The Microscope.com Blog

Affordable Microscopes for Everyday Use


March 11, 2016

EUROMEX AT PITTCON

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Euromex Microscopes, Pittcon Booth 2016

Euromex launched at Pittcon with a stylish booth that was noticeably fresher than some of the competitors. Anchored by the iScope Biological microscope, NexiusZoom stereo and the wonderful new Q Scope handheld digital microscope, the line up looked impressive and caused quite a stir. Overall numbers were down for Pittcon but I am happy to say that we were kept remarkably busy answering queries on Euromex and the show was unquestionably a success.

It marked the launch of the Q Scope handheld digital microscope, which includes five staring models: a 1.3 MP, 2.0MP, 9.0MP, a 500x model and a WiFi model. Beautifully made and with startlingly clear resolution, the quality of the Q Scope combines with low prices to pose a serious threat to established competitors. The 1.3MP model starts at $149.00 and the 9.0MP at just $189! There are a handful of solid stands and we suspect the Q Scope will quickly establish a significant market share.

The new Q Scope Handheld Digital Microscope

The new Q Scope Handheld Digital Microscope

The iScope also generated excitement and deservedly so……at approximately $1,200 and with optics that match the best available, it is what I call a “door buster”. It will prove irresistible for Life Science customers because it presents a value equation that is almost irresponsible to ignore!

Dennis in fornt of the stand at Pittcon 2016

Dennis in front of the stand at Pittcon 2016

Beyond the products, the show was made more than enjoyable by the two highly professional reps from Euromex: Xavier Puig and Dennis van Baaren. Xavier is Sales Director for Euromex. A road warrior extraordinaire, he is a real professional and has been a significant factor in Euromex’s growth since he joined. He became the Petanque champion one evening! Dennis is a Product Manager with in-depth knowledge of all Euromex products. He has been a terrific support to us in these early days of launching Euromex in the US and is nothing if not credible when he speaks. A huge thank you to both of them for making Pittcon both worthwhile….and enjoyable!

Euromex Microscopes are now available at www.microscope.com.

 

 

Introducing Euromex Microscopes

iScope Bino High

Microscope.com is delighted to introduce Euromex Microscopes for the first time in the US. Designed and made in Holland, Euromex have all the hallmarks of intelligent design and European craftsmanship combined with superb optics and remarkably affordable pricing. Their value equation is irresistible to high end Life Science Research Labs, High Schools and Universities.

iScope Biological Microscope – Research Quality
For the most demanding Laboratory applications, Euromex offers the iScope Series of biological microscopes. Characterized by first class optics, the iScopes are available in brightfield, brightfield/darkfield or phase configurations with either binocular or trinocular microscope heads. The optics are directly comparable to the Nikon E400 and Olympus CX41. Unlike these competing models, however, iScope includes the highly innovative and proprietary NeoLED™ illuminaton that materially enhances resolution while iScope also sports a premium, rackless mechanical stage plus a clever, cable storage system for more efficient storage.

High end Life Science laboratories need such high quality optics. Now such optics are available at prices that are up to 60% cheaper than ‘Big 4’ prices. At Microscope.com, we are impressed. The value equation is compelling and their timing is perfect. Life Science Laboratories are shopping online in a way that they did not used to do and with the Big 4’s continued reluctance to join the 21st Century on the internet, Euromex has an open market.

NZ1903 S LOWRESNexiusZoom Stereo Microscope
Similarly, Euromex’s NexiusZoom offers the same value equation for Materials Sciences. The NexiusZoom has a 6.7x-45x zoom, also with NeoLED™ technology and with such excellent resolution that the microscope retains its resolution through the full available magnification range of 3.35x-180x. – a remarkable feat given a price tag of just $629.00. You can find the NexiusZoom and other Euromex microscopes online at Microscope.com in a variety of configurations designed for schools, quality inspection and other applications.

September 29, 2015

LIFE SCIENCES – Pay for the Optics NOT the Brand Name

iScope Bino HighFor the past sixteen years, we have witnessed Zeiss, Nikon, Olympus and Leica lose market share as they build beautiful microscopes with glorious optics….. but which few customers can afford. The belief in their brand has, perhaps, created a level of arrogance towards the customer that is more typical of post war manufacturers in the 20th century than 2015. Marvelous microscopes, built by Life Science specialists, but for a limited market. Unsurprisingly, these companies have experienced a degree of turmoil both in their management, manufacturing and distribution models with almost all succumbing to manufacturing in China.

