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A guide to choosing the best solder microscope

When doing repair and rework, it's crucial with a high quality solder microscope. Learn why and how you find the best one here.

With the continued miniaturization of electronic components, it has become more and more important with a good solder microscope when doing repair and rework.

Unfortunately, a solder microscope is not a protected title, and you need to do a bit of research when selecting your microscope of choice to make sure that it meets your needs.

But don’t worry, that’s exactly what this article is for. In this article, we’ll have a closer look at why you need a solder microscope and what features to consider when choosing one. Lastly, we’ll go through the different TAGARNO microscopes and how you’ll benefit from using them as a solder microscope.

What is a solder microscope?

A solder microscope is any microscope that has the technical specifications and features that allow you to create high quality soldering connections during repair and rework of electronic components. A solder microscope can thus take many forms depending on your specific needs.

Why you need a high quality solder microscope

A clean and professional soldering job is important for the overall longevity and functionality of a circuit board. However, with the continued miniaturization of components, it’s difficult to produce high quality soldering connections if you can’t see what you’re doing. For that reason, it’s important with a professional solder microscope that produces high quality images and is easy to use.

A magnified printed circuit board

What to consider when choosing a solder microscope

Although the technical specifications of your solder microscope will depend on your specific needs, there’s a variety of features that you need to consider:

Magnification

A key part of being able to see your circuit board clearly is being able to achieve the necessary magnification levels. However, you might actually need less magnification than you think. In fact 2.5x to 20x should be enough.

Lens to object distance

It’s also important to ensure that there’s enough distance between the top of your circuit board and the bottom of the lens to fit your hands comfortably. This is interchangeably referred to as Working or Lens to object distance. How much room you need will depend on the individual circuit board and may be a question of user preference.

Field of view

Field of view refers to how much you can see of your sample at any given magnification level. As you increase the magnification level, the field of view simultaneously decreases. With that in mind, it’s important that you can magnify to the required level while maintaining a field of view big enough to see what you’re doing. How big the field of view needs to be will depend on the size of your boards: Bigger boards require a larger field of view, and smaller boards require a smaller field of view.

Lighting quality

Without proper lighting, the quality of the magnified image will be grainy and it’ll be difficult for you to see what you’re doing. Depending on where you’ll be working, ambient lighting may suffice. But it’s worth looking into how you can add additional lighting: Does the microscope have built-in lighting – or does the manufacturer offer separate lighting options?

A steady image

When soldering, having a steady solder microscope that creates sharp magnified images is equally as important as having a steady hand. Especially if you’re working in a high traffic area or with vibrating machines nearby. It can be difficult, however, to say anything about the steadiness of a microscope based on pictures and technical specification. Instead, we suggest looking up reviews and asking for an online or in-person demo before making your purchase.

TAGARNO MOVE inspecting Circuit board

Other things to consider when choosing a solder microscope

For a state-of-the-art solder microscope and soldering experience, you can also consider the following:

Ergonomics

If you’re planning on using the solder microscope frequently or for longer periods of time, we recommend paying special attention to the ergonomics of the microscope and how comfortable it is to use. If you’re looking downwards through an ocular for longer periods of time to see your circuit board, you’re likely to experience neck and back pain. However, choosing a digital alternative that displays the circuit board digitally on a monitor allows you to sit up straight instead. This creates a more comfortable and healthier setup that also improves productivity and job satisfaction.

Image capturing

If you need to document the before and after of your rework, a solder microscope with easy image capturing capabilities, such as a digital microscope, is worth considering.

Frame rate and auto focus

If you’re using a digital solder microscope, it’s important to pay special attention to the frame rate of the camera inside the microscope and whether it has auto focus or not. 60 frames per second is absolute minimum for a smooth experience with no lag or delay on the monitor as you’re moving your hands and the soldering iron underneath the microscope. Similarly, auto focus will ensure that the image is always in-focus as you’re moving the circuit board around.

List of the best solder microscopes from TAGARNO

Now it’s time to look at which microscopes we recommend as a solder microscope. All of the microscopes below meet the features and technical specifications mentioned above, but there’s important differences to keep in mind.

ZIP, ZAP and TREND

ZIP as a solder microscope

With built-in light and no height adjustment needed, ZIP is a great low-entry solder microscope. The microscope is easy to install and due to its compact and light weight design, ZIP can easily be moved from one workstation to another if needed. To capture photos of your work, however, you need to connect the microscope to a computer via a USB port and use the computer’s generic Camera app.

ZAP as a solder microscope

Although ZAP also needs to be connected to a computer if you want to capture photos of your work, it’s unique because of its flexibility and customizability. In fact, with ZAP you start with the camera head and select the accessories you need to install it. This creates multiple installation options and allows it to be installed almost anywhere. Unlike ZIP, it doesn’t have a built-in light, but it is compatible with the TAGARNO ring light to ensure adequate lighting.

TREND as a solder microscope

If you have high documentation needs, being able to capture photos with a press of a button rather than connecting it to a separate computer, is a feature worth considering. For this, we recommend TREND as a solder microscope. TREND also has built-in light, has a larger working depth to accommodate bigger circuit boards and can be height adjusted to achieve higher magnification levels.

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