Whether you’re a high school student who’s got a scientific itch to scratch, a student, a teacher, lecturer, instructor, or, perhaps just an enthusiastic hobbyist who has the need for a piece of equipment that can make things bigger, picking a microscope can be quite tricky these days.
All Lab equipment is expensive because it needs to fulfill a very specific task for a very long period of time at the highest quality. It, therefore, pays to do some research before you pull out your wallet, or in most cases these days, your plastic.
The problem is, the moment you type in something like “Affordable compound microscope” or “high-quality precision microscope” into a search engine, you get bombarded with literally hundreds of options, all claiming to be the best fit for your needs.
So, how do you decide?
Lucky for you, I have put the topic “under a microscope,” so to speak, and found the eight best compound microscopes currently on the market. I will look at build quality, magnification capability, features, ergonomics, and price.
So, without any further ado, let’s put our first specimen on a slide and dial in the focus…
Top 8 Best Compound Microscopes To Buy In 2023 Reviews
1 AMScope M150C-I – Most Versatile Compound Microscope
AMScope is probably one of the best-known names in this field. If you’re unfamiliar with them, you’re going to get acquainted quickly, as I’ll be taking a look at more than one of their excellent microscopes. Across the board, they make them for one and all, and the M150C deserves the title of the best workhorse microscope.
Fantastic build quality for the price…
First off, its price almost makes it feel like you’re stealing! Coming in at under $100 dollars, the M150C is probably the most competitively priced microscope you can buy. When you pick it up for the first time, you are astonished that less than $100 could buy something so sturdy.
Absolutely nothing suggests that it is not very well put together. This thing won’t be ratling or coming apart easily any time soon. A completely metal frame at such a price is incredible.
The M150C features a single LED light system that can either be powered by an AC adapter or three AAA batteries. The stage has clips so that you can secure slides in place. This makes it one of the best microscopes you can buy in terms of versatility since it can be used indoors or in the field.
Adequate range of magnification…
The biggest downside of the M150C is perhaps the magnification power. It offers 40X, 100X, 250X, 400X and, 1000X. This might not be enough to satisfy professionals, but is definitely more than enough to get you started and then some, and I remind you again, this is at less than $100.
Another bonus is that you get Dual-adjustment knobs for wide and fine adjustment, which some might say is standard on most but at this price range? Not so much, so this is a pleasant surprise.
The second and final letdown of the M150C is the utter lack of any kind of manual; anything this sophisticated ought to have come with something, right?
Considering this is easily one of the best microscope recommendations you can make for high school learners and students, or someone whos just getting started using microscopes, because of its excellent quality and price, it’s also not too complicated, but the lack of a manual severely affects that recommendation.
- Very Affordable
- Great quality
- Dual-adjustment knobs
- Battery and AC power makes it portable
- No manual
2 Swift SW380T Trinocular – Best Premium Compound Microscope
Swift is among the other A-listers when it comes to quality optics and microscopes. Known for superb quality and elegant design at a premium price, these scopes are favored by many professionals or serious enthusiasts. At around $380 dollars, the 380T does come at a premium, but it’s well worth the price.
As with all swift tech, the build quality is superb. The 380T feels like a piece of lab equipment should, solid like the results it has to produce. The ergonomic design has the eyepiece angled at 30 degrees for less strain on the back and neck to allow for longer use. The pupillary adjustment mechanism feels like money well spent.
Good magnification power…
The 380T comes with both 10X and 25X eyepieces. It offers six magnification levels; 40X, 100X, 250X, 400X, 1000X and 2500X.
Ultrafine adjustment and versatility…
Thanks to the dual knob system making super fine adjustments are easy, and when combined with the excellent quality, this makes for some fantastic-looking specimens. Which can be viewed any which way you like thanks to the fact that this is a trinocular with an adjustable LED. But why stop there?
The trinocular head accepts an array of extra attachments like eyepieces and cameras. This allows you to view images on an eternal display at high quality. You can also live stream, record, and capture your images.
- Superb quality
- Trinocular functionality
- Additional ports for connecting cameras and capturing images
- Good magnification power
- Not easily portable for fieldwork
3 Kooletron Digital Microscope – Best Portable Compound Microscope
If you need a microscope with a great display and is portable, this could be the best option for you. This digital microscope is great for educational purposes, but can also be used to great effect by someone who does circuit repairs, watchmaking, etc.
Powerful and portable…
The Kooletron has a 7-inch screen that can be adjusted to many angles to make viewing comfortable. Images are magnified 1200 times. Should you feel that no angle on the stand is right for you, just take it off! Thanks to a rechargeable battery, the Kooletron can be operated as a portable device for up to four hours.
