Microscope recommendation needed

I am contemplating a microscope for my bench, I want to be able to see and work on 0201 size parts clearly. What are the best options? --Old school microscope? Something new and digital? I have Celestron USB connected device that cost under $100. It is not real clear and does not have sufficient magnification. Ideally, I would like the clarity and depth perception of a high quality stereo microscope. That looks to be a $1500 -$2000 option at first glance. That is more than I would like to pay.


The AmScope models are cheap, decent, and pretty commonly used. I’ve ordered a bunch over the years. I recommend to get a trinocular model in case you ever want to take photos.

I’ve used something like this (link below) at home for micro soldering. I solder 0201’s and often BGAs with smaller pads than 0201’s have.


Stereo is good for watching your work using tweezers, small iron tip, etc. Low lag video stream might be important too. Many scopes include a camera and also ports for camera upgrades. Good boom control and lens working distance
also important factors. AmScope is lower cost. Don’t have first hand experience with that brand although.

Cheers, Joe Schober

via mobile

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amscope are cheap and cheerful, i have their boom trinocular, similar to the one jp posted… hassle them for discounts. we’ve bought a bunch over the years for the hackerspace and got them to reduce prices often.

but saying that i’ve found myself using it less and less, and using my hdmi auto zoom camera instead, since its hdmi its low latency. i’ve barely used my mantis since i picked up the camera.

the mantis is a great scope for pcb work and its got that 3d vision which is great, that si what you loose with the signal camera, but since its autofocus you can move the work item around a bit and you can fit larger things under it.

it also means i get to use machine vision thing as well since i can post process the images, which you can also do with the trinocular and a camera but no autofocus.

i have some pics of the eakins on here


That eakins camera (and your modifications) are pretty cool. I’m so accustomed to soldering with a microscope, though, that I’d probably stick with a microscope for rework (especially really small parts) unless I really had an opportunity to try the camera. What sort of rework do you do with the eakins camera?

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Definitely +1 vote for amscope. Soldering via any digital path is going to be nauseating due to latency. For very fine stuff the traditional binocular (or tri) are my preference but I guess mantis is better to inspection and less magnified work. You won’t get much better ”bang for your buck” than the amscope.

I paid about $450 for a very used Nikon microscope with a fiber optic ring light on ebay. Hands down it is the most used thing in my lab.

If I were to add another I’d pick up a amscope

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nearly all smd, down to 0201 average… i have a variety of lenses , and zoomable adatpers. so i can swap it around. but i like the big working area , the amscope i just find gets in the way of a lot of boards and i don’t like having to bend over the eyepieces or use the eyepieces, especially with glasses. a lot of people stick up a big tv over the top of it and just look at that. i have mine connected to my desktop pc.

latency is very minimal , i dont have any issues with the eakins that i’ve had with other digital systems and given i have a mantis, and a trinocular amscope on the bench and usually tend towards the camera, must be something in it :slight_smile:

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I love my Amscope. In retrospect, I wished I paid a little more to get the double arm boom (which prevents unwanted swiveling) and trinocular configuration for being able to put a camera on. But overall, I am still very happy with my purchase about seven years in. Oh, hey, here’s my Amazon review where I basically said that in 2014: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R8ZSF7A3700SC/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B006QN5T5G

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BTW, I do find that I can move around much better with simple magnifying eyewear when I just want to do some soldering. Amazon has a ton of resellers that rebrand this USB-rechargeable magnifier which is so inexpensive, you should just buy a set: https://www.amazon.com//dp/B07RNCQJG3 (just to pick one seller). There are other magnifiers that I also have and like, but with the Amscope and this set, you should be pretty happy.

This. I bought a microscope some years ago but have only ever used it for some MLCC crack analysis - I can’t stand soldering under a microscope or even behind a fixed magnifier. I have some of the head-mounted magnifier ToyBuilder references, and they’re nice, but find that I always return to clip-on “Opti-Grab” :smiley: type magnifiers. You can spend more money for Eschenbachs or get cheap-o’s from an electrology supply house, there’s not all that much difference.

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I got an Andonstar ADSM302 - great for inspecting stuff, a bit of soldering, and impressing yourself and others with the video and small stuff - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQHDSXDZYF4

BUT, for soldering it’s no optical stereo microscope, the depth perception does hinder soldering. Plus it doesn’t actually have optical zoom, only digital (clunky, slow), which I didn’t realise at first, and a few things which make it more on the budget end. I’m happy with it now for infrequent use, relatively cheap, but intend to upgrade later.

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It took me bloody ages to choose the right microscope. I am not savvy with what focal length, zoom level, and other nomenclature mean when it comes to the practical choice and “what is a good amount of X to have for my purposes”.

I settled for the AMScope SMZK-1TSZ. Absolutely recommend for a small setup (I’m in a coworking space with just a single desk - a big desk, but a single desk nontheless).

I can view entire boards up to size of about 200mm x 200mm at once, and zoom in all the way to inspect 0201 R’s and C’s (with adjustment of the height and focus, of course).

Not saying this is the best - but just saying as someone with no experience spec’ing microscopes, this worked perfectly for me and is a good choice if you don’t have space for a swinging boom-arm.

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for something to do, i did a quick latency test.

camera -> hdmi -> hdmi capture card in pc -> windows capture 7 subsystem -> opencv process-> to display.

30.714 on the phone, 30.465 on the display.

i’ll do a direct to monitor one as well.

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If you do choose a microscope, make sure you have a good optical working distance. I’ve used ones that only have a few inches and they suck. As you can see here, everyone has different needs.

