Author Topic: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?  (Read 5878 times)

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Offline lukego

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I have "the usual" AmScope trinocular microscope. I'd like to upgrade the head/objective/eyepiece part at some point. I'm thinking of setting an eBay alert to find a $1000-or-so bargain on something... but what?

The models I've identified are a Zeiss Stemi 305, Nikon SMZ-2T, Meiji Techno EMZ-5TR, or Vision Engineering Mantis. Which one is best and why? How much better is it than AmScope-likes?

I'd like to primarily get better image quality, and I want to run the camera port continuously, and I already have illumination and a stand that I'd be happy to reuse if possible.

SPOILER: Could not find an upgrade path for ballpark $1000 except for taking major risks on eBay. Decided to buy a more expensive new scope instead.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 11:20:06 am by lukego »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2020, 03:19:41 pm »
My father compared the offerings from the "Big Four" in 1985, when he was setting up his investigative materials science consultancy, bought a new SMZ-2T and happily used it a lot for the next 25 years. Only Zeiss had better optics and they charged a lot more for that. He shot both video and stills. We happened to talk a couple days ago about mounting a micro four thirds camera to bring it up to date. He has the c-mount for a 1-inch video camera and it appears that all he needs is a simple and inexpensive thread adapter. 8)

I also do not think you can go wrong with an EMZ-5TR – just make sure either is in good shape or that you can return a microscope if is not. I would get whatever example is in the best condition and/or best equipped for your projects.

But before going further, why are you thinking about upgrading?

« Last Edit: November 13, 2020, 03:30:23 pm by jfiresto »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2020, 05:12:28 pm »
But before going further, why are you thinking about upgrading?

I'm gradually investing in upgrading my soldering/prototyping lab. I've already made some really big improvements by replacing my starter soldering iron, preheater, consumables like flux and solder, microscope illumination, C-mount camera, and so on. I'm now thinking that these aspects are in pretty good shape and asking myself: what's the next upgrade that would provide the most benefit in terms of enjoyment?

Maybe it's the microscope? I hear people talking about their Nikon or Meiji or Mantis and so on but how do they really compare with my one that sells brand new for $129 on AliExpress for the head with eyepieces and objective lens? I'm entertaining the possibility that they are significantly more pleasant to work with and would make a worthy upgrade.

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I also do not think you can go wrong with an EMZ-5TR

I'm reading the specs on this now and one concern is that enabling the camera port seems to divert 100% of the image away from the left eyepiece? That would be a problem for me because I want to record with the camera most of the time so that I can review my work sessions after the fact.

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Only Zeiss had better optics and they charged a lot more for that.

Zeiss have an intriguing offering now: the Stemi 305 trinocular (https://eleshop.eu/zeiss-stemi-305-trino-microscope.html) that sells for €859.50 brand new (without the stand.) The specs look good although I'm not sure if it has internal electronics (?) that would depend on the Zeiss stand or whether it could be use with AmScope-style stand and ring light. I wonder how this modern entry-level Zeiss compares with the "classic" microscopes mentioned above that sell for a similar price old and second hand on eBay?
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2020, 05:23:18 pm »
But before going further, why are you thinking about upgrading?

Let me answer this a second time trying to be more specific. Issues that I have with my current microscope and don't know whether they can be improved:

  • Image quality is not in the same league as some soldering videos I see on Youtube, that I think were shot with normal DSLR cameras or camcorders.
  • Image quality degrades towards the edges, especially noticable on the camera port.
  • Shallow depth of field on the camera port.
  • Focus does not seem very even across the board at least when using 0.7x barlow lens.
  • Have to manually adjust focus when changing zoom level which is awkward esp. because camera has shallower depth of field and hard to predict whether "good enough" focus on the eyepieces is also good enough on the camera port (and because I don't have a boom stand and all adjustments are wobbly.)
  • Can't easily switch objective lens e.g. casually add/remove barlow lens while working (Mantis seems to have a fast switcher.)
  • The 3D depth does not seem especially vivid to me.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2020, 05:33:49 pm by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2020, 05:42:17 pm »
Here for reference is an example from my microscope:


I'm struck that the focus is very uneven as seen by the camera. The middle is okay but the edges are very blurry. I assume (?) that this is a property of the lenses.

Maybe an alternative would be to simply buy higher quality lenses for the scope that I already have? Is that a thing one does? This is the one that I have: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32872196449.html.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2020, 05:46:37 pm »
Maybe it's the microscope? I hear people talking about their Nikon or Meiji or Mantis and so on but how do they really compare with my one that sells brand new for $129 on AliExpress for the head with eyepieces and objective lens? I'm entertaining the possibility that they are significantly more pleasant to work with and would make a worthy upgrade.

The build quality is better and the image quality becomes noticeably better at higher magnifications. But you need to distinguish between new and used microscopes. The models made into the 1990s were built for decades of use, and a clean example generally performs pretty much as it did at the factory. For example, I plopped a 16 megapixel Olympus camera body onto a mongrel stereo microscope I had assembled out of parts from half a dozen, grizzled 40+ year old microscopes. Everything just worked, with zero adjustments, and so well that the microscope revealed the limitations of the camera. They do not built microscopes like they used to, although I understand Meiji is old fashioned and still builds theirs to last.

I also do not think you can go wrong with an EMZ-5TR

I'm reading the specs on this now and one concern is that enabling the camera port seems to divert 100% of the image away from the left eyepiece? That would be a problem for me because I want to record with the camera most of the time so that I can review my work sessions after the fact.

Look at the EMZ-8TR which "offers direct light to all three viewing ports simultaneously."

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Only Zeiss had better optics and they charged a lot more for that.
Zeiss have an intriguing offering now: the Stemi 305 trinocular (https://eleshop.eu/zeiss-stemi-305-trino-microscope.html) that sells for €859.50 brand new (without the stand.) The specs look good although I'm not sure if it has internal electronics (?) that would depend on the Zeiss stand or whether it could be use with AmScope-style stand and ring light. I wonder how this modern entry-level Zeiss compares with the "classic" microscopes mentioned above that sell for a similar price old and second hand on eBay?

For that price, I expect it is not built nearly as well as the pre-2000 models, but I am no Zeiss guy!
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2020, 05:58:39 pm »
Look at the EMZ-8TR which "offers direct light to all three viewing ports simultaneously."

I understand from reading now that this Meiji and also the Zeiss are "Greenough" microscopes. Is this a good thing? I'm concerned that it sounds like you can't use the same kind of barlow lenses as on the AmScope for adjusting working distance and field of view. Does this mean that in practice you are "stuck with" the native magnification and working distance quoted in the product literature?

EDIT: Found the product page for the auxiliary barlow lenses: https://meijitechno.com/product-new/geological-24/geological-stereo-microscopes/emz-modular-stereo-microscopes-geological/emz-modular-stereo-microscopes-components-and-accessories/emz-modular-stereo-microscopes-components-and-accessories/emz-modular-stereo-auxilia-1
« Last Edit: November 13, 2020, 06:06:21 pm by lukego »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2020, 06:17:23 pm »
You can design either a Greenough or a CMO microscope to accept an auxiliary lens. You could say that adding a lens to the former makes it a mixed Greenough/Common Objective microscope. Since the added lens somewhat degrades the image, some CMO microscopes only let you change the main objective. That is considerably more expensive, but then so is a CMO microscope, so it is relative. The Amscopes I have seen here have been Greenough designs.

I will try to respond to your earlier posts, but that may have to wait until tomorrow.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2020, 06:20:56 pm by jfiresto »
 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2020, 07:56:14 am »
Here's how my mental model is developing:

The Meiji EMZ-8TR and Zeiss Stemi 305 both look like "drop in" replacement microscope heads for the AmScope. They all have ~75mm diameter and should all be compatible with the same stands and ring lights. They all support C/CS-mount cameras. (I'm assuming separate lenses.)

Speculating: I'd suppose the optics are high quality in both because Meiji and Zeiss are both quality brands. The Meiji seems to cost about twice as much as the Zeiss (?) due to superior build quality and longer expected lifetime (?). Picking up a Meiji second-hand on eBay might cost the same as the Zeiss costs new.

I'm checking on pricing for the auxiliary lenses. The prices I've seen so far on barlow lenses for the Zeiss have been between $250 and $350 which seems very high to me and potentially increases the effective price of a new unit substantially.

One technical difference noticed on the data sheet: The Meiji seems to come with a 1/3 reducer lens on the camera port (suited to a small image sensor) while the Zeiss comes with a 1/2 reducer (suited to a larger e.g. APS-C sensor.) I'm not sure how easy that it to change but it suggests taking into account which camera you plan to use. I would use the RaspberryPi HQ camera, or Nikon D750 DSLR, both of which support APS-C format and would seem better suited to the Zeiss in its standard configuration.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2020, 08:07:17 am by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2020, 07:57:09 am »
Amscopes I have seen here have been Greenough designs.

Thanks for pointing this out. I had it backwards thinking that the CMO microscopes were the norm and the Greenough the exception.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2020, 11:09:17 am »
I'm gradually investing in upgrading my soldering/prototyping lab.... I'm now ... asking myself: what's the next upgrade that would provide the most benefit in terms of enjoyment? Maybe it's the microscope?...

Do you know anyone with a good stereo microscope, that you can try on typical things you look at, to see what you might be missing? You may be pleasantly surprised by the things you did not know about because you could not see them, and decide there is enough enjoyment in that to make a long term investment.

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Zeiss have an intriguing offering now: the Stemi 305 trinocular (https://eleshop.eu/zeiss-stemi-305-trino-microscope.html) that sells for €859.50 brand new (without the stand.)