The Kooletron comes with a 32GB SD card and allows you to capture videos and images. It does support up to 64GB, but one downside is that it cannot be directly connected to a PC or tablet. There are eight built-in LEDs that can be adjusted to allow for the desired amount of illumination. One final downside is that the stage is very small.
- Easy to use
- Portable and good battery life
- Zoom factor not adjustable
- Small stage
4 OMAX 40X-2000X Binocular Compound Lab Microscope – Most Durable Compound Microscope
Next up in my Best Compound Microscopes review, Omax is another name that is associated with quality and paying a premium for it. Omax gear can be found in many workshops, laboratories, and home labs for a very good reason, they are built to last.
Sturdy and well designed…
The build quality and design are of the highest grade. The full metal frame has plenty of weight to it, but the rigidity of the microscope is reinforced by well thought out frame design and a sturdy base that feels like it’s stuck with some kind of adhesive as soon as you put it on a smooth surface.
The dual eyepiece head can be rotated 360 degrees for easy sharing of observations.
Power and features…
The Omax offers four levels of variable magnification, which are as follows:
- 40 – 80X
- 100 – 200X
- 400 – 800X
- 1000 – 2000X
Some might argue that this is not quite enough for around $240. Yes, it is possible to get more powerful magnification and perhaps, even more features for the same price, if not less, but the build quality will not be up to this standard, and when it comes to LAB equipment, build quality is all important.
A variable LED light sits at the bottom to allow for control of illumination. The Omax comes with 10X and 20X widefield eyepieces. Dual knobs allow for coarse and fine adjustment to the point of shining clarity.
The Omax has a dual-layer mechanical stage with scale increments of 10mm. The stage is adjustable via handles. Slides are also extra secure thanks to upward moving locks.
However, it does have a few negatives…
One downside is that you have to remove the slide if you want to swap lenses, which can be disruptive to workflow. Two final downsides are that you are limited to AC power and that for around $240 dollars, you might’ve expected at least a camera or PC port.
- Excellent quality
- Rotatable head
- Adjustable mechanical stage
- Only AC power
- You have to remove the slide to change eyepieces
5 AMScope SE306R – PZ Stereo Microscope – Best Basic Compound Microscope
When it comes to simple, reliable quality, the SE306R from AMScope will certainly give you all that and more for your money, of which you will need around $180.
Being a stereo microscope means this will be more suited to someone who won’t need super high levels of magnification but require absolute clarity. This is one sturdy microscope, and the pillar stand makes for ease of use and reliability.
The SE306R offers three levels of magnification, 20X, 40X, and 80X. There are two built-in halogen lights that are favored by some users and not by others. They are adjustable and make for superbly sharp and clear images.
The SER doesn’t come with a tone of features or extra gadgets, but you can mount an eyepiece camera with an aftermarket adapter.
- Excellent quality
- Sturdy and well built
- Dual adjustable halogen lights
- Limited magnification power
- AC power only
6 My First Lab Duo Scope Microscope – Best Beginners Compound Microscope
The Duo scope is likely to be the best microscope for students and beginners, thanks to its simplicity, build, extensive extras, and reasonable price. If you’re looking for your best first microscope, it’s hard to beat this when it comes to value for your money.
The term “kids microscope” is used in the marketing literature for the Duo scope. While this term is by no means false, it may also lead to people thinking it’s not a proper microscope with long-term value. However, this is a proper microscope with real glass optics. It’s perfect for a kid, but that same kid will likely end up having it in his room at college too.
Another great function of the Duo scope that makes it so ideal for beginners and kids is that it can function as both a compound and stereo microscope. The Duo Scope offers three levels of magnification; being aimed at beginners means this isn’t the most powerful microscope, but it’s more than enough to tickle the curiosity muscle.
There is a 10X eyepiece included, and objects can be magnified at 40X, 100X, and 400X.
Hard to beat this feature set and included extras
The Duo Scope has dual LED lights that illuminate both from the top and bottom. The microscope can be powered by three AAA batteries only. The lack of a wall adapter is a bit of a downside, but the batteries do offer plenty of hours of use.
Before I list the included extras, keep in mind that you’re getting all of the above, plus what is listed below for around $100:
- Instruction manual
- Experiment guide to get you started
- 5 Slides
- Concavity or “well” slide
- 4 prepared slides
- 2 bottles of stain
- 5 slide labels
- 5 cover glasses
- 50 lens paper sheets
- Plastic transfer pipette
- Wooden applicator
- Cotton tipped applicator
- Pair of plastic forceps
- Plastic test tube
- Plastic petri dish
It would be a hard task to find a starter microscope that offers more than this and is as well built as the Duo Scope for the same money, perhaps even a bit more.
