new microscope

Re: new microscope

Postby Richard Scott » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:29 pm

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Well my new Brunel SP100 has arrived with a 5mbit Digicam, I have unpacked it and, after struggling with the appalling installation instructions of both devices, I have a working microscope.
Now what? I forgot to order slides, slide covers, tweezers, scalpels etc. so I guess that is the first job! OK then hmmm I don't know how to create a slide, I haven't got a clue what the bottle of oil is for I guess I could start by looking at a hair from my head, nice looking microscope though.
Unfortuneately I cannot make the microscope workshop as I am skiing in March so is there anyone out there living not to far away from North Lincolnshire that would be willing to mentor me?
Richard Scott
Richard Scott
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Re: new microscope

Postby NicholasAplin » Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:15 pm

Hi Richard

I recieved the SP100 a couple of weeks ago, and I'm thoroughly chuffed with it.

You'll notice one of the lenses (x 100) has 'oil' printed on the side. This lense only works if the lense itself is 'sitting' in a small drop of immersion oil. Something to do with refractive index or something similarly complicated :? . Oh, don't get the oil on any of the other lenses.

As you can probably tell, I'm still a beginner to microscopy but I can recommend a useful book: ' how to Identify Mushrooms to Genus Volume 3' by Largent, Johnson & Spooner. This explains how to mount a slide, dissect a specimen, measure microscopic structures and much more. Maybe you could stick it on the shopping list along with the slides etc...

You may also need stains and other chemicals. Which ones I guess depends on what you'll be looking at. Hopefully someone could point you (and I :) ) in the right direction.

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staining and where to look

Postby Andreas Gminder » Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:57 pm


for my courses which also include an introduction into microscopy of fungi, I made some EXCEL sheets.
The first page is about staining chemikals and in which case to use them.
Page 2-4 is a list of the (main) genera of Agaricales and which microscopical details are of importance within the said genus. The explanation of how to read this list:
xxx = character of great importance within this genus
xx = character of minor importance
x = character with importance only in a few special cases
--- = character of no importance in this genus (what not necessarily means that this character is missing, but that it has no taxonomic value regarding our todays knowledge)
+ = character present
- = character absent
Please note, that in the column "amyl." (= amyloidity) the sign "x" should read "+".

I hope that this little overview might be of some help. To keep it useable, not every exception has been included, but for let's say 95% or more of the cases the overview will work.

edit: As it is not possible to upload a pdf, I put it on my homepage: Hope it works ....

best regards,
Andreas Gminder
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Location: Jena - Germany

Re: new microscope

Postby heather martin » Fri Apr 02, 2010 6:00 pm

Before I finally hand over the contents of my piggy bank can anyone tell me whether it is worth spending more on planachromatic or semiplanachromatic objectives as opposed to achromatic?
Many thanks.
heather martin
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Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:22 pm

Re: new microscope

Postby Neil » Fri Apr 02, 2010 9:38 pm

What make and model were you thinking of Heather ? I think most people will advice you to go for the plan apochromats, but this is not always advisable, and although they should be, I am not too sure if all manufacturers are consistent with what is called 'Plan Apochromat and semi Plan apo's.

If it helps, I use 2 Olympus microscopes, the CX 31 with Plan Achromat objectives, which I am sure is good enough for most serious amateurs, and a much more expensive Olympus BX 50 trinocular with Semi Plan Apochromatic objectives.

Plan Apochromatic objectives would in my opinion be overkill and prohibitionary expensive.

Neil Mahler.

Re: new microscope

Postby Neil » Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:07 pm

Re-reading what I just said, I now realise I even confused myself. :D
So to keep it simple, yes, go for the plan achromats (obviously not the much more expensive apochromats) but whether in use you will notice the difference with a semi apo' is debatable, they will need to be perfectly matched to the eye-pieces and the condenser lens to be sure of getting the optimum out of them I believe. Hopefully ABFG member, John Garrett may be reading this to put things right. :roll:


Re: new microscope

Postby heather martin » Sun Apr 04, 2010 3:17 pm

Thanks Neil,
So far I have looked at Bresser, Zenith and Brunel and I will now check out Olympus.
heather martin
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Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:22 pm

Re: new microscope

Postby Leif Goodwin » Sun Apr 04, 2010 3:50 pm

Unfortunately manufacturers differ in what they consider plan and apochromatic. I have a Meiji microscope, and the low power 'plan' objectives are mediocre at best. They do not have a flat field and chromatic aberration (colour fringing) is obvious. I also suspect the high power objective does not have the resolution and contrast one might hope for. Bresser are probably rebadged Chinese instruments, and Zenith used to be Russian, but I think they now also rebadge Chinese scopes. I might be wrong about Zenith. Chinese scopes vary greatly in quality. Some are said to be quite decent.

Olympus are one of the big four manufacturers of microscopes (the others being Zeiss, Nikon and Leica) and the price is sky high for recent instruments. A CX31 will cost a packet.

I should say up front that I am not an expert on microscopes, or even particularly well informed, but my belief is that the best value comes from an old laboratory microscope, preferably from one of the big names such as Olympus, but there are also good instruments from other makers such as Vickers. Even 20 year old scopes can perform well. The problem with modern instruments is that many use infinity optics. What this means in practice is that they are incompatible with most used objectives, and new ones cost a lot of money. An old microscope can use the old non-infinity optics, and you can buy good used examples fairly cheaply. Even plan-apo objectives are 'reasonably' priced. (That is subjective, but they are reasonable compared to new ones.) But if you do buy a used scope, please make sure you buy from a reputable dealer who will have checked/serviced the instrument. There can be issue such as objectives delaminating, or dicky mechanics. Brunel Microscopes are respected, but there are other dealers too. My own experience is that the problem is not being able to see/use instruments prior to purchase.

Apparently the late great Peter Orton had a very basic microscope! (According to an obituary that I read.)
Fungi and Nature Photography:
Leif Goodwin
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Re: new microscope

Postby Neil » Sun Apr 04, 2010 6:48 pm

Again, I would agree with Leif here, an old laboratory model being the best bet.
If one is going, get yourself a second-hand Zeiss 'standard' model from the 1960s or 70s.
These have been very common in routine and research laboratories and, most importantly, they are part of the most extensive system of interchangeable microscopic parts that there has ever been.
If you are lucky you might even find one with Planapochromatic objectives which were the best that money could buy until the most recent generation of instruments was introduced around 1990.

There are also excellent s/h microscopes from Leitz, Nikon, Olympus or Wild (pronounced Vilt), but these are not quite so common, and don't all offer the same interchangeability of parts. (I also have a s/h Wild which has been adapted to take an LED light source which I am very pleased with.)

But would you know what to look for when buying second-hand, such as scratching on the objectives or loose/worn rack and pinion travel ?
If any are held near you, try to attend some meetings of the Quekett or the Postal Microscopical Society at which microscopes are often bought and sold.

Useful addresses: Royal Microscopical Society, 37/38 St Clements, Oxford OX4 1AJ (write to Judith Lewis, Assistant Administrator)
Quekett Microscopical Club, 31 High St, Stanford in the Vale, Faringdon, Oxon SN7 8LH

Hope that's of help,

Neil Mahler.

Re: new microscope

Postby heather martin » Thu Apr 08, 2010 10:46 am

Thank you both to Neil and Leif for passing on your wisdom on this rather confusing topic for an absolute beginner. You have both given me further points to consider although it is quite tempting to to start at the cheaper end of the market just so that I can actually begin to look at what I need to see to identify species and then upgrade when I have a better idea of the process - there again the frustration caused by studying inferior/unclear images could be very offputting!
heather martin
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Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:22 pm


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