5 Best Microscopes for College & High School Students (2020)

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Best for High School Students

Best for College Students

TELMU Dual Cordless Microscope


Of all the 40X – 1000X microscopes on the market, this one’s my favorite. It’s really easy to use and super ‘no-nonsense’. At this price point, there aren’t many microscopes that have dual LED lights – but this one’s got it. Overall a good choice for a 1000X microscope at a lower price point.

Swift SW350B 40X – 2500X


The Swift SW350B Microscope has the extra power you’ll need for your college course experiments. It’s a binocular model with up to 2500X zoom – far superior than that of others on this list. It’s the 100X objective lens that sets this one apart. Get this model if you’re planning on doing higher-level college experiments.

My favorite microscope for high school students is the National Optical 40X-1000X Compound Microscope Set. I like it because it balances affordability with the features you’d expect in a more expensive piece of equipment (such as 1000x magnification).

But if you need a higher quality microscope for upper-college classes, I’d recommend the Swift SW350B 40X-2500X Microscope. It a step up to a binocular viewport and up to 2500x zoom for scientists with a serious thirst for knowledge.

I’ve provided a buyer’s guide that explains my selection criteria at the end of this article. But for now, I’ll show you what you came for – my top picks! The best microscopes for students are:

  • National Optical 40X-1000X Compound Microscope Set (best value for money)
  • Swift SW350B 40X-2500X Microscope (best for college)
  • TELMU 40X-1000X Dual Cordless Microscope
  • AmScope M150C-I 40X-1000X Biological Compound Microscope
  • AmScope M170C-E Compound Microscope with Camera

Five Best Microscopes for College & High School Students

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Top Microscopes for Students

Magnifi-cation

Quick Review

Our Rating

1. Swift SW350B Microscope 40X-2500X Best microscope for college students. It will give you a crisp magnification all the way up to 2500x. The most powerful microscope on this list, with a reputation for quality. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)

9.5/10

2. TELMU Dual Cordless Microscope 40X-1000X Get this TELMU microscope if you want to photograph your magnified images with your smartphone. The smartphone attachment is amazing! It’s also got overhead and below-stage LED lights. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)

8.5/10

3. AmScope M170C-E Compound Microscope with Camera 40X-1000X Comes with a microscope! The big drawing card for this microscope is the camera attachment that plugs straight into your PC or Apple computer. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)

8/10

4. National Optical Compound Microscope Set 40X-1000X Affordable but with all the features you’d expect from higher priced microscopes. Great for beginners who want a microscope that’ll still be useful as their curiosity deepens. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)

7.5/10

5. AmScope M150C-I Biological Compound Microscope 40X-1000X The AmScope M150C-I is an all round solid compound microscope coming in at a decent price point for its specifications. (Check Today’s Price on Amazon)

7.5/10

1. Swift SW350B 40X-2500X Microscope (Best for College)

Quick Review: Best microscope for college students. It will give you a crisp magnification all the way up to 2500x. The most powerful microscope on this list, with a reputation for quality.


This is your choice for a professional but affordable piece of equipment.

College students will need the power of this binocular microscope for your lab experiments. And this Swift SW350B is what I believe to be the most affordable high-quality binocular microscope for college students on the market.

Binocular microscopes have greater magnification potential than monocular ones (this is the only binocular one on this list). Specs to expect include: 4 objective lenses (4x, 10x, 40x, 100x) and 2 eyepieces (10x, 25x) giving you 6 total magnification levels. This range is unparalleled among the other microscopes on this list.

Don’t forget to buy a slide deck when you get this item as it doesn’t come with sample slides.

Be aware that this microscope is best for upper high school and college students only. Elementary school children often struggle with binocular eyepieces, so best to stick with a monocular piece for younger children.

Why This One

Keep in Mind

Excellent Magnification: This model has the strongest magnification of all the microscopes on this list.

Smooth Fine Adjustments: You can do very nice fine and course adjustments to get the perfect view of your specimen.

Good Lighting: The Abbe condenser under the stage helps to improve the lighting from the dimmable bottom-up LED light.

Price Point: With the extra power comes a higher price. There’s no getting around this.

It’s Binocular: Microscopes with magnification over 1000X tend to be binocular, but bear in mind they’re a little harder to use for younger students.

2. TELMU 40X-1000X Dual Cordless Microscope

Quick Review: Get this TELMU microscope if you want to photograph your magnified images with your smartphone. The smartphone attachment is amazing!


The clear standout for the TELMU is the smartphone compatibility. Place your phone on the phone holder and adjust it so that the camera looks through the lens. You can then save images of what you see onto your phone.

Aside from the phone holder, the TELMU has all the elements you’d expect of a student-level compound microscope, including three objective lenses and two eyepiece lenses (10x and 25x) to allow for a magnification range between 40x and 1000x.

You’ll also get 4 prepared and 6 blank slides – perfect for the beginner who wants some specimens to start viewing straight out of the box. Turn the bottom LED light on to view translucent specimens.

