Best all-round
  • Large display
  • Wide zoom range
  • Large working distance
Best high-end
  • Impeccable optics quality
  • Versatile boom stand
  • Shadow-free lighting
Best on a budget
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If you want to repair electronics, you will greatly benefit from a microscope. Surface mount components are getting smaller and smaller, and there is only so much you can see with the naked eye. Nowadays, magnification is essential when it comes to the inspection of solder work, PCB traces and SMT components.

Luckily, technology has gotten to a point where there are many types of microscopes available that you can use for electronics. From optical stereo microscopes to digital ones with and without screen, there is a wide range of devices you can choose from.

This abundance of options is great, but it also makes it harder to choose. Not only because of the many models available, but also because there is a lot to keep in mind when making your decision. For example, the magnification factor, working distance and working area are all important things to think about when buying a microscope.

To make your decision easier, I have compiled a list of the best models of microscopes for electronics, along with a complete buyer’s guide. The guide contains the most important things to pay attention to and helps you figure out which microscope is best for you.

Let’s dive in!

What makes a magnification device a ‘microscope for electronics’?

Not all microscopes (and other magnification devices, like visors) work well for electronics. There are a couple of things that are of particular importance:

  • Vertical working distance. You want to have enough space under the microscope for any tools that you use. For example, a soldering iron, hot air gun and tweezers all need to fit, not to mention the circuit board itself. Enough working distance is important to move tools around freely, but it is also essential to keep the lens of the microscope safe from accidental damage.
  • Horizontal working area. To work effectively on electronics, you need a large enough area under the microscope to fit the circuit boards that you intend to work on. If you want to repair MacBook Pro motherboards, for example, you need a larger available area under the microscope than when you only focus on mobile phone repair.
  • Ergonomics. Finding a damaged trace or component can sometimes take hours. To prevent unnecessary strain on your body, it helps to have a microscope that encourages good posture.
  • Storage of images/videos. Storing images or videos for later reference can be useful. Some microscopes can store these on an SD card or transmit them over USB to your PC.

What can you use these microscopes for?

There is a wide range of tasks related to electronics that benefit from the use of a microscope, for example:

  • Soldering.
  • Finding damaged traces.
  • Locating cold solder joints.
  • Identifying failed electrical components.

Basically, any time you do any work or repair that involves circuit boards, a microscope is a practical tool. No matter if you are a hobbyist or a professional, enough magnification is always useful.

Of course, you can use these microscopes for a variety of other purposes as well. Watch repair, jewelry making, looking at rocks minerals up close, you name it!

Top microscopes for electronics repair in 2020

Andonstar AD407 3D HDMI Soldering Digital Microscope

Best all-round

The Andonstar AD407 is one of the most versatile microscopes currently available. Its wide feature-set makes it an excellent microscope for electronics repair and soldering.

The main feature of this device is its large LCD screen. With a 7″ diameter, it gives you a clear, large view of what is going on under the microscope. Unlike other digital microscopes with screens (which are typically 5″ or smaller), there is no need to connect the microscope up to an external monitor to distinguish the smallest details.

Despite the large screen, the AD407 also has an HDMI output port. So if you desire to work on a large-format monitor, you can still do so.

The image on the screen has a low latency, as a result there is no annoying image lag that slows your work down.

The adjustable stand allows you to tilt the microscope lens backwards. This practically gives you an infinite working distance above your workpiece, so there is plenty of space for your soldering iron, testing leads, hot air gun and other tools.

Tilting the microscope back also creates a sort of 3D/depth effect in the image. This is a nice addition, but in my experience not as useful compared to the increased working distance you get.

On the software side of things, you can find a lot of options for storing images and videos on an SD card (not included) and for controlling the image output settings (resolution/frame rate, timestamps, contrast, color temperature, etc.). The image quality itself is excellent as well, so the device offers you a lot in this regard.

All features are controllable through the buttons under the display, but you can also use the included infrared remote. This comes in particularly handy when recording images and videos, as any movement on the device from pressing the display buttons leads to a blurry image. By using the remote, you don’t have to worry about that.

As usual with Chinese microscopes, the magnification claims are exaggerated, based on stretching the image out on a large screen (this does not give more detail). The actual magnification is still more than enough for SMD work, however, so if you are thinking about getting this microscope for electronics repair and inspection, it is an excellent choice.

For more information, you can read my in-depth review on the AD407.

Top Features

  • Low-latency image
  • Versatile stand
  • Photo/video storage on SD card
  • IR remote

Technical Details

Magnification (claimed) Up to 270x
Lighting Two adjustable high-brightness LEDs
Working distance Max. 6.5" / 166 mm
Screen size 7" (1024×600)
Video output HDMI
Capture resolution Photo: Up to 4032 × 3024
Video: Up to 2880 × 2160

Pros

  • Large display
  • Wide zoom range
  • Large working distance

Cons

  • Build quality could be a lot better
  • SD card & remote batteries are not included

AmScope SM-4TZ-144A Professional Trinocular Stereo Zoom Microscope

Best high-end

If you are looking for one of the best (but still affordable) stereo microscopes for electronics, it is worth your time to check out the AmScope SM-4TZ-144A.

It features a versatile dual-arm boom stand that allows you to adjust the microscope head on all axes. Combined with the 8″ / 20 cm working distance, the device gives you an excess of freedom in movement and positioning. There is very little you won’t be able to work on or inspect with this microscope.

The boom stand itself is rather heavy. This is done to achieve as much stability as possible. As a result, the microscope remains stable even with the boom arm fully extended.

To illuminate your circuit boards and workpieces, the SM-4TZ-144A comes with an adjustable-brightness 144 LED ring light. Not only does this give you full control over the amount of light under the microscope, but the ‘ring’-aspect also means that the light is shadow-free.

As for magnification, the overall range is 3.5x-90x. The microscope achieves this by using 10x super-widefield eyepieces in combination with a 0.7x-4.5x zoom objective. On top of that, you can add one of the included 0.5x or 2.0x Barlow lenses to further adjust the working distance and magnification to your liking.

The eyepieces are of the high-eyepoint type, so you can use them comfortably while wearing glasses. And for individual eye-strength differences, there is even an option for dioptric adjustments on the microscope itself.

A downside of the SM-4TZ (that is not clearly mentioned everywhere) is that in order to activate the camera port, you must temporarily block the left eyepiece through the use of a lever. In order words, this is not a simul-focus scope where you can use both eyepieces and the camera port at the same time.

If this is of particular importance to you, then you might want to look at the AmScope SM-4TPZ instead. This model costs a bit more, but does come with the simul-focus feature.

Regardless of this limitation, the Amscope SM-4TZ-144A is an excellent investment as a microscope for electronics work that lasts you for years to come.

Top Features

  • Fully adjustable boom stand
  • 144 LED ring light
  • High quality optics

Technical Details

Magnification 3.5x-90x
Lighting Four-zone ring light with 144 LEDs
Working distance Up to 8" / 20 cm

Pros

  • Impeccable optics quality
  • Versatile boom stand
  • Shadow-free lighting

Cons

  • Manual not included (needs to be downloaded)
  • Camera port has different view than eyepieces

Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope

Best on a budget

While USB microscopes are technically more magnifying cameras than microscopes and they do not have the same features as ‘real’ microscopes, they are still a good option for simple electronics work.

For magnification on a budget, I recommend looking at the Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope. At the time of writing this, its $35 price gives a lot of value for the money.

This microscope comes with built-in, adjustable LEDs. You can adjust the LEDs brightness, so that regardless of what you are viewing under the microscope, you get a properly lit image.

The flexible gooseneck helps you place the device in a variety of positions. That way, you can pick the exact viewpoint of the camera and make sure that it does not get in the way of your work.

The gooseneck is secured to the observation stage through the use of a suction cup, but if you don’t like this arrangement, you can always attach it to a different stand. The microscope comes with a 1/4″-20 TPI thread fitting, which is the standard for modern cameras and tripods.

To get sharper images when making pictures, the Plugable USB 2.0 microscope comes with a capacitive capture button. This allows you to trigger the camera without bumping the device and creating a blurry result.

Keep in mind that USB microscopes are often difficult to solder under. This is usually because of a limited working distance and a high minimum magnification. But for inspecting soldering work, like looking for solder bridges on the leads of fine pitch components, they work just as well as a larger microscope.

Top Features

  • Adjustable brightness LEDs
  • Versatile stand
  • Capacitive capture button

Technical Details

Magnification (claimed) Up to 250x
Lighting Integrated LED halo light
Output resolution Photo: 1600x1200
Video: 640x480

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Great value
  • 2 year warranty

Cons

  • Flimsy arm
  • No 'true' 250x magnification

AmScope SE400-Z Stereo Microscope

Best budget stereo microscope

When working on SMD electronics, it often helps to be able to see depth. This is where stereo microscopes come into play. These microscopes have separate optical paths for each eyepiece. Just like with our eyes, this lets us see a 3D image.

The AmScope SE400-Z is one of the best entry-level stereo microscopes. It is a useful instrument for many purposes, but one of the areas in which it shines is electronics work.

It features two levels of stereo magnification, 10x and 20x. While a 10x magnification is a bit on the high side for typical soldering and electronics work, it gets compensated by the fact that the eyepieces are widefield. This means that they show a much larger area than standard eyepieces with this magnification. Because of this, you can enjoy both a high magnification and a wide field of view.

The SE400-Z is installed on a boom stand. This allows you to extend and rotate the microscope outwards and gives you the option to work on large format circuit boards. The stand itself is 13.5″ / 34 cm high and gives you a 9″ / 23 cm working distance. When it comes to electronics microscopes, this is a luxurious amount of space.

The eyepieces are inclined at a 45 degree angle. This makes them comfortable to use for longer periods of time and reduces the amount of strain on your neck, back and the rest of your body.

As for lighting, the instrument comes with a single adjustable gooseneck LED light. This is less lighting than other microscopes give you (which often come with ring lights or multiple adjustable lights), but based on the reviews it is sufficient.

All this, combined with its low price point, make the AmScope SE400-Z one of the most popular entry-level stereo microscopes.

Top Features

  • Widefield eyepieces
  • Adjustable boom arm
  • High quality optics

Technical Details

Magnification 10x / 20x widefield
Lighting Adjustable gooseneck LED light
Working distance Up to 9" / 23 cm

Pros

  • Large working distance
  • Great image quality
  • Sturdy base

Cons

  • No image capture options
  • Single light source

Koolertron 4.3 inch 1080P LCD Digital USB Microscope

Best budget microscope with screen

You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot if you want to buy a microscope with an LCD screen. Even on a smaller budget you can get something useful. It will have a smaller screen and less features than a higher-end unit, but it is still perfectly usable.

The Koolertron 4.3 inch 1080P Digital Microscope is an example of such an instrument. It does not have the largest feature-set, but it also does not break the bank.

This microscope comes with a 4.3″ diameter screen that gives you a clear view of what lies under the microscope. Its smaller size and resolution of that of other screens make it a bit harder to distinguish the smallest details, but it is still adequate for working with most electronics and circuit board components.

The front of the lens assembly is protected by a UV filter. Not necessary to keep UV light out, but more to prevent flux, solder and smoke from damaging the lens itself. A useful addition on devices like this, where the vertical working distance is not extremely long.

You can connect the microscope over USB to stream video to your computer. Additionally, the device can store images and video on an SD card. The SD card must be purchased separately, however, so keep that in mind.

Just like with the other digital microscopes in this buyer’s guide, take the stated magnification with a grain of salt. These are often overstated on these types of microscopes. Despite that, the magnification is still more than sufficient for electronics inspection, electronics repair and soldering.

Compared to the more expensive Andonstar AD407, this microscope has a smaller screen, smaller vertical working area, lower resolution and lacks a HDMI output to connect it to an external screen. If these are no issues for you, then there is no reason to go with a more expensive option, and the Koolertron 4.3 inch 1080P is a perfectly valid alternative for your electronics work, mobile repair and similar jobs.

Top Features

  • USB video output
  • Responsive screen
  • Lens protection filter

Technical Details

Magnification (claimed) 10x-220x
Lighting Adjustable arms with LEDs
Working distance 4" / 10 cm
Screen size 4.3"
Video output Over USB
Capture resolution Photo: 1280x720
Video: 1080P FHD

Pros

  • Low-latency image
  • Clear image
  • Adjustable lighting

Cons

  • No HDMI output
  • Mediocre build quality

Donegan DA-5 OptiVisor Headband Magnifier

Best visor for electronics work

If you can’t justify the cost of a microscope, or do not have the space for it, then a magnification visor can be a good solution. While visors do not have the same qualities as an actual microscope, they do give decent enough hands-free magnification for things like soldering and PCB inspection.

OptiVisors are the standard when it comes to magnification visors, and the Donegan DA-5 OptiVisor is the one I recommend for electronics.

The DA-5 comes with a 2.5x magnification at a 8″ focal length. This is enough magnification to hand solder 0603 and 0402 components while also working for basic PCB inspection.

Aside from things like a low cost and not taking up much space, magnification visors also have the advantage of being positioned a good distance from the face. This makes them an excellent option for people who need to wear prescription or safety glasses.

When buying a magnification visor, try to go with one that has glass lenses. These give significantly more clarity and less distortion than acrylic lenses. On the Donegan visors, the DA- series comes with glass lenses and the LX- series has acrylic ones. I recommend steering away from the LX- series.

If you need more magnification than the 2.5x at 8″, for example for up-close inspection of PCB traces, you can look at the Donegan DA-10 OptiVisor. This model comes with a 3.5x magnification at a 4″ focal length, making it more suited for close-up work.

If you think that you might need to project additional light onto your workpieces, then there is a 3rd party lighting system available that is designed to work with these visors.

Top Features

  • Comfortable leather band
  • Head-size adjustment knobs
  • Tilts out of the way when not needed

Technical Details

Magnification 2.5x (at 8" focal length)
Lighting Separate

Pros

  • Quality glass lenses
  • Hands free magnification
  • Compatible with eyeglasses

Cons

  • No built-in lighting

Buyer’s Guide – What to pay attention to when buying a microscope for electronics

There is quite a bit to think about when choosing a microscope for electronics work. As a result, it can be tricky to figure out which microscope is best for your purposes. To make it a bit easier, I have listed the most important elements that you need to keep in mind when making your decision.

The type of microscope

There are various types of microscopes available on the market. Some are great for electronics work, whereas others are harder to use for this goal. Each type of microscope usually comes with its own benefits and accompanying price range.

Let’s take a closer look at the types of microscopes for sale.

USB microscopes

Out of all available types of microscopes, USB microscopes are one of the simplest and cheapest. They also provide the least functionality, but are still a valid option when it comes to working on electronics.

These instruments do not function as a stand-alone device, and instead can only be used in combination with a computer. To view the image of a USB microscope, you need to plug the microscope into a computer and view the image on its monitor.

These microscopes are fairly simple devices and basically consist of a webcam, a macro lens and built-in light source, like LED lights.

The instruments usually come with a 25x to 30x magnification, but often claim to provide 100x, 200x or higher magnifications. This higher magnification is ‘achieved’ by stretching the image out on a large screen. As you can imagine, this does not give you any extra detail, and is not considered to be actual magnification. So take these magnification numbers with a grain of salt.

When it comes to electronics work, USB microscopes are only useful for certain tasks. For example, they are great for board inspection, like when you need to check soldering bridges on fine pitch components.

For soldering small SMT (surface mount technology) components while looking through the microscope, however, they are not that great. This is for a couple of reasons:

  • Image delay. Because the image is transmitted over a relatively slow USB connection, there is often a delay between your movement and the video feed on the monitor. This delay, or lag, is very annoying to work with and slows you down a lot.
  • Hand/eye disconnect. When working with USB microscopes, the monitor is often positioned far away, off to the side from the area where you are actually soldering. This disconnect between where your hands are and where your eyes look is not pleasant and is tricky to get used to.
  • Focal length. The short focal length of these devices creates a small vertical working space. Or in other words, there is not much space to get your soldering iron and other tools between the PCB and the microscope.

In short, USB microscopes are a good option for PCB inspection and for soldering the occasional one-off project, like replacing a HDMI port on a PS4. But if you plan on doing regular SMD soldering or other electronics work under the microscope, it is best to get something more practical.

Other benefits of these instruments are that they provide an easy method of recording videos and images, and they barely take up any space, unlike the other, more bulky types of microscopes we will look at.

You can find USB microscopes starting at $10. But for a decent-to-good one, you can expect to pay $30-$40.

My pick for this category is the Plugable USB 2.0 Digital Microscope. It is one of the few affordable USB microscopes with a good build quality and a proper 2-year warranty.

Microscopes with an LCD screen

Microscopes with an LCD screen can be considered one step up from USB microscopes, both in functionality and in price. They are the first option we look at that is a good option for both frequent soldering and PCB inspection.

As the name implies, these microscopes come with a screen that lets you see in front of you what you are doing under the microscope. They also come with a stable base that you can work on, and often have multiple arms with built-in LEDs that help light up the work area.

Compared to USB microscopes, these microscopes provide several benefits:

  • Wider magnification range. The larger lens assemblies on these microscopes let you zoom in and zoom out further than with a USB microscope. So you can get a higher zoom or a wider view of what you are doing, depending on what you need.
  • Larger working distance. On microscopes with an LCD screen, the lens can typically be positioned a lot higher from the workpiece. As a result, you have more space for your soldering iron, probes and other tools.
  • Better lighting. These types of microscopes often come with high brightness LEDs that do a great job at lighting the workpiece.
  • Less hand/eye disconnect. On these devices, the LCD monitor is positioned right above your hands. This makes working under the microscope significantly more intuitive, compared to when you work with an external monitor that is placed somewhere on the side.
  • Less image lag. Microscopes with an LCD screen have less lag than USB microscopes when displaying the image feed. On some models, there is even no noticeable delay at all. This makes working under the lens much more responsive.
    In the recommendations below I have included two models that have fast responding screens with no noticeable lag.

Some models come with additional features, such as an IR remote control, HDMI output for when you do want to connect the microscope to an external screen, and options to store video and images on an SD card or to send them over USB.

Two models that are worth looking at are the Koolertron 4.3 inch 1080P (budget pick), and the Andonstar AD407 (more high-end). The last one is the microscope that I use myself at the moment.

Stereo microscopes

Stereo microscopes are microscopes with two eyepieces, with each eyepiece having its own optical path. This basically means that each eye has its own microscope. As a result, a stereo microscope lets you see depth.

The ability to see depth properly is a big advantage when working on electronics. It would be impractical to place many small SMD components on a circuit board with a flat field (no depth) view, for example. It helps significantly to see where things fit in 3D space.

This is one of the reasons why stereo microscopes are often favoured in professional environments. The depth view in combination with a lag-free image (as opposed to when working with screens) make these microscopes a time-efficient tool.

Additionally, a good stereo microscope lasts longer, gives a better image quality and is easier to troubleshoot than a digital one.

As for downsides, stereo microscopes are more bulky and expensive than their digital counterparts. And if you want additional features, you often have to be prepared to spend extra.

For example, eyepieces with different magnification, light rings for illumination or a camera & eyepiece adapter for image recording are all accessories that you might have to buy separately to meet your specific needs.

One of the best beginner stereo microscopes for electronics is the AmScope SE400-Z. For a more versatile stereo microscope for soldering you are well off looking at the AmScope SM-4TZ-144A. Both are popular options that give a lot of value for the money.

So what is better for electronics, a stereo microscope or one with a built-in screen?

This often ends up being a matter of personal preference. Some people find it more convenient to look at a monitor instead of through the eyepieces, especially when using the microscope for long periods of time at high magnifications.

Other people experience looking through the eyepieces more natural and less tiring than looking at a screen.

In the end, both types of microscopes are perfectly suitable for electronics work. If you plan on doing a lot of SMT component placement, however, I do recommend getting a stereo microscope to take advantage of the depth perception.

Visors

Visors are not microscopes, but I include them in this line-up nonetheless. They are a great budget option to get the magnification required for electronics work and can often be used instead of a microscope.

Visors fit over your head and contain a magnifying lens that you can look through. When you don’t need magnification, you can simply flip the lens up out of your line of sight.

A major benefit of these devices is that you can wear them over eyeglasses or safety glasses. These sometimes interfere with using the eyepieces of a regular microscope. With visors you don’t have this issue.

For electronics work, a visor with somewhere between 2.5x and 3.5x magnification works well. 3.5x gives you more detail than 2.5x does, but if, for example, you regularly need to check the placement instructions for SMD components, a 2.5x magnification doesn’t require you to lift the visor up for that.

Visors do come with several downsides compared to real microscopes. Their main limitations are that the magnification is fixed, there is no option to capture images or videos, and you typically need to use an external light source to light up your workpiece.

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If you want to go with a visor, make sure to buy one with glass lenses, and not acrylic/plastic ones. Glass lenses provide a clearer image, making it easier to focus your eyes and reducing eye strain.

Donegan OptiVisors are the go-to brand when it comes to magnification visors, and you can’t really go wrong with one of those. They have both 2.5x (8″ focal length) and 3.5x (4″ focal length) options available that are well suited for electronics work.

Other types

Aside from the microscopes listed above, you can also find more advanced ones, for example the Mantis Elite. These are extremely high-end and come with a significant price tag.

I have left these out of this guide. Not only because they are not useful for 99% of the readers here, but also because if you need one of those, you probably know better what you need than I do.

Horizontal working area

An important thing to keep in mind if you want to use your microscope for things like electronics repair work, is the horizontal working area the device gives you. This is what limits the dimensions of the circuit boards that you can work on.

For example, if the stand of the microscope is positioned 80mm behind the lens, you can only fully inspect circuit board of up to 160mm in length (80mm*2, because you can rotate the PCB to view the other end).

While you can place bigger circuit boards under the microscope, you would be limited to working on the outer 80mm edges. There would just not be enough depth to insert the circuit board deeper and look at the center.

So when choosing a microscope, make note of the dimensions of the items you will be working on.

If you only work on small PCBs, like with mobile phone repair, this is not really something to worry about. But when it comes to repairing larger circuit boards, like MacBook Pro and other laptop/computer motherboards, this is definitely a thing to keep in mind.

Typically, microscopes with boom stands provide the largest working area. These have an extendable arm that allow you to move the microscope over and around the workpiece.

Vertical working distance

Just like the horizontal working area, the vertical working distance is also important. You want to have enough space under the microscope to maneuver your soldering iron, as well as any other tools you use.

An important thing to keep in mind here, is that the height of the circuit board (or whatever else you will be working on) gets subtracted from the working distance. The space your workpiece takes up, you can not use for anything else.

As a minimum, I recommend a working distance of 50 mm / 2″, but more is always better. A larger working distance gives more freedom and reduces the risk of accidentally damaging the lens.

Some digital microscopes, like the Andonstar AD407, come with a UV filter on the lens to protect it against damage from flux, solder, smoke and tools.

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Budget USB microscopes typically have a very short working distance, making them unsuitable for doing soldering work with. Instead, they are only suitable for things like PCB inspection.

Magnification

Each microscope has the ability to magnify a certain amount. On models with zoom functionality, this is indicated with a magnification range (e.g. 10x-100x). On instruments with a fixed zoom, like visors, this is noted with a single magnification factor (e.g. 3x).

When it comes to electronics work, like soldering, PCB assembly and other repair work, you don’t want too high of a magnification factor. Ideally, you want to view smaller details, but still be able to see the surrounding area on the circuit board.

In practice, this means a minimum magnification of 2.5-3.5x, with at the upper end a maximum of 10-20x. This is more than enough to work with even 01005 (very small) SMT components and do fine pitch rework.

Higher magnifications (>20x) are great if you want to look at something up close, like looking inside of an opened up IC circuit, but these magnifications are not practical for doing actual work. They only allow you to see a very small area, and the increased zoom gives an unsteady image when handling things under the microscope.

On stereo microscopes, 10x and 20x magnifications are typically achieved by using a combination of an 1x objective and 10x or 20x eyepieces. If you are in the market for such a device, try to get one with widefield eyepieces. These allow you to see a wider area than with regular eyepieces, which is ideal when doing electronics work.

The AmScope SE400-Z is a great entry-level stereo microscope with 10x and 20x widefield eyepieces, which is part of why it is my pick for best budget stereo microscope for electronics.

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The magnification abilities of Chinese digital microscopes (USB or with LCD) are often overstated. They typically have a 25x to 30x actual magnification and achieve the rest of the claimed magnification by blowing the image up on a large external monitor. This does not give you the ability of seeing smaller details, but instead just creates a stretched image.
While this is not an issue for things like electronics repair (as the 25x/30x magnification is already sufficient), it is still good to keep in mind when comparing microscopes.

Lighting

Bright lighting is essential when it comes to microscopes. The higher the magnification, the more light you need to add to see what is going on under the lens.

Some types of microscopes, like USB microscopes and the ones with an LCD screen, tend to come with some kind of built-in LED lights. On stereo microscopes, however, lights often come as a separate accessory.

Light accessories come in various types. They can be subdivided in ring lights, which are mounted around the lens of the microscope, and external lights.

Ring lights are the easiest to work with, as they do not require frequent adjustment and do not get in the way of your soldering and repair work.

External lights, like fiber-optic lights, tend to be a lot brighter than ring lights. They house all large components, like the power supply, light source and electronics, externally and transmit the light through flexible arms with fiber-optics.

External light sources have the tendency to create shadows, whereas ring lights do not.

Some people like to work without shadows on their circuit boards, while others prefer the contrast and depth they create. It is a matter of preference and ultimately it does not really matter that much.

Lighting for microscopes is available in different color temperatures, ranging from a cool bluish tint to warm yellow, with bright white in between.

My recommendation is to go with a bright white or slightly yellow light. These give good visibility and are, unlike blue light, not too harsh on the eyes during long periods of use.

The Amscope LED-56S-ZK and LED-144W-ZK are both excellent ring lights that you can also attach and use on several non-Amscope branded microscopes.

Price

The last (and maybe the most important) consideration when choosing a microscope is the price. Depending on your needs, you can spend from $40 for a USB microscope to $1000-$1500 for a feature-packed stereo microscope. If you need the absolute best image quality, you can even spend more on premium brands like Leica or go for a Mantis Elite.

In general, the more you spend, the better the image quality and the more features you get. But that does not mean that you should go out and buy the best microscope you can find.

If you only need magnification for a single project, you can often get by with a USB microscope or visor. It might take a bit more time than when using a ‘real’ microscope, but you will save quite some money.

If you plan on doing more frequent electronics work, like mobile repair as a side-job, or regularly placing and soldering SMD components on PCBs, you are well off with something better.

Both a good digital microscope with LCD and a beginner stereo microscope are excellent options for more frequent electronics work. Not only do they come with more features, they also let you work faster and have better ergonomics for working extended periods of time.

Conclusion

Microscopes are essential for electronics repair, assembly and inspection. SMT components are small and in order to get the best results it is necessary to resolve the smaller details that we can not see with our naked eye.

There are different microscopes available for these jobs, and depending on the type and frequency of the electronics work you intend to do, there is a microscope that is right for you.

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