At the same time, the internet has grown to occupy a core part of end user sales. As with all internet sales, the inexorable result has been greater transparency, improved customer knowledge and lower prices. Customers now understand that low prices no longer equal low quality. They understand that the big brand names are simply not necessary for their daily microscopy applications anymore than a Ferrari is needed to drive to work. Nice to have, yes, but not necessary and beyond most customers’ budgets. This change is customer behavior has occurred over the past five years or so. Previously, if we lowered the price on a given microscope, sales would drop. Customers were concerned they were buying low quality. No longer. Amazon has helped. Five years ago, Amazon had minimal sales of microscopes. It is a now a major product segment.

As a result, several lesser known manufacturers who still distribute via traditional resellers will likely go out of business. Their selling proposition is just no longer valid since they offer no better optics than online microscope vendors yet, due to their distribution model, prices are inevitably higher. No amount of fancy industrial design will disguise the similarity in optical quality.

In spite of the above and extraordinary though it may seem, the ‘Big 4’ appear to continue to scoff at internet sales as being for ‘low-end’ microscopes. For example, a customer cannot even see the price of a Zeiss microscope on the Zeiss website unless actually logged on – a 101 internet failing that is akin to stating “No sales, please!” Olympus and Nikon have almost zero online presence and only recently (after persistent emails and calls), did Leica’s VP Sales deign to respond to our approach to become a reseller. His email was somewhat dismissive. Given few of them have any traditional dealers left to protect, their strategy is puzzling.

None of them appear to have studied the Honda business school case study. In summary, Honda entered the US market with a big bike that failed on quality, but a small ‘low-end’ 50cc Supercub was a smash hit, from which foundation Honda went on to achieve  65% of the US market for motorbikes. Humility paid a significant role in their success in enabling them to switch from their original approved, high end strategy. The analogy is not precise but it holds in microscopy. Zeiss, Nikon, Olympus and Leica have already discarded  the majority of the market for microscopes. Shortly, they are likely to be squeezed in the more demanding Life Sciences segment that currently, they still dominate.

Why?

In the same way that Honda used its success in low end products to work up into higher end bikes, so the trend that drove the Big 4 out of (what they  perceive as), the low end of the market is working its way upwards into increasingly more demanding microscopy applications. First to establish the trend was the Consumer. Next schools, colleges and industrial customers, all of whom are increasingly content with standard Chinese optics. Now, at Microscope.com, we are seeing a significant increase in demand for higher quality microscopes from Life Science customers. We are also seeing customers willing to place significantly larger, online orders than before magnitude without any prior contact with us. Think five figures. These are traditional Big 4 customers looking for better value solutions online. They are prepared to pay for good quality optics, but have growing resistance to the accompanying price tags. They understand that online service can be equal if not better to traditional microscope dealers, many of whom are somewhat long in the tooth and/or Mom and Pop shops. They increasingly understand that they do not need an expensive sales engineer to come and set up their microscopes on site…and so on.

The net result? Competition!

Enter Euromex Microscopes. Designed and built in Holland, Euromex have deliberately built competing microscopes that combine superb optics with low prices, up to 60% cheaper than competing products from the Big 4.  In other words, customers pay for the oiptics NOT for the brand name. This is precisely the value equation that Microscope.com has championed for the past sixteen years. “Comparable optics, lower prices” and we are delighted to welcome them to the US as their exclusive online distributor. Stunning optics, thoughtful European design, lower prices. It is no wonder that since its founding in 1966, Euromex has become one of the most popular microscope brands in Europe and with a growing presence in Asia and South America.

Good design, common sense and humility go a long way. It’s a shame it’s taken such a long time for this combination to arrive in the US Life Science microscopy market.

 

 

Euromex Microscopes will be on sale at Microscope.com in October 2015. Call us toll free on 877-409-3556 to find out more.

