to use and not annoying.  It will probably be pretty upgradable too, but check on any specific high-end upgrades you have in mind.   "Low end upgrades" like add-on 3D stages are likely to work on any real scope they sell so probably aren't a worry.  The toy scope is usable, but annoying...and not upgradable.

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mcarroll

If I decide to buy a new scope, I think it'd be a lower-end AmScope B120-series....or similar from another maker.  For now I'm happy with what I have....thinking about adding stage clips, or maybe a 3D stage just so slides don't keep falling off when I forget and move the scope too fast.  😄 

 

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mcarroll

Oh!   Don't forget to order slides and coverslips (at least) for supplies if you do order a scope that doesn't come with any.   You might wanna order some even if your kit comes with some tho.

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seabass
5 hours ago, GraniteReefer said:

This is the one I bought, I have yet to use it.  Carson MicroBrite Plus 60x-120x...

I've seen that one.  I'd be interested to know how you like it (and what you can see with it).  Feel like taking it for a spin in the next week or so?  Although, I feel that I've purchased similar items in the past.

 

I bought the older version of this digital microscope.  It got closer than my camera, but I had problems getting much better pics than a zoomed macro from my Canon.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81sAi-SRO8L._AC_UL115_.jpg

 

I've also purchased the following jeweler loupes.  I've used the first to view rotifiers.  I'm not sure where the pen is now.

  https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/31A-C9cK9cL._SY90_.jpg  https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/31aNAux3P9L._SY90_.jpg

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seabass
5 hours ago, mcarroll said:

IMO, @seabass, you're in about the same position I am....where I don't know enough about scopes to know what kind I'd buy even if I wanted to spend "some money".

Yeah, I wouldn't be using it for anything else, so I'm hesitant to put $300 into it, especially when there might be cheaper options which are acceptable.  Although I've probably spent enough on magnifying glasses and other low end devices to buy a real microscope.  Thank you for taking the time and sharing your insight; I appreciate it.

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seabass
7 hours ago, mcarroll said:

AmScope (and others) also sell universal adapters to clamp your cellphone in position if you plan to do more than a little picture taking.  I have one.

61TJ-R-BVsL._SL1000_.jpg

That sounds like a reasonable alternative which I could try before investing in an imager.  Thanks again.

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Clown79

I got the toy one on amazon. Did the job to identify dino's but it is shaky and the on switch is now stuck, sometimes not working at all.

 

If you can afford a better one in the $50 range, I'd go that way.

 

A better one is on my xmas list😁

 

I have found it extremely helpful and frankly fascinating to view things from the tank under it.

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mcarroll

Forgot about another option:

41e6SF+z2xL._AC_SR160,160_.jpg

 

These clip-on lens kits work quite well if taking pictures or movies is a main part of the intent.  It looks like there are way more options now than when I bought mine....anything with at least a "macro" lens will work....spend as much or as little as makes sense...pretty sure I spent $20.  (some of the kits look way more intensive and purpose-built now.....I guess read up on the reviews)

 

Not sure what the effective magnification is, but when combined with the phone's digital zoom, it's pretty incredible for the cost.   (That goes for combining the phone's zoom with a regular scope of course too!!)

 

I use these things for viewing stuff from the tank and all manner of other things too.

 

If you don't have a light meter, I'd recommend one of those too....just a simple lux meter to get you started.  They run $7 and up....I think I spent $15 on my "LX-1010B" (pictured here).  I also have an inexpensive analog spectrometer that's really interesting to have around.

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Ratvan
On 8/10/2019 at 10:23 AM, mcarroll said:

Forgot about another option:

41e6SF+z2xL._AC_SR160,160_.jpg

 

These clip-on lens kits work quite well if taking pictures or movies is a main part of the intent.  It looks like there are way more options now than when I bought mine....anything with at least a "macro" lens will work....spend as much or as little as makes sense...pretty sure I spent $20.  (some of the kits look way more intensive and purpose-built now.....I guess read up on the reviews)

 

Not sure what the effective magnification is, but when combined with the phone's digital zoom, it's pretty incredible for the cost.   (That goes for combining the phone's zoom with a regular scope of course too!!)

 

I use these things for viewing stuff from the tank and all manner of other things too.

