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Looking for advice on new microscope
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pwnell



Joined: 18 Dec 2009
Posts: 2000
Location: Tsawwassen, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:12 pm    Post subject: Looking for advice on new microscope Reply with quote

Hi,

I have posted two years ago on this forum looking for tips on a new microscope, but due to various reasons I could not go through with it. However, I am once again in the market for a nice entry level microscope that I can use to connect with my digital cameras or attach a dedicated CCD to for photomicrography.

I am considering these three models:

- Swift M10T-P
- Zeiss Primo Star Student Microscope
- Nikon Eclipse E200 POL

Considering that I want to start out with great optics, and have the ability to start using other lighting techniques which one is best? If none of those are recommended, please point me in the direction of alternatives. I cannot spend more than about $2000 on this.
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Cactusdave



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello and welcome. Buying a microscope, new or second user can be a daunting business for a newcomer. First of all take your time, and think carefully about what you want to do with your microscope. What do you want to look at and what type of camera do you want to connect?

You have a reasonable budget and with careful buying you can get a lot for $2000. The experience of many people here would steer you away from the immediate purchase of new equipment as much better value can generally be found in the second user market.

Once you have thought about what you want to do with your new microscope there is advice in plenty here to help you with your choice. In the meantime reading this thread may be helpful. http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11687&highlight=choosing+microscope

I guess since you quote your budget in dollars you are based in the US? This is important as the second user market is different in Europe versus the US versus Australasia, and different people could advise you based on your location.
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Craig Gerard



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

December 19th 2009

pwnell wrote:
Hey,

I have been visiting these forums on and off drooling over some of the pictures made by some of the members on this site for the past year. My background is in photography - especially macro photography up to 5x life size using the MP-E 65 and Canon 1Ds3.

However I'd like to step into the world of photomicrography again. I say again since I used to own a Motic setup - a small biological binocular scope with a 2.1MP CCD that got mounted on one of the binocular eye pieces. I cannot recall what model number it was though, just that I paid about $500 for the scope and about $800 for the CCD.

The photos I could take with it was not what I'd call amazing. Diffraction, chromatic aberration, non flatness of the focal plane and general non sharpness was my main concerns. Also that I believe I could only use it for illumination from beneath the slide (for prepared, translucent specimens). Sorry - my technical terminology on this subject is rather poor - I have read up considerably but feel a little lost.

Hence the reason for my posting. So I do own a nice 21MP Canon, as well as have access to a Nikon D80 and D90 DSLR. With this in mind, and that I want to build this setup 95% for photographical reasons, please help me decide which scope is the best option.

I do not have $25000 for a microscope. I do not intend to photograph neutrinos or leptons or the higgs boson - if that was even possible using optical technologies. Nor do I want to be able to use all the fancy techniques for lighting. What I do want is the best balance between superb optics with great resolution and sharpness, a diverse set of lightning capabilities (darkfield/fluorescence/reflective etc), great coupling to one of my DSLR's and the capability to photograph both microscopic entities such as cells, butterfly scales etc and larger things like the eye of an ant etc - up to what I can get with my 5:1 MP-E lens...

I looked at scopes and my mind started melting. So many options, so many technical aspects... I peeked at the Nikon ECLIPSE E200 which seemed pretty good - but I have no idea of cost nor performance/applicability to what I want.

Can someone provide me with some guidance as to what I can expect to get for say under $3000 excluding CCD (as I want to use my DSLR), keeping upgrades open as an option should I decide to invest more lateron?


Are these details still relevant to your current requirements?
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pwnell



Joined: 18 Dec 2009
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Location: Tsawwassen, Canada

PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cactusdave wrote:
Hello and welcome. Buying a microscope, new or second user can be a daunting business for a newcomer. First of all take your time, and think carefully about what you want to do with your microscope. What do you want to look at and what type of camera do you want to connect?

I have a Canon 1Ds Mark III, and also access to a Nikon D90. If neither of those will work, I will opt for a 3MP / 5MP CCD.

