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The first microscope dates back to about 1590, but digital cameras were only invented in 1975. About a decade later, those two technologies met up in a bar (ok, the lab of a Japanese lens company) and that May/December romance produced some seriously accessible hybrid tech: the digital microscope. This instrument eliminates the hassle of peering through the eyepiece and meticulously adjusting the focus—by porting the digital image to a monitor or the screen of your phone.

Easy to Use

This scope captures high definition images and includes software that works with a wide range of platforms. T TAKMLY

Just like a traditional microscope, the first consideration when choosing a digital microscope is its magnification range. These numbers are determined by the scope’s lenses and let you know what size of specimen you can expect to see with your instrument. You only need about 400x to see blood cells and some bacteria—but the pros advise a magnification of 1000x to really see the details of those specimens.

Good for Beginners

This option has a built-in light source and easy-to-access focus knobs. Jiusion

A good digital microscope should include a solid stand so that you have your hands free to manipulate the specimen—and because a stand holds the scope steady so your view stays in focus. For extra versatility, look for an instrument with a flexible neck so you can bend the microscope for different viewing perspectives.

This instrument features a gooseneck mount and gridded stage so you can easily view and measure tricky specimens. Plugable

One special consideration when selecting a digital microscope is the instrument’s software. Since this is how you get those images onto your screen, make sure the software is compatible with the devices you want to use with your scope. You’ll also want to decide if you prefer a wired setup that connects via USB or a wireless, wifi-enabled option.