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The best microscope in 2022 for students, children and photographers

Young girl looking into one of the best microscopes with one eye closed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best microscopes allow you to experience the wonders of nature, beyond what the naked eye can detect. Just as the best telescopes let you explore outer space, microscopes give you access to inner space. And these days, even the best microscopes aren't just limited to universities, or laboratories with big budgets. They're widely available for the ordinary consumer, at surprisingly affordable prices.

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But how do you choose the best microscope for you? Well, just as if you were choosing a camera or phone, ask yourself what you want to use it for, and how much you have to spend on it. If you need further guidance, skip to our section on How to choose the best microscope

Otherwise, read on as we round up the best microscopes in 2022, for scientific, educational and photography purposes. 

Best microscopes in 2022 

(Image credit: Bresser)
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1. Bresser Biolux NV 20x-1280x

The best microscope for beginners

Specifications

Magnification: From 20x to 1280x
Eyepieces: 5x and 16x
Objective lenses: 4x, 10x and 40x
Camera: Yes, 1280 x 720 resolution
Power: 3x AA batteries (included)
Dimensions: 150 x 105 x 270mm
Weight: 1100g

Reasons to buy

+
Broad magnification range
+
Built-in HD camera
+
Battery powered

Reasons to avoid

-
Windows software only
-
Relatively weighty construction

Just get started with microscopes? Then you'll want the Bresser Biolux NV 20x-1280x, which is the best microscope for beginners – although it aims to be suitable for advanced users too. 

This device comes with plenty of accessories, including an LED lamp offering six steps of variable brightness, a filter wheel with five colors, and various filters. More excitingly still, this mid-priced metal- and plastic-build microscope from German brand Bresser also features a built in camera, enabling you to preserve and study your microscopic examinations at leisure. 

There's a broad selectable magnification range from 20x to 1280x, and power (and portability) is delivered via three AA batteries. To get you started, there are five prepared slides and five blank slides included out of the box. The resolution from the camera is limited to 1280x720 pixels, but this is fine for recording results, or showing your images on your computer screen using the supplied Windows software. In short, this is ideal for anyone taking their first steps into microscopic worlds.

(Image credit: Swift)
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2. Swift SW380T

The best microscope for macro photography

Specifications

Magnification: 40x to 2500x
Eyepieces: Two at 10x and 25x
Objective lenses: 4x, offering 40x, 100x, 250x, 400x, 1000x and 2500x adjustments
Camera: Optional, via camera port
Power: Mains power
Dimensions: 18.9 x 13.15 x 9.45 inches
Weight: 10lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Can attach a camera
+
Six adjustable levels of magnification

Reasons to avoid

-
No built-in LCD
-
Expensive 

Want to shoot pictures with your microscope? The Swift SW380T is our top pick. This slick, multi-purpose ‘research grade’ microscope is aimed at everyone from hobbyists to clinicians. And for a premium price, you get an huge 2500x magnification and the ability to attach a camera via its trinocular head/camera port. 

Its two 10x and 25x glass eyepieces have been set at a 30-degree angle that aims to combat neck strain when viewing specimens, while the focusing system offers precision. You get to choose from no fewer than six levels of magnification, including 40x, 100x, 250x, 400x, 1000x and 2500x. An LED bulb controlled via a dimmer wheel provides the necessary illumination, while the large mechanical stage is similarly adjustable. Power comes courtesy of the mains.

(Image credit: National Geographic)

3. National Geographic Dual LED Student Microscope

A great option including a prepared and clean slides

Specifications

Magnification: 20x to 50x
Eyepieces: 10x and 20x
Objective lenses: 10x, 25x
Camera: No
Power: Mains power
Dimensions: 192 x 153 x 373mm (7.56 x 6.02 x 14.69 in)
Weight: 1.72kg / 3.8lb

Reasons to buy

+
Prepared slides build engagement
+
Binocular design looks grown-up
+
Solid metal construction
+
Detailed learning guide

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited magnification
-
Number of prepared slides varies from US to UK
-
Camera attachment would be nice

While more expensive than some microscopes aimed at kids, this is a thoughtful bundle, supplied with 35 ready-prepared slides that mean young scientists can get started right away. Once the 8-12 year olds (recommended ages) have had their enthusiasm engaged, they can use the supplied blank slides to explore their own specimens. There is even a brine shrimp egg hatchery experiment from which they can create slides.

