Entomology Microscope to study insects buying advice.

The best entomology microscope

While people often run screaming from close encounters with insects, entomologists aren’t like most people.

So, if you’re interested in getting a close-up look at your 6-legged friends and neighbours, you’ll need a trusty microscope.

Stereo microscopes

In general, low-powered stereo microscopes are most often used in entomology.

This is because they have a few very important qualities for the professions and fields that study small – but not microscopic – specimens.

Binocular Stereo Zoom Microscope

Depth perception

The unique quality of stereo (or ‘dissecting’) microscopes is their depth perception.

Each eyepiece has its own separate, slightly different optical pathway. Looking through both at once creates a sense of depth.

When you’re studying larger, 3D specimens like insects, this is a real advantage. Even more so if you’re going to be handling or working on your specimens.

The eyepiece image of a stereo microscope is also the right way up (unlike some other microscopes), making it suitable for dissection and delicate work.

Low magnification

Insects are small, but they aren’t that small.

Most entomologists and naturalists find that the 10x to 45x magnification range of most standard stereo scopes more than enough for most applications.

You may have to go beyond in some situations, such as with particularly small specimens, or when observing individual body parts like genitalia.

Fortunately, with stereo microscopes you also have the option of swapping out the eyepieces for higher or lower magnification ranges, giving you the flexibility to adapt the microscope to your needs. Or you can adjust the magnification by using a separate attachable lens, known as a Barlow lens. For more information read our blog article Microscope Barlow lenses explained 


Working distance

If you’re going to be handling or working on your specimens, you’ll need enough room under the microscope to work comfortably.

Working distance in this instance is not just the distance between the lens and the base of your microscope. It’s the distance between the lens and the focal point of the lens. After all, your specimen has to be in focus.

Be sure to check that the working distance of your prospective microscope is adequate for your needs – you’ll need to fit your tools and implements under the microscope at a useable angle. A distance 50 to100mm is a good starting point, depending on your preferences.

It’s also handy to know that working distance is sometimes defined differently. Your actual working distance might be described as something like ‘focusing distance’.

Handy extras

Stereo microscopes have a range of optional features that can be useful for entomologists.

Trinocular head

Most microscopes come with a binocular head – 2 eyepieces, one for each eye.

A trinocular head, however, comes with 3 eyepieces. The extra eyepiece is a dedicated camera port, allowing you to attach a camera to your microscope while you work.

Trinocular microscopes are very popular with anyone interested in documenting their work and discoveries, such as naturalists, researchers and photographers.

While trinocular heads are convenient and versatile, the camera facility comes at a cost.

Optico ASZ-400T Stereo Zoom Microscope


Stereo microscopes usually come with 1 of 3 zoom or magnification settings – fixed, dual power and variable.

Fixed microscopes have a single magnification setting (for example, 20x). Dual power scopes have 2 different fixed settings that you can switch between (for example, 20x and 40x). But the most flexible are variable zoom scopes that allow you to freely adjust the magnification anywhere within a set range (for example, between 10x and 45x).

More zoom options give greater flexibility, but again, at a cost.

For further information read our blog article Buying Guide for Stereo Microscopes 


Lighting can be an important consideration.

Generally, stereo microscopes give you 3 options –­ lighting above the base, below the base, or both.

Top-down lighting is generally used when viewing the outer surface of a specimen. However, for thinner or translucent specimens, bottom-up lighting can give you a clear look at the internal structure.

Ultimately, your needs are going to depend on the kinds of specimens you’ll be looking at. For example, standard top-down lighting can sometimes be problematic when you’re trying to see fine details on reflective species, such as beetles.

You also have the option of adding external lighting, like the popular adjustable ‘goose neck’ or ‘swan neck’ illuminators. These provide a versatile and convenient lighting setup.

The heat from your lighting can also be a concern.

Certain types of illumination, such as halogens that are sometimes found in older microscopes, produce a lot of heat. If you’re working with live specimens or specimens susceptible to drying out, you should stick to ‘cold’ light sources such as LEDs.

Dome Illuminator

Glare reduction and shadow-free lighting for specimens that are difficult to illuminate with many corners, edges and recesses.
Creates a diffused soft light arena for viewing samples that have demanding surfaces with minimal reflections.
The most basic element of photography is the interaction of light with the specimen being studied. In cases where magnification and clarity are of great importance, such as the imaging of insects and metallic specimens under the microscope, controlling the light can be especially challenging, in these instances we recommend our Dome Illuminator for stereo microscopes with LEDs illuminating upwards into a white dome which illuminates the subject perfectly.
A superb illumination system for observing insects (entomology), semiconductor parts, jewellery, reflective metals, rocks, plastics, glass and any reflective specimen.

Comparison images with Gooseneck, Ring Light & Dome Illuminator systems


Ultimately, the right microscope for you is going to come down to your needs and your budget. Fortunately, there’s a huge variety of stereo microscopes to suit almost any budget.

Whatever you decide, a stereo microscope is a sturdy and reliable partner that will stay with you for decades to come.

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