Before you buy a dissecting microscope, consider what specimens you will be viewing. A dissecting microscope used for a hobby won't require the same high quality optics as an instrument used for jewelry repair or lab dissection. For all purposes, your dissecting microscope should have solid construction and be capable of producing clear, three-dimensional images. Choose a microscope with two lights; one placed above the subject and one below. If you prefer using both eyes for viewing, choose a stereo optic dual lens microscope, rather than a single lens monocular type.
Many people use dissecting microscopes in schools and laboratories, although they are also used by hobbyists. For all-purpose use, a dissecting microscope should offer up to 20X magnification. An auxiliary lens will increase magnification, but it might also increase the cost of the equipment. Buying a used microscope from a laboratory, school, or private owner could save you money. If, however, you have to replace the lenses, it could become more expensive than buying a new microscope.
When purchasing a dual lens dissecting microscope, choose one with a fine tuning knob adjustment. This will be necessary for adjusting both lenses for optimal viewing. In addition, choose a dissecting microscope with high resolution. This feature will provide adequate contrast for viewing fine details of your specimens.
If you wish to save money, choose an instrument with fixed focus magnification. This magnification should be adequate for most hobbyists. Zoom magnification may offer greater detail and clarity, but it can increase the cost considerably.
Another option to consider is a microscope with a port for attaching photographic equipment. This is a great feature for those who enjoy taking photographs of specimens. If you use a digital camera, choose a microscope with a universal serial bus (USB) port.
Most modern dissecting microscopes will offer fully coated glass optics. Try to determine what metals are used for coating the lenses. Silver is more expensive to use than aluminum, but offers more protection. Protective coating is used to reduce glare and reflection. Some older microscopes may not be equipped with coated optics, in which case you should replace the lenses.
In addition, you might consider buying a dissecting microscope that includes accessories. Caring for your quality equipment is necessary, and you need the proper tools to do so. A cleaning kit that includes a lens cleaning cloth, cleaning fluid, and blower brush can be very convenient.