 

 

 

 

 

August 17, 2015

Fertile Fungus that’s Saving the World

Mycorrhizal Image

Mycorrhizal Image: Courtesy of Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS). 2000. Soil Biology Primer. Rev. ed. Ankeny, IA: Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Let’s talk about fungus. Fungus is more than mold in your bathroom, or yeasts in your breads; fungus plays an ever expanding role on global ecosystems and agriculture.  Cambridge University released a study this May that shows fungus may reduce water eutrophication and increase crop yields.

Within soils are a myriad of microscopic biology. One family of microscopic organisms, mycorrhizae, is a symbiotic soil fungi that attaches itself to vascular roots of plants all across the world.  The mycorrhizae was first recognized in the mid-19th century; however, scientists are still learning how they react with crops and wildland ecology.

Rice plants that were “colonized” with mycorrhizae triggered genetic expressions to change in the rice plants, as a result of which both the root mass and Phosphorus intake increased up to 70%-100%.  Why is this important?  Because of 16 essential nutrients that are needed for plants, Phosphorus (along with Nitrogen), is one of the most critical and due to its importance, it is characterized as a macro-nutrient.  Phosphorus is a component of the photosynthesis proteins and is used by the plant for cell division and new tissue development. In other words – growth.

Phosphorus, however, is one of the most detrimental nutrients to the environment when applied incorrectly.   It is mined heavily for agricultural uses and, via run-off, it is one of the leading causes of water pollution. The heavy concentration of nitrogen and phosphorous in run-off causes eutrophication of rivers and lakes and is the leading cause of resulting algae blooms, hypoxia and die-off all affected aquatic life. We have all seen pictures of the thousands of dead fish floating under such conditions.

By creating a more efficient soil system with mycorrhizae, the hope is that less applied phosphorous will be needed with a corresponding slower depletion rate of Phosphorous through mining and less environmental pollution via run-off.

Redwood Mycorrhizae

Redwood Saplings without and with Mycorrhizae: Courtesy of M. Amaranthus, USDA

The Cambridge researchers plan to inoculate agricultural land with mycorrhizae with a view to increasing crop efficiency of the top crops such as rice, wheat and corn.  The idea is to improve yields with less need for applied phosphorous and ultimately to reduce famine in areas where mycorrhizae have been depleted or where mycorrhizae can be utilized for higher crop efficiency. In particular, mycorrhizae might help sustain crops in arid regions, which is an issue that takes on greater significance with changing global rain patterns.

Not bad for a fungus? A significant contributor toward improved crop yields, a possible solution to marginal areas of agriculture AND an environmental savior for that much-overlooked part of the world….water.

Want to see how mycorrhizae looks in a microscope?  Check out this guide on how to identify and view them in stereo microscopes here.  You will need a stereo dissecting microscope, which can be found here at Microscope.com.

Learn more about the Cambridge Study on Cambridge’s Website at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/fungus-enhances-crop-roots-and-could-be-a-future-bio-fertiliser

BEST KIDS’ MICROSCOPE

OM117L MainWe are delighted to report that our Omano OM117L 2-in1 Monocular Microscope has been named TopTenReviewsBest Kids’ Microscope  for 2015. The OM117L beats out the My First Lab Duoscope due to “Crystal clear views of solid objects and slides alike help this Omano stand out from other kids microscopes.”

The review went on to report:

“If you are hoping to encourage or inspire an interest in science, a quality microscope is a great place to start. Any child older than toddler age will want something better than a plastic toy microscope but you do not want to invest major money in something that will be used, and possibly abused, by your kids. That’s when the best beginner microscope becomes the perfect purchase. Omano OM117L, our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner, is an ideal purchase. It is a combination of a dissecting and compound microscope that will give impressive views of the microscopic world, whether a specimen is on a slide or is just something your child picked up off the ground.

It even has pleasing design features like a blue and white color scheme. It may seem like a minor point but our young panelists – who were between 8 and 12 years old –made many comments about appearance during the course of our kids microscope reviews. They appreciate colors and said the very close competitor, the My First Lab Duo-Scope was “old looking” with its beige body color and black dials. Omano’s OM117L is a serious scientific instrument that still makes learning fun.”