Why This One

Keep in Mind

Smart Phone Attachment: The smart phone attachment is very cool – you can clip just about any smartphone in, line up your camera, and film what’s coming through the viewfinder.

Dual LED Illumination: Unlike many others on this list, this TELMU model has LED Illumination from both above and below the specimen, which makes for excellent lighting. You can run the lights using regular batteries.

Spinning Viewfinder: You can rotate the viewfinder 360 degrees for ease of vision.

Prepared and Blank Slides Included: It comes with a few prepared slides, but you’ll need to get more slides soon enough, so these are just a nice taster more than anything.

Not the Highest Magnification: If you’re doing upper-college level projects, chances are you’d want the 2500X magnification of the SW350B above.

3. AmScope M170C-E Compound Microscope with Camera

Quick Review: The big drawing card for this microscope is the camera attachment that plugs straight into your PC or Apple computer.


Get this one for the camera! You can replace the eyepiece with a specially made camera that’ll plug right into your computer. You can see your specimens from your computer screen. This is great for viewing as a group or for kids who struggle with viewfinders.

The digital camera is only 640x480px, though, so the quality won’t be amazing.

You can of course also use it in regular mode by looking straight down the monocle eyepiece.

The free gooseneck LED lamp is also an awesome addition to the pack and goes above and beyond a lot of the competition.

Aside from the camera, this microscope also meets all my expectations for a monocular compound microscope for students. It’s got the regular magnification settings (40X, 100X, 250X, 400X & 1000X) and LED light illumination.

Why This One

Keep in Mind

Monocular Setup: For your first microscope, it’s good to go with a monocular setup. It’s a lot easier to use than a binocular setup, especially for younger students.

Overhead Gooseneck LED: You get both overhead and under-stage LED lights in this model.

Comes with a Camera: This is clearly the main drawing card here. You can connect the camera to a PC or Mac (not an iPad) to view your specimen on a screen.

Camera isn’t Great: While it’s great that you get a camera, it’s only 640x480px.

4. National Optical 40X-1000X Compound Microscope Set (best value for money)

Quick Review: Affordable but with all the features you’d expect from higher priced microscopes. Great for beginners who want a microscope that’ll still be useful as their curiosity deepens.


The main drawing card is the price point for this one. You won’t want to go any lower than this price without sacrificing serious quality.

Many people who buy their first microscope make the mistake of getting a stereo microscope. They’re far less powerful and won’t be any good for looking at smaller specimens. This National Optical 40X-1000X Compound Microscope Set should be your entry-level compound microscope for serious scientific and biological investigations.

Beginners will also love this setup. It comes with 5 blank slides and 5 prepared slides so you can get started as soon as you open the box.

Why This One

Keep in Mind

Monocular Setup: For your first microscope, it’s good to go with a monocular setup. It’s a lot easier to use than a binocular setup, especially for younger students.

Decent Magnification Range: This magnification range is standard for any microscope worth its salt: 40X, 100X, 250X, 400X and 1000X options.

Very Easy to Use: It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that might be a big distraction for a beginner. So there’s not a bad learning curve.

Only a Lower Light: You won’t get a second top light in this model – you’ll need to rely on the dimable lower LED light.

Not the Highest Magnification: If you’re doing upper-college level projects, chances are you’d want the 2500X magnification of the SW350B above.

5. AmScope M150C-I 40X-1000X Biological Compound Microscope

Quick Review: The AmScope M150C-I is an all round solid compound microscope coming in at a decent price point for its specifications.


Amscope’s M150C is another entry-level microscope that’s great for high school students seeking to sink their teeth into some microbiology experiments. Its fine and coarse adjustment knobs work well and switching lenses feels smooth and east. I’m also a fan of the 360 degree rotation capability of the monocular head – it’s great for sharing. I also like that there’s control knobs on both sides (as a left-handed person, I appreciate this!).

The other thing I like about this one is you can either use batteries or connect it straight to a wall socket. This combination gives more choices than most other models at this price point.

Unfortunately this model only has one LED light under the stage and not another overhead LED light.

Overall, this is a solid monocular compound microscope that shouldn’t disappoint. It has all the specs I’d expect at this price point and is a strong overall package.

Why This One

Keep in Mind

Spinning Viewfinder: You can rotate the viewfinder 360 degrees for ease of vision.

Monocular Setup: For your first microscope, it’s good to go with a monocular setup. It’s a lot easier to use than a binocular setup, especially for younger students.

Only a Lower Light: You won’t get a second top light in this model – you’ll need to rely on the dimable lower LED light.

No Smart Phone Attachment: If you want to attach your phone to the viewfinder, you might want to go with a different model.

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Buyers Guide: What to Look for in a Microscope

a) Power (Compound vs. Stereo Microscopes)

There are two types of microscopes: Compound and Stereo. This review explores compound microscopes only, because they will be the most valuable microscopes for students.

A compound microscope is a high power microscope. It can help you see ‘invisible’ things, like ‘microscopic’ bacteria and organisms or blood specimens.

A stereo microscope is a low power microscope. It is primarily used for investigating the very fine details of visible objects. Examples of objects you might look at through a stereo microscope include: bugs, insects, gems, and rocks.