- Good build quality
- Dual LED lighting
- Extensive extras and useful literature included
- Reasonably priced
- No AC Power
- Limited magnification power
7 Swift SW350T – Best Professional Compound Microscope
The fact that there are two Swift microscopes on my list of the Best Compound Microscopes shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise. The SW350T, like the other Swift scopes, is aimed at professionals or those who require professional standards and very high levels of magnification.
At around $300, the SW350T isn’t the most expensive microscope out there, or even the most expensive offered by Swift, and yet has some features that more expensive scopes don’t.
Trinocular head and Plenty of Power…
As would be expected with a trinocular model from Swift, the SW350T features a rotatable Siedentopf head which is great for group discussions where results need to be viewed by all quickly. Build quality is superb, and attention to detail is as immaculate as ever.
The 350T comes with 10X and 25X eyepieces and offers three stages of magnification:
- 250X – 400X
- 1000X – 2500X
Lighting and Mechanical Stage…
The 350T makes use of only a single adjustable LED shining through an abbe condenser to provide pristine clarity. The stage is mechanical, with handles and clips that allow the slides to be secured in place. An upward moving lock prevents things from moving about or falling off. There are measured increments to enhance workflow.
Unfortunately, the 350T is not portable because there is no battery system, plus it also weighs quite a bit.
Plenty of room for expansion…
The trinocular head can accept a variety of eyepiece and camera attachments which will enable you to capture, record, and livestream all your images. There is even an option to have a 1.2 Megapixel camera shipped with the microscope.
- Excellent build quality
- Plenty of magnification power
- Mechanical stage is extra secure
- Additional device attachments to capture content
- Not portable
- Not cheap
8 AMScope B120 C – Best Value for Money Compound Microscope
We’ll finish off with a binocular microscope, but this one from AMScope. The B120 C is definitely aimed at more serious users, and the power and features reflect this, but somehow they’ve still managed to keep the price under $200 dollars.
First of there’s the excellent build quality and design that comes with the AMScope name. The B120C is made from high-grade cast steel and will not be suffering from any jitters in its lifetime, which is sure to be a long one as longevity is this thing’s middle name. What is surprising, though, is that it isn’t as heavy as other microscopes in its class. Make no mistake, it’s still a heavyweight, but it sits on the lightest end of that spectrum.
The binocular head can be rotated 360 degrees to easily allow other observers to take a peek without the consistent shuffling of feet around a table. The B120C comes with 10X and 25X eyepieces and offers six levels of magnification which adds up to plenty of observation power:
Mechanical stage for absolute control…
The double-layered mechanical stage features locks and slide manipulation allows for specimens to be precisely moved song the X and Y Axis. They are handy 10mm increments for easy measurement, and it also slides and locks to allow for exact coordinates to be recorded, making it easy for the user to return to the same spot later. The B120 C features a single adjustable LED with a dimer to allow for illumination control.
The feature that is most surprising about the B120C is the included software which contains tools that are very useful for getting you started or just acquainted with how the microscope functions. There are tools and resources to help you with:
- Taking measurements
- Creating Stitched Images
- Dual setting for taking videos and capturing images, or doing both at the same time
One downside, though, is that this software is only for Windows devices.
- Reasonably priced
- Excellent build quality
- Lots of magnification power
- Plenty of features
- Windows only software
- Not portable
Want to Make the World Around You Look Bigger?
Then check out our reviews of the Best Binoculars for Whale Watching, the Best Budget Telescopes, the Best Binoculars for Birding, the Best Binoculars for the Money, the Best Binoculars for Theater Opera, the Best Binoculars for Sporting Events, or, if on a budget, the Best Binoculars under 100 Dollars that you can buy in 2023.
And for some great information, our comprehensive guides to Binocular Parts and Their Functions, or How to Repair Binoculars at Home, or even What Do The Numbers ON Binoculars Mean can be incredibly useful.
You might also enjoy our comparisons of the Best Endoscopes for iPhone, the Best Endoscopes for Android, the Best Headband Magnifiers, as well as the Best Handheld Magnifying Glasses currently on the market.
So, Which of These Best Compound Microscopes Should You Buy?
When you take into account all the variables of a good microscope – magnification power, usability, features, build quality, and price, the best bang for your buck comes from the…
At under $200 dollars you’re getting the build quality that goes with one of the biggest names in the business. You’re also getting magnification power of up to 2500X, which isn’t often found in a package for this kind of money.
The included software goes a long way to add great value to this microscope, and there are third-party options available for Mac users who wish to integrate the B120C with their desktop or laptop. This is also very well constructed and will last you for years to come.