Camera Museum - Microscopes and Telescopes
Camera Museum - Microscopes and Telescopes

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WELCOME TO THE MICROSCOPE AND TELESCOPE SECTION OF THE CAMERA MUSEUM. To read about the history and selection of microscopes and telescopes, read on. Click to go directly to the Microscopes or Telescopes.

Microscopes and Telescopes are not cameras. They are basically the same as lenses, however, and often have film or digital cameras attached. Indeed, serious research with telescopes is usually done with sophisticated digital image sensors attached to the telescope. All the principals of camera lenses generally apply to microscopes and telescopes. In my Photograph and Math article I start my discussion of aperture with telescopes since they generally have a fixed focal length and a single aperture making the analysis easier.

Microscope History. The first microscopes were developed around 1590 by Hans and Zacharias Janssen. Further work was done by Robert Hooke and Anton van Leeuwenhoek in the later half of the 17th century (1600s). In his 1665 book Micrographia Hooke used the term "cell" in observing cork, the bark from a certain oak tree. These cells are the basic unit of life. Anton van Leeuwenhoek expanded on this work observing bacteria from the mouth and protozoa from pond samples. (See generally Soutwestschools.org - Microscopes.) Major improvements occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Major photographic lens makers have also been involved in making microscopes including Zeiss, Nikon and Olympus. Molecular Expressions Microscopy Primer: Museum of Microscopy has photos of exquisite microscope designs from the 16th through 20th centuries. Without the microscope, major advances in biology and medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries would have been impossible. Besides light microscopes, scanning and transmission electron microscopes were developed starting in the 1930s. These use electron beams instead of light to create an image. They generally cost at least hundreds of thousands of dollars and are used by universities and other research institutions.

Telescope History. Not coincidently, the advances in lenses also lead to the telescope being developed in the early 1600s. Hans Lipperhey and Jacob Metius of Middelburg in the Netherlands developed telescopes in 1608. Sacharias Janssen, from the same city, also developed a telescope at the about the same time. As indicated above, Janssen was also responsible for the development of the microscope. In 1609 Italian Galileo Galilei used 3X, 8X and 20X telescopes to observe the Earth's moon, as well as four of the moons of Jupiter. He also observed the phases of Venus and sunspots. Galileo's microscope used lenses and was a refracting telescope. Around 1671 Isaac Newton developed a reflecting telescope that used a curved mirror, instead of a lens, to collect the light. (The Galileo Project - The Telescope.) Curved mirrors could be made with greater diameters than lenses. Reflecting telescopes could therefore gather more light.

Microscope and Telescope Selection. Microscopes and telescopes are, of course, important instruments for scientists today. We are lucky enough today, however, that most families can afford to have a microscope and telescope far better than anything Hooke, Galileo or Newton would have had and indeed, better than many research instruments earlier in the 20th century. I recommend every family with children get a microscope and telescope. They are truly windows to other worlds of the very small or the very far away. It is a great opportunity to discover the wonder of nature and science. It is also an opportunity for parents and children to experience this wonder together. Also, parental involment is necessary to get the child off on a solid footing. It is important to carefully research what to get before you buy. Otherwise, you may end with an instrument that is stuck in the closet as happens with countless thousands or millions of telescopes and microscopes.

Microscopes. For a microscope, I recommend a quality "high school" level instrument with a 10X wide field eye piece lens, at least three objective lenses for powers up to 400x, fine and course focus, Abbe condenser and iris diaphragm, and a built in light source either fluorescent, halogen or LED. With the shopping around, you can generally find a decent scope for around $200 give or take. The LW Scientific scope below is an example of decent high school level scope. LED light sources are new. While I have not used microscopes with an LED light source, a big advantage is that they use less energy and hence can be powered by batteries. This is a great advantage in a classroom setting avoiding the need for AC outlets and the danger of tripping over cords. If money is not an object, you can get a binocular, professional quality microscope like the Unico G380 below. While I have not used them, www.amscope.com appears to have nice microscopes at very reasonable prices. I would not shy away from a quality microscope made in China. There are also many microscopes made recently in India for very reasonable prices. I have not tried them. Stay away from your typical department store or toy store microscope. The focus is poor, the lenses are very low aperture not letting in enough light, and they are difficult to use.