All microscopes in this review are higher-powered compound microscopes.

b) Magnification Strength (Monocular vs. Binocular)

A monocular (one lens) microscope can magnify up to 1000x. A binocular (two lens) microscope can magnify to much greater magnitude, but of course comes with an extra cost.

The one binocular microscope on this list (see #2 on the list above) magnifies all the way up to 2500x.

Children tend to find monocular microscopes easier to use.

c) Lenses (Objective Lens and Eyepiece Combination)

Microscopes achieve their magnification through a combination of the eyepiece and objective lens. The settings of the two lenses magnify one another.

Eyepiece – What to Look For

You should get a microscope with both of the following interchangeable eyepieces:

  • WF (wide frame) 10x
  • WF (wide frame) 25x

Objective Lens – What to Look For

A compound microscope has several objective lenses that you can cycle through. Expect to see 3 to 6 objective lenses. A microscope with 6 objective lenses would provide a greater range of magnification settings than one with 3.

A typical microscope should have the following objective lenses:

  • 4x
  • 10x
  • 40x
  • 100x

Overall Magnification

With the above settings, you’d be able to mix-and match the eyepiece with the lens to generate several magnification settings.

For example, a 4x objective lens combined with a 10x eyepiece will get you an overall 40x magnification.

Similarly, a 100x objective lens with a 25x eyepiece will get you an overall 2500x magnification.

Note that all microscopes on this list expect #2 (the binocular microscope) have a maximum magnification of 1000x via a combined 25x eyepiece and 40x objective lens.

d) DIN Compatible Objective Lenses

It is recommended that you get objective lenses that are DIN compatible. You’ll usually find that they state “DIN” before the degree of magnification (e.g. “DIN 40x lens”) if they are DIN compatible.

DIN stands for Deutsch Industrie Norm. It’s a way of normalizing the quality of lenses.

In real terms, if you have DIN compatible lenses, chances are it’ll be much easier to replace the lens with a new one if it gets scratched or breaks.

e) Achromatic Objective Lenses

An achromatic lens is a lens that normalizes light input. As different colors interact in different ways when they hit a curved lens, the sharpness and quality of the image can be hampered at higher magnification levels. Achromatic lenses account for differential refraction to give a clearer and flatter final image through the viewfinder.

f) Illumination

Most modern microscopes use LED illumination. It’s cheaper and more efficient than other illumination formats that you come across in some microscopes such as halogen lighting.

Look for dual illumination from above and below. Illumination from below is great for translucent specimens.

Some microscopes will also come with gooseneck LED lamps mounted behind the nose piece for more lighting.

I also like to use a light dimmer for adjusting the brightness. The dimmer is usually located on the bottom-right side of the microscope so you can adjust the brightness while looking through the eyepiece.

g) Portability

Most LED microscopes these days are portable, but not all. Check to see how the microscope is charged. You may find that many still rely on AA batteries. The only component that needs constant power is the LED lighting.

h) Slide Decks and Mechanical Stage

Microscopes should come with a mechanical stage and a component to hold down the specimen slides. Some also come with complementary blank slides so you can get started immediately. However, if you haven’t got a pack of slides, you probably should get a pack with your purchase so you can get started as soon as it arrives in the post!

i) Ergonomics

It is generally accepted that a 30 – 45 degree slant for the viewfinder is most comfortable for the average person. However, some microscopes may allow you to adjust the slant of the viewfinder for your comfort.

j) Camera and Computer Compatibility

Some microscopes allow you to attach a computer or camera to the lens to capture the image. The ability to hook a microscope up to a computer is amazingly beneficial for teachers. You can display the image on a screen for all your students to see at once.

You can buy an aftermarket camera and computer attachment if you have bought a microscope without one.

k) Price Point

One huge mistake novice buyers make is that they purchase stereo microscopes to save money. They then end up very disappointed when they cannot investigate specimens such as algae and blood.

Unfortunately, for microscopes, price and quality tend to correlate tightly. 

In other words, as a general rule the more you pay, the better quality your microscope will be. This is because enhanced lenses cost much more to create. If you want sharper quality images and a better range of magnification, there’s no way around it: you have to fork out for the more expensive lenses.

Expect to pay between $65 and $300

The entry-level price point for a monocular compound microscope is about $65 and will rise to about $200 for better specs. To get magnification over 1000x, you’ll be wanting to get a binocular compound microscope which will come in at $200 and up.

Final Thoughts

A microscope is an incredibly fun educational ‘toy’ for budding scientists. But, it’s also a serious investigative device for the more serious scientific minds among us. The best microscopes for college students are binocular microscopes that magnify up to 2500x. With the extra strength, you’ll be able to do some serious biological investigations.

High school and elementary school students might be able to get away with a monocular microscope with 1000x magnification.

For me as a teacher, I prefer microscopes with computer compatibility so I can project the findings to all my class on a big screen. If you’re working alone, you of course won’t need to worry about that.

Whatever you choose, we do hope this list and buyers guide helped you find the best microscopes for students and make a better buying decision!

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