An amateur looking to get into microscopy
My interest in mycology (mushrooms!) has increased to the point where it seems the next step is to invest in a microscope in order to identify a greater range of mushrooms (through spores!).
What are some things I should know before I buy one? I know for spore identification I am going to need at least a 500x magnification (if not x1000), however, seeing as I don't have the backing of an institution I am limited in terms of expense. Many amateur mycologists advise picking up used ones from schools, universities and labs that are cleaning house.
What should I be looking for in a used microscope? How can I make sure that I am not buying a dud? In addition, I am particularly interested in a microscope capable of attaching my dSLR (a Canon 5D2) in order to more easily record results. Anything to know beforehand about mounting a camera to a microscope?
What are some additional educational resources for an amateur? Books? Videos? Forums? What about the best place to buy scientific supplies like slides/stains etc?0
I would buy an inexpensive one to begin with. You may not need more than it offers, and if you do you'll be more educated to find the qualities you do want better. Higher powers like 1000 can be tricky to use.
Microscope marketing states that the scope has 1000x magnification capability but with a poorer quality objective lens and functionality overall you will not acheive this. Used microscopes from school are a great idea but ofcourse may have been mishandled by the students. A microscope dealer will be knowledgeable enough to help you out so as to be sure you are not getting a badly serviced microscope or poorly operating one. Most of all, you do not need all the bells and whistles that some company's will tell you could be useful. The basics and a good understanding of how to prepare slides will help. I have a website http://www.microscopemaster.com with articles on the compound light microscope, slide preparation and others. Hope they can help you to gain some more understanding before you drop the dollars. Best of luck!
We use stereo microscopes around our office daily, and typically find them used from surplus shops that buy equipment from failed biotech and aerospace companies. They usually start around $400 for used equipment, though I doubt you'd be looking at 100x lenses (with 10x first stages) for the same kind of bargain. The cheapest way you can get into it would be to buy a dissecting scope from somewhere like this: http://www.dissectingmicroscope.com/ or http://www.amscope.com/ They have great deals. The apertures on the lenses aren't that great, but it's a start, and they have scopes starting at $200, plus they have a usb camera you can use in place of one of the lenses to do photos/videos for really cheap, I think around $100 for the camera add on.
Generally you'll find that imported microscopes often have optics that far exceed the needs of the average microscopist (yes, even professionals). Often with the brands, as with anything, you're paying for the brand recognition more than any increased quality.
This microscope (http://www.microscope.com/omano-om36l-beekeeper-special.html) is actually used by beekeepers to look for microsporidians in bee guts. It'd probably suit your needs, or if it's too much for your budget, there are much more affordable options on that same site, some as low as $70.
Good luck with your shrooms!
Microscopes from institution are a smart concept but of course may have been mishandled by the learners. A microscopic lens supplier will be experienced enough to help you out so as to be sure you are not getting a poorly maintained microscopic lens or poorly managing one. Most of all, you do not need all the gadgets that some organization's will tell you could be useful just like laboratory microscopes.
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