What to Know About Purchasing a Microscope for Cannabis Applications

in The LIFESTYLE LOUNGElast year (edited)

This is a topic that is fairly difficult to research since most microscope information is related to anything other than cannabis. The purpose of this article is to ease your researching pain when deciding what kind of microscope to buy for what you need it for in regards to cannabis specifically - so let's get right to it.

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Only Need to Check Trichomes for Readiness? - Low Price Points

If all you need a microscope for is the practical application of checking your trichomes for readiness based on the cloudiness and amber-color transition levels, then you will not need to spend more than $20 USD. In fact, you can find one with everything you need for $5-$10 (especially when ordering from China if you are the early-bird type preparing in advance).

These type of microscopes are also known as jeweler's loupes, which I have used many times in the past for grading gemstones as well as looking at trichomes.

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Here is a listing for a perfectly good and low-priced mini-microscope perfect for checking trichomes for readiness (not even $6 shipped).

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For a few dollars more, here is a listing for the same loupe from a US based vendor for faster shipping if you are short on time and need one quickly (about $11 shipped).

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If You Want to Take Photos of Trichomes - Low Price Points

There is also another type of mini-microscope available in about the same price range as the jeweler's loupes that give you the ability to capture decent photos of your trichomes by combining the camera power from your smartphone. Simply attach the mini-microscope with the included clip to the part of your phone where the camera-lens resides and vualá! - you have yourself a makeshift digital microscope. Of course how well the photography works is partly dependent on the quality of your smartphone camera, it is also dependent on having the CORRECT microscope clip device. Reviews for some of these products are not good, leaving only a few to choose from...

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Here is a listing for a phone camera clip microscope that has decent feedback. Picking this type of product can get a little more tricky than the former, but worth it if you want to take trichomes photos but do not want to spend a grip of money doing it. This one is from China (about $8 shipped).

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Here is a listing for a similar phone-clip mini-mic from a US vendor for just a few dollars more ($10 shipped).

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Here is a listing you should NOT purchase - this item has poor reviews for cannabis applications that I found on some back-channel forums/video-sites after a ton of digging. It may look cool, but the build quality and functionality sucks.

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If You Want to Take Better Photos & Videos of Trichomes - Mid Price Point

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There is one micoscope in the $40-$60 range that will give you ok shots if you want something a little better than a jeweler's loupe, but I honestly wouldn't recommend it personally (although it does come with a stand).

If you want to spend $100-$300 to capture more professional-like photos and have the ability to take videos of trichomes, then there is only ONE company you should consider purchasing from: Dino-Lite. These type of microscopes are known as digital (or USB) microscopes.

Dino-Lite scopes can get pretty pricy, but their low end models still pack a punch and have decent versatility despite the "lower" price (compared to other models they produce). If you want anything over 0.3 Mega Pixels (MP) however, you will need to invest at least $330 which is the price point where the camera is upgraded to a 1.3 MP (which is more than you think on a microscopic level).

The 0.3 MP's still do well for most canna-purposes, and generally this is the range most growers will opt for when wanting to take photographs on a semi-pro level.

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This page has specs for the Dino-Lite AM3111 (pictured above - $150) but I would not recommend buying from the company's suggested sites since there are places to find it cheaper (more info below).

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If You Want Higher Quality Photos/Videos with Better Clarity/Lighting

You could spend anywhere from $350 all the way up to about $1000 to achieve the quality you may be looking for in this range. From $300 - $450 you will get a camera with 1.3 MP instead of 0.3 MP (a huge step up in resolution). You will also get the advantage of having upgraded lighting features which will limit glare and shadow, giving you a truer picture of what your trichs actually look like without distortion. Some of these models even boast a wider field of view and longer working distance so you can see more from a farther distance and in general.

In the range of $500 - $1100 (in addition to everything above), you also get the advantage of having a polarizer adjustment feature, which can drastically enhance image quality through premium focus. This also reveals more detail and provides more appropriate contrast in dimensions by eliminating reflections.

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The model I purchased in this range also includes automatic magnification and measurement reading capabilities with the included software (measurement also found on some of the less costly models). I purchased the Dino-Lite AM4515ZTL (pictured above) which has technically been replaced by the AF4515ZTL model, although the only significant difference I can find between the two is the fact that the new model has a wireless capability... but since I found a listing for this $800 microscope for $300, I really could not pass up the chance (more on how I did this below).

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If you want a Microscope with Extended Depth of Field for Professional Level Photography - High Price Point

You cannot get a real digital microscope with the extended depth of field feature (EDF) without paying AT LEAST $1200. This is unfortunate because this is the absolute best feature you can have on ANY camera/lens, but also the most expensive. It allows you to focus on multiple depths simultaneously so that everything in view is also in focus, instead of just one dimension of what is in view being in focus. This allows you to see ALL the trichomes at every level in your frame, even the ones in front of and behind the main trichs you would otherwise have to ONLY focus on (comparison below).

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Video of trichs using an EDF scope - hard to find as no one has them

I (along with most growers) cannot justify the expense of such a microscope despite how amazing they are - however you can get a deal like I did and pay much less than the retail price for any of these mid-high level price ranges by following my suggestions in the next section.

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How to find a Good Microscope for Less $$ than Retail

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Ebay is the undisputed champion for finding deals on Dino-Lite scopes. Given you must have patience and wisdom from articles like this one, you can in fact find pre-owned versions of these scopes (often times barely used) on Ebay for much less than anywhere else online including Amazon. Sometimes you can even find brand-new ones for less than retail there (as is the case with the scope I purchased).

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Another viable option for finding insane deals on digital microscopes is to check with your local universities that have science schools within them (most universities). Schools sometimes have sales or auctions whenever they replace lab equipment when achieving new government grants providing funding for them. This is the case now more-so than ever since many universities are switching completely to online classes because of covid, and selling off lab equipment all over the world at a greater rate than ever before. This makes for quite a buyer's market.

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A final method of approach would be to wait until Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving, coming up in a little over a month. I purchased ALL my audio production equipment on Cyber Monday a few years back, and I saved myself close to $1000 doing so. Microscopes also fall into this yearly massive discount sale category, and you would do well to purchase a new one from the right vendor during this time.

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Before Purchasing ANY Microscope!!

ALWAYS check Youtube and other forums for reviews on every microscope product you are considering purchasing BEFOREHAND! Also check for cannabis trichome specific reviews for each scope if possible, although this always requires a little extra digging, and is not possible for every model. With that in mind, I will be doing a canna-specific review of the microscope I purchased when it arrives, since there is not currently one available online yet (at least not one I could find).

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ALSO - please do not be duped by the listings you will find for Celestron brand microscopes. While this brand does very well for certain insects and leaves, their models DO NOT work well for cannabis flowers or other similar three dimensional objects. They also boast a 5MP camera on one of their $150 microscopes (pictured above) which is apparently a false claim based on all the reviews I read (which makes sense since you have to pay $1200 elsewhere to achieve a 5MP microscope).

I hope this article of focused research has been of assistance. I will be publishing an unboxing video and several examples of how my Dino-Lite scope works in the coming days. Don't forget that these microscopes can also be used to view insects and spores such as fungi and mold that may not be visable with the naked eye otherwise. Go ahead - get your geek on!

Please comment with any additional product suggestions below

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Great write up!


Here is what I use.

Gotta love those jeweler's loupes! I saw one in Tucson once that had the led lights (regular and UV) in 2 circles around the lens. They sold out before I got one though.

Yeah I can get good pics, but takes a little practice.

You have a link for that scope for the readers?