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Lab Manager's Microscopy Buyer's Guide

Microscopy Buyer's Guide: 2021

Questions to ask when buying either an optical or SEM microscope for your laboratory

by Lab Manager
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10 Questions to Ask When Buying a Microscope

Optical microscopes illuminate and magnify a specimen, and scanning electron microscopes (SEM) use a beam of focused high-energy electrons to produce information about the specimen including morphology, chemical composition, and crystalline structure. Optical microscopes offer ease of use, but have limited resolving power. SEM offers a much higher resolution and greater depth of focus.


  1. What types of specimens will be examined?
  2. What degree of magnification is required?
  3. What is the light source?
  4. Are there attachments and accessories available to adapt the microscope for different applications?
  5. What service and warranty options are available?


  1. Will you need a floor model or smaller desktop model? Desktop models are often more affordable.
  2. What is the finest resolution you want to achieve?
  3. What is the microscope speed?
  4. How many individuals will use the microscope? How will they be trained?
  5. Is there sufficient space in the laboratory or a dedicated room for the SEM?

Resource Guide

Laboratory personnel, especially those working in clinical labs, can spend long hours working at a microscope. Working with an ergonomic microscope can minimize the risk of back, neck, shoulder, and arm injury by adjusting to best suit the user’s body. Download this resource guide to learn about the benefits of an ergonomic microscope and how to set one up for optimal use.

Purchasing Tip

When purchasing a costly and sophisticated microscope, it is important to negotiate a service contract. Some questions to consider include: will maintenance be performed by the manufacturer or a third-party contractor? What is the response time? Is the cost of consumables included? Does the service provider offer diagnostics and support via remote access?

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