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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.