5 Best USB Microscopes from $20 to $262 for Hobbyists and Professionals | Complete and Updated Buyer’s Guide 2018

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Stinger  |  Updated 10/19/2018
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Choosing the best USB Microscope for your hobby or work? Our detailed guide addresses all aspects and features you should consider when shopping for the USB Microscope. Read on to discover the differences between many options of the USB Microscopes available, how the devices work and what technical specifications of your computer or phone you should check before buying the USB Microscope. We’ll cover the TOP 5 Best USB Microscopes from as low as $20 and as high as $262.

What You Will Learn from This Guide:

To get students’ attention, a biology teacher streams images to a projection screen or students’ smartphones or computers. Disaster area doctors stream or email images for collaboration, diagnosis, or treatment. Reasonably-priced USB microscopes that attach to your computer allow you to light and examine your specimen, snap a picture of it, or stream a live video to anyone! It has become easier and more affordable to find out what lies beyond what we see and share it in real time.

USB microscopes are considered to be “economical alternatives” to conventional microscopes. They range from basic inexpensive units that attach to your iPhone, Android, or tablet to more expensive, portable instruments and bundled software that allow you to capture and edit images, save files, and stream live videos on your computer of your magnified specimen. They are portable, lightweight, and connect to a computerized device via a USB port. They can examine areas of the large specimen, documents, or objects.

How Does It Work?

USB microscopes directly connect to your computer. They use standard operating systems (OS) and require specific software to operate. They do not require specific drivers, so microscopy software may be interchangeable between microscopes. Not all advanced software operations are always available through the interchange, however.

Less expensive basic units (less than $50) connect through your computer’s USB. They function like webcams with adjustable viewing lenses.

Mid-range digital microscopes (less than $400) also attach to your USB but offer more features, magnification, and light.

Complex and expensive (exceeding $1000) digital microscopes are typically portable and self-contained and operate like optical microscopes without the need for a computer.

Different Types of USB Microscopes

Digital microscopes are compared on the software compatibility, range of magnification, and additional features and options, such as illumination, bundled software, stand, focus/zoom, and precision.

Basic USB Microscopes

Basic digital microscopes record the image via snapshot or moving image. They are typically handheld wand-type units. Lower-end plastic models have limited functions (i.e.: magnification, fixed illumination, and focal distance, etc.).

High-End USB Microscopes

Higher-end, professional-grade microscopes used by researchers and physicians offer magnifications as high as 1000x, LED lighting, interchangeable eyepieces, articulated stages, and ultra-fine focus. They can adapt to smartphones for immediate file sharing. They are typically battery-powered and tripod-mounted. Time-lapse photography, image editing and enhancement, measurement, and other options are often optioned.

Advanced Digital Microscopes

USB microscopes are a subsidiary of advanced digital microscopes’ calibrated image quality, resolution, and dynamic range vary with price. HDR (high dynamic range) systems have fewer pixels, a higher frame rate, and faster processing. Specialized specific-application units typically have a greater magnification range (0x-7000x), are portable, self-contained, and do not require a computer. System construction and image are of higher quality.

What to Look For When Buying a USB Microscope

Your goal is to be able to view and share (microscopic) images. Connectivity has improved your ability to do this.

  • Power

The camera is plugged into the USB port for power to stream the image. Depending on your need and level of experience, you may need more or less power.

For example, if the USB microscope is for a student or younger child, less power is demanded than if the unit will be used for professional tasks (i.e.: science, forensics, education, etc.).

The more powerful the microscope is the better illumination, range of magnification and resolution, software capabilities, and cost it will have. High-end professional-grade USB microscopes tend to be battery-powered for enhanced portability and use in remote or disaster areas.

  • Software

The USB microscope imaging software allows the user to adjust the camera beyond the operating system’s basic settings. Camera performance, captured images (snaps or video), and image manipulation (editing, stacking, color enhancement, filtering, etc.) are performed through the instrument’s software. Operating systems such as Windows XP allow you to view and record images from your Control Panel “Scanners and Cameras.”

  • Portability

You want the ability to capture sample images or video and send it to colleagues, lab, file or the Cloud when you need to use the microscope outside the lab or office. Any USB microscope can plug into a portable device. However, a full-sized microscope may be difficult to take into the field, disaster area, or remote location. Handheld, wand-type illuminated USB microscopes easily fit into a case, tote, or bag.

TOP 5 Best USB Microscopes - Complete Product Review

Jiusion 40 to 1000x Magnification Endoscope — usb microscope for students and kids

Jiusion Magnification Endoscope: photo

The Jiusion Magnification Endoscope is an inexpensive USB 2.0 digital microscope with 40x to 1000x magnification. It operates on 5V DC from the USB. It has 8 built-in LED lights and a mini camera with OTG adapter. Two adjusting knob operate the focus and brightness (10mm -250mm). It produces JPEG/BMP images and the AVI video frame rate is 30f/s at maximum 600 Lux brightness.

