Complete Guide to Simple Microscopes

Simple Microscopes: History, Parts with Functions, How Does it Work, Benefits

Whether you are a scientist, an entomologist, or a collector of insects and other bugs, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about simple microscopes. These are great for home and classroom use, and we’ll cover what you need to get started with simple microscopes.

A simple microscope is an excellent tool for understanding the world around us, and it helps us explore various aspects of our life and helps us learn more about them. Microscopes are a lot of fun, but they come with some requirements that can be tricky to follow. This article introduces simple microscopes and what they are used for, how they work, how to care for them, and whether it is worth buying one.

What is a simple microscope?

A simple microscope is a handheld machine that allows one to see small objects by magnifying them. It’s classified as a simple microscope because it has no additional or complex parts, such as a room for the scientist to sit in, motors and moving parts, or mirrors. The most common form of the microscope is the glass model, but other types exist, such as plastic and handheld versions.

Some of the main benefits of using a simple microscope are:

It helps in observing cells and organisms with higher magnification.

It provides an opportunity to study the growth and development of microscopic organisms like bacteria, algae, fungi, etc.

It is easy to use even by children because it doesn’t require much experience or training to operate it.

Invention History of Simple Microscopes

The invention of the simple microscope was spurred by the desire among scientists to study small things, such as bacteria and insect eggs, before they become contaminated (e.g., water is dirtied by living organisms that contaminate it during transportation). In ancient medical research, it was common practice to use a magnifying glass or opera glasses, but these devices were too bulky for many uses.

Also, tools like optical tweezers had not yet been invented, so samples couldn’t be placed in an uneven or small position and could not be examined closely enough for researchers to learn much about their microscopic nature.

Invention History of Simple Microscopes

The first simple microscope was invented between 1517 and 1523 by Sir Thomas Browne, a physician from England who spent much of his time researching insects, earthworms, and cancer cells. His technique involved holding the slide as still as possible while scrutinizing if there were any moving parts—which meant that the light would reflect off surfaces that shouldn’t have been in clear view.

Browne used a simple hand-powered scope made out of silver and brass, along with broken glass or pieces of pewter, to magnify the specimen on a stage by holding it at an angle inside his head while being able to look down through one eye while using the other eye as a “lens” over what he had observed. If parts moved, they could be stated with the thumb, a tool found in all stages of human history known as “the hook” from this period.

Brown’s microscope was so primitive that it did not allow for what we would recognize now as micrography—scientific interpretation based on microscopic images (it was more about magnification and observation than anything else). Although Browne invented numerous medical devices, he never received much recognition due to his lack of success or actual improvement in microscopy.

Who discovered a simple microscope for the first time?

The microscope was invented on 9 October 1676 by Anton Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch inventor.

Who discovered a simple microscope the first time? Anton Leeuwenhoek

Leeuwenhoek started by trading his intimate knowledge of trade for a job with cloth merchants in the Netherlands. He soon began to use roving lenses to view coins of all sizes and discovered that there were tiny living creatures on the surface of objects like bread, apparently hatching from egg capsules (called “red worms”).

Parts of a Simple Microscope

Microscopes are extremely useful in many fields. However, they do require some maintenance to stay functional. Let’s take a look at the different parts of a simple microscope.

How many parts that a simple microscope have?

The simple microscope has three parts: the lens, objective magnifier, and eyepiece. It consists of two optical components: the objective lens and its many microlenses (the focusing mechanism). The other component is a magnifying element, such as a handheld glass slide that supports the specimen, allowing one to observe under close focus.

Parts of a Simple Microscope

An eyepiece is a simple microscope lens that can magnify a wide range. The eyepieces are inserted into the front end of the light source within the field of view.

The base supports the entire microscope structure and can be conceived as a foot stand connected to a metal frame. It helps to provide stability to the whole unit. The function of the base in a simple microscope is to help stabilize it and assure stability.

The function of the tube in a simple microscope is to bring light in and divide it up into a small output before being projected toward the lenses. You can turn one lens in some microscopes while keeping others stationary.

Objective lenses are the standard lens used by a simple microscope, and they magnify light that enters the optics and allow viewing objects on an object or specimen slide. These lenses are color-coded with an empty circle indicating that they are made of glass.

The magnification ranges from 10X to 100X, so it can view objects of different sizes. Another factor in evaluating a microscope is the field of view, usually between 35-100 mm.

The Revolving Nose piece acts like a turret that can hold and rotate one primary objective lens at a time. This nose piece is typically used in microscopes to optimize magnification, and the primary objective lens is usually used for close-up observation.

The purpose of these lenses in simple microscopes is to magnify the object or materials being observed without significantly distorting other things being viewed simultaneously.  

For example, a 40X magnification with an 81 mm exit pupil helps you view tiny details and cellular structures more clearly than a single 20x magnification (a 50mm exit pupil), even though both cases give maximum magnification.

The diaphragm is a thin piece of semi-rigid material used to modify the process of light passing through an aperture or lens. Light passes into the simple microscope head, travels past the objective lens, and is focused by the eyepiece, where it can be examined. The diaphragm prevents light from escaping early to make its way through the stage and onto a film plane at the back.

The specimen stage is a platform for testing samples on slides with various surfaces, and it is lifted and placed on the scene to bring in the slide. Afterward, capsules are primed, and objects are imaged using different magnifications.

The specimen stage located at the bottom of a microscope, like other parts of this machine that supports these objectives, allows specimens to be viewed through transparent tubes without touching or contaminating them.

The Stage clip, also known as a stage clamp, holds slides in position for viewing under a microscope. It also allows for other accessories to be threaded through it to help with magnification and lighting setups. For this reason, there is typically one on either side of the sample compartment on most microscopes, although not all microscopes provide this feature.

Typically found at the front of sample compartments and designed to hold the slide in place, it is used for focusing and lighting. Once a specimen has been placed on an angled stage beneath a microscope (not necessarily this one), further adjustments may be required if you use a flexible tube lens with objectives that come standard with your particular microscope model.

It is designed to give sufficient light through both eyepieces to illuminate tough-to-see specimens – such as fungi deep inside holes made by insects.

The coarse adjustment knob is there to focus on the scanning. It is called rough because it has a more extensive range of motion than satisfactory, making this a helpful adjustment for most purposes. It is located to the side of the objectives, next to an eyepiece from which images are observed.

Magnification can be increased by turning it so that more light enters through one set of objective lenses than another. It allows viewers with good eyesight and close vision (making focusing on particular parts easier) different magnification levels for observations.

The Fine adjustment knob adjusts the distance between the lens and the specimen. It was initially used to align gas oil boundaries in simple microscopes but is now more commonly used for focusing on objects in liquids.

The ARM is to connect the microscope to the carrying case. It also has many functions, such as supporting and storing controls, brushes, wands, and other attachments for easier viewing of particular objects. To use a simple microscope, you need to tightly attach one end of the tube arm on top of the other tube arm, then insert it inside your carrying case opening laterally.

A power switch is to turn the microscope on or off, which is useful when someone needs to adjust the setting while operating a microscope.

The condenser’s primary purpose is to keep the light focused on the sample. The closer you get to the object, the greater magnification you will see without introducing too much subject-blurring. Another way that it can be used is to introduce more depth of field so as not to require changing lenses as often during observation.

What is the function of a simple microscope?

The function of a simple microscope is to magnify objects and help examine them for any defects or abnormalities. You can also use it to examine tissue samples under a light microscope.

Simple microscopes are designed for students and hobbyists who wish to explore the world of microscopy without spending too much money on equipment. They have a lower price point and can be found in science classrooms, homes, and laboratories worldwide.

The primary function of simple microscopes is to allow you to see things otherwise invisible or difficult to see using a normal-sized magnifying glass or eyepiece.

Some examples include viewing microscopic organisms such as

Bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, and other microorganisms without using chemicals or toxic substances that would be harmful if inhaled into your lungs.

You can observe mites.

Examining materials like minerals, gems, and metals, looking at pollen grains and other plant material without damaging them.

You will find blood cells under a microscope (differentiating between red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets).

You can take photos using light sources like LEDs or UV lamps.

You can measure distances by measuring the distance from one object’s surface to another with micrometers.

You can find color differences by comparing two similar objects side-by-side under an electron microscope and examining slides through polarizing filters for detailed work.

How do you use a simple microscope?

Here are some tips to help prepare your microscope for use:

1. While preparing the microscope, The most crucial step in using a simple microscope is preparing it before you even start looking at specimens.

2. You must ensure everything is set up correctly and have all the equipment, such as LED light sources.

3. If none of this preparation has been done yet, take out your carrying case and open it up on your counter.

4. Remove each piece of equipment so they are all in a neat container, out where you can see what is inside.

5. Examine if it needs to be recharged or arrange any products before beginning Your Last-minute Preparation.

6. Lastly, do whatever prep work you need at home because the supplies have arrived on your doorstep.

What is the difference between a compound microscope and a simple microscope?

A compound microscope is a type of microscope that can observe both transparent and opaque samples. It also includes the ability to use magnification, oculars, and objectives. 

On the other hand, a simple microscope can only view samples that are not opaque or transparent. It has a limited magnification range but allows for focused observations without distortion.

Compound Microscope vs Simple Microscope

Number of lenses:

A compound microscope has multiple lenses and a prism, which allow it to magnify samples up to x100 or more. Simple microscopes use single lenses.

The difference between a simple and a compound microscope is that the compound microscope includes additional lenses for magnification rather than just one. A simple microscope usually has only one lens.

Condenser lens: Does a simple microscope have a condenser?

A compound microscope is a type of microscope that uses a condenser lens to make an image. A simple microscope has no condenser lens and uses either a single objective or ocular lens.

A compound microscope allows you to view more detail than simple microscopes, providing magnification without needing additional eyepieces. It also makes it easier to take pictures and videos with the help of digital camera attachments that can be mounted on the front of the device.

Mirror type:

Simple microscopes use convex lenses that project the image onto a single plane where it can be seen by the eye and magnified. Compound microscopes use a combination of concave mirrors to project an inverted, three-dimensional image that is closer in appearance to reality than the two-dimensional projection from a simple microscope.

Compounds incorporate lenses to provide high magnification at one end of their field and low magnification at another.

Light source: Natural or Illuminator

Compound microscopes use various light sources and lenses to magnify specimens. These instruments are designed with multiple viewing angles, such as overhead, overhead-left, overhead-right, under the tabletop, and magnification/superficial micrographs.

Simple Microscope: Chemical luminescent light provided by candle powered bell jar or the sun

Compound Microscope: Chemical luminescent, fluorescent, and LED light provided by autoimmune scene or 4w continuous alcohol lamp.

Level of magnification: One or Higher-level

A compound microscope is designed to see items at multiple magnification levels and has two or more lenses. They typically have higher resolution than simple microscopes, which don’t have two lenses but only one lens or come with a light source. The images created with a compound microscope can show a one-micron size and are more significant in scope.

Compound microscopes produce high-resolution, magnified, and three-dimensional images. They have multiple lenses at varying powers and angles that allow for improved viewing of minute features, cellular structures, and tissues without needing costly or bulky optical equipment.

Magnifying power:

The compound scope’s magnification power or “power” may be up to 2,000 times, whereas the simple scope would be limited to about 300X. However, other power factors, such as quality and stability, are good features for both types. The compound scope and simple microscope work on similar principles; the only difference is that one uses lenses, whereas the other results by moving air (air = diaphragm).

Adjusting Magnification:

A compound microscope is made up of lenses and mirrors to give a higher magnification, which means that the users can see what they are looking at in more detail. At the same time, the simple microscope has only one lens, which leads to less magnification. However, they both have their benefits and downsides that come with them.

Using level:

A simple microscope is usually used in basic science to view and examine microscopic items like cells, tissues, or dead organisms. They use light illumination through one lens to provide an image or different pictures of objects at a specific distance from the lens.

Researchers typically use a compound microscope during experiments because it allows for better and more precise images than the simple microscope. The compound microscope also provides higher magnification which allows for greater detail.

Comparisons with Other Microscopes

Simple Microscopes vs. Compound Microscopes

When venturing into the world of microscopy, understanding the differences between simple microscopes and their compound counterparts is essential for making informed choices based on specific needs and applications.

1. Magnification Power

CriteriaSimple MicroscopesCompound Microscopes
Magnification PowerLimited magnification (typically up to 300x).Higher magnification (commonly ranging from 40x to 1000x or more).

One of the primary distinctions lies in magnification power. Simple microscopes are renowned for their ease of use but are limited in magnifying objects beyond a certain threshold. In contrast, compound microscopes offer a broader range of magnification options, making them suitable for detailed examinations at various scales.

2. Design Complexity

CriteriaSimple MicroscopesCompound Microscopes
Design ComplexityMinimalistic design with fewer components.More intricate design with multiple lenses and components.

In terms of design complexity, simple microscopes embrace a minimalistic approach, often consisting of just an objective lens, eyepiece, and a focusing mechanism. On the other hand, compound microscopes incorporate a more intricate design, featuring multiple lenses and a complex system for achieving higher magnification.

3. Portability and Ease of Use

CriteriaSimple MicroscopesCompound Microscopes
PortabilityHighly portable due to simpler design.Less portable, typically requiring a stable surface.
Ease of UseExtremely user-friendly, suitable for beginners.May require more expertise in handling and adjustments.

Simple microscopes score high on portability and user-friendliness. Their straightforward design makes them ideal for beginners and those who prioritize ease of use. Conversely, compound microscopes, while offering advanced features, may be less portable and require more skill in operation.

B. Simple Microscopes vs. Electron Microscopes

1. Magnification Power

CriteriaSimple MicroscopesElectron Microscopes
Magnification PowerLimited magnification (up to 300x).Exceptionally high magnification (up to millions of times).

Electron microscopes, the epitome of magnification power, far surpass simple microscopes in their ability to reveal the minutest details. While simple microscopes are suitable for basic observations, electron microscopes are indispensable for advanced scientific research.

2. Cost

CriteriaSimple MicroscopesElectron Microscopes
CostEconomical and budget-friendly.Expensive, often requiring significant financial investment.

Affordability is a key factor favoring simple microscopes. Their economical price point makes them accessible to a broad audience, whereas electron microscopes, due to their intricate technology, come with a higher price tag.

In my own collection of microscopes, I’ve found that the choice between simple and compound microscopes depends on the specific requirements of the observation and the level of expertise involved. Additionally, while electron microscopes are out of reach for most hobbyists, they remain indispensable tools in advanced scientific research. Understanding these comparisons enhances the overall appreciation for the diverse landscape of microscopy and guides enthusiasts in selecting the most suitable instrument for their exploration.

8 Simple Microscope Maintenance Technical Tips

1. For the best results, make sure to put your simple microscope on a sturdy surface that is clean and dry.

2. To keep your lens free of dust, use a tissue or soft cloth to wipe it off before each use.

3. Make sure to place the eyepiece cap on the microscope’s objective before you turn it on so that the lens doesn’t get scratched while in operation.

4. If your microscope gets too hot, stop using it immediately and allow it to cool down for about 20 minutes before turning it back on again 

5. Before you put away your microscope for good, make sure to take out all of its accessories from their designated places and store them in separate bags or containers, so they don’t get lost when you next need them 

6. Use an anti-static mat under your microscope if you are working with electronics or anything that might be damaged by static electricity 

7. Keep extra light bulbs handy, so you can change them as needed without having to wait for one to recharge 

8. Clean lenses periodically with a lens cleaner, such as a Q-tip dipped in alcohol or rubbing alcohol.

How do you clean a simple microscope?

You can clean microscope lenses in several ways, but all involve some form of micro drops. The method recommended by most manufacturers is by using rubbing alcohol and water.

How do you clean a microscope?

Use toothpaste, multi- cleaner, or bleach.

You can use everyday household items to clean a microscope, including but not limited to: toothbrushes and sponges, liquid soaps/washing detergents, and cleaning canisters containing disinfectants like alcohol or bleach. We recommend washing the microscope hood with ordinary soap and water.

What is the light source of a simple microscope?

The light source of a simple microscope is sunlight. When the light source is not enough, a bi-pin lamp set can complement your work.

What is the use of a Beercan lens in a simple microscope?

Beercan lenses are metal prisms that can correct spherical aberrations, which affect images and colors when visible light passes through them (similar to adjustments made after staring at the night sky with an ordinary pair of glasses). They often alter color hues or increase contrast by moving colors toward subjects.

How many lenses does a simple microscope have?

A simple, single-lens model microscope has one lens but can still provide magnifications from 10x to 5,000x.

A single-lens microscope uses a single lens and can be used up to 5 thousand times. Most microscopes use this type of design, and these types are typically larger and have better optics than handheld microscopes because they need more space for the lenses, giving them a much larger image for viewing.

What types of lenses are used in a simple microscope?

The lens in the most simple microscope is typically a single convex or magnifying lens. These lenses are directly bent to align with their objective and create an image, which can then be observed by a scientist or documented as part of research procedures.

The optics of a microscope determine how clear and sharp the view will be on your specimen. Any scope that uses such lenses has an improved contrast between objects under observation (fewer points reflecting light away). That results in fewer images and more high-quality pictures at higher magnifications; however, they rarely have powerful lighting that can create shadows; this often creates problems when viewing embryos because many structures occur later than fertilization.

Why do fiber-optic video microscopes have such poor definitions?

The most common type of probe with an LED array illuminates the specimen, thus appearing red/orange due to lens green light degradation inside the depth of the field relay tube. The image is then transmitted digitally via a super simple one-way link to be seen across about 200 feet, at which point it has degraded again, making a distorted picture on the screen.

Image coarsening is a scientific term for what happens when you can’t see something as clearly as you’d like. That can happen when you’re looking at something through a microscope. The image will be blurry if the microscope has a small pupil or cannot focus on a specimen with many points. When converting low-quality images into higher resolution, poor image quality can also be made worse by multimedia software such as Photoshop.

How expensive are simple microscopes?

The most expensive version of the 5-1000x range that I have found is around $50,000 for the 5x and 10-1000x versions. Are there any cheaper ones? Yes, definitely! There are also more expensive options for those who require finer detail to be seen at higher magnifications. The most common type of Simple Microscope is the Carson MicroBrite Plus 60x-120x LED Lighted Zoom Pocket Microscope.

What are examples of simple microscopes?

There are many examples of simple microscopes. One of the most common types is a handheld microscope. They are often small and portable, making them easy to use in the field or at home.

Another type of microscope is a compound microscope that uses an objective lens to magnify objects. They are usually more powerful than handheld microscopes and require a light source to illuminate specimens.

What is the simplest type of microscope?

Optical microscopes are the simplest type of microscope because they use lenses to focus light. They are also more affordable than other microscopes and can be purchased for as little as $100.

However, optical microscopes have limitations that make them less suitable for many uses, such as viewing motion samples or observing pieces containing water.

Final Words:

Simple microscopes are just as easy to use as the more complex models. They can be used for all kinds of experiments, from observing a single leaf or bacteria to examining specimens under a microscope. The basic models have only two lenses and come with magnifying glasses, but some advanced models also have an LED light source for bright lighting.

Several simple microscopes are designed for specific purposes and intended for other age groups. If you want to learn more about simple microscopes, we recommend checking out our blog post here.

This post is a complete guide to simple microscopes. This blog has shared information about some of the most popular microscopes available today. This article will help you understand how simple microscopes work and what you can do with them, from history to use and maintenance. Which Simple Microscopes do you like? Let us know in the comments below.