Microscope recommendation needed

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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I followed @voltlog’s suggestion and have that sitting on my bench now, without the microscope. Less than $100 shipped from China. Have been able to solder very tiny things. I haven’t played too much with getting it closer but am guessing that will also help the zoom level (just didn’t want it in the way)

Currently shown with full digital zoom, with a close up of 0402 resistors and caps on that dev board


nice that little 2k monitor looks neat, i just ordered one off amazon., thanks for that.

but yeah look at all that working space you get, that’s why i dig the cameras, so versatile.

also the nice thing is a lot of them run linux internally so you can do post processing inside the camera, custom overlays etc.

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This setup is great. It’s the first I’ve seen that makes me consider jumping on the cam bandwagon. Probably I’d use the hardware & software from @charliex because I’m in love with his multi-focus captures, but the way you hang the camera is the way I’d also want it.

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Need some kind of robot + AI solution that detects my hand is in the way, keeps the chip location centered and then uses some kind of gimbal action to try and get a good shot of the chip again :slight_smile:


I’m thinking about hooking it up to a hanging boom arm, maybe something cheap that’s rescued from craigslist. There is going to be a lot of cheap office & lab furniture available in San Francisco this summer…


multiple cameras :slight_smile:

but yes i also dig chris’s layout, i am going to rebuild a stand for that.

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2k monitor arrived from amazon, pretty decent. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VS5LKFS/

sadly this pcb won’t make it to defcon this year, meant to be its first outing :slight_smile: oh well gives us more time to do something extra sneaky for next years competitions

It will run through a splitter so i can do PC capture as well direct viewing

I have the same Eakins scope. I highly recommend getting the following.


Goose necks lights. Much better than the LED ring as is causes too much reflections.


This Amscope at 10x has served me very well. Depth perspective is tough without 2 eyeballs. I have enough encountered a digital setup I would want to work under for more than 1 hour. To get something clear without lag usually means 1000+. At that price, I would consider getting some else to do rework if it takes longer than I am comfortable with the Amscope and requires super fine pitch work.

yeah that looks useful, i use the ring light since i want to minimise shadows for imaging work but it’d be handy to have that gooseneck too. i should get that extensible y boom as well. this is turning into an expensive thread :slight_smile:

its always interesting seeing other peoples workspaces and seeing the common items, the blue ipa dispensers etc.

not to go too far off thread, but one thing i’ve wanted is to be able to overlay the design over the boards, so i started putting something together, spent about 20 minutes to parse the eagle xml and draw it, so far so good. i’ve added the tracking and that in, so just have to hook up all the rest…


i wanted dual video output from the camera, so i ordered this box, and confirmed it works with the camera, 2k monitor and capture card.