 

If you don't have a light meter, I'd recommend one of those too....just a simple lux meter to get you started.  They run $7 and up....I think I spent $15 on my "LX-1010B" (pictured here).  I also have an inexpensive analog spectrometer that's really interesting to have around.

What would the benefits of a Lux Meter provide?

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seabass
4 minutes ago, Ratvan said:

What would the benefits of a Lux Meter provide?

While it wouldn't really benefit the use of a microscope, it can help determine light levels (a poor man's PAR meter).

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Ratvan
2 minutes ago, seabass said:

While it wouldn't really benefit the use of a microscope, it can help determine light levels (a poor man's PAR meter).

Ah Ha. Got it. 

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seabass

I decided to get the AmScope M150C.  I tried it out by looking at my phytoplankton culture.

http://thereeffarm.com/nano-reef/phyto/092419a.jpg

 

I wasn't expecting to see motile phyto:

Taken at 640 times magnification (using an optional 16X eyepiece).

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Clown79
4 minutes ago, seabass said:

I decided to get the AmScope M150C.  I tried it out by looking at my phytoplankton culture.

http://thereeffarm.com/nano-reef/phyto/092419a.jpg

 

I wasn't expecting to see motile phyto:

Taken at 640 times magnification (using an optional 16X eyepiece).

Very cool.

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Clown79

I need a better microscope, the one I got no longer works- lasted a month I think.

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seabass
8 hours ago, Clown79 said:

I need a better microscope, the one I got no longer works- lasted a month I think.

I know you're up in Canada.  This one looks like essentially the same scope that I have (US $52.95, approximately C $70.22).  You can see that it looks just like the AmScope M150C that I got (C $129.99).

 

As far as features, I'd recommend a fine focus knob.  And for accessories, a cell phone adapter like @mcarroll posted (thanks Matt).  For me, it's easier to view slides on my phone than directly through the eyepiece.  Plus, you can take pictures and videos whenever you want.

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Clown79
5 hours ago, seabass said:

I know you're up in Canada.  This one looks like essentially the same scope that I have (US $52.95, approximately C $70.22).  You can see that it looks just like the AmScope M150C that I got (C $129.99).

 

As far as features, I'd recommend a fine focus knob.  And for accessories, a cell phone adapter like @mcarroll posted (thanks Matt).  For me, it's easier to view slides on my phone than directly through the eyepiece.  Plus, you can take pictures and videos whenever you want.

Thanks so much seabass.

 

With the toy one I had, it was really hard viewing as it was so light it shook like I was drunk when holding it, i got a few pics but it was a major achievement to do so.

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mcarroll
3 hours ago, Clown79 said:

With the toy one I had, it was really hard viewing as it was so light it shook like I was drunk when holding it, i got a few pics but it was a major achievement to do so.

That about sums up my experience to a tee.  

 

A great scope to start with since it feels unintimidating (which was good for me!), but not a keeper unless you have NO plans to keep using it.

 

My 6YO has the toy scope now 😉 since I found a decent, and legit, 400x student scope at a second-hand store to replace it...lots of used scopes on the market, online and local, most of the time it seems.  

 

I paid $10 for used (which seems average), but you really don't have to spend more than $50-60 to get a good, basic scope like mine or better brand-new.  Mine needs stage clips or maybe a 3D adjustable stage...other than that it's SO much nicer than the plastic scope.

 

Spending $50-200 can get you an awesome scope.

 

If you can justify >$200 the scope will be likely to have magical capabilities (ok, special lighting systems, lenses, etc) that go well beyond the basic magnification feature.  😄 

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mcarroll
On 8/8/2019 at 3:17 AM, seabass said:

Maybe more sturdy (with a metal arm and plastic storage/carry case), but doesn't seem substantially superior to the "$10" scope, is their M30 (1200X) scope, for $35.

Seabass covered all this in the opening post, but I forgot to re-mention the "middle option".  I haven't used it, but I'd be willing to bet this metal-bodied version of the plastic scope is actually pretty useable.  If you're on a budget, but still want to buy new, this might be just the ticket!

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mcarroll
On 8/12/2019 at 10:57 AM, Ratvan said:

What would the benefits of a Lux Meter provide?