Quote:
You have a reasonable budget and with careful buying you can get a lot for $2000. The experience of many people here would steer you away from the immediate purchase of new equipment as much better value can generally be found in the second user market.

I guess I am always a little worried that second hand equipment was not looked after well... But I will keep that in mind.

Quote:
Once you have thought about what you want to do with your new microscope there is advice in plenty here to help you with your choice. In the meantime reading this thread may be helpful. http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11687&highlight=choosing+microscope

Like I said, photomicrography in the range allowed by 4x - 100x objectives, I would really like to be able to modify the microscope with attachments / replacement objectives to handle different lighting techniques such as polarised light, maybe fluorescence. I will read through that thread now.

Quote:
I guess since you quote your budget in dollars you are based in the US? This is important as the second user market is different in Europe versus the US versus Australasia, and different people could advise you based on your location.

In Canada actually.

Thanks for your help so far.


Last edited by pwnell on Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:19 am; edited 1 time in total
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pwnell



Joined: 18 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Craig Gerard wrote:
Are these details still relevant to your current requirements?

Pretty much, yes.
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Charles Krebs



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know enough about the three you mention to make a definitive recommendation. But having looked over the "specs" of the Primo Star and the E200 in the past, and reading your questions I'll offer a few thoughts. (I know nothing about the Swift you mention).

You state that you are primarily interested in photography. And you had previously said that you are interested in:
Quote:
cells, butterfly scales etc and larger things like the eye of an ant etc


The few subjects you mention raises a caution flag because it sounds like you are interested in using your microscope for opaque subjects. There are two "basic" lighting methods used with a light microscope (excluding the exotic research varieties)... transmitted (typically a "biological" microscope) and reflected (typically a "metallurgical" or materials science scope). They can be very different. The thing is that these have different requirements of the optics (objectives) and lighting. If you choose objectives carefully to have adequate working distance, you can do some reflected subjects (like the "ant eye", "wingscales") with a "biological", light microscope. But you need to provide illumination from above (and hence the need for adequate working distance on the objective). Ideally you also need objectives that are designed to be used with no cover-glass over the subject. Usually you can get by using a 4X and 10X biological objective this way (their numerical apertures...NA... are low enough that you can use them with no cover-glass, and they can often be found with a sufficient working distance to get the light onto your subject). But above a 10X objective it becomes rather impractical to do opaque subjects with biological objectives.

The Primo Star is made by Motic. I am pretty sure that the only objectives that can be used on that microscope are the Achromats made for the Primo Star (They are infinity style, but have a 180mm tube lens focal length. The bulk of the Zeiss objectives are different, and use a 165mm, chromatically corrective tube lens). So I think you would be "locked in" to the few objectives listed with the Primo Star. (You will need to confirm this from Zeiss). While I have never used the Primo Star objectives, if you are a discerning photographer, my suspicion is that you will soon yearn for some more highly corrected objectives than achromats. The Nikon E200 can use the full line of Nikon infinity objectives, so (for me at least) that would be a huge point in favor of the Nikon.

You did mention the E200 Pol. Polarization is a great technique. That model comes with a rotating stage with stage clips. Keep in mind that you will likely also want a stage with x-y movements for a great many of your subjects, especially at the highest magnifications. The stages are interchangeable, but I don't know what an x-y stage would cost for the E200... I think you would want to factor that in to the cost.
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Last edited by Charles Krebs on Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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pwnell



Joined: 18 Dec 2009
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Location: Tsawwassen, Canada

PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice, Charles.

One thing I forgot to mention, I am also interested in photographing microscopic life forms in my reef aquarium, including phytoplankton and zooplankton. For this I will need transmitted light... Thus a biological microscope. This is the most important reason (right now) why I need the microscope as I need to determine the kind of plankton I am cultivating in my plankton reactors. I will definitely want to photograph what I see though.
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Charles Krebs



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Then I think (if you want to buy new, and one of the three models you mention) that I would go with the Nikon E200 in a biological style, rather than the POL version. (Nikon has a "Simple polarizing set" that will be much less expensive to do basic polarized lighting, if desired). I would also get it with the "E2 Phase Condenser" rather than the "E2 Abbe Condenser". (Even if you never intend to use Phase Contrast!). The reason is that this condenser probably does not cost much more, but it has a slot for "sliders" that (in addition to phase plates) allows you to position dark-field stops at the proper location and would allow you to make up and use use off-center diaphragm openings for oblique. It is a pain to do this with the standard Abbe condenser. (Also, you should be aware that Nikon's highest end "universal" type condenser is not compatible with the E200. This is not a big "negative" unless you want to move on to DIC which is a hugely expensive proposition on any new scope).

