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How to Choose the Best Stereo Microscope
The Stereo Microscope Buyer's Guide

A microscope is a window into a secret, mystical world. 

You don’t need a magic wardrobe or a red pill. No ring inscribed with The Black Speech. Certainly no Platform 9 ¾. 

So many people take the intricacies of the world around us for granted. We move too fast. We forget that all around us are beautiful things. Things that look normal, average, from way up here, but new and exciting when you get down close. Magic. 

It’s magic because it’s hidden from us unless we seek it out. With the right explorers tools, you can go there. You can find wonder in the everyday - at school, at work, at home. You can adventure in a new place every day.

With the right stereo microscope, the surface of a circuit board is the orderly layout of a future metropolis. The face of a butterfly is soft and thoughtful. A sample of limestone is the surface of a vast unexplored planet wandering the cosmos. 

With the right stereo microscope, you can go to Narnia and beyond. But it has to be right. 

We wrote this Stereo Microscope Buying Guide to help you find the right tool for the job. To walk you through steps and open your own window to the secret world.

Kid's First Microscope

You’re buying your kids’ first microscopes, hoping they’ll fall in love with science and spend a lifetime of wonder exploring. 

Students in the Classroom

You’re buying a dissecting microscope for each student in your biology program to help them re-engage with their education. 

Industry Quality Control

You’re buying microscopes for industrial quality control. To make sure products are structurally sound, adhere to specs, and end-users are safe and satisfied.

What’s Your Application?

Stereo microscopes have been around for hundreds of years. You can bet they’ve been customized to all kinds of awesome applications. The type of work you (or your kids, or students) need to do dictates the niche features that are highest priority, and the features that are more luxury than necessity. 

Where do you plan to use yours?

At Home

A stereo microscope is ideal as a young scientist’s first microscope. Images seen through the eyepiece of a compound microscope can be difficult to understand for young scientists. The magnification is too great. Images seen through the eyepiece of a stereo microscope have context for a young user. They can understand that the colors they see are closeups of a moth wing or an acorn.  

In the Workplace

Do you work in a manufacturing or production plant that conducts quality control tests? Are you a watchmaker or jeweler? Are you an electrical engineer working with small parts? Industrial Stereo Microscopes are designed with specialized stands, heavy-duty bases, and dual or external illumination to accommodate larger specimens and other unique industrial needs. 

In the School, University

Most biology classes use dissecting microscopes to understand animal physiology. Earth sciences courses get into the nitty-gritty of igneous and sedimentary. Elementary science classes look at simple plants found in the school yard in a whole new way (who knew dandelions looked so cool!). For teachers, department heads, and the students they think about all day, Elementary School Student Stereo Microscopes with binocular options are ideal for their ability to withstand misuse from inexperienced users. 

If you need classic stereo microscopes that are built to last and with reliable lenses for intermediate school applications, Middle School Student Stereo Microscopes or High School Student Stereo Microscopes are more appropriate. 

For units with superior optics and ergonomics ideal for longer periods of use, University Student Stereo Microscopes are best-suited for advanced laboratory needs. 

In the Lab or Clinic

Do you study biological samples - organ samples, plant tissues, insects? 

Do you work in human health, forensic science, marine biology, embryology? 

Advanced dissecting microscopes with higher quality optics provide the clarity and resolution you need for results that will face professional scrutiny.

For basic lab tests, standard stereo microscopes like the EMT-1-P Stereo Microscope System and the OM99-V3 6.5X-45X Zoom Stereo Microscope have all the features and power to review samples with high confidence. Research-grade units with superior optics come in the form of CMO high resolution microscopes like the K-700 CMO 6X - 31X Zoom Stereo Microscope and the RZT Zoom CMO Stereo Microscope.

Get Familiar with the Designs

You know your application. Obviously. A microscope isn’t often a surprise purchase. 

In your research you’ve come across the words Greenough and CMO. These are two types of stereo microscope configurations.

Greenough Stereo Microscopes

These microscopes generate the stereo effect with two angled objectives placed side by side. This microscope type is the cheaper option, and can fulfill day-to-day laboratory activities. But that lower price comes with quirks. Greenough-type microscopes experience the keystone effect. They lose focus on the outer areas of the viewing field; only the centre of the viewing area is in sharp focus.

Common Main Objective Stereo Microscopes

CMO microscopes provide high resolution, focused images. This microscope type employs a large, single objective lens shared by two ocular channels as well as a lens assembly, removing any image tilt in the focal plane.

When in doubt, go with CMO. In most scenarios, this design is the industry standard.


This is where it starts to get a little trickier

There are all sorts of different configurations. Let’s start small and work our way up to some of the more technical things. 

Stereo Fixed Microscopes

Entry-level units offering fixed magnification using two objective lenses. Magnification can only be changed by swapping the eyepiece or lenses. These are typically chosen when applications do not require zooming in and out of images and when your budget is limited. 

