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Which microscope? Which brand? - don't bother!

On a regular basis we are receiving e-mails asking which kind of microscope we were using in order to take the photographs for the magazine. Well, of course, everything is a little bit secret. But not strictly secret. Just to give you an idea we are going to show the image below - signalizing that we are in fact using a vintage Meopta "scientific" microscope to produce most of the photomicrographs and videos:

[ miniature model of our Meopta microscope ]

Reduced size model of our main working microscope. The real instrument looks very similar but it is fitted with a trinocular tube for the cameras. And, of course, it has electrical light, furthermore an "Abbe"-type condenser the iris of which can be decentered in order to produce nice contrast effects with raking light or some amateur style dark field illumination.

As you are noticing, we are playing a little bit with size and scale. The miniature microscope model measures 11 cm in height, and also the Coke bottle isn't exactly what it looks like - it is just a 3:1 reduzed scale toy bottle, measuring 8 cm in height. Just keep in mind that our tardigrades are some kind of downsizing gadget as well, just a little bit more on the extreme side. Simply think about how frustrating it would be to drink from the 3:1 downsized bottle - then you will possibly be able to imagine the dimension of the > 1000:1 downsizing factor between man and water bear.

Short before Easter we came across a sales catalogue featuring typical optical equipment. In the picture below you will see symbols of the respective instrument classes (astronomical telescope, small terrestrial telescope, binoculars, folding loupe, dissecting microscope and regular microscope), each with its typical magnification and price range:

[ magnifications and prices of optical instruments ]

The image is illustrating the extremely different prices of optical equipment categories for amateurs, as taken from a present day sales catalogue.

In our opinion it is a very remarkable fact that the journey into the micro worlds is really cheap (namely 6.90 € for the loupe, followed by the dissecting microscope offered for a mere 39.00 € and ending with a classical microscope costing only 99.00 €). The tardigrade investigation has never been cheaper. On the other hand a serious question is arising: such a nice leasure time activity - isn't it a little bit too cheap?

Furthermore it might be interesting to note that the telescopes are much more expensive. In a nutshell, you have multiple choices regarding your optical instruments and investigative approaches:


Just go ahead and buy the cheap dissecting microscope (39.00 €) in order to find some tardigrades within moss cushions from your neighbourhood.


You might as well by the 8x30 "Quality" Porro type binoculars in the medium price and weight range, as illustrated in the catalogues, with 120 m field of view (angle ~ 55°, in our opinion somewhat narrow) for a less modest price of 289.00 € and have a look at the birds in your neighbourhood.


Alternatively you might consider to buy via Ebay some cheap used 7x35 Japanese binoculars (about the same optical quality) but instead with 175 m field of view (~ 70°) for approximately 20 € and have a look at the same birds in your neighbourhood. If you should want some more information about the various fields of view just have a look at  "Wisdom No. 9" within the binocular advices by Holger Merlitz!  


In case you would like to spend much more money you might consider an Apo telescope for 3,200 € and look at some birds in your environment as well. In this case there will be no colour fringes and other nuisances to hinder you from looking at the birds and you might see the feathers in utmost clarity.


A further possibility might be to decide to buy nothing at all, instead to join one of those many optics' internet forums. In those places you will be able to discuss with really bizarre characters about the pecularities of the optical colour fringes and you will come across archaic psychological gruoup behaviour patterns and thrilling conflicts between optical experts. This as a rare chance to study psychological mechanisms in the reality laboratory.


And you might look around in your house in order to find some forgotten optics. A few of those old optics can be quite competitive even today. And in the end it is the brain behind the instrument that counts - not the instrument itself. Like in photography where some really famous portraits have been made just by means of rather humble box cameras.


Just lie down on a meadow and read Hartmut Greven's nice tardigrade booklet (in German, sorry) - even at zero cost when borrowed from the local library.


If you want to live without tardigrades and optics you might decide to go for a pizza with some friends (possibly still needing some piece of optics in order to decipher the menu card). But be aware that the bill will be definitely higher than the second-hand Japanese high-quality binoculars.

Well, this was are really curvy course in order to wake you up for the upcoming summer with its numerous possibilities.

[ Pond life; unnknown artist ]

Historical engraving: life in a water droplet. Unknown artist. Two tardigrades crawling in positions 9 and 10 o'clock, one of them looking in direction to the center of the image, where a nice rotifer is posing.

© Text, images and video clips by  Martin Mach  (webmaster@baertierchen.de).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of the German language monthly magazine  Bärtierchen-Journal . Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.

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