Not only is all this inspiration included, but the microscope itself has a pleasingly adult feel with adult manufacture and binocular optics. We would prefer the option of higher magnification, but this set is more about revealing potential to kids and binocular microsopes offer a 3D perspective. The lighting means examining rocks and quartz is easy. It’s also much appreciated that a slide storage box is amongst the accessories, not to mention the detailed learning guide.

(Image credit: OMAX)

4. Amscope OMAX 40x-2000x Lab LED Binocular Microscope

Delve deep into inner space

Specifications

Magnification: From 40x to 2000x
Eyepieces: 10x and 20x
Objective lenses: 4x, 10x, 40x, 100x
Camera: No
Power: Mains power
Dimensions: 230 x 181 x 330mm
Weight: 3.94kg

Reasons to buy

+
High level of magnification
+
LED lighting
+
Dimmer controls

Reasons to avoid

-
No camera

Do you or your kids want to delve deep into the microscopic world? Amscope's OMAX 40x-2000x Lab LED Binocular Microscope offers 2,000x magnification, you can explore the structure of fungi and protozoa, see the details of cell walls, membranes, organelles, and even view the nucleus in cells. 

This microscope is mainly constructed from metal, with some plastic parts, and comes fully assembled. Perfect for home and school use, it features a sliding binocular viewing head, two pairs of widefield eyepieces, along with LED lighting and dimmer controls to help you see everything clearly. 

The device is powered from the mains, and you can connect it to a camera via USB. You also get 100 glass slides and cover slips and 100-sheet lens cleaning papers with your purchase.

(Image credit: Celestron)
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5. Celestron CM800 Compound Microscope

The best microscope for students

Specifications

Magnification: 800x
Eyepieces: 10x and 20x
Objective lenses: 4x, 10x and 40x
Camera: No
Power: 3x AA batteries (included) or mains power
Dimensions: 55.9 x 40.6 x 35.6cm
Weight: 1430g

Reasons to buy

+
Value for money
+
All-metal construction

Reasons to avoid

-
No built-in camera
-
No spare bulb provided

The Celestron CM800 Compound Microscope is an affordable option that's marketed as ‘lab grade’, making it a great choice for college and university students. It comes with 10 prepared slides included out of the box, plus a sturdy all-metal build. 

The combination of two eyepieces and three objective lenses allow for magnified observation at 40x, 80x, 100x, 200x, 400x and even a whopping 800x, and the built-in LED illumination is adjustable. While a mains adapter is provided, it's also suitable to take out-and-about for field use. It can be powered by three AA batteries (included), and metal clips ensure whichever slide you're examining stays firmly in place. 

A single focus dial maintains ease of use, and the microscope itself remains cool to the touch when in use. Even out of the classroom, this one exudes class.

(Image credit: Celestron)
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6. Celestron S20 Portable Stereo Microscope

The best stereo microscope for beginners

Specifications

Magnification: 20x
Eyepieces: Two at 10x
Objective lenses: Two
Camera: No (digi-scoping kit optional extra)
Power: 2 x AA batteries (included)
Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 10"
Weight: Not given

Reasons to buy

+
Stereo option
+
Affordable
+
Large viewing stage 

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 20x magnification

New to the microscopic world, and want to view it in three dimensions? This stereo microscope for beginners makes doing so easy and affordable.

This upright, 2x AA battery-powered microscope, with a robust metal head is nice and portable. It comes with 20x power and 10x adjustable stereo all-glass eyepieces with two objective lenses. You'll also benefit from a large viewing stage that bigger objects, such as rocks and beetles, can be placed on for examination with the aid of built-in LED illumination. 

Two sample specimens are included and operation is made easy and straightforward via a single focus control. Also consider Celestron’s S10-60 device, which, as its name suggests, provides a wider magnification range of between 10x and 60x.