Stereo Turret Microscopes

These microscopes come with additional objective lenses that are mounted in a turret, allowing users to change magnification by simply rotating it. Most users prefer this type of configuration for its practicality. 


Stereo Zoom Microscopes

These work like a camera. Users can zoom in and out smoothly.  These are more expensive than the other types of stereo microscopes. The design is more sophisticated.

Some other options you can also consider are Dual-Power Stereo Microscopes or Triple-Power Stereo Microscopes

Choose Your Head, Illumination, and Stand First

When you look at a product page on any microscope buying website, you’re hit with a lot of information. Microscopes are complex. But you can break the important information down into manageable chunks. You can look at the big, obvious features on each scope and zoom in from there. 

Your eyes, neck, back, and wrists shouldn’t hurt even after a long day staring down the eyepiece. To prevent this, we recommend choosing your features in the following order.

Head Type

Binocular microscope vs. trinocular microscope

Illumination Type

That best suits your workspace and application

Stand Type

To facilitate good ergonomics and ease of workflow

1) Head Type (Ocular Type)

Binocular Stereo Microscopes

These microscopes are excellent for applications that observe and examine samples for longer periods of time. These come with two eyepieces that make the viewing process more comfortable than monocular microscopes.

Learn more

Trinocular Stereo Microscopes

These microscopes also have two eyepieces like binocular microscopes, and feature an additional eyetube where users can attach a digital camera for still and live imaging of specimens, creating a pseudo-digital microscope. 

Learn more

2) Illumination Type

Halogen Illumination

Generates a bright white light suitable for most applications. But the light is hot. It can damage sensitive specimens, like live or photosensitive subjects.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) Illumination

Radiates a cool and bluish white light. They’re energy efficient and long lasting.  Bulbs can work for around 50,000 hours. These are good for field work because some units can be powered by rechargeable batteries, and the low draw from the LED keeps the field unit working for days.

Fluorescent Illumination

Emits a fairly white light and runs at cooler temperatures compared. Fluorescent light bulbs last around 5,000 hours.

Fiber Optic Illumination

Transmits strong but cool lighting acceptable for many applications.

3) Stand Type

Fixed Arm Stereo Microscopes

Feature a classic stand with a robust, fixed focusing block. This stand has the arm and body connected firmly to the base. 

Boom Stereo Microscopes

Fit for industrial inspections and larger applications. This type of stand comes with single, dual, or articulated arms of greater length and are easily mounted to the floor. 

Pole Stereo Microscopes

Can view larger specimens outside the stage since the stand allows the focus block to rotate 360 degrees. 

Platform Stereo Microscopes

Have ergonomic pole stands that are flatter, larger, and use external illumination. 

A stereo microscope buying guide is great. A stereo microscope expert and enthusiast is best!

It can take a little digging to find the right stereoscopic microscope. If you used the same brand, even the same specific unit, for the last 10 or 15 (sometimes more!) years, you’re probably a little hesitant to try something new. 

But the features have changed. The quality you can get at 1/10 the price of your purchase back in 2004 is staggering. And new manufacturers are challenging the common conception that microscopes have to say Leica on the side to be worth the investment. Before you search for your familiar brand, take a look at Omano.

When we launched Microscope.com 25 years ago, there was a plan. And the heart of that plan was simple: Make science more accessible.

As kids, we all marvel at new discoveries. It’s incredible that the lamp turns on when you push that button. It’s unbelievable that the ball flies through the air when you kick it. It’s amazing that the water in the bath splashes so high!

Bit by bit, the simple magic gets boring and the world loses its mystery. Not because you know it all. Not because you figured it all out. But because the mysteries that remain are deeper and harder to see. They’re smaller, further away, more complex. They’re less accessible because they require help. Tools that allow you to engage with things still mysterious. But those tools cost money. A lot of it. And to us that just doesn’t seem fair.

That’s why we decided to build a brand of microscopes ourselves. We named these Omano.

Omano microscopes are built to the same quality standards as the Zeiss or Leica you’re familiar with, but there’s no premium price attached to the name. But we don’t just tell you they’re good. 

We make sure they’re good: 

If you just don’t like yours and want to send it back after a few weeks of use, do it. We’ll take it back with no questions asked. 

If you have a problem with it 30 years from now, we’ll fix it. We made a decision decades ago that we would offer a lifetime limited warranty because we know we don’t have to worry about quality issues. 

Omano is our way to make good science more accessible:

In Your Lab
In Your Classroom
In Your Clinic
In Your Production Facility
In Your Quality Control Program

If you think a new tool can improve your workflow and remove a few tedious steps from your daily routine, making everybody at work happier and more efficient, give it a try. If it doesn’t have the effect you hoped it would on your workplace, send it back. 

When you buy your new stereo microscope, compare the features on the Meiji, Motic, and Leica to the features on an Omano. Then look at the price.

If you want to know more, we love talking about this stuff. Give us a call or send an email any time. We just want science to be fun for you!

Microscope.com is Here to Simplify Your Microscope Buying Experience

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