That is a student microscope, I believe Zeiss has made for them in China, that they are also marketing as a low cost laboratory/production microscope you can put under service contract. To make it useful in the lab and on the factory floor, they have made it compatible with a selection of their standard microscope accessories, for example, their boom stands and standard line of microscope cameras and adapters. All charged per their standard price list. To see what that might be like, I created an account at Zeiss and priced out a trinocular system with their twin-arm boom stand and a one-inch c-mount camera mount, part numbers: 491903, 435412, 435411 and 426114. The total: 4660 euros, not including VAT. Somewhat more than half of that is the cost of the boom stand.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2020, 02:24:48 pm »
Image quality is not in the same league as some soldering videos I see on Youtube, that I think were shot with normal DSLR cameras or camcorders.

Even with a really good stereo microscope you will be hard pressed to match a DSLR with a good macro lens at low magnifications. Your Greenough microscope has to fit two objectives in the same space and, compared to the camera's, those objectives are just ridiculously simple, two-element achromats.  The Olympus XA pocket camera, from roughly when the archetype of your microscope was designed, had a fixed, 35mm lens with three times as many elements!

That said the video you should get, with good quality optics from the microscope photo port to the camera, should be much closer to what you see through the binocular eyepieces and suffer from nothing like the chromatic aberrations and barrel distortion you see in your video.

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Image quality degrades towards the edges, especially noticable on the camera port.

Even a high quality two-element achromat objective can only be expected to be flat and sharp, at the eyepieces, over the inner 60% or so of the field of view, that is ca. 0.8 x R, if R is the radius of the field of view. The microscope would need semi-plan or plan objectives, each with three to five elements, to be flat and sharp, respectively, over roughly 80% or 95%+ of the field of view.

All that is through the eyepieces. The camera has the added challenge of having a flat sensor that is stuck at the same focus from the center out to the edges. The objective's curved optics project a curved image on to the camera sensor. If the center is in focus, the edges will be at the wrong distance, or vice-versa. Semi-plan and plan objectives, reduce the problem, in that they project an image that is flatter out to a greater radius.

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Shallow depth of field on the camera port.

Unlike a pair of human eyeballs, the camera can not change its focus during an exposure and meld what it sees with the mind's eye.

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Focus does not seem very even across the board at least when using 0.7x barlow lens.

Getting good images with a barlow lens can be a challenge. The lens may not exactly match your microscope's objectives and it may be slightly out of position if it screws in or clamps on. The objectives also look through the sides of the lens and not through its well corrected center.

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Have to manually adjust focus when changing zoom level which is awkward esp. because camera has shallower depth of field and hard to predict whether "good enough" focus on the eyepieces is also good enough on the camera port (and because I don't have a boom stand and all adjustments are wobbly.)

Now that is something I think you should try to fix: it may be causing the issues you see in the video and, personally, it would drive me to distraction. First, do the song and dance to get the eyepieces parfocal. Then immediately after the last step, don't touch the focus or zoom, and try to adjust the camera port and relay lens to get the camera in sharp focus so that it tracks the eyepieces'.

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Can't easily switch objective lens e.g. casually add/remove barlow lens while working (Mantis seems to have a fast switcher.)

It is a bit of a hack and may not work that well near maximum zoom, but some folks swap in a pair of 20X eyepieces when they need a quick, closer look.

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The 3D depth does not seem especially vivid to me.

At high zoom levels or at all of them?
 
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Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2020, 02:41:03 pm »
... One technical difference noticed on the data sheet: The Meiji seems to come with a 1/3 reducer lens on the camera port (suited to a small image sensor) while the Zeiss comes with a 1/2 reducer (suited to a larger e.g. APS-C sensor.)...

I may have started from a different base, but I configured the Zeiss with a 1X c-mount adapter for a one-inch sensor. It would produce some vignetting with an APS-C cameras but apparently not too much. I go a bit smaller and use micro thirds cameras. I might ask Meiji if they offer also offer c-mount for a one-inch sensor and let them figure out the magnification.

 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2020, 03:28:18 pm »
That is a student microscope [...] compatible with a selection of their standard microscope accessories [...] All charged per their standard price list. [...] The total: 4660 euros, not including VAT.

This is very interesting! Zeiss seem to be doing market segmentation to capture the cost-conscious education market (cheap limited offerings) without undercutting their higher-end sales (premium prices on accessories keeping the cost of a full "professional" setup high) Maybe there's an opportunity here for the semi-professional/serious-amateur to slip between the cracks in their pricing strategy?

I'm looking at the Zeiss Stemi 305 trinocular headpiece with C-mount camera port for €859.50 coupled with the 0.75x barlow lens for €235.70 to match my preferred magnification level and working distance. Total cost: €1095.2 excluding VAT.

Maybe that's a bargin to upgrade my current setup with Zeiss optics? I'm basically satisfied with the setup that I have apart from the feeling that I'm missing out on image quality.

I would be sticking with my current articulating arm stand, ring light with polarizer, and gooseneck lights. That's about $500 worth of AliExpress kit. These all seem to be compatible with the Zeiss thanks to the ~75mm diameter of the microscope head. I would absolutely not be willing to spend thousands of dollars on replacing those components because, unlike the optics, I just don't expect the Zeiss accessories like stands and lights to be that much better.

One slight concern is whether the Zeiss Stemi 305 microscope head can work without the Zeiss stand. I believe that it has some electronics build in (e.g. an LED aligned with the objective lenses) and I hope it can function with that turned off. I would need to confirm that there is not a "DRM" type of feature to prevent people like me being thrifty and picking up Zeiss optics on the cheap to use with third party accessories.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2020, 03:33:15 pm by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2020, 03:42:49 pm »
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Have to manually adjust focus when changing zoom level which is awkward esp. because camera has shallower depth of field and hard to predict whether "good enough" focus on the eyepieces is also good enough on the camera port (and because I don't have a boom stand and all adjustments are wobbly.)

Now that is something I think you should try to fix: it may be causing the issues you see in the video and, personally, it would drive me to distraction. First, do the song and dance to get the eyepieces parfocal. Then immediately after the last step, don't touch the focus or zoom, and try to adjust the camera port and relay lens to get the camera in sharp focus so that it tracks the eyepieces'.

I will work on this, thanks for the tip!

Good to be reminded that the most important aspect is to use the tools that you have correctly.

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The 3D depth does not seem especially vivid to me.

At high zoom levels or at all of them?

I'm not sure that I can defend this observation actually. I suppose that looking through the microscope gives a similar sense of depth as normal vision. I suppose what I mean is that I can't relate to what Vision Engineering users report (Dave in his video IIRC) about being able to vary the perspective of their view by moving their heads. That seems like a feature that's absent on all of these microscopes with ~20mm eyepieces and that I can't judge the value of because I've never tried it.

(Vision Engineering is another whole topic. Maybe those are better for soldering work? I've found it hard to find much details about the difference between their Mantis verses LYNX models and what options they have for third party cameras.)
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2020, 03:59:57 pm »
It appears Zeiss has you buy a Stemi 508 to arrange a camera port with a one-inch sensor (system overview drawings, page 2, "Camera adapter 60N-C 1'' 1,0X, part number 426114-0000-000 for 121,00 €+VAT). For the Zeiss 305, you might insert a 2.5X relay lens to fill an APS-C sensor, the same that you used to use to match a 1-inch photo port to a 35mm camera.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2020, 04:01:33 pm »
This is very interesting! Zeiss seem to be doing market segmentation to capture the cost-conscious education market (cheap limited offerings) without undercutting their higher-end sales (premium prices on accessories keeping the cost of a full "professional" setup high) Maybe there's an opportunity here for the semi-professional/serious-amateur to slip between the cracks in their pricing strategy?

As in buy the razor and not the blades, or the printer and not the ink cartridges? Or rather somewhat the opposite. :)
« Last Edit: November 14, 2020, 04:05:08 pm by jfiresto »
 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2020, 04:16:11 pm »
Even with a really good stereo microscope you will be hard pressed to match a DSLR with a good macro lens at low magnifications. Your Greenough microscope has to fit two objectives in the same space and, compared to the camera's, those objectives are just ridiculously simple, two-element achromats.  The Olympus XA pocket camera, from roughly when the archetype of your microscope was designed, had a fixed, 35mm lens with three times as many elements!

Thank you for making this point. I have to think about this.

I really have two different use cases, working verses inspection, and I've been trying to do both with the same trinocular microscope. Maybe the quality that I have now is adequate for working and I only really need the sharper optics for close-up inspection. In that case it could be more economical to use a separate inspection tool e.g. monocular microscope or DSLR camera with autofocus macro lens?

Much food for thought. Thank you again for taking the time to walk me through the many considerations.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2020, 11:08:43 am »
It appears Zeiss has you buy a Stemi 508 to arrange a camera port with a one-inch sensor (system overview drawings, page 2, "Camera adapter 60N-C 1'' 1,0X, part number 426114-0000-000 for 121,00 €+VAT). For the Zeiss 305, you might insert a 2.5X relay lens to fill an APS-C sensor, the same that you used to use to match a 1-inch photo port to a 35mm camera.

Could you please help me to understand this point?

On my Eakins microscope I have similar magnification on the objective lens and eyepieces to the Zeiss and then an "SZMCTV1/2" reducer lens connecting to a C-mount camera with APS-C sensor (RaspberryPi HQ.) This setup seems to be well matched: the camera in full sensor mode captures approximately the largest rectangle possible without going outside the field of view in the corners.

How similar is the Zeiss Semi 305 to this setup? The PDF that you referenced does say the C-mount port is suitable for up to 2/3" sensor which would be much smaller than APS-C. However I've seen multiple descriptions of the Zeiss Stemi 305 (below) calling the C-mount port "0.5x" and that superficially sounds an awful lot like my "1/2 reducer" that seems to work well on the Eakins.

So are the Zeiss and Eakins camera ports really suited to different cameras? How come the Zeiss would need the 2.5x relay lens while the Eakins doesn't? Or am I simply misusing my Eakins today with the wrong lenses on the C-mount port?

