Which Is the Best Brand of Microscope?

Which microscope brand is right for you?

We know when you’re buying something for the first time how hard it can be to find the right thing and how easy it is to become overwhelmed with the options.

If you’re busy and you need a short cut, you can’t go wrong choosing a microscope from one of the ‘Big Four’ global leaders – but they’re not cheap. And there are many alternatives, depending on – well, depending on a lot of things.

But the main thing is that it’s your purpose – and not the price or the brand of microscope – that’s paramount. You’ll need to weigh cost and brand name against the choice that offers the best value for you.

The Big Four

No-one can talk about brands in microscopy without mentioning the ‘Big Four’. These are Leica (now US-based), Nikon and Olympus (Japan) and Zeiss (Germany). From these companies, you’ll get an excellent quality microscope that lasts, but at a price. They also come with a global support network for parts, repairs and upgrades, and they’re easy to work with. Generally, Big Four microscopes are geared for research laboratories but they also aim some lower end models at routine laboratory work.   

Pros

  • Very high quality and reliable
  • Modular – parts are easily switched, great for repairs or upgrading
  • Excellent support network – global repair and replacement network, good second-hand market for parts
  • Custom orders – you can specify the parts you need

Cons

  • High cost
  • Parts are not interchangeable between brands
  • You may have to assemble your own microscope

Mid-market

Why spend more money if a cheaper microscope gets the job done? The cost of a microscope rises rapidly the more features or quality you desire. If you know you won’t be needing certain features, you can perhaps lower your sights. For instance, you can check out the better known brands in the mid-range, such as Amscope, Meiji, Omano, Omax & our own brand Optico.

Many others – often with a wide range of quality and features – can be found on online distribution sites such as Amazon or Ali Express, company websites, or through local distributors and importers.

Microscopes in this markets are geared to students, keen hobbyists and working professionals. So, unless your interests are specialised, you should certainly manage to find a microscope that suits your purpose in this range.

A cautionary tale. Some mid-range microscopes and accessories are made in China. No-name China microscopes may be of dubious quality but high quality microscopes and accessories have been made in China for years. It’s often better to go by reliable brand name than country of origin.

Pros

  • Wide range of options
  • Generally much cheaper
  • Suit most users

Cons

  • Parts can be harder to source
  • Upgrades might be limited
  • Variable quality at the lower end of the market

Starting out

If you’re new to microscopy or a casual user, we suggest you don’t spend too much at the beginning. It’s a good idea to try out a cheaper model first – say, less than $500. It won’t give you the whole shebang, but will allow you to see almost all of the things you’d like to observe, even if the image quality and convenience is a bit lower. Only when you know your level of ongoing interest should you look to upgrade.

If you’re an enthusiastic hobbyist – or even a working professional in a lab, vet or doctor’s office – a mid-range microscope will do the job in terms of both budget and quality. Not only that, but you won’t break the bank buying expensive features you’ll  rarely use.

The Big Four brands are backed by decades of innovation, engineering and experience. In fact, for high end research or specialist uses, where results more than justify the expense, you can’t go wrong with any one of these beauties. They have all of the advanced capabilities and functions that you will need.  

But the answer to the big question? Which one is the best? The truth is, the answer really depends on you. Buying a microscope should, first and foremost, be all about you.

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