This USB microscope is compatible with Mac, Window 7/8/10, Android, and Linux. Bundled MicroCapture software and Amcap professional Windows software are included (CD or link download). Mac users can use PhotoBooth or Quick Camera to operate the microscope. Android users should scan the GooglePlay app installation code. Chrome users may use the default Camera app and Linux Raspberry Pi users must have the current Raspbian Jessie version.

The downside is that this microscope’s magnification only supports Android smartphones that have OTB function. It is not compatible with iPhone. Because the program is written by Jiusian, the SNAP and ZOOM button is ONLY recognized on the Window OS. The Android app cannot recognize it and the Mac system does not require software.

Recommendations:

This USB microscope is intended for students, kids, etc. and works best on Pentium computers with min. 700M Hz with 20M HD space. This usb microscope might be a good option for your biology class where you can use it to see bacteria and cells. A rotating metal tripod and micro-measure CD are also included.

Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope — for both hobbyists and professionals

Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope: photo

The Plugable USB 2.0 digital microscope has a max. 250x magnification, which relates to the size of your monitor. It has 4 diffused LED lights with a halo brightness adjustment control and OTG adapter. The adapter may be used (with the stand) for lower magnification. It may be placed directly over the object or specimen for higher magnification or handheld for point-and-click examination. Its CMOS sensor produces 1600x1200 snapshot and 640x480 video results.

This USB microscope’s webcam chipset is supported by operating systems that use standard webcam software. It is compatible with Mac, Window 7/8/10, newer Androids, Chrome, and Linux. Mac users can use PhotoBooth or Plugable’s companion software. Chrome users may use the default Camera app and Linux Raspberry Pi users must have the current Raspbian Jessie version.

The downside is that the camera is not compatible with iOS devices (i.e.: iPhone, iPad), select Androids, and those using Oculus Rift systems may require additional setup.

Recommendations:

This USB microscope’s durable plastic body makes it suitable for hobbyists, kids, and professionals alike. A flexible-arm stand and observation pad with graduated markings for the simple measure and a 4-foot cable are included.

Celestron 5 MP Handheld Digital Microscope Pro  — for both hobbyists and professionals

Celestron Microscope Pro: photo

The low-power Celestron Digital Microscope Pro is a reasonably-priced, plug-in/handheld, USB 2.0 digital microscope with 20x to 200x magnification. Ultimate magnification is determined by the size of your monitor. This microscope has an adjustable LED illuminator. Its 5.0 MP sensor captures and saves high-resolution 2592 x 1944 images and VGA-quality video. High-quality, e-element IR-cut lens, and 1 sec to 1/1000 sec shutter speed ensure distinct images.

This USB microscope is Mac OS X and Windows 7/8/10 compatible. Intuitive MicroCapture Pro software CD that allows measurement is included. The Clestron USB digital microscope also comes with a 2-yr. warranty. Product modification voids this warranty.

The downside of this microscope might be that the latest version of the MicroCapture Pro software must be separately downloaded (using the Support Tab).

Recommendations:

This USB microscope is ideal for hobbyists (coin and stamp collection) and professionals (entomology and component inspection) alike. A high-quality, adjustable-height stand, 4-foot cable, and User Manual are included.

Opti-Tekscope OT-M HDMI Microscope — good for coins, jewelry, stamp examination with 300x optical zoom

Opti Tekscope Microscope: photo

The Opti-Tekscope Microscope is a reasonably-priced, high-definition USB digital microscope with a 3.0 LCD (960x240) display. The optical 300x zoom allows you to fully-view small object details. It operates on 5V DC from the USB and has dual LED illumination. Its large, non-interpolated HD CMOS sensor and 4x digital zoom capture high-resolution 3MP, JPG 1920 x1080p images and 30f/s video and MOV movie format. Images and video are saved on a 32GB micro-SD card.

This USB microscope uses the Windows 10 plug-and-play Camera app. Bandicam software is recommended for other PC applications. Product warranty information is available on the manufacturer’s website.

Downside: this microscope does not support direct use with Mac. It is intended for large-screen (lab, classroom, etc.) HDMI monitors. The 32GB mini-SD (image-saving) card is not included. Rather, “Kingston Class 10 is preferred”). You are also advised to contact Opti-Tekscope for the complete instruction manual and warranty information.

Recommendations:

This USB microscope is well-suited for PCB repair, small part inspection, jewelry, stamp, and coin examination. A high-, industrial-quality, adjustable-height locking stand is included.

AmScope 40X-2500X LED Biological Binocular Compound Microscope — the most expensive usb microscope with measurement software

LED Biological Binocular Compound Microscope: photo

The AmScope B120C-E1 Microscope is a sturdy, high-end 1.3MP USB digital microscope with a 30 degree inclined, 360-degree swiveling Siedentopf binocular head. The 3D double-layer mechanical stage and multiple magnification settings (40x, 100x, 250x, 400x, 1000x, and 2500x) allow fine and coarse focusing. Image and live video resolutions may be set simultaneously.