In our opinion, TopTenReviews hits the nail on the head when referring to the OM117L as a good choice when you are not sure if your youngster has an abiding interest in science. For any child with a more serious interest, we recommend purchasing the Omano OM118-M3 since it is a full size microscope with better optics and features.

The OM117L is a compound microscope used for viewing slide specimens. However, by the simple expedient of adding a top light, the lower 4x and 10x objectives can be used to view a limited range of macro specimens such as insects, feathers etc. The microscopes includes over 50 pcs of useful accessories and is available from www.microscope.com or Amazon. READ FULL REVIEW HERE: TopTenReviews

November 21, 2014

SUBSIDIZED MICROSCOPES TO BUGS BROOKLYN

One of the great things about selling microscopes is that our customers are so varied and interesting. We just helped subsidize some microscopes for the Brooklyn Urban Garden School or BUGS, which purchased some Omano OMTM-L teaching microscope. BUGS is a new charter school in Brooklyn with an interesting mission to ” focus on real-world problem solving and the exploration of environmental sustainability”. It’s  a Middle School alternative to the public school system with a genuinely hands-on, experential approach to learning.

Microscopes fits right into that objective! In this case, the OMTM85-L which is a dual-headed monocular microscope so that two kids or teacher can look at the image at the same time. Unsurprisingly, it has proved an enduringly popular choice for home school and public schools.

Dan Strauss, the Science Coordinator reports that when initially opened, the classroom echoed to cries of  “Whoa….check it out”….”That’s so cool” and “I feel like a real scientist”….and that was just looking at the letter ‘E’! Music to a teacher’s ear!

September 09, 2014

Cutting Edge Dino-lite Digital Microscopes

After a long winter and a short summer, I was amazed to see that the new Dino-lite Edge Series of handheld digital microscopes have already been on the market for over nine months. Out of curiosity, I took a look at the sales figures to see how they had done. Equally, to my amazement, the AM4815ZT ranked sixth for total sales of all Dino-Lite sales and third among all industrial models.

In other words, the AM4815ZT, with its new Extended Depth of Field (EDOF) benefit is highly successful. It outsells its sibling Edge series models by a factor of six times!


Originally, the Edge Series models were introduced in response to customer feedback. They all include a greater range of magnification (5x-1140x), even greater image resolution, longer working distance and the least aberration and vignetting of the entire Dino-Lite range.

Two important benefits were also added to individual Edge models:

  1. On-screen magnification display – AM4515ZT and AM4515ZTL
  2. Extended depth of field – AM4815ZT and AM4815ZTL

Curiously, in spite of customer feedback regarding on-screen magnification, sales of the AM4515ZT/ZTL have been tepid, at best.

What has become clear is that customers have a genuine need for EDOF. Useful for achieving clear images in a more vertical plane, such as bolts, holes, fabrications among others, the AM4815ZT and AM4815ZTL actually has a small electric motor inside the unit. When activated, the motor rotates the magnification wheel in 11 equal, minute, increments, stopping and capturing an image at each point.


It’s brilliant….and it works!

The only drawback to the Edge Series is that they are not Mac compatible, but given the industrial focus this appears not to be a major issue.

Dino-Lite have suggested that they may introduce the EDOF on more models although we have no information on timing. You can view the product details of the AM4815ZT by clicking here.

June 16, 2014

Bee Corrected!

Following my last blog post on the Harvard School of Public’s Health study on bees and neonicotinoids, we received a comment from ‘George Citizen’ that leads me to amend my last blog post.

George cited an excellent article by Randy Oliver in which Randy challenges both the underlying assumptions and the manner of the Harvard study. His article forms an object lesson in critical analysis, how to conduct a genuinely professional study as well as shedding more light on the debate round Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

As I constantly tell my kids, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Check your sources, cross- check them and then form your own opinions.”

In this I failed…….”Sorry, kids!”

Commerce over Common Sense. Bee gone!

Over the past few years in our own small way, we have tried to support beekeepers in their continuing fight against colony collapse disorder (CCD). We sponsor microscopy seminars at various beekeeping conferences. We sell a Beekeeper Special microscope package for nosema diagnosis and other hive infections. We have learnt that no one has been able to pinpoint the reason for CCD and that the arguments are many and manifold.

Most of all we have learnt the power of Commerce over Common Sense.