Dissecting Microscopes. The microscopes described above are light transmission microsope where there is a light source at the bottom that shines up through the specimen which is placed on a glass slide. Another type of microscope is a dissecting, inspection or stero microscope. With a dissecting microscope, the light shines on the specimen. There are often two powers such as 10X and 30X or 20X and 40X. Take a look at your skin, the material in your clothes, a leaf, a flower, a butterfly, etc. under one of these scopes and you will be amazed. Prices will be similar to a light transmission microscope. While your image won't be as spectacular, an alternative, especially for kids, is a pocket microscope which usually magnifies 30X and may have a zoom function. They are usually around $10 give or take. An example is at Edmund Scientific.

Telescopes. There are three main types of telescopes available: (1) refractor which uses lenses to bend or refract the light, (2) reflector which uses a mirror to bend the light, or (3) a Schmidt-Cassegrain or Maksutov-Cassegrain which use a main curved mirror at the bottom of the tube, but also a lens at the top of tube. The lens corrects optical aberrations and also supports a small secondary mirror which reflects the light back to the eyepiece. Terrace Dickinson in his excellent book Nightwatch, A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe (pages 67-74) (Firefly 4th ed. 2006) recommends beginners choose a 6 to 8 inch Dobsonian mounted reflector. Dobsonian mounts are simple wood mounts that rotate about the base and go up and down. Their advantage is ease of use and relative portability. Their disadvantage is that they do not track the stars. Stars appear to constantly move during the night because of the Earth's rotation. Some telescopes can move along with the apparent motion of the stars. He recommends against the typical 60mm department store refractor telescopes which have too small of aperture and are usually on flimsy mounts and tripods. For an idea of prices, an Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope is $329.95 at Orion Telescopes and Binoculars as I write this in August 2009. A 6 inch Dobsonian, Orion StarBlast 6 Astro ReflectorTelescope, sells for $279.95. A classic starter telescope dating back to 1976 is the Edmund Scientific Astroscan. It is a 4.25" diameter (about 105mm) reflector that looks to me like a big red bomb! It has a very unique mount in which the spherical bottom of the telescope rotates in metal base. That base can be mounted on a tripod or simply set on a flat surface. It is now called the Astroscan Plus featuring a better focusing mechanism and a red dot sighting system. It sells for $229. It is made in China. It actually use to sell years ago for $400 when it was made in the U.S. Orion has a 4.5" table top Dobsonian reflector (Orion StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector which is highly portable like the Astroscan for $199. Celestron now has a very small 76mm diameter reflector, called the Celestron FirstScope, on a Dobsonian mount that sells at Orion for only $49.95.

Telescope Diameter, Not Power, Is Important. In discussing the telescopes above, I did not refer to the power of the scope. Rather, the more important factor is the diameter of the lens or mirror of the telescope. The larger the diameter of the lens or mirror, and hence the larger the area, the more light that can enter. In general, big diameter is better. However, bigger diameter also generally means larger price and weight and less portability. Therefore, you must balance those factors also.


Microscopes

[Gundlach Manhattan Microscope]
Gundlach Manhattan Microscope. (Large Image, Back View, Side View, Case, Case Opened) Made sometime between 1902 and 1926 in Rochester, New York. A history of the Gundlach Optical Company is contained at Historic Camera - Gundlach Optical Company History. Ernst Gundlach emigrated from Germany in 1876 where he founded the microscope department of Bausch & Lomb in Rochester, New York. He left Bausch & Lomb to found his own optical company which initially focused on microscopes, but by about 1890 focused on camera lenses. While Ernst Gundlach left the firm in 1895 the firm continued operations under the Gundlach name. In 1902 the firm acquired Manhattan Optical Company and changed the name of the firm to "Gundlach-Manhattan Optical Company." This name was changed in 1926 to Gundlach Manufacturing Company. Since my microscope has the Gundlach-Manhattan name, it must have been made sometime between 1902 and 1926.

The majority of the microscope is made of brass. It has a 7x "G.M.O.CO." (i.e. Gundlach Manhattan Optical Company) eyepiece. The case contains an extra 3x G.M.O.CO. eyepiece. The microscope has three objectives mounted on the turret - (1) C. Leitz Wetzlar, oil (spelled oel) immersion, Agert 1:30, 1/12, Serial No. 68292, (2) Betz 2/3 (no other designation), and (3) Betz 1/6, Tube Length 180 N.M. There are two brass containers for the 1/12 and 2/3 objective lenses. The microscope has a diaphragm operated condenser. It also has a Bausch & Lomb mechanical stage. It also has a reversible mirror. There is no electrical light. It has both coarse focus and fine focus. The fine focus is on a wheel on top of the main support. The microscope appears to be professional level such as might have been used by a physician or at a university. This style of scope, especially with the U shaped base, is apparently called "continental." The scope tilts just below the stage. The basic design appears to have been used by many manufacturers. There is a good discussion of a similar, although simpler and perhaps earlier, Gundlach-Manhattan scope sold on eBay. My scope comes with a wooden (Mahogany?) locking case (14" x 8.5" x 7") with the key.

The scope was purchased at a garage sale in the Spring Valley - Mt. Helix area of San Diego County, California on February 7, 2015 for $30. The young couple selling it had received it as a gift. They did not know anything about the history of it. The scope and case are both in good cosmetic. The case and lock work well. The scope is in working condition although the corse focus is very stiff and the turret moves extremely stiffly. I was able to position the turret to view through the lowest power objective. The view is crisp and clear like with a modern scope. I think all the focus and turret need is lubrication. This is a wonderful and beautiful addition to my microscope collection and my first really old microscope.