(Missed your reply for some reason.)

 

As seabass mentioned, it's not for use with the scope, per se.  

 

Like the scope, the lux meter is just another inexpensive tool (around $10) that's useful for reefing which almost nobody uses or even knows about.

 

Fills the same need as a PAR meter.  It just measures light with a bias that's slightly different from a PAR meter's bias.  

 

For our purposes (setting light intensity in a repeatable, rational manner) there's almost no significant difference to those biases.

 

But if you were going to do any computations with the measurements like scientists do, where they may be (eg) interested in assessing the quantity and behavior of the electrons involved in photosynthesis, PAR is technically a more accurate assessment of the light source.

 

Science once used lux meters in many of the same roles where PAR meters are used now...not that long ago.  

 

PAR is an incremental step up from lux, actually almost the very same device, just with a slightly different sensor, or slightly different sensor filter.  

 

There's even a DIY out there that'll let you convert your $10 lux meter into a PAR meter.  They're that similar!

 

PAR aims to take a reading that is equally sensitive to all wavelengths (maybe this is called "unweighted"?) in the visible spectrum whereas lux aims to take a reading with specific red, green and blue sensitivites more akin to the performance of the human eye.   Good to know, but not really relevant when all you're doing is setting up reef lights where you'd like an objective reading on the intensity....either meter will give you that.

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Lognor
On 8/8/2019 at 5:22 AM, GraniteReefer said:

This is the one I bought, I have yet to use it

Carson MicroBrite Plus 60x-120x... https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LAX52IQ?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share

 

On 8/8/2019 at 7:59 AM, seabass said:

I've seen that one.  I'd be interested to know how you like it (and what you can see with it).  Feel like taking it for a spin in the next week or so?  Although, I feel that I've purchased similar items in the past.

 

I bought the older version of this digital microscope.  It got closer than my camera, but I had problems getting much better pics than a zoomed macro from my Canon.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81sAi-SRO8L._AC_UL115_.jpg

 

I've also purchased the following jeweler loupes.  I've used the first to view rotifiers.  I'm not sure where the pen is now.

  https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/31A-C9cK9cL._SY90_.jpg  https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/31aNAux3P9L._SY90_.jpg

FYI, I bought that Microbrite unit from Amazon as well.  It's cool, but not usable for this stuff.  The magnification isn't high enough.  I was able to see something green on a grain of sand, but I couldn't discern shape or anything useful.  I exchanged it for a USB digital microscope that is supposed to do 1000x magnification.  I haven't tried using it yet, so not sure if it will be any better.

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seabass
1 hour ago, mcarroll said:

you really don't have to spend more than $50-60 to get a good, basic scope like mine or better brand-new

Here's an off-brand version of mine: ZENY 40X-1000X Magnification ($62.55)

I believe it has all the same features.

 

59 minutes ago, mcarroll said:

lots of used scopes on the market, online and local, most of the time it seems

Yeah, used would be a good option.

 

59 minutes ago, mcarroll said:

If you can justify >$200 the scope will be likely to have magical capabilities

:lol:  I didn't like the idea of using immersion oil for 100x objectives used on many more expensive scopes.  Although some scopes in this price range have nice features.

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Clown79
2 hours ago, mcarroll said:

That about sums up my experience to a tee.  

 

A great scope to start with since it feels unintimidating (which was good for me!), but not a keeper unless you have NO plans to keep using it.

 

My 6YO has the toy scope now 😉 since I found a decent, and legit, 400x student scope at a second-hand store to replace it...lots of used scopes on the market, online and local, most of the time it seems.  

 

I paid $10 for used (which seems average), but you really don't have to spend more than $50-60 to get a good, basic scope like mine or better brand-new.  Mine needs stage clips or maybe a 3D adjustable stage...other than that it's SO much nicer than the plastic scope.

 

Spending $50-200 can get you an awesome scope.

 

If you can justify >$200 the scope will be likely to have magical capabilities (ok, special lighting systems, lenses, etc) that go well beyond the basic magnification feature.  😄 

I actually really enjoy checking things out under the scope and pretty peeved that mine is already broken, the light switch stuck on on but no light.

 

I keep checking second hand stores hoping to find a good one for a deal.

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