For several years, a suspect in the hunt for the CCD culprit, has been neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoids are neuro-active insecticides, similar to nicotine. They include acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyramnithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Of these, imidacloprid is far the most widely used pesticide throughout the world. Developed by Bayer, it is used in countless different brands and has a truly global impact.

Since 2012, research studies conducted in both Europe and the US have found compelling evidence that neonicotinoids adversely affect bees. The American Bird Society published a review of no less than 200 related research studies and advocate for a ban on neoinsectinoids due to their toxicity to birds and other wildlife. In January, last year, the European Food Safety Authority published a report confirming the toxicity of neonicotinoids and furthermore, that some of the research on which regulatory approval was based, was flawed.

More recently and most compelling, three researchers (Chensheng Lu, Kenneth M. Warchol and Richard A. Callahan at Harvard’s School of Public Health have just published a study that directly links CCD to neoinsectinoids. Their findings point to wards neurological impairment of the exposed bees and conclusive evidence of CCD where the bees disappeared from the hive. Interestingly, they also had one control hive experience CCD from nosema infection, but the bees died in the hive. They did not disappear.

So these pesticides are no longer used, right? Wrong!

Six months ago, in December 2013, the European Community (EC), placed a temporary ban on three neonicotinoids including the most widespread, imidacloprid, for two years. This temporary ban came hot on the heels of a landmark European-wide, EPILOBEE study commissioned by the EC. While the EC requested that pesticide monitoring be part of the study, various member nations argued that this would “not be feasible”. As Professor David Goulson, a biologist at the University of Sussex, commented: “It does seem odd that the EC spent over €3m on a project on bee health and the words pesticide and insecticide are not used once in the document. Odd indeed!

The EPILOBEE report concluded that the UK is suffering one of the worst rates of CCD in Europe. In spite of this state-of-affairs, the UK was one of eight countries that voted against the pesticide ban. The UK has created a draft National Pollinator Strategy of which one of the “priority actions” is gathering evidence to “determine the effects of neonicotinoids on populations of wild and managed pollinators in field conditions”. So far, so good, but wait…….which independent scientist is leading the study? None. Incredibly, the study will be led and paid for by the pesticide manufacturers, two of whom have been exposed for intense behind-the-scenes lobbying. So much for independent research!

And the US? What action is being taken here? Even less! The Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency’s stance is that “The decline in honeybee health is a complex problem caused by a combination of stressors.”

No doubt….but let’s remember three things:

1.       Honey bees are the critical catalyst in our food production. We risk losing them through CCD. We risk our entire food chain.

2.       The growing body of evidence points to neoinsectinoids as being (at least), one pillar of the causes of CCD.

3.       We can actually do something about neoinsectinoids on a global scale. Other elements of the “complex problem” are not easily tackled.

As is often the way on the road to consensus, the evidence is not 100% cast iron, guaranteed, watertight or unanimous, a situation that is easily exploited by intense lobbying by the respective chemical companies.

As a result, commercial interests triumph over the interests of the wider population. Instead of taking rational decisions rooted in Common Sense for the benefit of the entire population, we allow commercial interests to reign supreme.

Churchill is right. Once again, it looks like we will only do the right thing when all other alternatives are exhausted… but by then it may be too late.

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April 29, 2014

A New Take on Sand Castles…..

Who hasn’t idled away long summer hours building sand castles on the beach? Most of us have, at some time or other, run those wet buckets of sand back to our castle that rises sometimes lopsidedly, sometimes majestically from the beach. But who ever heard of someone reversing the process and etching castles on a single grain of sand?

Well, artist Vik Muniz and artist/researcher Marcelo Coelho for starters! Muniz  is known for creating art that alters perspectives based on context. He creates massive 500 meter long etchings in the earth’s surface. On the ground, they look like trenches. From the air, like drawings in the earth. Now he has reversed the process, creating castles on a single grain of sand.

The process took four years. Muniz would draw a castle and then project it through a special prism. Coehlo, who is also an MIT graduate, would use a Focused Ion Beam to trace each drawing on to each grain of sand. An FIB is more typically used for fixing integrated circuits on microchips. In this instance, Coehlo etched lines a fraction of the width of human hair on to the particle of sand, managing to create crisp images of the castles. That is about 50 nanometers wide or close to the the diffraction limit of visible light, which is why an optical microscope would not work.