Aside: Could you recommend any book on microscopy that would help me understand the lenses? I picked up an excellent book on photographic lighting that has really helped me understand my illumination issues instead of stumbling around in the dark (so to speak.)

References to "0.5x" C-mount port for ordinary cameras:
https://eleshop.eu/zeiss-stemi-305-trino-microscope.html
https://www.microscopeworld.com/p-3298-zeiss-stemi-305-k-edu-bfdf-stereo-microscope.aspx
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2020, 12:22:57 pm »
On my Eakins microscope I have similar magnification on the objective lens and eyepieces to the Zeiss and then an "SZMCTV1/2" reducer lens connecting to a C-mount camera with APS-C sensor (RaspberryPi HQ.). This setup seems to be well matched....

Do you have this camera? The description says it has a 1/2.3" sensor with a 7.9mm diagonal. If the camera port projects an image that is sized for a 1" sensor with a 15.9mm diagonal – as many do – the 0.5X lens will give just the right reduction to fit your sensor.

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How similar is the Zeiss Semi 305 to this setup?

Apparently the 305 camera port already projects an image that is half as large. You should be able to mount your camera directly to the microscope and not need the reduction lens.

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So are the Zeiss and Eakins camera ports really suited to different cameras? How come the Zeiss would need the 2.5x relay lens while the Eakins doesn't?

The old Zeiss microscopes and, I believe, your Eakins, both project an image sized for a 1" sensor. The old 35mm analog cameras needs a 2.5X relay lens to reach the film and fully fill a frame.

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Aside: Could you recommend any book on microscopy that would help me understand the lenses?....

I have just started looking. I will let you know if I find something good.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2020, 04:14:49 pm »
Do you have this camera? The description says it has a 1/2.3" sensor with a 7.9mm diagonal. If the camera port projects an image that is sized for a 1" sensor with a 15.9mm diagonal – as many do – the 0.5X lens will give just the right reduction to fit your sensor.

Yes, this is the camera that I'm using. I seem to have been mistaken in thinking its sensor was APS-C format.

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Apparently the 305 camera port already projects an image that is half as large. You should be able to mount your camera directly to the microscope and not need the reduction lens.
This is welcome news! Sounds like the Zeiss really could work as a drop-in replacement.

Having said that, I also have a Nikon D750 DSLR with full-frame sensor that I could use for this application. I have experimented with this on the Eakins using a C-mount adapter but it didn't seem to achieve better image quality, I assume because the optics are the limiting factor. Do you think that with Zeiss/Meiji optics this camera would be likely to provide a much better image due to its larger sensor and/or higher-end electronics? I suppose I would need a relay lens to enlarge the image for fit the 35mm sensor?
« Last Edit: November 15, 2020, 04:28:32 pm by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2020, 07:40:18 pm »
I apologize if I'm asking you to repeat yourself while I try to assemble my mental model. Here's how it looks to me now.

Zeiss Stemi 305 seems like a good deal for a drop-in AmScope replacement for EUR 850. Catch is that the barlow lenses run for EUR 250 each and I'd need at least the 0.75x which increases the starting cost.

Camera port should be directly compatible with my current preferred camera (RPi HQ.) This camera should be more than adequate for shooting ~1080p video (using the full sensor in 2x2 binned mode) and for taking stills in the native resolution of the sensor.

In the future I could potentially upgrade with a 2.5X relay lens to use my Nikon D750 DSLR. I'm assuming the quality won't be drastically different for 1080p video but might shine when taking really high resolution stills? That's a lower priority for me though especially since the RPi HQ can take stills at almost 4K resolution.

Could be that eBay alerts would turn up deals on accessories like barlow and relay lenses. I certainly wouldn't be in a hurry to buy too many accessories new at 10x the price of their AliExpress counterparts.

Looking at the Meiji and Nikon alternatives, it really seems like the older models that sell for good prices tend to have trinocular ports that need to be switched with the left eyepiece (e.g. Nikon SMZ-2T) and to have an "always on" camera port requires more expensive models (e.g. Nikon SMZ-U.) So the Zeiss Stemi 305 trino really does look like exceptional value for getting access to high-end optics. I'm not sure how to account for the lower build quality... expect at least five years of life, and potentially a low resale value?

EDIT: I also observe that the Zeiss online shop is selling Stemi 305 microscope head on "passive" stands like a traditional boom that don't have any electronics or power cables. This seems to support the idea that the microscope head doesn't have "DRM" electronics that require it to be used with the more integrated Zeiss stands.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2020, 07:43:20 pm by lukego »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2020, 09:01:42 am »
I apologize if I'm asking you to repeat yourself while I try to assemble my mental model. Here's how it looks to me now.

Microscopes have their share of complications and it does not hurt to address them sooner rather than later.

Quote
Zeiss Stemi 305 seems like a good deal for a drop-in AmScope replacement for EUR 850.

Overall, I am not sure what to tell you. In the past, Zeiss sold some inexpensive microscopes that were not really serviceable. This one might not be the one if you want or need a microscope to use for many years. I wonder if you could talk to Zeiss. Once upon a time, microscopes were sold through a network of representatives, who sold for the long term. They would discuss your applications, figure out what microscope was best and then let you try it to confirm it was the right one for you. That probably has all been eliminated in the name of shareholder value.

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... In the future I could potentially upgrade with a 2.5X relay lens to use my Nikon D750 DSLR....

You might want to research that if later you can not roll your own. All the c-mount camera adapters I have seen have assumed a one-inch image.

Quote
Looking at the Meiji and Nikon alternatives, it really seems like the older models that sell for good prices tend to have trinocular ports that need to be switched with the left eyepiece (e.g. Nikon SMZ-2T) and to have an "always on" camera port requires more expensive models (e.g. Nikon SMZ-U.)

They are not all that way. Meiji sells both types, for example, the EMZ-5TR and EMZ-8TR, and those two for the same price when I checked.

Quote
So the Zeiss Stemi 305 trino really does look like exceptional value for getting access to high-end optics. I'm not sure how to account for the lower build quality... expect at least five years of life, and potentially a low resale value?

I wonder if you could talk to Zeiss, explain that you need a better microscope than your present one, are unfamiliar with theirs and are intrigued by the 305. You could tell them you might need it for, say, 10–20 hours of rework and inspection per week, or whatever it is you might do, for however long. Then see if they think a 305 or something else would be a good or better fit.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2020, 09:06:40 am by jfiresto »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2020, 10:59:42 am »
Microscopes have their share of complications and it does not hurt to address them sooner rather than later.

Thank you for your patience!

I have done the parfocal adjustment now. I am really happy having the smooth zoom now! It's a testament to my ignorance that I didn't even know this was a thing and had been compensating with constant focus adjustment (and being shy about changing zoom level.)

I've now spent some time looking at the Zeiss Stemi 305. This seems fairly promising but has downsides e.g. lack of reviews, unknown implications of "made in China" aspect, and expensive accessories like $250-$350 barlow lenses.

Meiji SMZ-8TR looks interesting. One issue is that I haven't seen a 0.7x or 0.75x barlow lens listed as an accessory for this model? That's been the sweet spot for me on my Eakins which seems to have the same magnification and working distance range as the Meiji. I would struggle with field of view / working distance / magnification if I only had the 1.0x and 0.5x front optics (and no really quick way to switch between them.)

On eBay now I see a  Leica/Wild M420 Macroscope (https://www.ebay.com/itm/124169002343) for $1199 + shipping. Maybe this is one of the high-quality classic "don't make 'em like they used to" microscopes? I'm reading about this to try and see how it compares in terms of working distance and so on. I'm intrigued by features like the adjustable aperture on the camera port which I suspect would help with extending depth of field for stills. The Wild and Meiji auxiliary lenses seem to be a little more reasonably price that Zeiss, closer to $100 per lens, if I'm browsing correctly.

EDIT: Oh I see now that the M420 "macroscope" is not a stereo microscope and does not provide a 3D view with depth to the eyepieces. So much for that idea!

Quote
I wonder if you could talk to Zeiss, explain that you need a better microscope than your present one, are unfamiliar with theirs and are intrigued by the 305. You could tell them you might need it for, say, 10–20 hours of rework and inspection per week, or whatever it is you might do, for however long. Then see if they think a 305 or something else would be a good or better fit.

Maybe so. I have a deep resistance of engaging with the sales pipeline of these companies. Maybe too many experiences of being assessed as a cheapskate who is not worth spending time on :)
« Last Edit: November 16, 2020, 11:05:18 am by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #24 on: November 16, 2020, 11:56:31 am »
Pardon my continuing to think out aloud...

The objective lenses in the Zeiss Stemi 305 seem to have more magnification (minimum 1x compared with Eakins/AmScope 0.7x) and less magnification range (5:1 for 1x-5x verses 6.4x for 0.7x-4.5x.)

So I suppose it would not be a drop-in replacement in the sense that I couldn't continue to use the same field of view, working distance, and magnification range that I'm used to. That's potentially a real problem because longer working distance is limiting when working over a preheater, more magnification is limiting when placing parts before soldering, and less maximum magnification is limiting during inspection.

Maybe this is an important practical weakness of the Stemi 305. I see that the Stemi 508 has a 1:8 zoom ratio but at the expense of a cost explosion.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #25 on: November 16, 2020, 11:58:17 am »
... Meiji SMZ-8TR looks interesting. One issue is that I haven't seen a 0.7x or 0.75x barlow lens listed as an accessory for this model?...

I might suggest getting the 0.5X barlow lens for more working distance, and then two sets of eyepieces, one 10X and one 15X: to swap in and out, as it moves you, for more field of view or more magnification, respectively.

Quote
EDIT: Oh ... the M420 "macroscope" is not a stereo microscope and does not provide a 3D view with depth to the eyepieces. So much for that idea!...

