Review of a Cheap USB Microscope

USB Microscope Review

I bought a cheap USB microscope on Amazon. I think it was the cheapest one they had. I didn’t want a fancy one because I don’t fully understand the differences between them. I already knew that this particular microscope would give me the results that I wanted without spending unnecessary money.

The USB Microscope

USB Microscope in Box
USB microscope in it’s box.
USB Microscope Unpacked
Everything that was included with my USB microscope.

Unpacking The Box

Here is what’s in the box:

  • The USB microscope. It has an attached cable with a USB port.
  • There is a type C USB adapter to connect the microscope to a mobile phone.
  • There is a stand that can hold the microscope still while you look at things.
  • There is an instruction manual.
  • There is a CD with Windows software.

Build Quality

The build quality of the microscope is okay. It’s better than I expected for such a cheap microscope. The stand is cheap plastic and quite flimsy. You can adjust the arm of the stand and tighten it with a clamp. If you want to use a stand a lot, the manufacturers sell a better quality one on Amazon. Most of the time I use the microscope flat on a table. Sometimes I just point it at things, and hold still.

USB Microscope Flat on Table
This is how I use the microscope most of the time.
USB Microscope at an Angle
Sometimes an angle view is better.

Illumination

There are LEDs at the front of the camera for illuminating your object. The USB port supplies enough power to light up the LEDs. There is a control dial built into the cable that you can use to control the illumination level.

LEDs on a microscope
The LEDs in front of the microscope light up when you plug it into a USB port.

Connecting The Microscope To An Android Phone

The microscope’s USB cable can connect to a mini USB port on an Android phone. It does not work with an iPhone. If your phone has a new type C USB port, there is a type C adapter included in the box.

Mini USB Connector
The USB connector fits a normal USB port and a mini USB port.
Type C USB adapter
A type C USB adapter is included for newer Android phones.

The microscope is only compatible with Android phones that have OTG (On The Go) support. Unfortunately, I have a Nexus 4, which does not have OTG support. So I’ve never used it on my phone. If you do have a phone with OTG support, the instruction manual lists some compatible Android apps that you can download to connect to the microscope.

Connecting The Microscope To A Computer

When you connect the microscope cable to a USB port on a computer, the LED immediately light up.

The USB microscope works on Windows, Mac and Linux. The software that is supplied is for Windows only. Mac users can use Photo Booth or QuickTime Player.

Windows 8 and Windows 10 have a camera application installed. The USB microscope works with it, but you will only get 640×480 pixels resolution out of it. The software that is bundled with the microscope takes much higher resolution images than the Windows camera app. Install the software by inserting the mini-CD into your computer. If the software installation menu does not automatically start, you can manually run “autorun.exe”.

Coolingtech Ssoftware
Software installation menu.

Click on “Driver” to install the camera software. Once it’s installed, your start menu should contain an entry called “AmCap”, which is your high resolution camera application. Run AmCap and select the USB microscope.

Coolingtech AmCap Software
Select USB microscope.

Change the desired image resolution. It won’t change the video output shown on the screen, but it will save the image at that resolution. The microscope’s resolution ranges from 640×480 pixels to an incredible 6324×4742 pixels!

Change Resolution in AmCap.
The microscope resolution goes up to 6324×4742 pixels.

The Trick To Using The Magnification Control

There is a control which adjusts the magnification from 40x – 1000x. A digital microscope is just a digital camera with a magnification lens. The magnification control is actually a focus control that you use to adjust the image to the maximum point of clarity. It’s frustrating to use until I figured out the trick to it.

What I figured out is that there are two points of focus. One point at a low magnification and one point at a high magnification. Start by setting the magnification control at 40x. Then increase the magnification until you see the image focus clearly. This is the low magnification point of focus. If you keep increasing the magnification, the image will unfocus and become blurry. That’s okay. Just keep increasing the magnification gradually. When the magnification control gets close to 1000x, the image will again focus clearly, this time at a much greater magnification.

I can only get the second greater magnification if I place the microscope flat on the table over the object I’m observing. I can’t get it if I use the stand or if I point it at an object from a distance.

Look at this example of me observing a tuft of dog hair with the microscope on the stand. First I took a photo using the stand. I only got one clear point of focus. It’s the maximum magnification I could get using the stand.

Using USB Microscope on a Stand
Looking at a tuft of dog hair with a USB microscope on the stand.
USB microscope less magnification
I got a lower magnification using the microscope on the stand.

Then I looked at the same tuft of dog hair by placing the microscope over it, flat on the table. This way, I could increase the magnification until I got a second clear point of focus. Look at how much greater the magnification is on the same object without using the stand.

Using USB Microscope Flat on Table
Looking at a tuft of dog hair with a USB microscope flat on the table.
USB microscope more magnification
I got much greater magnification using the microscope flat on the table.

By the way, there is a clear plastic cap on the front that you need to remove before observing something, whether it’s on the stand or flat on the table.

Even Though It’s Winter, I Found A Hibernating Caterpillar

I found this little dude sleeping under a log in a forest. I released him under a hedge after I finished abducting him.

Caterpillar under microscope.
Caterpillar under a microscope.
Microscopic caterpillar fur
Microscopic caterpillar fur.
Microscopic head of caterpillar
The head and mandibles of the caterpillar..
Microscopic prolegs of caterpillar
Prolegs (which are not the true legs) of a caterpillar.

I Found This Spider In A Corner Of My Apartment

I didn’t want to kill the spider, so I observed it by holding the microscope close to it with my hand. I only got the first level of magnification this way. He’s still in the corner by the way.

Spider under microscope
A microscopic photo of a spider taken just by pointing a USB microscope at it from a (short) distance.

Right Next To The Spider, I Found A Skin It Had Shed

To observe the spider skin, I could place the microscope over it, flat on the table. I got a much greater magnification this way.

Spider skin under a microscope
Shed skin of a spider under a USB microscope.
Microscopic fangs of spider
Close-up of the fangs.
Microscopic leg joint of spider skin
The leg joint.
Microscopic leg of spider skin
The spiky leg of the spider.

Where To Buy This USB Microscope

I bought mine from Amazon UK. I don’t live in the UK. I live in Europe, but Amazon UK ships to Europe very cheaply. I see exactly the same brand of microscope on Amazon US.

There seem to be many USB microscopes that look exactly the same, but with different branding. I just bought the cheapest one because I’m pretty sure they’re all the same.

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