Each image requires at least nine scans before it can be printed, following which Muniz turns the concept on its head once again…….by enlarging the final image into four feet,large format photographs.

Muniz picked castles because, “I rely on images that are simple, that you’ve seen a million times… You think you know it but then you have to know it again.”  “When someone tells you it’s a grain of sand, there’s a moment where your reality falls apart and you have to reconstruct it. You have to step back and ask what the image is and what it means”, rather like the French when they first looked down from the Eiffel Tower.

 

“It’s really strange,” said Coelho, “because you’re drawing on to a canvas and you don’t really know what it is and you can’t hold it.”

“I think photography is just re-starting,” said Coelho. “There’s a whole new kind of photography emerging now. A lot of it is happening because of this combination between computers and cameras, and story telling and narratives can emerge as a result.”

I think I’ll stick to the beach, for now.

March 17, 2014

IT’S NOT BLARNEY…..IT’S TRUE!

My daughter left for school this morning like thousands of children across the country – dressed from head to toe in green and after eating a breakfast of green pancakes and green milk. St Patrick’s Day is upon us, but this year the Irish are celebrating with a little more fervor than ever and for good reason. Scientists at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum have proven beyond doubt that Ireland’s most iconic tourist attraction, The Blarney Stone, famous for giving you the ‘Gift of the Gab’ if you kiss it, is definitively……. Irish!

For centuries, in pubs all over Ireland, debate has raged over the stone’s origins. One camp holds the stone was chiseled from Stonehenge. Another that Robert the Bruce sent it as a gift after his stunning victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The debate was ended recently with the discovery of a nineteenth century microscope slide containing a microscopic sliver of the stone so small that it is transparent. Under a microscope, the slide revealed the rock to be a limestone composed of the mineral calcite and containing recrystallized fragments of fossil brachiopod shells and bryozoans…..all of which are unique to Cork where the stone is located.

Dr John Faithfull, curator at the Hunterian museum, said: “This strongly supports views that the stone is made of local carboniferous limestone, about 330m years old, and indicates that it has nothing to do with the Stonehenge bluestones, or the sandstone of the current ‘Stone of Destiny’, now in Edinburgh Castle.”

Alongside the science of the microscope was a touch of the leprechaun. As part of a digitization program, Becky Smith, an intern at the museum, spotted the slide among 40,000 older geological slides contained in handwritten ledgers. . The slide is part of the rock and mineral thin-section collection put together by Professor Matthew Forster Heddle, of St Andrews, one of the giants of 19th-century geology in the UK.

Faithfull said: “It was probably made between 1850 and 1880, during the period when new microscope techniques began to revolutionize our understanding of rocks, and how they form. “He was a pioneer in the use of these techniques to investigate the rocks and minerals of Scotland, and elsewhere. He also seems to have managed to obtain fragments of a number of important historical stones: the collection also includes slides cut from several of the stones at Stonehenge. This was not vandalism – it was bringing the latest scientific tools to bear on the origins of these monuments. We don’t know how Prof Heddle got the Blarney microscope slide, or whether he had it made himself, but he was a major scientific figure, with excellent contacts, and was always keen to acquire interesting samples for scientific investigation. However, in this case, he doesn’t seem to have published anything about the stone.”

There is a long tradition of hanging upside down from the battlements of Blarney Castle, which is the only way to access the stone,  in order to kiss it so using a hammer to extract a sample required some dexterity.

Faithfull added: “Very few pieces of the Blarney Stone seem to exist outside Blarney Castle. Apart from our microscope slide, the only other one I’m aware of is in a monument at the University of Texas. However, this object seems to have its origins in a beer-fuelled party, and the genuineness of the fragment must be in doubt.

The Blarney Stone is famous for bestowing the gift of eloquence on those who kiss it. We don’t know if kissing the microscope slide would have the same effect, although I have tried it.”

Honestly….this is not just Blarney….it’s true!

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

March 06, 2014

GOLD AWARD, BEST ONLINE MICROSCOPE RETAILER
6th Consecutive Year!