I went with the AmScope SM-4TPZ. Optical clarity is great. You can add a camera without blocking one eye piece. However, cameras seem to be expensive, at least the ones I looked at. I bought a cheap lens adapter for my nice DSLR. Unfortunately the adapter (not anything to do with the microscope) has very poor optical quality.


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IMO the best option is a newer trinocular microscope model because it will be compatible with various things you will be installing later. I would not go with big name brand, because it’s going to be expensive and the accessories even more expensive and the advantages they offer in optics quality are not worth the extra price.

The question of whether to get an Amscope or a no-name or Eakins trinocular microscope boils down to them being manufactured probably in the same place but Amscope has better quality control and so you will probably get the best quality out of these if you go with an Amscope. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the others are bad. If cost is not an issue, go for the Amscope.

You will want to get the newer version of the body which has the zoom wheel moved towards the front of the body. This newer version has a few optimizations in terms of optics and body design.

Working distance is dictated by the Barlow lens you attach at the bottom. You will mostly be using a 0.5X lens which will give you about 16.5cm working distance to the work surface.

Delay is no longer an issue with these newer cameras that output via HDMI, you can have a small monitor attached directly to the microscope boom arm (I use a 10 inch one and it’s great for me) or a big monitor, the video feed will be real time, you can solder with that no problem.

Camera selection is an important topic if you are going to be using it mainly through the camera feed. All cameras in the $150 range have about the same sensor size and the same performance. A good option in that price range is the HAYEAR 34MP it can output 1080P 60FPS over HDMI.

If you can afford a more expensive camera (~$350), then you can go into auto-focus territory and bigger sensor size. The IMX290 based cameras are great.

You will also need an optical adapter between the microscope port and the camera. For the $150 camera model shown above, the 0.5X adapter works best. If you go for the more expensive, bigger sensor camera, I was told you can also use a 0.3X adapter for increased field of view. This video I did shows has how I installed the 0.5X adapter on my setup.

If you go for the setup described here, you will also need a C to CS ring adapter which is shown in the video linked above.

All of this makes sense if you still need or want to use a microscope the traditional way through the oculars. If you will only be using the microscope through the camera port with a monitor, then you can get away cheaper, easier and in a smaller form factor by getting the Hayear 34MP camera mentioned above, combined with a lens and stand, the image quality will be superb and you don’t need any of the extra bits mentioned above. Or you can just spend extra and get the AF camera in the same setup.

If you do go for a full microscope setup, you might want to checkout this video of mine where I show how to parfocal the microscope for having both the camera port and the oculars in focus at the same time.

And one last note about the AF cameras, some people will find the function annoying because it can focus on stuff you don’t want it to focus on, numerous times. For example you might notice it focuses on your tweezers or soldering iron as you bring them into the frame which will make the pcb go out of focus right when you need it the most. Depending on the model, they do have a focus area which I believe you can control and move on the screen using the menu, that might help solve this problem.


I see a lot of people recommending traditional Microscopes here? I have access to that, but I personally perfer using one of these with a large screen https://aliexpress.com/item/32992225432.html This one is amazing with 37mp, but simpler version will work well too. We have a 4k with autofocus at the office, but that was quite expensive. Not sure if Autofocus is required at all imo?

Here’s an example of a board I soldered at home today using a quite cheap 720p scope on a 7" monitor https://twitter.com/jenschr/status/1258324559037685760 so even 01005 is possible without stereo vision. I second the problem with finding the right optics, but cheap(ish) Barlow lenses with C-Mount make that easier to tweak. With my current home setup, I have about 20 cm working distance, so it does not feel cramped at all. Took a while to find the right setup though, so in many cases it can be easier to just get whatever you can test yourself.

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That looks like a very cool toy at a very reasonable price. Just seems to me it would be weird to be looking off to the side at a monitor while soldering something in front of you, but I guess you get used to it?

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@jensa interesting, this is one of the things that I would need to try to believe. My latency comment was wrt USB based cameras. Surely HDMI ones are better. Can you really do a 4 hour session of rework with a setup like this and not get fatigue? If so that is a pretty nice game changer. It has been on my list to add a nice digital scope/camera just for taking pictures anyway.

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And one last note about the AF cameras,

they do have manual focus, some have spot focus. It’s useful for inspection and scanning to have the AF, easy to turn it off and go back to MF than it is to convert a MF camera to an AF.

you can also just put the monitor above the work area so you are looking forward, i never liked leaning into the microscope and it is a hassle with eyewear, you can also move the camera to the work piece which is not really possible with the microscope.

Less clutter around the work area too since boom microscopes have a lot going on, they are heavy too.

also since streaming is very popular its easy to do workshops etc.

that 37MP camera, is only 37MP for saving to TF, the HDMI is still 1920x1080

i did a test with hdmi to a very cheap monitor connected to hdmi, https://i.imgur.com/hf1bHZR.jpg so 101ms latency going direct to hdmi

It’s actually the oppsite for me @LukeBeno? After two hours of squinting into the traditional scopes, I feel tired or get a headache. Even when it’s well adjusted, you’ll use very specific eye muscles when focusing through the scope and I’ll often get a sore neck from sitting still for a prolonged time in odd positions.

With the HDMI scopes I have a much more relaxed working posture and can work much longer. When putting together a batch of prototype PCB’s I’ll usually use a Pick’n’place to do all the components I have many of (worth the setup time) and then place those that are only 1-2 per board by hand using such a microscope. I don’t know how much the lag there is, but it certainly is some in my cheap scope. I haven’t noticed it on the more expensive one at work though. I’d estimate max 200ms on the cheap one at home and imperceptible on the one at my office.

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