I don’t own the AmScope M150C-MS, but I kind of wish I did.
The only reason I don’t have it is because it sits somewhere in the spectrum between my beginners’ Levenhuk Rainbow 50L and advanced AmScope T490B. So, I can’t really justify buying it when I can get all my experiments done with one of the microscopes I already have.
But here’s why I wish I owned this microscope.
It’s the only entry-level microscope on the market with a mechanical stage which in my opinion dramatically improves user experience.
Okay, maybe there’s a little more. It’s well designed and manufactured by one of the most respected brands in the industry. It’s got a fine focus knob (several entry level models don’t). And it’s the first in AmScope’s range that I think is more than just a ‘toy’.
This microscope is great quality and great value for money. You can buy it from here.
Note that I’m talking specifically about the M150C-MS in this review and not any of the other M150C models, like the M150C-SP14-WM (which, you guessed it, doesn’t have a mechanical stage).
AmScope M150C-MS Review
Below I review the key features of the microscope.
The AmScope M150C-MS is a small monocular microscope. But this has its benefits, especially because this is one of the best microscopes for its small size. It’s portable, weighing only 5Lbs, meaning you can carry this to and from home, the lab and school.
Just keep in mind it requires a power outlet to operate the light.
2. Monocular Head
The microscope operates using a monocular head. This may be a turn-off for some intermediate-level microscopists looking for a comfortable binocular head. But the upside of a monocular head is that it’s more user friendly for children. Kids often want to move and adjust their binocular scopes, which messes with the focus and distracts them from actually looking at the specimen.
So overall I’m generally happy with a monocular microscope for children under the age of 12.
You’ll notice that this model sits on a 45° incline. Most larger binocular microscopes have just a 30° incline, but given the size of this model, a 45° incline makes sense.
On top of this, it’s got a 360° rotatable head which can come in useful when sharing the microscope between students. However, I find the swivel head is rarely used – it’s easier to just swap positions.
3. Objective Lenses and Magnification
The magnification levels for this model are 40x, 100x, 250x, 400x and 1000x. That’s about as much as you’ll want or need for most projects, unless you’re going to get into oil immersion microscopy. Oil immersion is a more advanced technique for 2000X magnification and above (see the AmScope B120 for this functionality).
The magnification is achieved through two eyepieces with 10X and 25X magnification and three ocular lenses with 4X, 10X and 40X magnification. As far as I can tell, the 40X objective lens is not spring loaded, which I’d prefer, but again at this price point that’s not expected.
Focus can be achieved through coarse and fine focusing knobs which lift and lower the stage. There are several microscopes in the entry-level compound microscope category that don’t have fine focusing knobs, so again this one seems to beat several competitors on yet another aspect.
The focus knobs are also on both sides which I like as a left-hander!
The mechanical stage is what sets this model apart from many other microscopes in the beginners / student level category. This is the only one I can find in the category with a mechanical stage.
But make sure you get the M150C-MS model, not the M150C-SP which does not have a mechanical stage (that ‘MS’ stands for ‘mechanical stage’).
The reason I like a mechanical stage so much is it allows you to scan around your specimen while it’s under the microscope.
Most cheaper microscopes don’t have this, so you’re stuck looking at what’s exactly under the lens. You can manually more the slide, sure, but that requires dexterity that most children (and even adults) don’t have. Try moving a slide 1mm to the right while it’s pinned under clips. It’s frustrating, to say the lease.
The microscope is lit by a sub-stage 1W LED light. That’s about normal. Some microscopes have above-stage lighting also, but as your get to higher quality microscopes, the below-stage lights are usually sufficient. Above stage lights are really only for stereo microscopes or ‘toy’ compound microscopes.
There’s a brightfield condenser in this model, but it’s only an NA 0.65 condenser. The industry standard is NA 1.25. Nevertheless, it’s still better than many in the entry-level categoty.
The condenser is operated by a disc diaphragm. I’d prefer an iris diaphragm personally, but nevertheless (am I repeating myself?) this is about standard in lower-end microscopes.
The light needs to be plugged into a power supply to work. There are not battery options.
6. Additional Features
You’ll find that many competitor microscopes (and even the nowhere-near-as-good AmScope M40) come with included ‘educational kits’. They often have shrimp eggs and a few prepared slides included.
Personally, I see those educational kits as a red flag that the microscope is a cheap gimmick.
So I don’t begrudge AmScope for not including an educational kit with this model. You’re better off buying one separately and getting a decent microscope like this one, in my opinion.
But there is an included dust cover, which is important.
The only other ‘additional’ thing worth mentioning is the 5 year factory warranty which shows AmScope backs this model.
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of this microscope. But there are a few things to keep in mind to make the purchase that’s best for you:
- No Camera: If you want to record your projects, you’d need to buy an eyepiece camera. To be honest, I’d still prefer to buy this microscope then an aftermarket eyepiece camera like the MD500 than to buy one with a camera included. I’d be able to control the quality of the camera, and the costs would most likely balance out in the end. If you want a camera, remember the eyepiece dimensions are 23mm – you’ll need to know that to choose the right camera.
- Not Binocular: Binocular vs Monocular is a matter of personal preference. For me, I use monocular microscopes with kids and students (it’s less fuss), and binocular microscopes for my own personal at-home microscope (it’s more comfortable and less strain on my eyes).
- Advanced Methods Require a Better Microscope: Just about every experiment you’d want to do in elementary through to about Grade 10 or 11 can be done on this microscope. But when you move up to darkfield microscopy or oil immersion methods, you’re probably better off stepping up to the AmScope B120. I’m not even sure if you’d be able to fit an aftermarket darkfield condenser into this microscope.
At the end of the day, I didn’t buy this microscope. But there’s something in me that’s thinking I really should have. I like it – I think it gets all the features you want in a beginner microscope, and it’s sufficient to do intermediate microscopy experiments, so it’ll be able to handle a child’s growing scientific curiosity quite well. You can get the Amscope M150C-MS here.
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