Leica/Wild made some "S" models that you can use as standard, stereo microscopes or,  by moving the objective under one of the optical paths, as macroscopes – when you want to measure or photograph things, or peer down deep holes. The "S" models have about half the resolution of the M400/M420, but otherwise, they give you the best of both worlds.

Quote
Quote
I wonder if you could talk to Zeiss, explain that you need a better microscope than your present one, are unfamiliar with theirs and are intrigued by the 305. You could tell them you might need it for, say, 10–20 hours of rework and inspection per week, or whatever it is you might do, for however long. Then see if they think a 305 or something else would be a good or better fit.
Maybe so. I have a deep resistance of engaging with the sales pipeline of these companies. Maybe too many experiences of being assessed as a cheapskate who is not worth spending time on :)

I would not worry about that. Knowing what they charge, I expect, to Zeiss, most people look like cheapskates or were cheapsakes, including some who are now their customers. You should hear a dentist grumble about how much he had to pay for his surgical microscope, but I doubt he will ever, willingly, be parted from it.  ;D
 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #26 on: November 16, 2020, 11:58:40 am »
Note to self: I should also consider the possibility that the main problem in my Eakins is a low-quality reducer lens. This could potentially be cheap to correct. I have heard talk of such issues in the forum. I need to find videos of the quality that other people are achieving with this low-end equipment and see how mine compares.

EDIT: Having said that, looking through the eyepieces and reflecting on what I see, I suspect (without proof) that much better clarity is achieved by more reputable suppliers.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2020, 12:00:26 pm by lukego »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #27 on: November 16, 2020, 12:04:33 pm »
I have read a fair number of complaints about cheap relay lenses.
 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #28 on: November 16, 2020, 12:09:14 pm »
I might suggest getting the 0.5X barlow lens for more working distance, and then two sets of eyepieces, one 10X and one 15X: to swap in and out, as it moves you, for more field

I will spend a little time using the 0.5x barlow on my Eakins scope and see how that feels.

The working distance is valuable for having space to operate but it can strain my posture when working on a board that is elevated ~8cm over my preheater. However this may be more an issue with my desk chair being designed for a smaller person and not being able to give me a few cm more height...

re: 15x eyepieces, I suppose one issue with Zeiss is that you are reaching into your wallet for ~$250 for each small accessory like that. Is it the case that Meiji accessories sell for about half the price? If so it might even make sense to spring for a new SMZ-8TR if one anticipated needing a couple of barlow lenses and eyepieces.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #29 on: November 16, 2020, 01:50:24 pm »
Question: How compatible are the accessory lenses (barlow, relay, etc) between brands like Zeiss, Meiji, Nikon? Is the main concern mechanical (e.g. threads and diameters) or optical (e.g. corrections and focal lengths)? For example might one put a Zeiss 0.75x barlow lens on a Meiji microscope, or a pair of Meiji 15x eyepieces into a Nikon microscope?

Vision Engineering is the unexplored territory here. They seem to cost between $1k and $10k new but to have an active second hand market on eBay. I understand that their killer feature is ergonomics but do we know how they compare on e.g. optics or compatibility with accessories like C-mount cameras?

How would we evaluate an offer like this kitted-out older-model Vision Engineering Lynx Dynascope? (Aside from being over budget). https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vision-Engineering-LYNX-Dynascope-okularfreies-3D-Mikroskop-PCB-12-000-NP-OVP/184297419390
« Last Edit: November 16, 2020, 01:52:33 pm by lukego »
 

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #30 on: November 16, 2020, 02:02:40 pm »
I might suggest getting the 0.5X barlow lens for more working distance

This would imply a significant loss of light, right? I like the working distance of the 0.5x barlow but I worry that having the objective lens so far away means I'll spill too much light and have a hard time capturing decent video. Maybe that concern is misguided?
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #31 on: November 16, 2020, 02:44:48 pm »
... I like the working distance of the 0.5x barlow but I worry that having the objective lens so far away means I'll spill too much light and have a hard time capturing decent video. Maybe that concern is misguided?

Yes, stronger reflection is a challenge with a ring light at greater distances. Do you have room to use a couple spotlights shining more obliquely from the left and right sides?
« Last Edit: November 16, 2020, 02:52:30 pm by jfiresto »
 

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #32 on: November 16, 2020, 02:50:16 pm »
Question: How compatible are the accessory lenses (barlow, relay, etc) between brands like Zeiss, Meiji, Nikon?...

I have not had much luck with foreign barlow lens (auxiliary objectives). People get all sorts of relay lenses to more or less work, but it sometimes requires some optical improvisation. People mix adjustable stereo microscope eyepieces all the time. Non-adjustable ones can be hit and miss if the eyepiece tubes lack diopter adjustments.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #33 on: November 16, 2020, 04:19:43 pm »
Yes, stronger reflection is a challenge with a ring light at greater distances. Do you have room to use a couple spotlights shining more obliquely from the left and right sides?

Yes. I'm currently using a ring light with polarizer and oblique LED gooseneck lights. I find that at 1x the ring light by itself is okay, at 0.7x barlow adding the oblique lights makes it good, but at 0.5x barlow it becomes a challenge if I want to zoom in: I need to bring the gooseneck lights in so close that it cramps my working space (and can be blocked by PCB features like big connectors.)

I'm not sure how much light I'm losing due to cheap optics verses distance. Maybe the Zeiss would perform better? Just now though it feels like the 0.7x barlow lens represents the inflection point where buying working distance at the expense of optical strength stops being worth it. (Come to think of it the specific ring light I'm using steals about 20mm of working distance...)
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #34 on: November 16, 2020, 05:47:23 pm »
Summary for today!

Zeiss Stemi 305. Pro: Reasonable new price; Good optics (assumed: no test pictures seen.) Con: Limited magnification range; "made in China"; expensive accessories.

Meiji EMZ-8TR. Pro: Same objective magnification as AmScope; presumed good build quality (evidenced by second-hand market); less expensive accessories than Zeiss. Con: No barlow lens between 0.5x and 1.0x?; Camera port image small?; More expensive than Zeiss to buy new.
 
Nikon SMZ-U: Don't know.

Vision Engineering Mantis/Lynx: Don't know.

Olympus: Don't even know yet what model is their "AmScope."

Eakins: Pro: I already have one; it works. Con: Picture quality presumed relatively poor; bad performance on camera port; I'm reluctant to invest more money in low-end gear.

So... still no really obvious "spend a thousand dollars to upgrade your AmScope" path identified. Closest would seem to be setting an eBay alert on a Meiji SMZ-8TR.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #35 on: November 16, 2020, 06:38:51 pm »
FYI, tequipment.net quotes me $240.55 (before discount) when I total up the three parts in Meiji's SLR/NIKON/2.5X kit for mounting a Nikon FF camera with a T2-5 ring. It may be cheaper as a kit.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #36 on: November 17, 2020, 06:59:46 am »
Collecting my thoughts.

I have an Eakins microscope that works okay for my current requirements. This may not have been the optimal choice from the beginning, since I've bought a bunch of low-quality accessories like cameras and lenses and illuminators that cost real money when you add them together, but it gets the job done.

My "dream" microscope might be a Vision Engineering LYNX EVO. Great features: ergonomic design, quick objective lens switcher, camera capability (details unknown), oblique 360° viewing attachment. However I don't imagine acquiring one any time soon because they cost around $10k new, probably have limited service options, and amazingly poor product literature (I can't actually tell what the main difference is between the LYNX EVO and the much cheaper Mantis Elite despite much reading and youtubing.)

Maybe one day an eBay deal on such a microscope will come along, and maybe at that time I'll have a project that justifies the purchase, but also quite possibly not.

So what to do in the meantime? Maybe in parallel I can continue to research what would be the "dream" microscope so that I'm ready if and when opportunity and budget present themselves. I suppose that I could also invest in a better microscope than I have now provided it has good expected resale value in case it underwhelms or is replaced within a couple of years.

So that brings me back to scanning eBay for a deal on a Meiji EMZ-8TR that's probably a good upgrade from the Eakins, could probably be resold without losing much, and might end up being all that I ever want and need. I should check if there are any other brands/models to search for in parallel.

Zeiss Stemi 305... seems that it was not to be. Sure is shiny and does have an attractive new price, but risk is that the more limited magnification range would be aggravating, that the accessories like barlow lenses would be too expensive, and that the resale value would be disappointing.

Meanwhile I already have another microscope to setup and play with: a cheap monocular head on a stand to try with the RaspberryPi and Eakins cameras. https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/microscope-stand-with-0-12-1-8x-lens Maybe this will be a good solution for inspection and close-up photography. In this setup I should be able to bring the lenses and lights in much closer to the subject. Maybe I'll even find that inspection is what I'm most interested in and come back to look at that non-stereo Wild Macroscope again one day...

Thanks so much jfiresto for all your guidance on this journey :)
« Last Edit: November 17, 2020, 07:01:31 am by lukego »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #37 on: November 17, 2020, 01:38:21 pm »
You are welcome. I hope you find a nice microscope!

I would not limit yourself to getting just a used Meiji EMZ-8TR or Meiji off e-bay. There are many other good alternatives, and like buying a used car, arguably the first thing is to get a microscope that was looked after and in good condition. It is a pity you did not start this thread a couple months ago, as a first time ebayer listed an older model I know fairly well, together with a couple stands. I did not buy because I had no need for the microscope, but I would have been happy to take and adapt one of the stands, check out the rest and send it on to you. It would have made the deal and a good one.

What is the diameter of the post of your microscope stand, the vertical post to which you clamp the microscope cradle? Is it 20mm like that older model?
« Last Edit: November 17, 2020, 02:06:13 pm by jfiresto »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #38 on: November 17, 2020, 04:02:07 pm »
I would not limit yourself to getting just a used Meiji EMZ-8TR or Meiji off e-bay.

Thanks for the advice! I'm open to any and all possibilities.

Quote
What is the diameter of the post of your microscope stand, the vertical post to which you clamp the microscope cradle? Is it 20mm like that older model?

