Imagine a microscope in your head. What does it look like? Our guess is that you’re imaging a stereo microscope, characterized by its eyepieces and diopter rings.
If we guessed correctly, we don’t blame you. It is by far the most common type of microscope. But it has a digital alternative – one that does not have the characteristic eyepiece.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss how stereo and digital microscopes differ and why going digital with your microscopy and visual inspection might be a move worth considering.
When finding focus on a stereo microscope, both eyepieces need to be adjusted according to the sample and manually by the operator. Although the process doesn’t take long, it can add up if you’re going through multiple samples. It also means that operators need to adjust the microscope when taking over from a different operator. All in all, it’s a bit of hassle and one that you might not realize until it’s no longer there.
In comparison, a digital microscope has autofocus. It means that the microscope will automatically focus on the sample underneath the microscope, independently of the operator’s eye sight or eye level. It also means that the operator can keep their hands on the sample itself, turn it around while zooming in and our, either with the control box or with a foot switch.
Software capabilities and endless potential
Perhaps the biggest differentiator from a stereo microscope is the built-in computer of the digital microscope. The advanced but userfriendly features and software capabilities allow companies to work more efficiently and eliminate the subjective analysis performed by the operator.
The built-in computer also gives users access to features as they are developed and released through regular firmwares. This ensures that the microscopes keeps evolving long after they were purchased and that users get the most out of their investment.
A picture says more than a thousand words
More and more businesses need to document their findings during inspections. With a stereo microscope not having documentation capabilities, some try to take a photo with their phone through the eye pieces. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always result in a very good photo. With a digital microscope, it’s most often as simple as pressing a button on the control box. The photo will automatically be saved and stored to either the internal memory of the microscope or a connected USB memory stick, regular or encrypted.
As default, photos will be named with the time and date of the photo, but operators can also define a prefix for all image names in a batch or name the photos as they go.
Lastly, photos saved in a jpeg-format will be saved with meta data that can be accessed when the photos are transferred to a computer.
Vastly different buy-in costs
Many rule out digital microscopes in advance because they don’t know what it is and associate it with the cheap USB version that they’ve seen online. When they then hear about the many capabilities of an industrial digital microscope, they assume that the buy-in costs are similar or higher than a stereo microscope – which is often far from the truth.
The low entry microscopes from TAGARNO starts around $5000. In comparison, a stereo microscope will often start around $50,000.
Reducing work pain
Studies show that simple ergonomic improvements such as a digital microscope can have a great impacts on the health of microscope operators. The use of a monitor allows operators to look straight ahead instead of bending their neck to see through the eyepiece or straining their eyes to see the sample clearly – positions that often result in a headache and fatigue at the end of the day as well as increased sick leave.
To learn more about the importance of ergonomics and how small changes can have a huge impact, we recommend reading this blogpost: Preventing jobrelated pain for microscope operators.
Although this blogpost heavily focuses on the benefits of digital microscopy, we absolutely acknowledge the benefits of a stereo microscope – including the high magnification capabilities.
What many companies find, however, is that they don’t need the high magnification levels provided by the stereo microscopes. And when they realize the many features and opportunities of a digital microscope, more and more companies choose to go digital.
Some of the most important benefits include: Improved user experience when finding focus and creating documentation, lower buy-in costs, improved ergonomics as well software capabilities that can take visual inspection processes to the next level.
For an even more in-depth comparison of digital microscopes, stereo microscopes and desk magnifiers, we recommend reading this blogpost: Visual inspection systems: What to choose and when
Want to learn more about digital microscopy?
Here’s a selection of blogposts for you to read next.