Holy Moly! We are thrilled and delighted to have once again been awarded ToptenREVIEWS’ GOLD AWARD for BEST ONLINE MICROSCOPE RETAILER…..for the 6th consecutive year! But this year, we have the added distinction of being awarded the coveted award for EXCELLENCE. Coming on top of a strong 2013, we are a bit feeling a bit giddy…but don’t worry, we are keeping our eye on the ball or more accurately, on the ocular!

It is always hard to explain, but our team of employees are more than dedicated to customer service. It is simply a part of everyone’s nature. A desire to please the customer with good value microscopes and a really great experience. We receive regular emails to this effect, all of which are posted under Customer Testimonials but it is always nice to have a formal endorsement such as in the words of the review:

“Out of all the microscope stores we reviewed, we were most impressed with the customer service and selection offered by this site and it’s our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winner.

The customer service is absolutely the best and the inventory, support, shipping options, educational discounts and related information available on the site makes it a clear winner among the best-of-the-best online microscope stores.”

At Microscope.com, Customer Service is not just idle talk. It starts with an easy-to-navigate and engaging website, friendly telephone service for both pre and post sales inquiries, really good value microscopes at competitive prices, secure payment systems, easy returns….the list goes on. Suffice to say, however, that on those rare occasions when something is wrong with the product…..that is when we tend to win our lifelong customers!

As always, all the above is meaningless without a fantastic group of people in the office and warehouse and as always, I am extremely grateful for all their hard work on your behalf. It’s a heck of a team!

Vivat Microscope.com!

January 27, 2014

Putting Technology to Work

The revolution in digital technology has touched the microscope world in some truly amazing ways. With a few mouse clicks you can now get a state-of-the-art digital microscope capable of 400X magnification that fits in the palm of your hand. Did I mention they are easy enough for a child to use? Simply hold the microscope over the object, focus the image using the thumbwheel and capture detailed images or video at the touch of a finger.

Yet this tremendous capability is not without a few shortcomings. The compact design means that the image sensors and focusing lenses have a big job to do and a very small space in which to do it. In many situations this can lead to compromises in lens quality, depth of field issues, and limited magnification range, resulting in blurry edges, hazy colors and less-than-optimum images.

Fortunately, these issues and many more have been addressed by Dino-Lite in their new lineup of Edge series handheld digital microscopes, all of which feature brand new 1.3MP CMOS sensors, full range magnification from 10X to 220X, wider field of view and enhanced LED illumination.

Magnification Displayed Automatically

 

 

 

The AM4515ZTW will automatically display the magnification level on screen, making it easy to dial up or return to a specific magnification level again and again. This is especially helpful to quality assurance inspectors who need to make frequent comparisons at a known level of magnification for their certification workflow.

 

The AM4815ZT has two distinct image capture modes which are unique and proving quite popular. They are Extended Depth of Field (EDOF) and Extended Dynamic Range (EDR). EDOF mode works by automatically capturing several images in sequence, each of which is at a slightly different focus depth. The software will then digitally “stack” or compile the images into one frame, resulting in a single sharp image with vertical surfaces (Z-axis) in clear focus. This makes it perfect for inspecting bolts, drill bits, bore holes and anything with a degree of height or depth.

EDOF in action

 

 

The EDR capture mode uses the same mulit-image concept, yet with highly reflective surfaces. It functions by automatically taking many images at slightly different exposure settings and then digitally “stacking” or integrating them into a single image. In this fashion, the EDR mode can reveal areas of pitting, corrosion and other details of dark or reflective areas which may be lost in normal imaging.

EDR in Action

This type of imaging fidelity works well for pcb quality inspection, certified gemstone identification and grading, electronics repair, and any situation calling for a big image of a very small part.

Pretty incredible stuff when you consider that this imaging capability has only been around for a handful of years at the most, and it bears strong testimony to the warp speed of technological development we currently live in. One can only wonder where we’ll be in a year, or even 6 months from now.

January 20, 2014

“ANT”RONAUTS

Ant under the microscope

Most people know that a monkey was the first mammal into Space, but I only just learned that 800 ants are at this very minute guests on the International Space Station (ISS). The idea is to observe how the the ants adapt their foraging behavior in microgravity conditions with a view to developing more intelligent robots. While this may not seem an obvious source of robotic inspiration, ants engage in collective behavior, or ‘distributed algorithms’ in robotics, to achieve a variety of objectives including foraging.