I have an articulating arm stand without a post. I don't especially like it - I don't need the mobility and it needs extra support to avoid wobbles - but I was quoted $250+ to replace it with a double boom stand and that's not a high enough priority at the moment.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #39 on: November 18, 2020, 05:59:28 pm »
This is venturing off topic now but I'm also considering whether a DSLR macro lens might make sense as an optical upgrade instead. Maybe I could pick up a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 and use my Nikon D750 to take 24MP photos of PCBs or individual soldered ICs. Maybe an automated focus stacking setup would make it easier to get an oblique view instead of trying to focus in realtime on the microscope while manipulating the board.

Food for thought!
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #40 on: November 24, 2020, 04:10:32 pm »
Back again!

I find myself looking at a series of dead-ends:

  • Zeiss Stemi 305 looks great BUT crazy expensive ecosystem and potential compatibility issues (e.g. I don't think my polarized ring light will fit its wide diameter.)
  • Macro lens for DSLR would surely take incredibly fine pictures BUT guessing I'd still do 95% of my work under the microscope rather than observing a photo.
  • $50 reducer lens might fix my immediate image quality problems BUT death of a thousand cuts to keep investing in endless bits of cheap crappy optics from China.

Current temptation is to simply buy a Meiji 8TR or 13TR brand new with all relevant barlow and relay lenses and a (non-brand) double-boom stand. This would cost more like $2500. This way I would have the high quality Meiji microscope AND my current Eakins to operate side-by-side. This actually seems pretty attractive e.g. Eakins for low magnification like placing parts beside the Meiji for high-magnification like microsoldering.

Questions!

Is this a reasonable plan, supposing the budget would allow? (How likely are Meiji optics to disappoint an Eakins owner?)

Is the 8TR or 13TR the better option? (The latter seems to just have more magnification and closer working distance more akin to the Zeiss Stemi 305?)

How does one buy a Meiji in Europe when willing to pay new prices but not wanting to be overcharged or oversold?

Is there a better option to consider if the budget were stretched to ~$2500 for a full setup sans illumination? (I would be shopping as a small business so I'd save 25% VAT on new products but not on second-hand.)
« Last Edit: November 24, 2020, 04:12:14 pm by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #41 on: November 24, 2020, 07:41:29 pm »
Talking to myself again :-)

I'm not about to run out and spend $2500 on a shiny new Meiji but it does seem like that's probably a realistic budget for a good microscope setup given the requirements. That's partly because the microscope head and accessories cost real money and partly because once you've spent that much then why not also pick up a heavy double-boom stand at the same time.

I'm still tempted by the DSLR macro lens. I'm starting to wonder if that could potentially even be used as an alternative to the microscope camera port? I mean a use a stereo microscope combined with a macro shot from an oblique angle. If so that could potentially open up a whole new range of options since there are a LOT more microscopes on the market, especially the second-hand market, if you take split trinocular operation off the requirements list.
 

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #42 on: November 26, 2020, 02:28:29 pm »
Current status: Contacting Meiji for a quote on an EMZ-8TR headpiece with 15x eyepieces and 0.5x barlow lens. TEquipment.com price this at $1813 but I'm concerned about potential fees related to import from the USA. I haven't had much luck contacting a local distributor in Europe now but I'm scouring the web for one.

I am building up my confidence in Meiji the more I read. The quality seems to be high - and new microscopes come with a lifetime guarantee? - and the accessories extensive and fairly reasonably priced. I think that I would have been much better of buying a Meiji from the beginning instead of cheap Aliexpress optics and an endless procession of cheap lenses/cameras/illuminators to try and workaround their weaknesses.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #43 on: November 26, 2020, 03:52:41 pm »
ORDERED!

Just placed an order with TEquipment.net for Meiji EMZ-8TR with 10x and 15x eyepieces and 2.5X camera adapter to use with my full-frame Nikon DSLR. Total cost $2000 including shipping and EEVBlog community discount.

I called the Swedish customs office and they say there are no tariffs on import of stereo optical microscopes from the USA and that import VAT can be reclaimed as this is a business purchase: I sure hope those details are right.

Thanks jfiresto for all your advice! I'm confident now that this is the right choice and that the original $1000 budget is only realistic for excellent second-hand deals. I prefer to buy new to get the lifetime warranty and avoid risks of my not being an expert eBay shopper.

I can't afford that JBC JNASE that I had my eye on anymore but I'm feeling confident that I'll get more value out of a quality microscope for now.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #44 on: November 26, 2020, 04:16:54 pm »
... Just placed an order with TEquipment.net for Meiji EMZ-8TR with 10x and 15x eyepieces and 2.5X camera adapter to use with my full-frame Nikon DSLR. Total cost $2000 including shipping and EEVBlog community discount....

You did what?! What about all the adventures of buying used junk on ebay that you will not get to savour? :) I am happy for you, that you got everything sorted out, and I think you will enjoy the new microscope.

I have one tiny, little question, however. If the microscope is from Meiji Techno America, will their European colleagues also support the warranty?
« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 04:26:09 pm by jfiresto »
 

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #45 on: November 26, 2020, 04:48:19 pm »
Should you feel a little buyer's remorse, click here.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #46 on: November 26, 2020, 05:39:54 pm »
Should you feel a little buyer's remorse, click here.

Thanks! I had actually come across that page and discovered the Microbehunter forum and read all their relevant threads too :).

Having placed the order I hope to now stop waking up in the middle of the night thinking of new microscope buying keywords to search for :). The new Meiji seems like a valid choice between restoring a vintage Wild scope or mortgaging the house for a Lynx EVO.

If I didn't buy this now I'd have given in to the temptation of a DSLR macro lens and that would have felt like yet more expensive dancing around the need for a quality microscope.

« Last Edit: November 26, 2020, 05:46:48 pm by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #47 on: November 26, 2020, 05:53:56 pm »
... Just placed an order with TEquipment.net for Meiji EMZ-8TR with 10x and 15x eyepieces and 2.5X camera adapter to use with my full-frame Nikon DSLR. Total cost $2000 including shipping and EEVBlog community discount....
I have one tiny, little question, however. If the microscope is from Meiji Techno America, will their European colleagues also support the warranty?

I wonder about that too. But I showed the Meiji UK people the TEquipment price and they could only offer about $500 higher cost even after shipping. So I'm willing to take a chance on possible return to US for service to save that cash now.

I couldn't find a distributor in continental Europe, maybe there's one that I missed though.
 

Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #48 on: November 26, 2020, 06:20:33 pm »
... Just placed an order with TEquipment.net for Meiji EMZ-8TR with 10x and 15x eyepieces and 2.5X camera adapter to use with my full-frame Nikon DSLR. Total cost $2000 including shipping and EEVBlog community discount....
I have one tiny, little question, however. If the microscope is from Meiji Techno America, will their European colleagues also support the warranty?

I wonder about that too. But I showed the Meiji UK people the TEquipment price and they could only offer about $500 higher cost even after shipping. So I'm willing to take a chance on possible return to US for service to save that cash now.

I couldn't find a distributor in continental Europe, maybe there's one that I missed though.

Are you going to go with a particular Barlow lens?
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #49 on: November 26, 2020, 06:47:49 pm »
... I couldn't find a distributor in continental Europe, maybe there's one that I missed though....

Clicking on the Meiji Techno Europe link forwards me to Meiji Techno America. I tried ringing both their numbers but today is a national holiday.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #50 on: November 26, 2020, 07:34:31 pm »
Are you going to go with a particular Barlow lens?

Good question!

0.7x is what I use on my Eakins. I like that compromise on field of view / magnification / working distance. However that's exactly the lens that is NOT available for the Meiji.

I'll initially try using the 0.5x barlow with 15x eyepieces. I'm anticipating longer working distance, larger field of view on the camera port, and same close-up view on the eyepieces. The camera port will have a full-frame 35MP DSLR camera so for inspection I should be able to take big high-res stills and then digitally zoom.

I'll also experiment with no barlow lens and with the barlow and 10x eyepieces. I'm curious to see how the new optics affect the levels of zoom and lighting that I find usable. Maybe it will work better to zoom from further away with the 0.5x barlow than it does on my Eakins? Curious to find out.
 

Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #51 on: November 27, 2020, 05:15:47 am »
Sounds like a good plan.  Several variables to dial-in including working distance, fov, height of the oculars after bench height and any board holding device height, and your height (seated or standing).  All things considered the 0.5 Barlow probably is a good starting point and might be the eventual winner.  Congrats on the new scope.  Looking forward to hearing about what you see through the oculars and with the camera.  I’m betting the EMZ-8TR is going to have very sharp optics. 

Edit:
You have probably already looked at this but if not it has a handy chart with various measurements.
https://www.microscopeworld.com/p-886-meiji-emz-8tr-trinocular-zoom-stereo-body.aspx

Edit 2:
https://www.microscope.com/meiji-techno-auxiliary-barlows-emz-8-series.html
- interesting to see .44 and others
« Last Edit: November 27, 2020, 05:25:57 am by Electro Fan »
 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #52 on: November 27, 2020, 07:38:14 am »
I confess that I haven't looked in great detail at the working distance table. I'm assuming that I'll be able to make it work and that my past experience will be complicated by too many other factors to rely on (chair too low for working distance, low quality relay lens, scars from battles with camera sensors and illumination, meh results when zooming the objective lens, etc.) I'll approach the new setup as a blank slate I reckon.

Switching to full-frame DSLR after the RaspberryPi will be interesting too. On the downside I won't be ssh'ing in to run Linux commands. On the upside I can still script it using a Linux library (libgphoto2) to take stills and videos, I have a 1080p60 HDMI live view for realtime display and/or video capture, and I'm drooling at the prospect of capturing 35MP stills for later inspection e.g. to look closely at an SMT LED to see how I damaged it during soldering. I also read that the 20 minute limit on video recording on my Nikon camera (artificial to avoid camcorder tariffs) can be bypassed with a modded firmware  8)

Early Christmas coming up for me  ;D
« Last Edit: November 27, 2020, 07:45:31 am by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #53 on: November 29, 2020, 03:20:16 pm »
Oh no! Buyers remorse has kicked in and I'm exploring my options (the Meiji hasn't shipped yet.)

