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Are You in the Market for a Microscope?

While the technology and fundamental operation behind visible light microscopes has not changed much in 200 years, the wider field of microscopy has continued to greatly evolve.

Lab Manager

While the technology & fundamental operation behind visible light microscopes has not changed much in 200 years, the wider field of microscopy has continued to greatly evolve. The confluence of advances in imaging, computing, microscopy, and reagent technologies mean live cell imaging has become one of the most exciting subcategories of biological microscopy.

Top 6 Questions You Should Ask When Buying an Optical Microscope

  1. What type of specimens will you be looking at? (i.e. Is an upright or inverted frame type best? Inverted frame types are best for thick specimens, for example).
  2. What applications are you using your microscope for? (Is a polarizing or nonpolarizing, basic or advanced model required)?
  3. Are accuracy and ease of use critical for your applications? If so, you may want to check out the motorized options available.
  4. What is the cost? With a limited budget, 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? Long periods of use should mean considering the ergonomics of the instrument.

Top 7 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a SEM microscope

  1. What type of samples will you be looking at? Technical experts can guide you to the appropriate type of SEM, X-ray spectrometer and accessories.
  2. What is the max magnification at which you want to view the samples & what accelerating voltages do you want to use? (i.e. Will it be a tabletop SEM, W SEM, or Field Emission SEM)?
  3. Will experts or non-experts be using the instrument the most?
  4. What is your budget and the expected total cost of ownership?
  5. How many of the SEMs you are considering are currently in use? Get a complete list.
  6. Will you receive application support/instrument training? How many service engineers are in your area and what is the average “on-site” response time?
  7. Can the applications/support staff be contacted directly for help & what is their experience?


Top ten features/factors survey respondents look for when buying a microscope:

Performance of product 97%
Easy to maintain 94%
Price of microscope 93%
Ease of use 90%
Availability of supplies and accessories 84%
Low operating costs 83%
Warranties 82%
Total cost of ownership 81%
Service and support 73%
Ergonomics 65%


Microscopy techniques currently used by survey respondents:

Fluorescence microscopy 45%
Live-cell imaging 45%
Whole slide of "virtual" microscopy 17%
Scanning electron microscopy 15%
Through-focus scanning optical microscopy 6%
Atomic force microscopy 5%
Other 17%


The typical ways labs are training staff in microscopy and imaging:

On-the-job training by fellow worker 85%
Vendors 5%
Videos, books, etc. 3%
Off site imaging courses 2%
Online imaging courses or tutorials 2%
Other 3%


Types of microscopes currently in use in respondents' labs:

Compound Microscope (Upright) 82%
Stereo Microscope (Dissecting Microscope) 45%
Compound Microscope (Inverted) 34%
Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope 15%
Scanning Electron Microscopy 14%
Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) 8%
Other 12%

Completed Surveys : 252 

For more information on microscopes, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit