The AmScope B120 is an impressive yet affordable microscope from the top manufacturer in the industry.
Overall I think this microscope would be a good pick for students anywhere from middle school all the way up to college level.
That’s what I really like about these mid-level compound microscopes: you can do beginner all the way up to advanced experiments with them, but they don’t break the bank either.
There are some great features that tick my boxes here, like:
- The Siedentopf head (doesn’t lose focus when adjusting the binoculars)
- The mechanical stage (makes it easy to scan your specimen)
- Good magnification range (including for high magnification oil immersion experiments)
- Industry standard brightfield Abbe condenser (you’d want to get a darkfield stop to do darkfield microscopy though)
If there were one hesitation I’d have about this microscope it’s that it doesn’t come with a camera. This isn’t a deal breaker for most people, but as someone who shares their experiments on YouTube and with students, I like to be able to record and show the results. You could easily buy a 2MP camera such as the MD500 to attach to the eyepiece, though.
The other thing to keep in mind is – for younger children – you might be better off going with a model like the M150C-MS which is an affordable and good quality scope that’s a little less intimidating than this one.
AmScope B120 Review
I’ll review the microscope from top to bottom.
1. Siedentopf Viewing Head
Many binocular microscopes don’t have a Siedentopf head. This means they will lose focus when you make mild adjustments to the binoculars. When you adjust the binoculars, you usually change the interpupillary distance (distance between the eyepieces), which changes the focus of the microscope.
The Siedentopf head solves that problem by allowing you to change the interpupillary distance around a central axis without affecting the focus.
In layman’s terms: this microscope doesn’t change focus when you adjust the binoculars for comfort, leading to better user experience.
On top of this, the head can swivel 360 degrees when sharing it between people.
Overall, between the swivelling head and Siedentopf binoculars, this is a great ‘sharing microscope’.
A diopter is also available on the left ocular tube, which is good for people with different vision in each eye. You can use the microscope without having to wear your glasses if you calibrate it correctly.
2. Optics and Magnification
The magnification for this model is achieved through two 10X & 25X eyepieces (23mm width – remember that if you buy an aftermarket camera), as well as four 20mm DIN standard achromatic objectives.
Make sure you get a microscope (like this one) with DIN standard objectives. This will make it easier to buy replacement objectives in the future.
The four objective lenses magnify at 4X, 10X, 40X and 100X.
This gives total magnification potential of: 40X, 100X, 250X, 400X, 1000X & 2500X.
Note that the 2500X magnification is likely going to require oil immersion techniques to get best quality vision (that’s normal). The 100X objective is ready for oil immersion.
The 40X and 100X objectives both have springs in them, which helps to protect them in case they bump up against the slides. This is a differentiating factor between quality microscopes in this intermediate compound microscope category. Some competitors don’t have these springs for their 40X objectives.
To help protect the objectives, only use the fine focusing knob when working with the 40X and 100X objectives engaged.
As you’d expect of a stage on a decent quality binocular compound microscope, this one has a mechanical stage. A mechanical stage allows you to scan around your specimen by moving the stage on the X-Y axis. I find this really useful if I have a larger specimen that I want to explore. It’s not a deal breaker, but definitely helps with user experience.
The stage, of course, also adjusts vertically using coarse and fine focus knobs to obtain focus on the specimen. Remember to only use fine focus when using higher magnification objectives to prevent hitting the stage up against the objective.
The AmScope B120 is illuminated by LED sub-stage lighting mounted on a fly-eye lens. This is a good setup in my opinion, and far outstrips the quality of some of AmScope’s own lower-end microscopes like the M30 and M40.
While there isn’t above-stage lighting, I wouldn’t expect that for a microscope such as this one. Above stage lighting is usually only used for opaque objects viewed through stereo microscopes.
You do find some lower quality compound microscopes with above stage lighting, but higher quality models usually have sufficient sub-stage lighting. In my opinion, the AmScope B120 has good enough sub-stage lighting and shouldn’t have above stage lighting.
The light is further controlled by an industry standard Abbe-Rack & Pinion condenser that also has an iris diaphragm. Ticks all around here for me. You should be able to do quality brightfield microscopy, but will need a darkfield stop or darkfield condenser to do darkfield microscopy with this microscope.
You don’t expect too many accessories with a microscope such as this one. The beginner kids’ microscopes often come with experiment cards and starter kits, but more intermediate and advanced models like this one tend not to.
What you do get is a blue color filter, which can be really useful if you feel the colors from the lamp are too warm. This does happen at lower light intensities, so keep the blue color filter handy to secure a cooler and more neutral color when needed.
There is also a bottle of immersion oil to get started with oil immersion microscopy at 2500X magnification.
There’s also a dust cover, which I’d encourage you to place over the microscope when not in use to protect the lenses.
You’ll be able to tell by now that I’m a fan of this microscope. I think it’s good quality for the intermediate-level category and would be satisfactory for a beginner all the way up to intermediate-advanced student of microscopy.
But there are some things you might want to consider:
- Do you need a camera? People who like to teach or capture their experiments will want a camera. Personally I like cameras because it makes microscopy a lot more fun. You can either get a trinocular model which allows you to use a camera and look through the microscope at the same time. Alternatively, you can get an aftermarket camera like the MD500 and attach it to the AmScope B120, but you won’t be able to use the camera and viewfinder at the same time.
- Is it too advanced? Some younger children fare better with monocular compound microscopes like the Amscope M150C-MS, which are simpler to use but not as powerful.
- Do you need to do darkfield microscopy? If you need to do darkfield microscopy, you’ll probably want to get a darkfield condenser or darkfield stop. You can buy these as addons to make adjustments to this microscope.
My Final Verdict
Overall, I’m very impressed by the Amscope B120 and was strongly considering getting it. I think it’s a great microscope because it’s not going to burn a hole in your pocket, can be used by beginners, and can continue to be used for higher-end experiments as your scientific curiosity grows.
In the end, I went with the Amscope T490B instead, which is a similar microscope but has a trinocular head for photography.
Hi, I’m Chris and I run things around here! I share all my microscopy experiments, microscope information and tricks, how to guides, and microscope reviews in the articles on this site. Browse around to see what you like (I recommend the experiment ideas section) or connect with me on any of the social platforms listed below.