Types of Microscopes

 Here are the different types of microscopes. 

Compound Microscope


Compound microscope uses the power of its lenses and light to enlarge what's being viewed.

Compound refers to the fact that in order to enlarge an image, a single light path passes through a series of lenses in a line where each lens magnifies the image over the previous one. In other words, one light path with multiple lenses equals a compound microscope.

The compound microscope is what many refer to as a high power microscope. The magnification (power) can have a range from about 40x to 1000x and some can go up to 1500x or 2000x. Much serious work of a compound microscope is done at 400x to 500x.

The objective lens usually consists of three or four lenses (sometimes even five) on a rotating nosepiece (turret) so that the power can be changed. The image produced at the eye is two dimensional (2-D) and usually reversed and upside down. The most used light method is trans-illumination (light projected from below to pass through the specimen). Compound microscope is also known as biological microscope.

2D image Magnification is usually above 100x Biological Microscope

Stereo Microscope

Saxon NM11-2000 Large Zoom-Ratio Stereo Microscope

The Stereo microscope, also called a dissecting microscope, has two optical paths at slightly different angles allowing three-dimensional viewing. Stereo microscopes magnify at low power, typically between 10X and 200X, generally below 100x.

There are two separate light paths (as opposed to a single light path in a compound microscope) which produce a true stereo, three dimensional (3-D) image of the specimen or object. Within the objective lens you will find two lenses (one for each path of light) side-by-side. The optical design parameters of a stereo microscope limit its 3-D effects to low powers only.

This type of micrsocope is generally very affordable. Uses for this type of microscope include looking at surfaces, microsurgery, circuit boards, other electronic components and watch making.

Stereo microscopes allow students to observe plant photosynthesis in action. 

3D Image Magnification power: 10x-100x circuit boards

Digital Microscope

Celestron Amoeba Digital Microscope (Dual Purpose)


Digital microscopes are essentially a combination of microscope and digital camera, created to be used with computers. Connect it to a computer via USB cable and the magnified image can be viewed on the computer screen. Some digital microscopes come with image capturing software so you can save the images or record videos. 

You can email your images, post them online or keep them as a record. Digital microscopes are great for schools and hobbyists. 

 There is also, Handheld Digital Microscope, it uses new technology for a miniature camera and illuminator in one unit. You use a PC or laptop computer to view and image.


Other types of microscopes

These are usually advanced and expensive type microscopes made for specific usages mainly in advanced medical and research. There 
are many, many types but some of the more popular types are listed below.


  • Phase Contrast -- This is a microscope that uses the differences in the phase of light transmitted or reflected by a specimen to form distinct, contrasting images of different parts of the specimen. 
  • Polarizing – A microscope in which the object viewed is illuminated by polarized light for typically analyzing the content and make-up of organic or inorganic material like crystals, chemical microscopy, and optical mineralogy. 9
  • Fluorescence – These microscopes use an illumination method that is used to locate fluorescently tagged material (protein, enzyme, genes) by exciting the specimen with one wavelength of light in hopes that the fluorescence will appear by emitting a light at a different wavelength. Metallurgical – A microscope that is used for identification, inspection, and analysis of different metals and alloys. 
  • Electron Beam – These microscopes typically cost more than $ 100,000 and sometimes much more and use a beam of highly energetic electrons instead of light to examine objects on a very fine scale. This allows the microscope to surpass the resolution limits of optical microscopes and can magnify specimens up to 250,000x or more. Users can examine the topography of a specimen, its morphology, composition, etc.