This USB microscope includes user-friendly, advanced editing, processing, and measuring software that is compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, Mac OS X, and Linux. This software includes stitching, video recording, extended depth of focus (EDF), and measurement functions.

The downside is that this microscope is not compatible with iOS devices (i.e.: iPhone, iPad) if there is no 30-pin adapter or driver.

Recommendations:

This USB microscope is designed for students and professional environments such as clinical and laboratory applications and training demonstrations. It comes with a UL-approved AC/DC adapter, 6-foot cable, and superior 5-yr. manufacturer warranty.

What First-Time USB Microscope Users Should Know

If you are unfamiliar with choosing a USB microscope, buy a less expensive one first. You can upgrade to a more portable optioned microscope later.

FAQ – People are asking:

How do you connect a USB microscope to your device?
Connect your microscope to your device using the USB cable plugged into the device’s USB port. USB runs on 5V power. Microscopes (cameras) are connected to mobile devices using a USB OTG (On-the- Go) connection or adapter.

Do digital microscopes work on Chromebook?
Yes with third-party apps.

Can I take a video with a USB microscope?
There are the camera and video buttons located on the microscope camera. Click to cue the on-screen application. Click for a snapshot or video.

Is a USB microscope good for Trichome?
A digital microscope with LED light and zoom lets you magnify trichome 250x-500x.

Are USB microscopes good for taking pictures of snowflakes/coins/parasites, etc.?
Digital microscopes with 60x-250x work for coins, parasites, snowflakes etc.

How easy are USB microscopes to set up? Can an old guy work it out by himself?
Plug in the USB cable. On your device access Settings, (Privacy & Security) Content Settings, and Camera to get started.

Can I use USB microscopes for soldering?
Yes, you can. However, most likely that usb microscopes intended for students and classroom use will not work for soldering. Don’t look for high magnification ratios, 10x or 20x would be enough.

How can I connect USB microscope to TV?
Plug your USB microscope into a USB port on the television. The image should be visible on the television screen.

Can I use usb microscope to see bacteria or for any other project in my biology class?
Yes, you can. All usb microscopes will allow you to see bacteria and can be used for other purposes in various biology projects.

Tips for Using USB Microscopes

USB microscopes are precision instruments and should be handled as such. Their settings can be altered if the unit is jostled or roughly handled, which then requires recalibration. Some things to keep in mind, if you have never used a USB microscope before:

  • Do not wear glasses when using the instrument;
  • Place your sample directly over your light source;
  • For best results, learn how to set the microscope’s options (i.e.: magnification, focus, light, etc.).

Product Comparison – At a Glance

Jiusion

Jiusion Magnification Endoscope min: photo

  • Compatibility: Windows 7/8/10/Vista/XP/2000, Mac OS X 10.5 or above, some Android mobiles, Linux, Chrome
  • Magnification: 40x to 1000x
  • Software: MicroCapture bundle included

$19.99

Plugable

Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope min: photo

  • Compatibility: Windows 10/ 8.1/8,/7/Vista, and XP, Mac OS X 10.4.2 and above, Linux 2.6.26, Chrome OS, newer Androids
  • Magnification: 0x to 250x
  • Software: Available on the Plugable website

$34.95

Celestron

Celestron Microscope Pro min: photo

  • Compatibility: Windows 7/8/10, MacOS X 10.4.9
  • Magnification: 20x to 200x (Max. magnification is determined by monitor size)
  • Software: Micro Capture Pro included

$76.99

Opti-Tekscope

Opti Tekscope Microscope min: photo

  • Compatibility: Windows 10
  • Magnification: (Resolution: HD 1920x1080P); 300x; 4x digital zoom
  • Software: Plug and play; Bandicam recommended for some applications

$189.97

AmScope

LED Biological Binocular Compound Microscope min: photo

  • Compatibility: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, Mac OS X, Linux
  • Magnification: Multiple settings: 40X, 100X, 250X, 400X, 1000X, 2500X
  • Software: Digital camera w/advanced editing, processing, measuring software for Windows included

$261.99

Conclusion

There is a wide variety of USB digital microscopes to choose from. Many models have stands and can be stationary or removed and handheld for closer magnification. Not all models connect to all mobile devices, so research brands and models to ensure if you need portability, your selection connects to your mobile device and capably shares files and communications as you need.

If you are a student or hobbyist, or this is your first digital microscope, you may choose a less powerful, less expensive model. Professionally-used or industrial USB digital microscopes are powerful, have optical and digital zooms, and can cost thousands of dollars.

Basic USB microscope magnification begins at 10x. Higher-end models well exceed 400x. Image and video resolution also vary according to the level and quality of the microscope you select.

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