I do think the Meiji is the best trinocular microscope option for me. But... maybe I'd be better off without a trinocular microscope? Maybe I should think different? Like...

How about if I picked up a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 DSLR macro lens to record my work sessions and then used a Leica A60 binocular microscope for my eyes only? Maybe that would deliver really spectacular next-level quality for the same money (or less) compared with the kitted-out Meiji?

This route would involve more work. Likely multiple cameras each with a fixed zoom to capture different fields of view. Code to coordinate recording and archive video. Having to account for recordings not capturing the same image that I'm seeing. Having to deal with multiple cameras when reviewing work.

Maybe that suits my personality though. I like to spend time optimizing things and I have a fear of missing out better approaches (ask me how many soldering stations I have on my bench.) I also have a bunch of cameras lying around (DSLR, RPi, Eakins) that are available to bring into my electronics workflow.

Maybe trinocular microscopes are really for other people. People working in tandem between a student and a teacher, people live steaming on the internet, people who value convenience above quality and price.

These are deep questions. I will have to see if I'm able to cancel the Meiji order before I decide how deeply to dig into these!
« Last Edit: November 29, 2020, 03:36:42 pm by lukego »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #54 on: November 29, 2020, 05:55:08 pm »
I only have one good camera with a reasonable macro mode, a point and shoot, Canon 330 HS, so I am sure you know much more about macrophotography than I do. With that said, there are images I can only capture through a microscope, because of its better illumination or greater magnification or both.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2020, 05:57:07 pm by jfiresto »
 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #55 on: November 29, 2020, 06:08:50 pm »
I only have one good camera with a reasonable macro mode, a point and shoot, Canon 330 HS, so I am sure you know much more about macrophotography than I do. With that said, there are images I can only capture through a microscope, because of its better illumination or greater magnification or both.

I have never actually taken a photograph with a macro lens yet :-). But I have checked my videos and seen that ~20mm field of view is the closest that I usually zoom in even e.g. to work with 01005. My understanding is that a 1:1 macro lens should capture a 35mm field of view on the sensor and for 1080p video that could be cropped down close to 20mm. My Eakins scope performs pretty awfully at this level of magnification (with 0.7x barlow) but my understanding is the macro should be extremely sharp and with a choice of apertures to manage depth of field.

But if the Meiji ends up shipping I don't think I'll have much trouble deciding that it's all for the best and dropping this line of inquiry :)

Aside: what microscope(s) do you use and what are your usual ranges of magnification? I suspect that my imagination is limited by the quality of this only microscope I have ever used i.e. I probably don't appreciate the true value of high magnification yet.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #56 on: November 29, 2020, 06:31:18 pm »
I have been hunting for used cameras on ebay for the last couple years. Plenty of listings include a photo of the sensor, but I have yet to see one that shows any dust that might shadow the sensor at small apertures. Here is a camera sensor I photographed with a microscope, a sensor that looked clean in the listing:



Even reduced to 1024x785 pixels, you can see lots of interesting debris that an authorized camera dealer could not capture with just a camera. For example the sphere of tiny particles toward the top right where perhaps a contaminated droplet hit the sensor and evaporated (the full sized image cropped):



Perhaps, the lighting needed to be just right and I was more lucky. But then again, I probably had much tighter lighting and extra magnification to zoom in and explore.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2020, 07:07:02 pm by jfiresto »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #57 on: November 29, 2020, 06:57:19 pm »
... Aside: what microscope(s) do you use and what are your usual ranges of magnification? I suspect that my imagination is limited by the quality of this only microscope I have ever used i.e. I probably don't appreciate the true value of high magnification yet.

I have two sister models I have been fixing up, a Wild M7A and a Wild M7S, with 6-31X zoom and, if I make no mistake, semi-plan, common main objectives. I took the above photos with the M7S in macroscope mode, with the camera shooting through the center of the objective (and no auxiliary lens).
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #58 on: November 30, 2020, 10:20:19 am »
I suppose that the Wild Macroscopes are really optimized for this kind of very fine inspection work. Maybe that is what you would want for inspecting a tiny silicon die for example? Or to zoom in and see defects on components that are already tiny to begin with. That kind of stuff sounds like amazing fun.

I think that my use cases are mostly different. I'm mostly manipulating objects and switching between a zoomed out ("whole PCB") view verses a close up ("soldering a part") view. I often want an oblique view to check for soldering faults. I'm also starting to do other related things like placing probes and I'm not sure what level of zoom is best there.

Maybe I should be using three scopes in parallel. HDMI camera connected to monitor for the zoomed out view where stereo vision has limited utility. Stereo microscope at close working distance for soldering. Oblique view from macro camera on a boom arm at a polite distance.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #59 on: November 30, 2020, 06:55:53 pm »
Onward!

TEquipment.net graciously allowed me to cancel the order for the Meiji microscope.

I've ordered a Tamron 90mm macro lens for my DSLR. I'll need to learn a little macro photography and videography now. Then I'll have a better idea of my requirements on the microscope e.g. whether it needs a camera port and for what use cases.

Maybe I'll end up back at the Meiji but this feels like reasonable due diligence.

I'll also take a second look at the optics in my lab. Maybe the barlow lens is emphasising the problems in the lens and I should wean myself off that. Maybe I can improve the picture on the camera port e.g. maybe I have a mistake now like a missing C/CS adapter or something. Maybe it's worth trying more things with the Eakins to understand my requirements better before buying my "for the next decade" microscope.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2020, 06:58:22 pm by lukego »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #60 on: December 04, 2020, 07:52:38 am »
I have my DSLR macro lens now. I haven't had a chance to play with it because I'm moving house this week. This all keeps me busy so that I have time to consider microscope requirements.

I'm starting to think that I want a microscope with a large zoom range. More like 1:10 than 1:5. I reflect that I've always struggled with wanting to switch barlow lenses while working and this is a sign that the zoom range on my Eakins is restrictively small. The same would apply to the Meiji.

However objectives with larger zoom ratios are more expensive e.g. Zeiss Stemi 508 vs 305 and Leica S9 verses A60. Maybe 5x more expensive once all is said and done. So this leads me back to considering a second-hand microscope like a Nikon SMZ-U that would seem to check all the boxes and sell for ~$1000 on eBay.

I've also become aware of a potential "killer feature" to vary the aperture between eyepices to increase depth of field. This might make it practical to take slightly oblique views while working without extra expensive optics. This feature seems to exist on at least Leica and Nikon microscopes.

I'm looking forward to comparing the Eakins microscope with the Tamron macro lens once I've reassembled my lab!

Aside: The photos I've seen people post from their expensive microscopes have mostly looked pretty "meh" to me so far. The examples I'm thinking of seemed quite washed out. I suspect the issue is too much glare from vertically aligned illumination. Good reminder that expensive optics are not the only factor, nor necessarily the most important once, for getting good images.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #61 on: December 04, 2020, 11:25:12 am »
I have my DSLR macro lens now. I haven't had a chance to play with it because I'm moving house this week. This all keeps me busy so that I have time to consider microscope requirements.

I'm starting to think that I want a microscope with a large zoom range. More like 1:10 than 1:5. I reflect that I've always struggled with wanting to switch barlow lenses while working and this is a sign that the zoom range on my Eakins is restrictively small. The same would apply to the Meiji.

I think you will definitely notice the restricted zoom range of the macro lens! At 1:1, it is equivalent to, what, a fixed 10X power microscope – albeit with much higher resolution. Resolution is the factor that limits the acceptable zoom range. As a rule, you can magnify up to 500–1000 times the Numerical Aperture before you start suffering "empty magnification" (the image turning impressionistic). The NA for routine, Greenough microscopes, such as your Eakins or the EMZ-5, is 0.06~0.07, so you should not expect more than 30~70X of useful magnification – multiplied by whatever auxiliary/barlow lens you attach. You need a research grade, usually CMO, microscope with a higher NA objective to support a proportionally greater zoom range. An SMZ-U would answer nicely if you have the room.

Quote
I've also become aware of a potential "killer feature" to vary the aperture between eyepieces to increase depth of field....

That is a common add-on for a CMO microscope and often included when you insert a photo tube.

Quote
Aside: The photos I've seen people post from their expensive microscopes have mostly looked pretty "meh" to me so far. The examples I'm thinking of seemed quite washed out. I suspect the issue is too much glare from vertically aligned illumination....

I suspect people are sometimes a little too quick using the ring light.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2020, 12:12:57 pm by jfiresto »
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #62 on: December 04, 2020, 12:22:45 pm »
I think you will definitely notice the restricted zoom range of the macro lens! At 1:1, it is equivalent to, what, a fixed 10X power microscope – albeit with much higher resolution. Resolution is the factor that limits the acceptable zoom range. As a rule, you can magnify up to 500–1000 times the Numerical Aperture before you start suffering "empty magnification" (the image turning impressionistic). The NA for routine, Greenough microscopes, such as your Eakins or the EMZ-5, is 0.06~0.07, so you should not expect more than 30~70X of useful magnification – multiplied by whatever auxiliary/barlow lens you attach. You need a research grade, usually CMO, microscope with a higher NA objective to support a proportionally greater zoom range. An SMZ-U would answer nicely if you have the room.

Thanks for fleshing out the details here! I'm looking on eBay now and there seem to be about a dozen SMZ-U microscopes listed at the moment, many sold from the US where the dollar is looking quite cheap compared with the Swedish kronor lately too. Do you think it would make sense to try and buy one of these eBay microscopes or else what would be your strategy for acquiring one? (I'm not in a rush but maybe I could set relevant alerts while I keep on thinking.)