Since you would be able to use the full Nikon CFI line of objectives (with the M25 thread) you could, if needed, add a longer working distance metallurgical type objective or two to your "arsenal". These could be used for those opaque subjects that need to be illuminated from above if the 4X and 10X biological objectives prove to have have insufficient magnification.

Since photography is a big interest I would also check to see if it would be possible to "upgrade" any of the objectives from a basic achromat (or even plan achromat) to one of their "fluor" types. I think you would see a noticeable difference. (Apos are great of course, but just one would likely break your budget).
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pwnell



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am leaning towards deciding between a Nikon E200 Biological as Charles suggested, or a Motic BA410 (http://www.motic.com/upfile/ProductFile/BA410catalogue-EN.pdf). Both seem to support a lot of different upgrade options, Fluor objectives, etc.

Anyone with experience on the Motic to know the pro's and con's compared to the Nikon?
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pwnell



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok I am now officially horribly confused. I am used to buying cameras and computers where I can tell from the system's specifications why a $8000 camera is better than a $2000 camera.

But with microscopes I am at a loss. I have read many articles on this forum now and I still cannot understand what the difference is between a $500 cheapo SEAL 100 Model A biological microscope, a $2600 high end Motic BA410 biological microscope and a $2500 Nikon E200.

Take the cheapo SEAL 100 which I used to own. Bar a trinocular head (it has a binocular head), Plan Achromat objectives (it has Achromatic objectives), and 4mm difference on the eyepiece, they are identical in specification. The cheapo actually has a 1.25 N.A. Abbe condenser, the more expensive BA410 only has a 0.9 N.A. Abbe condenser.

So why is there a $2100 difference between these microscopes? What makes it $2100 better? The ONLY difference I can see is that on the SEAL one cannot add SPI-Fluorescence to the SEAL, but one can add it to the BA410. This however does not justify $2100 difference.

Can someone please enlighten me as I am clueless, and actually seriously considering buying the cheapest microscope with acceptable specifications.
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Charles Krebs



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why does a manual focus Vivitar/Samyang 85mm f/1.4 cost $325 while a manual focus Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 costs about $1350?


Since they both have 4 wheels, a six cylinder engine, two headlights, two taillights, and they both get you to work just fine... why does a BMW M5 sell for over $80k, while a Toyota Camry sells for about $20k ? Wink Wink


OK, I'm being a wise guy, but it is similar. On one hand you will have better materials, better construction, better design. Chances are the illumination systems will be superior... more even in intensity and color. You have your "foot in the door" in a system where you can add considerable high end components should the need/desire occur (at least with the Nikon). But primarily you are buying into a system that has better optical quality. Without having access and trying the various optics, I could not say with absolute certainty that the lowest, entry level Nikon (or Motic) optics would "smoke" the optics of the Seal 100 (although I suspect they would be better). But there is absolutely no question that the mid-range and higher end Nikon optics would be vastly superior to anything offered on any of the inexpensive Chinese microscopes. (I'm not talking Motic here. They are the best of the Chinese manufacturers. But even Motic does not offer anything that can compete optically with the better Nikon, Olympus, Zeiss, and Leica optics).

As to condensers, a 1.25 Abbe is not necessarily "better" than a 0.90 Abbe. For one thing a "flip top" 0.90 can give you illumination with a 2X and is often better with a 4X. Some would argue that you can't really get an Abbe to provide a quality cone of light of 0.90 and above in any event (but that's an argument for another time). Since you can't go above about 0.90 in air anyway, the only potential advantage to a 1.25 Abbe (on "paper") would be realized with oil immersion objectives where the slide is also oiled to the condenser. I know lots of folks that use oil immersion objectives regularly. I know very few that regularly will oil the slide to the condenser. If you are not going to oil the condenser, no need for anything above 0.90.

