A microscope is an optical instrument used to view small objects by enlarging them with two convex lenses. Optical microscopes, used for research, illuminate samples with visible or ultraviolet light. Depending on its structure, a biological microscope is categorized as an upright or inverted with a magnification ranging from 10x to 1500x.

Different types of microscopes are used based on the desired level of magnification. Magnifying glasses or loupes are used for quick inspection with a low magnification; binocular microscopes are used to observe from 10x to 50x, and upright/inverted microscopes are used to observe from 50x to 1500x.

Viewable objects by magnification

Magnification Instrument Example
1x Naked eye Hair (approx. 0.1 mm)
Approx. 2x to 5x Magnifying glass Plant or insect
Approx. 10x to 20x Stereoscopic microscope Water fleas and other microorganisms
Approx. 50x Upright/inverted microscope Insect's compound eye
Approx. 100x Upright/inverted microscope Paramecium
Approx. 200x Upright/inverted microscope Pollen
Approx. 400x Upright/inverted microscope Euglena
Approx. 800x to 1,500x Upright/inverted microscope Cell or chromosome
(approx. 0.2µm)
Approx. 2,000x to 1,000,000x Electron microscope Objects from 1μm to 0.1 nm such as a DNA (2 nm)

Trivia: What is the reference for a magnification of 1x?

A magnification of 1x is based on the point where a nearby object can clearly be observed by the human eye. Because this distance is 250 mm (distance of distinct vision), the size that can be observed at this distance is specified as 1x.

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