We are often asked to distinguish between a stereoscope vs. a microscope. What is the difference between a stereoscope and a microscope? A stereoscope is a binocular microscope (also known as a “dissecting microscope”) that magnifies at a relatively low power for viewing three-dimensional, opaque objects, such as flowers, insects, mineral specimens, fossils, coins, or really anything. Generally the magnification of a stereoscope is between 20x and 50x, and specimens are lighted from above. The three-dimensional image is produced by TWO objective lenses, plus the eyepieces. View our stereoscopes here.
A biological or compound microscope (pictured left) might have a binocular (two eyepieces) OR monocular head, and magnifies at a much higher power than a stereoscope. A compound microscope is designed for viewing small cells, or thin sections of organs or tissues placed on a glass mounting slide. The specimens are thin enough that light can pass through them from below. Magnifications of compound microscopes are generally range from 40x to 1000x, and there is one objective lens (the lens above the specimen) used at a time. Usually there are several objective lenses that can be rotated into place above the specimen for viewing with varying magnifications.