Microscopes are optical instruments. The mechanics/materials/machining on some of the top end older Big Four scopes (from the 50's, 60's, and 70's) is actually better than on their current models. The optics are not. That is why I would prefer to have a Nikon ("entry level") E200 with good optics to a "jewel-like" older stand with achromats from that same era. When I got pretty serious about photomicrography I bought a cheap, but solid used scope (Meiji), and then put all the money I could into getting the highest quality objectives (in my case Olympus S Plan Apos). I now use those same objectives on a much "better" stand (Olympus BHS), but the image quality is essentially the same.
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pwnell



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok this is a very detailed and good response. It certainly helps to put things in perspective. What makes this harder is it is unlike buying anything else where you can actually walk in to a store and handle the equipment. These items are special order for me so I have to go on specs / reviews alone, and your input certainly weighs a lot.

To keep my options open between the E200 and the Motic BA410, here are the objectives available to upgrade on the BA410:

Plan Objectives (Lead Free) - EC-H PL - (I think these are what the unit is supplied with)
Plan Fluar Objectives - PL FL
Plan Phase Objectives (Lead Free) - EC-H PL PH (Positive Phase)
CCIS Plan Phase Objectives (Lead Free) - EC-H PL PH (Negative Phase)

The Plan Fluar are certainly expensive ($335 for 4x, $1600 for 100x (oil))... My question is - would these objectives be good enough for my purposes? Remember I will not be able to spend $10k on DIC / super fancy objectives. I might be able to absorb the cost of the Fluar objectives if they are really that much better, but that is about the max I want to spend.
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Charles Krebs



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pwnell,

If you are considering the Motic, and whether or not the Plan Fluars are worth the the extra money, you really need to speak with a dealer (or someone) that has used the various pieces and can/will provide an honest opinion. I'm not trying to make your choice more confusing, but the term "fluor" or "fluar" as an objective descriptor does not always mean the same thing. It sometimes means a much more highly corrected objective due to the use of "fluorite" glass/crystal elements. But it can also refer to objectives that are designed to provide extended transmission for UV or IR light (generally combined with a high NA) and therefore are made for fluorescent microscopy where you are often dealing with very faint light "signals" and extreme wavelengths. In this case they may not be particularly well corrected chromatically or have very flat fields. (For example, look at the Zeiss "Fluars" on page 12 of this brochure: www.krebsmicro.com/pdf/Zeiss_objectives.pdf ) So unless I had some valid feedback form someone with first-hand experience saying that they were clearly a better optic in non-fluorescence lighting, I would not pay the extra for the "fluars". This then remains my biggest caveat with the Motic choice. The stand look to be very nice... in some ways preferable to the E200. As long as the EC-H plan objectives meet your quality requirements you should be quite happy. But if you find that you would like to step up to a higher end objective you are basically stuck. With the Nikon there is no limit (other than $$$) to the optical choices... from the very basic to the ultimate currently available. I personally simply have never used the Motic or the EC-H objectives, so can't offer much more in the way of a recommendation.

You should also consider the camera/microscope connection and the optics that will be needed there. If you go with a projection type eyepiece and a lens-less SLR camera you will likely want a 2.5X for a full-frame (24x36mm) camera, and less (1.5X to 2X) for an APS-C sized sensor. Good quality projection eyepieces, and the mechanical connections needed to use them can cost a fair amount. It is likely the Motic pieces needed for camera connection (mechanical and optical) will be considerably less than with Nikon. (But I've seen a few Nikon PLI 2.5X photo eyepieces go on eBay for much less than they cost new). Of the cameras you mentioned the 1DsIII is the better choice since the EFSC used in live-view silent mode will be very effective in reducing the vibration that is otherwise a big problem with SLRs mounted directly on a microscope.

