I’ve been looking for a microscope for home (for mostly Biology stuff) but you always seem to have to choose between what is basically a cheap plastic toy, an older-style optical model with no built-in lights (let alone a digital camera) or some really expensive “C.S.I.” type unit that is clearly overkill.
Perhaps this (available in February 2008) model will be the happy compromise I’ve been looking for. Its 40-400x (nice range for lots of Bio stuff), has top and bottom LED illumination (some things show details better reflecting light, some are better when light comes through them), six color filters, a 2MP digital camera built-in, USB connection to a computer, a 3.5″ LCD screen, an SD Card Slot (so you could take it out to a site, take pics, and come back home – but you’d need power at the site (maybe a battery pack will emerge?)).
Downside, there is no option to use optics-only – and as much as capturing your findings is cool, your eye is way higher resolution than 2MP so some details will be lost (wonder if it does video – imagine capturing a cell dividing, that’d be cool). The screen sure looks like a design after-thought – wonder if it detaches or something? And $300 is still expensive. I’ll wait for the first reviews to come in (and hopefully more/better pictures of the unit), but it might be something nice to start with in the fall.