(Image credit: Skybasic )
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7. Skybasic 50x-1000x USB Microscope

The best budget USB microscope

Specifications

Magnification: 50x to 1000x
Eyepieces: None (viewing via USB)
Objective lenses: None
Camera: None built in (although the scope itself can be used as one)
Power: USB / battery
Dimensions: 119 x 48mm (4.7 x 1.9in)
Weight: 249g

Reasons to buy

+
USB or Wi-Fi connection
+
8 LEDs 
+
Compact and light

Reasons to avoid

-
Stand required for best results
-
4K would be preferable

This is a cost-effective and portable alternative to a traditional miscroscope which can take advantage of your phone, tablet or computer screen to give a close look without needing an eyepiece. The 2 megapixel camera feeds 1080P video to the phone wirelessly (or, oddly, 720P over USB). This makes it a very portable device.

Inevitably hand-holding such a device makes the image move, but an included mount 

The Max-See viewing achieves what is promised too – there is no password on the camera’s wi-fi so it isn’t a difficult setup, but younger kids will need help. On computer the device appears as a camera just as when connecting a webcam.

The resulting video feed feels a bit more like a using macro camera (a feature which is included with some phones) – it wouldn’t please a serious biologist. It does, however, provide a good detail for a similar investment as a basic kids microscope without so much prep being required. You could even get some interesting stills for social media.

(Image credit: Andonstar )
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8. Andonstar AD407

The best microscope ideal for soldering electronics

Specifications

Magnification: 270x
Eyepieces: 7-inch display
Objective lenses: (4MP sensor)
Camera: Digital still, video
Power: AC adapter
Dimensions: 230-300 x 200 x 120mm
Weight: 1600g

Reasons to buy

+
Large screen
+
HDMI out
+
Hinged screen & light support

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited depth of field

There's a sub-category of digital microscope designed specifically for use as a tool by those soldering electronics or working with other tiny parts. This type is also ideal for coin collectors or other subjects lit only from above. And if that's what you're looking for, we recommend the AD4407. 

This microscope comes with a decent sized 7-inch screen. And its stand-out function is the ability to re-position the arm, thereby re-aiming the camera on the targeted work area and helping establish more of a three-dimensional perspective. 

You also get HDMI-out, via which you can export images of 12 megapixels (4032 x 3024) and video at up to 4K (at 24fps), onto a MicroSD up to 32GB in size. The Dual LEDs mean none of the components should be in shadow during work, and a protective filter is provided. There's even a remote control which keeps the monitor looking elegantly button-free.

(Image credit: Jiusion)
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9. Jiusion 30X Zoom

The best microscope attachment for your phone

Specifications

Magnification: 30x
Eyepieces: -
Objective lenses: 30x
Camera: Phone camera
Power: 3 x LR44 battery
Dimensions: 69 x 48 x 48mm
Weight: 45g

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap option
+
Sharp image
+
Save photos and videos 

Reasons to avoid

-
Won’t fit all phones 
-
May need to remove phone case

Want to turn your mobile into a microscope? The Jiusion 30X Zoom clips does just that. This no-fuss device is a lens with built-in battery and LED light which can be placed over a phone camera lens that's no more than 25mm (1 inch) from the edge of the phone, and over a phone no thicker than 12mm (half an inch).

That’s probably better suited to your kids' phones than the latest Pro models, which makes sense as this attachment is about fun and building enthusiasm. The batteries should provide over 70 hours of light, and carefully positioned the center of the image is clear. Better still, it can be used without instructions and all the features of the phone’s camera app will be available for image capture; it’ll easily capture interesting creatures in a garden safari.

(Image credit: Oppo)
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A smartphone with a built-in microscope

Specifications

Magnification: 60x
Eyepieces: Built-in screen
Objective lenses: 60x
Camera: 3MP built in
Power: Rechargeable battery
Dimensions: 164 x 74 x 8.26mm
Weight: 193g

Reasons to buy

+
60x microscope with camera
+
Excellent optics
+
120Hz display phone

Reasons to avoid

-
No stand

Rather than buy a microscope attachment to your phone, you could buy a phone that features a microscope. And here's our top recommendation

The Oppo Find X3 Pro is a flagship phone, with all the features you’d expect; Android 11, a snappy and smooth 10-bit 3216 x 1440 pixel 6.7-inch display. It’s powered by the fast Snapdragon 888 chipset and looks gorgeous in a choice of three shiny colors. Best still, one of the four cameras in the bump which gently protrudes, in a soft curve, from the back is a ‘Microlens’, sold as a microscope. 