Think about the "light splits" that you might want in the trinocular head. Some trinocular heads direct 100% of the light to either the eyepieces or the camera tube. Others give a third option, a split between viewing and camera (often about 20% viewing, 80% camera). If you work at all with subjects that move this is a great option to have. The E2-TF trinocular head that would normally come with the E200 does not offer that third option, and I 'm not sure if a head with the 3-option split can be purchased with the E200 (although Nikon certainly has them). I believe Motic has two versions... one with the 2-option split and one with the 3-option split.
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pwnell



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the information.

Speaking of camera mount adapters, I see Nikon quoted me for a Y-T TV Tube for C-Mount Adapter A. I assume I am to use this with some other adapters to connect my Canon 1Ds Mark III? Which additional adapters would I require? Not sure how this C-Mount adapter relates to the projection type eyepieces you were talking about.

Nikon's reply was: "For the Canon camera you would need to source the appropriate adapter(s) elsewhere. For the D90 you would just need to purchase from us the MXA29010 D-SLR F-Mount Adapter and the MXA29011 D-SLR Series F-TV Tube."

I want to use a lens-less mount...

Would I need the

- Y-T TV Tube for C-Mount Adapter A (http://www.opticsplanet.net/nikon-y-t-tv-tube-c-microscope-mount-adapter-a-mbb73520.html)
- MM-SLR (http://www.martinmicroscope.com/MMSLR.htm)
- T-Mount adapter for Canon EOS (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/252743-REG/Meade_07384_T_Mount_SLR_Camera_Adapter.html)
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Charles Krebs



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2011 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Nikon MXA29010 D-SLR F-Mount Adapter and the MXA29011 D-SLR Series F-TV Tube would fit directly to the top of the E200 trinocular head.
See: http://instrument-support.nikonusa.com/ci/fattach/get/119842/
This would provide a Nikon F-mount at the top. EOS to Nikon-F adapters are plentiful and cheap on eBay. One huge consideration with this arrangement is that it provides "direct projection". There are no "glass" elements in these parts (essentially just tubes) and thus there is no re-sizing of the intermediate image produced by the objective and tube lens. A modern microscopes intermediate image is, at best, about a 28mm diagonal circle. The diagonal of a 24x36mm sensor/film is 43.3mm. So if a "full-frame" Nikon or Canon body were used with this adapter there would likely be either some vignetting or poor image quality towards the corners and edges of the frame. You would likely find that you typically need to crop off some of the outer image area. A much better "fit" would be a smaller frame APS-C size sensor with a diagonal of 27.3 (Canon) or 28.4mm (Nikon). The MXA29010 seems ludicrously expensive for what it is ($500-600). If you have any DIY skills I would think a "direct projection" arrangement could be put together for far less than the Nikon Parts.

For a 24x36mm sensor (same dimensions as a 35mm film frame) people usually employed a projection type photo eyepiece with a power of 2.5X (such as the Nikon PLI 2.5X). These then magnified the intermediate image (2.5X) so that is made a better "fit" with the sensor/film format. (With the new optics you could probably use a PLI 2X as well for a slightly wider view). You can see how that was configured in this section from an E200 brochure:


This would still leave you with the task of making (or purchasing) an adapter tube with camera mount to allow you to mount the camera body the appropriate distance above V-T Photo Adapter. Nikon has been moving away from the parts shown in this picture, but I think they are still available.

Martin Microscope and Diagnostic Instruments are two of the better places to look for a "non-Nikon" solution.


Diagnostic Instruments:
See page 31:
http://www.diaginc.com/downloads/public/pdf/coupler.pdf
(You would also need the Nikon Y-T TV Tube, and a 2.5X projection eyepiece from Nikon or DI)

Or this DI item... (complete, 2X optics included. May vignette slightly on 24x36mm)
http://webstore.diaginc.com/DD20NLT-2-0X-Coupler-p/wsn-dd20nlt.htm


See also http://www.diaginc.com/accessories/coupler/fov.html for "coverage"

Martin Microscope (as you mentioned someplace earlier):
http://www.martinmicroscope.com/MMSLR.htm
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