[Unico Binocular Microscope]
(Large Image)
Unico G380 Binocular Microscope. Professional level, binocular microscope, that might be used in a veterinarianís or physician's office. It has binocular 10X wide field, high eye-relief, eyepieces. High eye relief means the image forms at the eye relatively far from the surface of the eye piece. This is good if you wear eye glasses while viewing. It has four objectives of 4x, 10x, 40x and 100X, giving powers of 40X, 100X, 400X and 1,000X. Abbe condenser and adjustable iris. Coarse and fine focus. Variable halogen light source. Built in mechanical stage. More information at unico.com. These typically go for about $700 at several sites. I wasn't in the market for another microscope, but I came across this for $100 on a Craigslist ad in July 2009. The seller was a SDSU college student who acquired three microscopes and apparently many other surplus things in a lot on eBay from a medical supply company. He had tried to resell the scopes on eBay without luck. He indicated sales are difficult with very inexpensive microscopes now coming from India. He therefore choose to sell them on Craigslist. It appears to be new with a few scrapes on the body. It works wonderfully well with bright, clear views. It is a joy to use.
[Zeiss Standard 14 Microscope]
(Large Image)
Zeiss Standard 14 Microscope (Circa late 1970s) Another professional level microscope with a trinocular head. I don't know when it was manufactured. It states it was made in West Germany. That would therefore place it before 1990 when West and East Germany reunited. According to the Zeiss Corporate Site the Standard model was first introduced in 1950. In 1986, Zeiss introduced a new generation of microscopes under the Axioplan, Axiophot and Axiotron names. Apparently, my microscope was made between 1950 and 1986. My microscope looks very similar to that at J. Gregory McHone, "The Best 'Affordable" Petrographic Microscopes of the 1970s to 1990s," /www.microscopy-uk.org (hereafter "McHone") which refers to the microscope there as from the late 1970s. Zeiss is a premier microscope and lens company that has been making microscopes since 1847. (Zeiss Corporate Site - How it Started.) By the latter half of the 19th century Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe were at the forefront of modern microscope design. The Zeiss Corporate site explains the fascinating history of the various Zeiss companies complicated by the split of West German and East German operations following World War II and the combining of operations again with German reunification in 1990. In addition to making microscopes, Zeiss companies have made Zeiss Ikon cameras, Contax cameras, East German Pentacon cameras (see 35mm SLR - Pentacon section of the museum), lenses, binoculars, and rifle scopes. Zeiss equipment today remains high end, usually with high price tags. My microscope does not say it is a Standard 14. It is clearly their standard model, however. It is also 14 inches high and is therefore, I assume, the 14 model. It has five Zeiss objectives all made in West Germany: (1) Planapo 25/0.65 (160/0.17), (2) Neofluar 40/0.75 (160/0.17), (3) Plan-Neofluar 63/0.90 (160/0.11-0.23), (4) Plan 2.5/0.08 (160/-), and (5) Plan 10/0.22 (160/-). (Image of objectives, Image of objectives and intermediate tube.) The eyepieces are Zeiss (West Germany) Kpl W 10x/18 with a little image of eyeglasses. I assume that means they have high eye relief for those who wear eyeglasses. My microscope comes with what I believe is a 10 watt adjustable Halogen light similar to that shown in the Zeiss microscope in the McHone article. My microscope also has what I assume might be called an "intermediate tube" although it is not like the "intermediate tube" in the Zeiss microscope in that article. My tube has an optical lens on the top and bottom. There seems to be some sort of delamination or coating issue around the edges on the top lens. What I assume is a filter holder slides in just under this lens. Around the sides are four "ports." One is closed off. Opposite that port is an open port that is 40mm in diameter. It has a tube that slides in an out. Another port has a very dark filter (I assume). Opposite this is a port with some sort of lens or glass. This port seems to accept some accessory on the side. The inner diameter of this port is about 29mm and the outer diameter is about 36mm. (Image of "intermediate tube", Image of objectives and intermediate tube.) I'm guessing that my "intermediate tube" is part of the setup for a Fluorescence microscope similar to that pictured at spectraservices2.com. (See also www.lehmanscientific.com.) Mine, however, does not have light source that attaches to the last port discussed above. Epi-fluorescence