Professor Deborah M. Gordon, of Stanford University who leads the experiment created a series of eight rectangular habitats with dividers between each area. Each area had about 100 ants (Tetramorium caespitum) inside. When the dividers were in place, the ants were limited to their initial area with a correspondingly high density of ants. In this high density environment each ant foraged within a small area in what appeared to be a circular and random pattern. When the dividers were removed, the ants experienced a lower density environment and walked in straighter lines.

Apart from helping robotic technology, the experiment is being monitored by thousands of students across the US. These students are participating in live science while hopefully, gaining inspiration to work in space science, not to mention having fun at the same time. I for one never had a science project live from the ISS!

Professor Gordon pointed out that all animals have to adjust to microgravity environments, be it human, ape or insect. For example, the way nutrients circulate around cells differently or the way genes are expressed. By the same token, all animals need to re-adapt to Earth’s gravity on return. An amusing example comes from a Johnson Jumper spider that was a guest on the ISS in 2012. While the spider did adapt to microgravity, it also needed to re-adapt to earth on its return. For a short time, it kept jumping….and landing on its back.

But this experiment extends beyond the rarified atmosphere of Outer Space. It can involve you. Professor Gordon hopes that students round the world will record the collective action of their local ants when foraging. All you need is to build a couple of interconnected habitats with dividers so that you can experiment with both high and low density populations. Ants also are fascinating to examine under a microscope…..but that’s for a later blog. Meanwhile, enjoy the video of these brave “antronauts”!

December 11, 2013

Holiday Gifts – Which Microscope ?

As you can imagine, at this time of year, we receive a lot of calls from parents and grandparents asking which microscope they should buy for their young (grand) child. While we have an article on this question it is worth summarizing for Holiday convenience!

We have three recommendations, bearing in mind that our most important criteria is to engage the kids.

Explorer Pro Handheld Digital Microscope


OUR NO 1 CHOICE
Most parents arrive at our store with an image in their minds of a classic compound (high power) microscope. They believe their child to be very bright and they are hoping to stimulate an interest in science. Unfortunately, this often means pushing the child towards a high power microscope, but increasingly we lean towards starting with a handheld digital microscope such as the Explorer Series as a better and more engaging type of microscope. Most kids love all things digital and the Explorer Series provide a high COOL quotient. They are easy-to-use, offer instant live video and still images in addition to a good value/quality equation. They are plain fun to use, yet are used in industrial inspection throughout the world.

CLASSIC COMPOUND MICROSCOPE
By the same token, the classic compound microscope may, at worst, be inappropriate and, at best, less than engaging. The reason is that a high power microscope involves specimens that are quite abstract in nature. Young children, however bright, typically do not have the level of cognitive development to be engaged by such abstract images as cells on microscope slides. After all, without stains, many specimens are rather dull and colorless!

That said, the fun of a compound microscope lies in the slide preparation. Choosing which specimen can be a thoroughly inclusive, cross-generational activity that is great fun for the child, parent and grandparent. Taking the cheek swab or preparing the onion skin requires significantly more time in preparation than actually viewing it. Typically, we recommend a compound microscope for kids with an established interest in microscopy and/or science, for kids over 12 years old or where budget is highly limited since there are a several good value such microscopes for kids.

THE STEREO MICROSCOPE OPTION
The alternative for younger kids is a stereo or low power microscope. These microscopes are used to view macro specimens that are visible to the naked eye: insects, crystals, pond cum etc. The advantage is that the kids can immediately relate to the specimen since they can see it. A bee, for example, is instantly recognizable. In addition, it is instanttly ready fr viewing. Simply place it on the stage of the microscope. The only drawback is that young kids may not be big enough to use the binocular eyepieces since the distance between their eyes maybe less than the distance between the eyepieces(interpupillary distance), even at the lowest setting. However, they can use one ocular until big enough to graduate to both eyepieces.

Of course, ultimately, much depends on the level of child’s interest, your budget and specific application, but if in any doubt, give us a call for further advice, Toll Free: 877-409-3556.

Happy Holidays!