I'm sure the macro lens will be quite limited. My main ambition is to be able to take high-resolution focus stacked images of whole boards from oblique angles. I hope to fully automate this process by driving the camera via its USB remote control interface (libgphoto2 library on Linux.) This would be great for capturing the overall state of a board and checking or e.g. misplaced and misoriented components, tombstoned passives, that kind of thing. I find this a little laborious to do under a microscope or to review as panning video.

My stretch goal with the macro is to record soldering sessions for later review and sharing. How much heat did I really put into that chip? How likely is it that a BGA slipped across pads under the hot air gun and messed up the solder balls? Is there something that went badly that I can show to people for advice about doing better? Is there something that went well that I can brag about on the internet? etc.

I would still be doing the actual work underneath the microscope at high magnification. Quite likely I'd still want the video from a camera port in addition to any macro lens video but I need more data on this question.

 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #63 on: December 04, 2020, 03:12:56 pm »
An SMZ-U would answer nicely if you have the room.

Thanks also for the note about room. I need to read more about the SMZ-U form factor. I don't like the stands that I'm seeing it on and perhaps its focusing block doesn't permit much choice. Have to read.

Do any other make/models come to mind when you think about microscopes that are relatively available second hand for ~$1000, have a high magnification ratio, and an adjustable aperture?
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #64 on: December 04, 2020, 05:08:15 pm »
... I'm looking on eBay now and there seem to be about a dozen SMZ-U microscopes listed at the moment, many sold from the US where the dollar is looking quite cheap compared with the Swedish kronor lately too. Do you think it would make sense to try and buy one of these eBay microscopes or else what would be your strategy for acquiring one?...

If there was a high chance you were going to keep it, but I suspect that is not true of the the microscopes I looked at. I tend to the notion they were bought at surplus property auctions, for little money, by people who have no idea of what they are re-selling. Not that is necessarily a bad thing: I got a crucial piece for a microscope that way, but I only paid $400 at first and eventually half that after I explained what might be salvageable and the seller realized what he he might have to pay to take everything back.

The problem with something more expensive, such as a full microscope, is that if you have to return it, you might not get back the VAT importing it into the EU, overseas shipping costs and brokerage fees.

(Here is a SMZ-U that was sold at an American government auction.)
« Last Edit: December 04, 2020, 05:17:07 pm by jfiresto »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #65 on: December 04, 2020, 05:14:21 pm »
... Do any other make/models come to mind when you think about microscopes that are relatively available second hand for ~$1000, have a high magnification ratio, and an adjustable aperture?
I can not think of one off hand. There was an Olympus that looked promising but then I read reports about an overstressed, unobtainable part in its focus mechanism.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #66 on: December 04, 2020, 07:37:24 pm »
If there was a high chance you were going to keep it, but I suspect that is not true of the the microscopes I looked at. I tend to the notion they were bought at surplus property auctions, for little money, by people who have no idea of what they are re-selling. Not that is necessarily a bad thing: I got a crucial piece for a microscope that way, but I only paid $400 at first and eventually half that after I explained what might be salvageable and the seller realized what he he might have to pay to take everything back.

So perhaps a well refurbished SMZ-U with warranty is worth about $2500 (Microscope Central asking price) while a random dodgy unit might list on eBay for $1000 but only be worth $500 even to a sophisticated buyer who is able to make repairs and substitute parts.

Since I'm not a sophisticated buyer I suppose that I should consider the price of an SMZ-U to be around $2500. That's real money. It's even edging up towards the price of a brand new Zeiss Stemi 508 or Leica S9D.
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #67 on: December 04, 2020, 07:47:17 pm »
Since I'm not a sophisticated buyer I suppose that I should consider the price of an SMZ-U to be around $2500. That's real money....
It is and I would not pay that unless you have to have it next week. With a little patience, you should do much better than that.
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #68 on: December 04, 2020, 07:49:47 pm »
Since I'm not a sophisticated buyer I suppose that I should consider the price of an SMZ-U to be around $2500. That's real money....
It is and I would not pay that unless you have to have it next week. With a little patience, you should do much better than that.

How would one approach that? Is the strategy along the lines of How to win at eBay? Or would one take a different tack e.g. look for local auctions in a smaller market, look for second hand sales on forums like Microbehunters, etc?
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #69 on: December 05, 2020, 09:44:40 am »
How would one approach that? Is the strategy along the lines of How to win at eBay? Or would one take a different tack e.g. look for local auctions in a smaller market, look for second hand sales on forums like Microbehunters, etc?

I have gotten most of my stuff off ebay, but that involves a fair amount of work and waiting, and the occasional seller who makes life needlessly difficult.
 
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Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #70 on: December 05, 2020, 11:23:38 pm »
Oh no! Buyers remorse has kicked in and I'm exploring my options (the Meiji hasn't shipped yet.)

I do think the Meiji is the best trinocular microscope option for me. But... maybe I'd be better off without a trinocular microscope? Maybe I should think different? Like...

How about if I picked up a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 DSLR macro lens to record my work sessions and then used a Leica A60 binocular microscope for my eyes only? Maybe that would deliver really spectacular next-level quality for the same money (or less) compared with the kitted-out Meiji?

This route would involve more work. Likely multiple cameras each with a fixed zoom to capture different fields of view. Code to coordinate recording and archive video. Having to account for recordings not capturing the same image that I'm seeing. Having to deal with multiple cameras when reviewing work.

Maybe that suits my personality though. I like to spend time optimizing things and I have a fear of missing out better approaches (ask me how many soldering stations I have on my bench.) I also have a bunch of cameras lying around (DSLR, RPi, Eakins) that are available to bring into my electronics workflow.

Maybe trinocular microscopes are really for other people. People working in tandem between a student and a teacher, people live steaming on the internet, people who value convenience above quality and price.

These are deep questions. I will have to see if I'm able to cancel the Meiji order before I decide how deeply to dig into these!

I think it's possible you are over thinking this.  I recently went through something similar (including lots of thinking and maybe over thinking) with an Amscope.  I worried that the trinocular (simulfocal) port would somehow degrade the binocular view.  While I can't claim there is any way to prove if it does or doesn't, I can say that the binocular view is much better than the camera view - and for what it does, the camera view is ok enough.  I'd describe the camera view as somewhere between barely acceptable (generally when reviewing images from the SD card on the computer) and occasionally impressive (generally when watching the video via the HDMI connection on the monitor next to the scope). 

So while it's possible that leaving out the third port might have made the first two (ocular) ports even better, I think the 2 port binocular view is A-ok.  It is sharp.  Even after a few weeks of having the Amcope when I look in oculars I sometimes go "wow."  Could it be sharper?  I can imagine that it could be but compared to anything else I've experienced (which is close to nada for soldering), it's very exciting to see SMD and other PCB stuff with such clear detail.  I had almost almost never soldered SMD before (I did once manage to drag solder an IC) but now I'm working my way though resistors and capacitors in 1206 to 0805 to 0603 to 0402.  I can't claim to be very good at any of them but at least I can see what I'm doing and I can solder each size in place.  0402 is pushing it but I can pick them up with a tweezers, put them in place and solder them.  With the tweezers I can pick up even the 0402 without the scope but there would have been no chance of soldering the 0402 and most of the other SMDs without the Amscope.  (To the naked eyes the 0402 while sitting on the antistatic pad on my bench look more like big dust than electrical components.) 

My guess is that your Meiji is going to be somewhere between somewhat better and a lot better than the Amscope; it's just a guess - but I have a hunch you are going to find the direct optical view on the Meiji to be excellent.  Whether it could possibly be still a tad better without the 3rd port, again, I don't know but I think you will find that having the 3rd port for digital capture is a very nice addition to the overall scope capability - especially given the uses you have described.  My guess is that the Meiji digital view will also be a step up from the Amscope digital view (assuming the same digital camera, and your camera will probably be still better). 

After going through the Amscope configuration study process, looking around to see what the other alternatives (new and used) might be, and watching you go through the process I think the Meiji looks like the next best step up from an Amscope.  Just guessin' but I think/hope your Meiji is going to be a very good scope for you.

Keep us posted on what you do / learn.
 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #71 on: December 08, 2020, 10:27:49 pm »
Ooops I did it again...

I ordered a Leica S9 D on a double boom arm with 0.5x camera adapter and 0.5x barlow lens from Spectra Services. $4500 with shipping. I'll be the pauper wearing old rags while peeping into a shiny brand new microscope :)

This takes quite a bite out of the 2021 budget but I've wrestled this this problem for long enough now. I doubt that I'll regret upgrading to the S9 from my AliExpress scope. I think that with a Meiji or a Leica A60 the risk is I'd be stuck forever with something doesn't really fit all the requirements (camera port, zoom range.)

I'm sure there's a parallel universe where I ended up with something like a Nikon SMZ-U on eBay for under $1000 but I decided that route is a bit too risky for my taste and my (demonstrably) impulsive temperament. Chances are I'd end up with half a dozen scopes that don't work and *then* buy a new one.

Once it arrives I'll stick the RPi on it and see how it performs. I have high expectations based on the few Youtube videos I've seen with test footage from the S9.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2020, 04:43:15 am by lukego »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #72 on: December 09, 2020, 08:46:39 am »
Ohhhh, that one has apochromatic objectives and should be very nice.

A trick when taking images is to tilt the specimen or the microscope to make the two perpendicular, so that the camera is not viewing the specimen at the usual 5-6° angle.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2020, 08:49:48 am by jfiresto »
 
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Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #73 on: December 11, 2020, 02:16:42 pm »
Congrats!
Looks excellent!

https://youtu.be/c1tffQGup2Q


 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #74 on: December 11, 2020, 07:02:48 pm »
Congrats!
Looks excellent!

Thanks!

