Stereo Microscope

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017

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A stereo microscope is a 'nice to have' for extreme macro rather than a necessity, but it makes visualising the final image and preparing the specimen significantly easier.

Stereo microscopes cost anywhere up from £100, and for the visualisation and preparation you really don't need anything more than a basic version that has some lights.

Insect Preparation

Stereo Microscope

Low powered stereo microscope. Insect preparation for photography includes such activities as rearranging the legs into natural positions, and for this a stereo microscope is incredibly useful. An inbuilt light shining from above the specimen makes things easier.

Trust me, preparing small specimens for photography really isn't a ton of fun, it's tedious, fiddly, tricky and makes for colourful language.

Insect preparation for photography includes such activities as rearranging the legs into natural positions, and for this a stereo microscope is incredibly useful.

I use my own custom-made tools for this task and even with those, the fact that a stereo microscope gives you a hands-free view and then lets you use both hands for rearranging is priceless.

Insect Pinning

Pushing a pin into a tiny insect without messing up the specimen isn't easy, and a stereo microscope helps a lot with this task. The cherry on the cake is using a stereo microscope in conjunction with a micro-manipulator, as this means you can have ultra precise control over sticking that pin in.

The micro-manipulator was bought for another purpose but this was superceded by another tool, so using the micro-manipulator to get the pin in was more of a happy accident on my part than an intended use. But it's nice to find a productive use for an obscure piece of kit.

Insect Cleaning

An inbuilt light shining from above the specimen makes things easier

You'd be surprised how dirty even the smallest of insects can be especially if stored badly, and how off putting a particle of dirt is. You really want to clean off as much dirt as possible if you can.

A stereo microscope is a great way to have a look at the insect before photographing, to see if you need to clean it with a small paintbrush or hair.

Cheap is OK

Because I just didn't need the finest grade optics, I opted for a relatively cheap and cheerful one from eBay and it's worked perfectly well for me. In fact it's a hoot as the illumination is wonderful and it is very nice to be able to visualise the insect properly before moving onto an image.

Look for:

My relatively cheap "Jeff & Jenny" stereo microscope offers a couple of views, 10x and 30x, achieved by rotating the turret. The turret lenses are 1x and 3x, and the eyepieces are WF10X, making 10x and 30x. These are nice view areas, and means you can look at large and small insects both. The microscope has lights from above and below, so the specimen is brightly lit, and the head etc can be adjusted and the headpiece rotated.

I opted for a relatively cheap and cheerful one from eBay and it's worked perfectly well for me

All these are very handy and make it a pleasure to arrange a specimen. This used to be a complete chore before I bought one of these. It is easy to focus and has a solid broad base so doesn't fall over or imbalance easily. It has optional lighting from above or below. Although mine isn't, I'm sure you could buy one that also has suitable objectives for photography.

Comments (5)

Article: Stereo Microscope
Petrochemist says...
I've used the stero microscope at work for 'macro' photography. The magnification is typically bigger than required but with care seperate sections can be stacked then combined using Microsoft ICE. It's not worked for everything as sometimes there's just too litle in the sections to stitch them properly.
1st October 2014 12:10pm
Johan says...
I don't personally use it for any photography, just for preparation!
1st October 2014 9:58pm
Harold Gough says...
I spent thousands of hours*, in the late 1960s and 1970s, identifying (from known faunas) springtails and mites from soil. The insects were in alcohol and it was necessary to turn them over untiil we could see the features and some had to be picked out for high-power checking. For moving them around and turning them over we made very sharply-pointed needles by eroding the tips of fine tungsten wire in caustic soda solution, through which a few volts were passed. (Possibly of use in setting small insects). For lifting them we hammered insect-mounting pins into a spade shape and mounted the needles in laboratory needle holders with screw chucks.

* So we needed good microscopes (Wild M5 or M8 zooms).

10th September 2014 4:00pm
Mike says...
Thanks for an amazing web site with masses of useful info. I am looking for a basic stereo microscope along the lines you describe. Are the magnification numbers you suggest the overall magnification combining eyepiece and objective, or just the objective? This is foreign territory for me so I don't really know what I am going to need. But it seems that if you want to see the whole specimen then 1x overall is useful which means that with an eyepiece of say 5x then the objective need to be 0.2x ? Can't find anything like that! Or have I got it all wrong?
8th September 2014 7:34pm
Johan says...
Good question - made me have another look at the one I have, and helped me discover an error! On the turret, mine has 1x and 3x as the two choices, and on the eyepieces it has WF10X. So it looks like 10x and 30x, rather than 1x and 3x as I wrote (looking just at the turret). Fow what it's worth, I have a cheap and cheerful "Jeff & Jenny Stereo Microscope", cost my £75 or so on eBay if I remember, some clearout sale I found. I wouldn't say it has supreme optics and mechanics but for cleaning and looking at stuff it's prettymuch spot on.
8th September 2014 7:59pm
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