Admittedly at just three megapixels it doesn’t match the 50 megapixel main camera’s resolution. But it does offer 60x magnification and FHD video recording of subjects via a piece of optical glass which apparently takes over 40 hours to cut.

The results are spectacular and, though it only works with subjects you can get within a few millimetres of your phone (and there is no support to help with the process unlike with traditional microscopes); but the optics are up to the challenge.

(Image credit: Levenhuk )
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11. Levenhuk LabZZ M101

Another great starter microscope for children

Specifications

Magnification: 40x to 640x
Eyepieces: 10x and 16x
Objective lenses: 3
Camera: No
Power: 2x AA batteries
Dimensions: 12.9 x 18.5 x 26.9cm
Weight: 930g

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap but effective 
+
Accessories included

Reasons to avoid

-
Slides need handling with care
-
No overhead illumination

Here's another great microscope for inspiring kids and younger students. With a variety of colors on offer, the plastic cases add a sense of personality that gives kids a sense of ownership, as well as keeping things nicely safe. 

The microscope also features a two-position eyepiece (10x and 16x) which means there will be no losing eyepieces. The use of batteries means the microscope can be taken outside, and the lower illumination has a dimmer wheel, though you’ll simply need a well-lit environment as there is no upper illumination. 

(Image credit: Educational Insights)
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12. Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr Talking Kids Microscope

The best toy microscope for pre-schoolers

Specifications

Magnification:
Eyepieces: Two
Objective lenses:
Camera: No
Power: Mains or via 2x AA batteries (included)
Dimensions: 25.6 x 20.6 x 14.2 cm
Weight: 680g

Reasons to buy

+
Exiting 
+
Microscope "experience"
+
Kids don't need to read

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a real microscope

Where kids are interested in microscopes but just too young or impatient to handle the slides, the Junior Talking Microscope is an ideal alternative. The whole device feels a lot like a real microscope, but actually uses slides to teach them about the animal kingdom. 

There are 20 slides with three images each. Each has accompanying facts which are read to the viewer by Bindi Irwin at the press of a button (once correctly positioned). Another button will ask questions to see if the knowledge stuck.

While not every four-year-old is going to put the “slides” back in the drawer unaided, and even putting them in place can be a little fiddly, the storage tray is a thoughtful inclusion. In our experience, interesting facts they can access themselves is a great way to get the STEM ball rolling, even for kids who still find reading frustrating, which gives this clear appeal.

How to choose the best microscope

If you're buying a microscope for a child, you should probably aim for a cheaper model. If, however, you're a photographer looking to take digital images of the subjects you're viewing, it makes sense to get hold of a higher priced microscope with accordingly higher specifications. 

The main one to pay attention to is magnification factor. The larger the number, the higher the microscope’s power, and the more extensive the level of detail visible. You’ll also want to examine build quality. If you need something robust then it's worth going for a microscope with an all metal-build, but if it's just for fun at home then something cheaper will definitely do the job.

Depending on the quality of image you need, don’t discount the possibility of a phone adapter placed on the objective lens (eyepiece). The image might well be better than you expect, especially if you source the adapter from the microscope’s manufacturer. 

When shopping for microscopes, you'll encounter three main types: compound, stereo and digital. Let's quickly run through what these terms mean.

Compound microscopes effectively work like binoculars or telescopes, using an optical system with an objective lens and an eyepiece. 

Stereo microscopes, meanwhile, have two separate eyepieces and two optical paths to render their subject in a more three-dimensional way.

Finally, digital microscopes relay an image to a monitor, rather than requiring the user to peer down an eyepiece. They also make it much easier to capture images of their subject.

Read more:
The best loupes for jewelers, dentists and photographers (opens in new tab)

The best macro lenses (opens in new tab)

The best telescopes for astrophotography (opens in new tab)

The best spotting scopes (opens in new tab)

 The best binoculars (opens in new tab)

Best otoscopes (opens in new tab)

Best pulse oximeters (opens in new tab)

Best infrared thermometers (opens in new tab)  

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