The technology behind visible light microscopes, the oldest true laboratory instruments, has not changed much in fundamental operation in 200 years. Microscopes still consist of a light source, optics, and a stage for holding the specimen. But that doesn’t mean microscopy and microscopes are not evolving, though innovation tends to be incremental rather than earth-shattering.

Here’s what you should think about when buying an optical microscope:

Top 6 Questions You Should Ask When Buying an Optical Microscope

1. What type of specimens will you be looking at? This will help you determine whether or not an upright or inverted frame type is best for you. For example, inverted frame types are best for thick specimens.

2. What applications are you using your microscope for? Answering this question is important when deciding whether a polarizing or nonpolarizing microscope is required. That information will also be useful in deciding on a basic or advanced model.

3. Are accuracy and ease of use critical for your applications? If they are, you will want to check out the motorized options of the microscope brand you decide to select.

4. Of course, asking about cost is also important. If your budget is limited, going with the basic model is usually the cheapest option.

5. What service and support options are available?

6. How long will staff be working at the microscope? If lab workers will be using the instrument for extended periods, selecting the most ergonomic microscope you can is important.

There are a few different considerations if you are in the market for a SEM microscope:

Top 7 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a SEM microscope

1. What type of samples will you be looking at? This needs to be asked of the technical experts who can guide the user to the appropriate type of SEM, X-ray spectrometer and accessories.

2. What are the sizes of the features you want to image, or expres sed differently, what is the maximum magnification you want to view the samples at; and at what accelerating volta ges do you want to use? This will be the deciding fac - tor between: a) table top SEM b) W SEM, or c) Field Emission SE M.

3. Who will be using the instrument the most? Experts or non-experts?

4. What is the budget? #1, 2 above may be moot if the budget is not sufficient. What is the expected total cost of ownership?

5. How many of the SEM you are considering (or similar models) are in use, in the field? Get a complete not hand-picked users list.

6. Will you receive application support/instrument training? How many service engineers are in your area and what is their average response time to be “on site” for repairs?

7. What is the experience of the applications/training support staff, and can they be contacted directly for help?

Recently Released MICROSCOPES

JSM-7100F Series Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopes
• Offers sub-1 nm imaging capabilities and analytical characterization at the sub-100nm scale
• Features a turbo molecular pump (TMP) and a rapid specimen exchange airlock
• Equipped with a large specimen chamber for a wide variety of detectors and accessories


FLoid™ Cell Imaging Station
• Eliminates the complexity of fluorescence microscopy— making it accessible to all scientists
• A high-quality image can be captured in less than five minutes and printed directly from the platform’s printer or downloaded and e-mailed
• Includes intuitive user interface that enables quick detection and verification of fluorescently labeled cells

Life Technologies

• Combines the specific advantages of the AURIGA® CrossBeam (FIB-SEM) workstation with the capabilities of a pulsed micro-focus laser for fast ablation of material
• Overcomes the problem of spending hours of FIB beam time removing material that is in the way of getting a deep cross-sectional image
• Uses DPSS 355nm laser

Carl Zeiss

ASPEX EXpress™ Benchtop SEM
• Designed for “out of the lab” applications emphasizing speed, reliability and low cost of ownership
• Requires no liquid nitrogen
• Comes equipped with the Perception software suite
• Also includes an LN-free EDX spectrometer

ASPEX Corporation and FEI Company

Microscope Manufacturers

Bruker Optics
Carl Zeiss
Edmund Optics
Leica Microsystems
Meiji Techno America
MilesCo Scientific
Motic Instruments
Nikon Instruments
Prior Scientific
TILL Photonics