Microscopy is discussed at the Loyola Marymount University - Los Angeles site. Since I don't have the light source which I assume is very powerful and expensive and since I don't know anything about fluorescence microscopy, I don't think I will be using this feature of the microscope although I assume it is very useful and expensive! To anyone knowledgable about my "intermediate tube," please let me know if I am totally off base as to what it is! I purchased my Zeiss microscope from an ad on Craigslist for only $50 in the Mira Mesa area of San Diego. The seller had originally acquired it from an employer who was closing. She had later used it to detect and count parasites in the fecal matter of her horses. Except for some minor paint loss around one eyepiece and the coating or delamination issue with the one lens of the "intermediate tube," the scope appears to be in good working and cosmetic condition.
[LW Scientific Oberver IV Monocular Microscope]
LW Scientific Observer IV Monocular Microscope. Typical high school level monocular microscope. 10X wide field eyepieces. It has four objectives of 4x, 10x, 40x and 100X, giving powers of 40X, 100X, 400X and 1,000X. Abbe condenser and adjustable iris. Coarse and fine focus. Fixed fluorescent light source. I have optional mechanical stage. I purchased this new online around 2000 when I was teaching middle school science. I think it was around $200 with the stage. I also purchased a teaching head, but later discovered it was the wrong model and never returned it. It is still in excellent condition. It appears to be the same Observer Model IV sold today directly by LW Scientific, Inc. for $359. Oceanside Photo and Telescope has it available for $289 with the mechanical stage. The following are several photos I took with this microscope and a simple 3.1 megapixel compact digital camera, the Kodak CX 6330 (or maybe the Kodak DX 6340 - I can't remember).
[onion40x]
Onion 40x
[onion100x]
Onion 100x
[onioncell]
Onion Cell
[onionnucleus]
Onion Nucleus
[anacharist]
Elodea, a common aquarium plant also called Anacharist
[anacharist]
Elodea
[ant]
Ant from prepared slide
[beeeye]
Bee Eye from prepared slide
[Bee Eye from prepared slide close-up]
Close-up of Bee Eye from prepared slide
[cheek]
Human (Mr. Martin) Cheek Cells
[Olympus Microscope]
Olympus Microscope (Large Image) A more traditional style microscope from a very respected name in both cameras and microscopes. This was purchased used at a garage sale in around 2008 for $5 or $10. It is missing and eyepiece and a light source. 4X, 10X and 40X Olympus objectives for 40X, 100X and 400X magnification with a 10X eyepiece. Abbe condenser with adjustable diaphragm. Coarse and fine focus. Has areas of paint loss and rust. I tried it with the eyepiece from my LW Scientific microscope above and an LED flashlight. It worked well with all three objectives. No model number, although it has the letters HS at the top. "HS stands for the name of the Japan emperor Hirohito / Emperor Showa. The correct model number for the microscope with condensor is HSC, signifying the scope has a condensor rack. Or HS if it does not." (Email from David Christmass on 10-30-14. Thanks for the info!) "The emperor was a great fan of marine microbiology, and a very great man indeed in the field, and well respected, as a research fellow." (Id.) Later on Craigslist I obtained an Olympus OM-1 with a microscope adapter. I therefore have a nice vintage Olympus set.
[LW Scientific Achiever Stereo Microscope]
LW Scientific Achiever Stereo Microscope (Large Image) A stereo dissection or inspection microscope with 10X binocular eyepieces and objective lenses of 1x or 3X for 10X magnification or 30X magnification. It uses two fluorescent lamps each rated at 5 Watts. One is on top and points down on the specimen. The other is underneath the translucent plate on the bottom of the microscope and shines through translucent specimens. You can use each light independently or together. Due to the reduced power, stereo dissection microscopes usually only come with one focus knob like this one. LW Scientific still appears to offer the same model with a list price of $380. Oceanside Photo and Telescope has it priced at $249. I bought mine at an online store with the LW Scientific Observer IV above around 2000 when I was teaching middle school science. I think I paid around $200. Mine is still in very good condition. Stereo microscopes are great for looking at everyday objects. You never knew how creepy your dry skin is, for example, until viewed at 10X or 30X magnification. Pennies, dollar bills, magazines, computer circuit boards, leaves, newspapers, typewritten material, fabric, butterflies, bugs and soil are all very cool under a stereo microscope.

