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Important factors to consider when buying a microscope or telescope
Telescopes and microscopes allow you to view things that the human eye usually can't spot. However, these devices have lots of features, and you'll need to shop carefully to find one that's suitable for your needs. Consider the following factors as you browse our selection.
Who will use it?
While you can find powerful, expensive telescopes and microscopes that are probably best left to adult use, both devices are available in special kid-friendly designs as well. Kids' microscopes and telescopes are often built to be less complicated and less expensive, which also tends to make them a bit more affordable than high-end, professional-grade models. Children who are interested in science may want to start out with one of these beginners' models and graduate to something more advanced (and more expensive) once they've demonstrated competency and a continued interest in the subject. Make sure to check product descriptions for any information pertaining to suggested user age ranges before purchasing.
What will I use it for?
On a very basic level, all telescopes and microscopes are used for one purpose: magnification. But different degrees of magnification and different device functions can bring a lot of nuance into how you use your telescope or microscope. For example, some telescopes, including those with wider apertures, are best for viewing low-light things like faraway nebulae. The wider aperture lets in more light, which may make it unsuitable for viewing brighter, close-up objects like the moon. As for microscopes, in addition to magnification you can think about factors such as digital compatibility. If you can plug your microscope into a computer, you may be able to capture images of what you see and use them for further research.
Where will I use it?
Figuring out where you're likely to use your new telescope or microscope will help you choose the right model. If you plan to travel with your new piece of equipment, you should look for something that's small and light enough to carry, and it won't hurt to look for something that comes with a specially made carrying case. The sensitive components of microscopes and telescopes might be easily damaged in transit, so having a carrying case that's tailor made to the device's shape will help keep it safe. This can be an especially important consideration if you want to do fieldwork with a microscope or think that you may want to bring your telescope out into the wilderness for a better view of the sky.
What accessories are required?
From special eyepieces for telescopes to prepared slides for microscopes, accessories can be a good way of customizing your new device and making it work the way you want it to. You can start by thinking about what accessories would be best based on how you plan to use the device. For example, if you want to collect your own specimens to examine under a microscope, you'll need blank slides. If you want to set up your telescope for regular use at home, you'll need a tripod or other sturdy stand. You may be able to find some microscopes and telescopes that come with the accessories you need. If not, make a list and purchase those items separately.
What's my budget?
You can find microscopes and telescopes at different price points, with accessories and other bells and whistles often adding to the cost. You don't necessarily need to spend more to get a device that will work well for your purposes. Do some preliminary browsing to set your price expectations at a realistic point, then set a budget limit for your purchase. You can use product filters to narrow down options and rule out anything that's out of budget. Then, use product descriptions and reviews to determine which in-budget devices seem like they'll give the best results.
Am I getting more magnification than I need?
It may seem like more is better when it comes to microscopes, telescopes and magnification. After all, these devices are designed to make tiny or faraway things easier to see in detail. However, less can be more, and finding the highest degree of magnification available isn't necessarily the best way to shop for a microscope or telescope. Think about it like using the zoom feature on a camera. When the zoom is more powerful than what you need, it's always possible to zoom in too far. When you get too much magnification, it becomes hard to see detail. This is another reason why it's important to consider what you're most likely to use your device for before you buy. That way, you can crunch some numbers and figure out what the most appropriate magnification is for your needs.