I saw these product description/demo videos and was intrigued but what finally sold me was some random video clips taken through the eyepieces. The image quality throughout the zoom range is well beyond what I'm used to.





« Last Edit: December 11, 2020, 07:07:39 pm by lukego »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #75 on: December 11, 2020, 08:05:33 pm »
I saw these product description/demo videos and was intrigued but what finally sold me was some random video clips taken through the eyepieces. The image quality throughout the zoom range is well beyond what I'm used to.

Just the zoom range is well beyond what I am used to. ;D

That is cool. The left side gives you depth and right side gives you detail. Which side goes to the camera? Can you choose?
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #76 on: December 11, 2020, 10:32:12 pm »
That is cool. The left side gives you depth and right side gives you detail. Which side goes to the camera? Can you choose?

I don't think that you can choose. My speculation is that it will come from the right side because the left will already lose a lot of light in reducing the aperture for depth of field. So the "spare" brightness on the right could be given to the camera. But I guess Leica did a lot of research about how (most people's...) brains interpret the signal to make the choice.
 

Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #77 on: December 11, 2020, 11:13:54 pm »
Congrats!
Looks excellent!

Thanks!

I saw these product description/demo videos and was intrigued but what finally sold me was some random video clips taken through the eyepieces. The image quality throughout the zoom range is well beyond what I'm used to.







The zoom range and the quality on those videos look really good but I'm betting that as good as they are the direct optical view is going to be amazingly super duper outstanding.  My guess is that you have pioneered the forum forward to what we might start referring to as the BGA Lll Principle"If you are skilled enough to do BGA soldering you should have a Leica like lukego:)
 

Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #78 on: December 12, 2020, 07:33:28 am »
"If you are skilled enough to do BGA soldering you should have a Leica like lukego:)

I feel quite self-conscious that I'm using high-end tools while still doing very newbie-level work. Forum veterans seem to get the job done using basic and even improvised tools while I've spent most of my first year of electronics just working out what stuff to buy. I'm coming to electronics later in life though and I suppose that it's rational to use special equipment to compensate for my lack of experience (having misspent my youth doing software rather than hardware.)
 

Offline Electro Fan

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #79 on: December 12, 2020, 05:50:19 pm »
I have a theory that while everyone has a budget and a sense of what is an appropriate amount to spend on test equipment and tools vs everything else in life that the ability to measure and visualize can definitely accelerate and enhance the learning process - which can lead to valuable knowledge, skills, and improved productivity, plus a lot of enjoyment as the previously difficult to see and not so well understood becomes better seen, better understood, and better managed.  We are living in an age where the tools to learn are a major blessing and a great opportunity for human development.  Congrats and enjoy!
 
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Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #80 on: December 13, 2020, 10:36:47 am »
I feel quite self-conscious that I'm using high-end tools while still doing very newbie-level work. Forum veterans seem to get the job done using basic and even improvised tools while I've spent most of my first year of electronics just working out what stuff to buy....

Leica considers the S9 a "routine" microscope. You are investing in a good tool that will allow you to see things that you would otherwise not know and do things that you would not otherwise be able to do – not just next month or next year, but quite possibly for decades. I think you will find the microscope a good investment and a good experience. I doubt I am the only one, here, who wished he had gotten a good microscope years earlier. Enjoy the new microscope!
 
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Offline lukego

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #81 on: January 10, 2021, 11:14:39 am »
Got the Leica S9D now. My impression is that it's basically like a luxury version of the AmScope. It does basically the same things in basically the same way but it does each of them about twice as well. Brightness, zoom range, clarity at high mag, depth of field, ergonomics are all substantially better. Build quality feels the same.

Overall I'm satisfied. I think that the research I did gave me realistic expectations, especially watching those random Youtube videos taken through the eyepiece. I am glad that I went for the more expensive microscope with longer zoom range because that's really the killer feature for me: going fluidly between "whole board" and "that 0402 over there." I'm also satisfied that I bought new because I really spent waaay too much time fighting with cheap optics in 2020

The S9 is compatible with my polarizing ring light from the AmScope (phew) but for now I prefer just using four gooseneck lights. Here's a video showing it off together with my preheater-on-a-lazy-susan bench setup. I'm not sure if the RPi camera is really doing it justice, I'm capturing at less than 1080p, but it's good enough for me for now.

« Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 11:16:17 am by lukego »
 

Offline Finderbinder

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #82 on: January 23, 2021, 09:53:22 pm »
Hello,
had this microscope choosing dilema a year ago. Thought between used well known brands and new unbranded. Found some Youtube videos (reviews) with very positive impressions about two unbranded models from Aliexpress:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000297444680.html?spm=a2g0o.productlist.0.0.7876452aC72H7J&algo_pvid=25c0c701-8bcb-4442-85b3-26b219aadb44&algo_expid=25c0c701-8bcb-4442-85b3-26b219aadb44-54&btsid=2100bb4c16114355680688241e1a5a&ws_ab_test=searchweb0_0,searchweb201602_,searchweb201603_

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000255521417.html?spm=a2g0o.detail.1000060.1.79721b76C3689z&gps-id=pcDetailBottomMoreThisSeller&scm=1007.13339.169870.0&scm_id=1007.13339.169870.0&scm-url=1007.13339.169870.0&pvid=60bab7fd-5202-41a3-94af-a8b56f50a0e0&_t=gps-id:pcDetailBottomMoreThisSeller,scm-url:1007.13339.169870.0,pvid:60bab7fd-5202-41a3-94af-a8b56f50a0e0,tpp_buckets:668%230%23131923%2354_668%23888%233325%232_668%232846%238114%231999_668%232717%237563%23506_668%231000022185%231000066059%230_668%233468%2315618%23940

The seller claims "Brand New Microscope and Main components  are produced by the same technications on the same production line which producing for Nikon, Olympus , Leica , Zeiss Microscopes".
The review guy highly recommended these models against lottery with used branded models.
At that moment I was confused :-// and tired :phew: of reading and comparing and abandoned this pursuit for the best variant.
But now read your posts and remembered my unfinished task  :)

Did someone here have compare these unbranded gems with some branded ones?
 
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Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #83 on: January 23, 2021, 10:22:38 pm »
You may need to just try out a microscope for while for your applications, to discover what works and what doesn't and what you need and don't need. At least that was my experience. Are there things in particular you want to look at?
 

Offline Finderbinder

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #84 on: January 23, 2021, 10:45:46 pm »
80% of use is fine smd soldering (including presoldering, postsoldering inspection), 10% looking for small defects, rest for various things. Camera compatibility would be nice addon if of rather good quality.
Till now I use MBS-10. The optical quality is rather acceptable, but its clunky focus mechanism is the biggest shortcoming (need 2 hands to turn it up - have to put tools aside, when focusing).
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #85 on: January 24, 2021, 10:12:16 am »
80% of use is fine smd soldering (including presoldering, postsoldering inspection), 10% looking for small defects, rest for various things. Camera compatibility would be nice add-on if of rather good quality.
Till now I use MBS-10. The optical quality is rather acceptable, but its clunky focus mechanism is the biggest shortcoming (need 2 hands to turn it up - have to put tools aside, when focusing).

I can see why it has been challenging to find a good replacement for your present microscope. An MBS-10 has its advantages and disadvantages compared to the non-costly alternatives. Of course, if you throw enough money at the problem, you could probably get a microscope that improves on it in every significant way!

What do you really like about your present microscope and would miss? What other annoyances does it have that you really wish it did not? For example, I have read the MBS-10 has a stepped magnification range of of 0.6–7X, almost 12 to 1, which must be great. It might make you, however, unhappy owning a typical, Chinese stencil microscope with only about half that zoom range – as lukego found earlier in this thread.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2021, 10:35:43 am by jfiresto »
 

Offline Finderbinder

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #86 on: January 24, 2021, 12:07:39 pm »
Bear in mind lukego's microscope is of different league compared to the ones I mentioned earlier, according to that youtube review.

According MBS-10. The x7 magnification is useless, at least with my device - the image quality is super bad, just useless. x4 I use rarely partly because of insufficient light (original halogen-fiber ring and now modified LED-fiber ring), and image quality is noticeably worse compared to x2. Chromatic aberrations/reflections start to appear from x2 magnification. All this with x14 oculars (so can calculate overall magnification). And as I mentioned clumsy focusing mechanizm is the biggest issue for me.
Other than that it is quite useful microscope.

Continuous zoom I think would be nice upgrade, and deep focus field too (as new lukego's Leica have, I understand).
MBS-10 is my first and the only serious stereo microscope for electronics work I used and have access to. So dificult to compare with something I haven't access to.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2021, 03:57:00 pm by Finderbinder »
 

Offline jfiresto

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Re: Mind-range microscope upgrade? Stemi 305, SMZ-2T, EMZ-5TR, Mantis...?
« Reply #87 on: January 25, 2021, 06:36:09 pm »
The [MBS-10] x7 magnification is useless, at least with my device - the image quality is super bad, just useless. x4 I use rarely partly because of insufficient light (original halogen-fiber ring and now modified LED-fiber ring), and image quality is noticeably worse compared to x2. Chromatic aberrations/reflections start to appear from x2 magnification. All this with x14 oculars (so can calculate overall magnification)....

7x14=98X is well into "empty magnification". I bet lower power oculars would give a much sharper, brighter image with a greater field of view.

If you long for more brightness, a Common Main Objective (CMO) microscope is a good choice, although it introduces a new problem: lateral chromatic aberrations (purple and yellow fringing around sharp contrasts and shiny spots that are away from the center of the field of view). It is a little bit of pick your poison. It is more of a problem when you are taking photographs and shooting movies. When you look through the eyepieces and your mind combines the otherworldly sight of deep objects that are somehow out at infinity, it also mentally mostly cancels out the complementary fringing seen by the left and right eyes.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2021, 06:37:57 pm by jfiresto »
 
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