Telescopes

[Meade ETX 60-AT]
Meade ETX 60-AT (Large Image, Front of lens) 60mm diameter refractor telescope with a focal length of 350mm. Aperture = focal length/diameter = 350/60 = 5.83. The original ETX model was a 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope which was an relatively inexpensive substitute for the Questar 3.5" Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope. Later Meade introduced the much less expensive ETX 60-AT refractor. The refractor ETX telescopes, while okay, are really in a different, and lower, league the the Maksutov-Cassegrain ETX telescopes. My Meade ETX 60-AT is from about 2000. The model sold at the time at Wall-Mart for about $200. There was also a 70mm model. The current refractor model is the ETX-80AT-TC (400mm f5) which has a retail price of $299. In early 2009 it was selling at a 1/2 price sale for $149.50 at a local Ritz Camera store. The increase in aperture is a nice upgrade. The current Maksutov-Cassegrain ETX is the ETX-125 AT with a retail price of $899. It is a long focal length telescope of 1900mm with an aperture of f15. The ETX refractor telescopes are aimed at the beginner or someone who needs portability. Especially with the increase in aperature, the current ETX-80AT-TC seems like a decent beginner telescope, especially if you can get it at a discount. My Meade ETX60-AT is limited by its small aperture, but still seems like a quality scope which is easy to pick up and take to the backyard or camping. I purchased it used, but in near new condition, at a garage sale in the Rolando area of La Mesa, CA (Judson Way) on 9-1-09 for $30. It came with box, two 1.25" eyepieces (9mm and 25mm), and software including Meade StarNavigator software. The most interesting thing for me is that it came with the "Autostar" Computer Controller.
Backyard telescopes don't change that much with time. One important development in the past decade, however, was Meade's release in 1999 of the Autostar system. Autostar is a computer controller that attaches to the telescope. You enter information as to the date, time and location. In the easy alignment mode, you set the tube to the horizontal position and point it north. The telescope then selects and positions the telescope to the star. You make sure that star is in the center of the viewfinder. The telescope then selects and positions the telescope to another star. You again make sure that star is in the center of the viewfinder. The Autostar is then aligned. The telescope can then take you to any one of 1,400 objects in the sky. You simply select the object from the menu on the controller. It can also take you a tour of the highlights of the night sky for that time and location on Earth. Autostar was originally introduced with the ETX-90, but quickly expanded to most models of Meade telescopes. Once an object is located, the telescope will also track the object to correct for the movement of the Earth. The only exception is Dobsonian mounted telescopes. While controllers have been developed to locate an object with a Dobsonian, the user must actually move the tube into the correct position. Further, the telescope will not track the object once located. Other manufacturers have also come out with their own controller systems. Finding this $30 telescope at a garage sale was an inexpensive way for me to try out telescope computer controllers.
[Meade DS-10]
Meade DS-10 (circa 1985) (Alternative View, Top View, View Down Optical Tube Showing Mirrors) The DS stands for Deep Sky and the 10 stands for a 10 inch diameter mirror. The DS-10 is on an equatorial mount with an AC motor to allow tracking of the stars. At the review site www.excelsis.com, it is described as having a 1143mm focal length. This divided by a 254mm (10") mirror diameter, gives a focal ratio (aperture given as f-number) of f4.5. The focal length for a Newtonian is the distance from the primary mirror to the point of focus which is the secondary mirror. (See generally starizona.com which has a good discussion of focal length, aperture, focal ratio, magnification and other telescope terms.) The DS-10 generally gets good reviews, with a common complaint being you cannot rotate the optical tube. As indicated below, however, mine has been modified to allow rotation of the optical tube. The owner's manual is at http://www.deltos.com/reference/astronomy/meademanual.html. It has a 1985 copyright date. The manual is also available at www.astronomics.com. The DS-10 was designed to be a large although relatively inexpensive reflector telescope. To save on costs it has a heavy cardboard optical tube. Also, as originally manufactured, it does not have rings to allow the optical tube to be rotated. A prior owner added homemade rings to mine to allow rotation of the optical tube. I purchased this at a garage sale in the Fletcher Hills rolex replica sale area of El Cajon, CA for $30 as I recall. It was $40 but as the seller was taking the optical tube off, the counter balance weight caused the tripod and equatorial mount to tip over breaking one of the homemade rings that held the optical tube. I got another $10 off as a result of rolex replica the fall. The optical tube was not affected at all. I later reinforced the rings and they work fine now. The mirror is dusty, but otherwise in good shape. I should probably clean it sometime. Mirrors are rather fragile and easily scratched. There are some fancy cleaners available, but this YouTube video, "How to Clean Your Telescope Mirror", seems to be a very reasonable replica watches uk approach. The other problem is that the focuser is not long enough to bring the image into focus. I added a piece of PVC pipe and I could then bring the image into focus. I think they make extension tubes also. All in all, a big light bucket for $30!
[Celestron]
Celestron SP C6 Reflector (1984) A 6 inch diameter Newtonian reflector with a Super Polaris equatorial mount. Telescope Bluebook indicates it was made by Vixen in Japan and is equatorial as an "excellent ... instrument" with a unique 1.25" sliding focuser, a "exceptionally stable" wood tripod and Super Polaris equatorial mount, and 6 x 30 finder scope. I bought it used in the early to mid 1990s at Oceanside Photo and Telescope in Oceanside, California (Northern San Diego County). It has motors for both axes. Properly set up it would make a decent scope for astrophotography. It generally gets good reviews at www.excelsis.com. I think I paid something like $600 or more. It has a 750mm focal length. This divided by the 150mm (6 inch) diameter, gives a focal ration (f-stop) of f5. Celestron has a similar scope today called the Celetron C6 N which sells at Optics Planet for $799. In general, I think the price of telescopes may have been going down especially with many telescopes being made in China. I have a Telrad finder in addition to the 6 x 30 finder scope. It came with one rolex replica sale eyepiece as I recall. I shortly thereafter bought several other eyepieces. The mount and motors do a good job of tracking the stars. To use it, you first set the mount to the latitude you are at. The mount has a little finder scope in it. You sight Polaris in this. The mount is then pointed directly north. Once you locate an object, the motors will keep the scope moving at the same speed as the Earth is moving. The object you are looking at will then stay within view. It is a very nice scope that I have used in my backyard, the desert and the mountains. It is heavy, however, and a bit of a pain to set up. That's the big advantage of a small telescope like the Meade ETX above.
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