Swift SW380B Compound Microscope – My Initial Thoughts

About this Article: I researched 9 microscopes before buying one (not this one).  If you want to see all the microscopes I researched, see my article on the 9 best compound microscopes. This information was for my personal circumstances only and is not professional advice to you. Read more on the website’s disclaimer page. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Swift SW380B is one of Swift’s best compound microscopes. Its high magnification levels and quality lenses make it a great candidate for clinicians and college science students.

Personally I think the 2500X magnification is a little over the top (you only need about 400X for most experiments you’ll come across). It will allow you to see cells and dyed specimens in good detail.

But overall there are mostly only positive things to say here: it’s got a great siedentopf binocular head, mechanical stage, an oil immersion lens and industry standard Abbe condenser. There’s the option to include a 5MP camera upon purchase, which I’d personally select if I were starting over.

My Verdict: I looked at seven compound microscopes before making a purchase. And unfortunately I didn’t end up buying this model, but not because it’s no good. Based on personal preference I went with the Amscope T490B for my at-home compound microscope. But it was line ball, and I was very close to getting this model instead. You can get the Swift SW380B here.

Below are my thoughts.

Swift SW380B Compound Microscope Review

I usually review microscopes from the head on down, so let’s start with that very sleek looking sidentopf head.

1. Sidentopf Head

The siedentopf head is the most visually appealing part of this overall very sleekly designed microscope.

A sidentopf head is a binocular head that you can bend (like binoculars) to get the most comfortable position based on your eyes. As you bend it, the focus does not change. This makes it easier to share the microscope between people (but also is a really comfortable way to view a specimen at home in your lab).

And of course, the head is fully rotatable which also contributes to the ease of sharing – although I find I never use that function even when sharing my microscope.

The one thing I did find was a little out of the norm was the 30 degree tilt on the microscope head – that’s a little less than usual (which is 45 degrees), but this may also be because this is quite a tall microscope compared to many others.

2. Magnification

The magnification is achieved by interchangeable widefield 10X and 25X eyepieces, as well as 4 standard DIN achromatic objectives. As per usual, they’re mounted on a revolving turret to make selecting your magnification easy.

The objectives are 4X, 10X, 40X and 100X. The 40X and 100X lenses are spring mounted to protect them from those moments you might accidentally bump them up against the slides.

I’ve noticed that springs on the 40X and 100X objectives is a differentiating factor between many microscopes in this category. This seems to be one of the first things that goes missing in microscopes that are designed with less attention to detail and cost cutting. So it’s a good sign to see springs on the higher zoom lenses.

The 100X objective is also primed for oil immersion which is great for some advanced experimentation. I don’t tend to use this method, but many students will likely be asked to use it for college-level classes.

Overall, there are 6 magnification levels: 40X, 100X, 250X, 400X, 1000X, and 2500X.

3. Stage and Focus

Most intermediate level binocular compound microscopes such as this one have mechanical stages, and this one is no different.

For those who don’t know, a mechanical stage allows for not only vertical adjustment (which is what achieves focus), but also X-Y axis adjustment to allow you to scan your specimen without having to manually move the slide around. The travel range of the microscope is 70x30mm, which is plenty.

This microscope also allows for both coarse and fine stage focus adjustments, which is absolutely expected in a microscope at this level. The stage also has a rack stop.

4. Lighting and Power

The sub-stage light is a 1 Watt LED bulb. There is no above stage light. This is typical of an intermediate level compound microscope. There’s no need for an above stage light because you’ll be working on translucent or near translucent specimens with this scope (e.g. bacteria).

The light is controlled by a simple light intensity regulator (i.e. a dimmer), NA 1.25 Abbe condenser, and an iris diaphragm. Overall, this is quite normal for a microscope in this category. If you want to do dark field microscopy, you’d need to get a darkfield stop or a darkfield condenser.

The lighting only operates when plugged into a power source. Battery power is not an option.

5. Accessories

You don’t get a ton of accessories with this model, but again, that’s common in the intermediate compound microscope category. Lower-end microscopes often come with ‘starter kits’ that have experiments like shrimp eggs as well as some prepared slides included. But this model only comes with a blue filter, immersion oil, and dust cover. That’s not a deal breaker for me.

I’ve seen this model sold with a 5MP camera included for an extra fee. That could be a decent deal as 5MP cameras get decent quality pictures as far as microscope cameras go (I personally use a DSLR camera with a camera to microscope adapter – see my setup on the ‘My Gear List’ page in the menu at the top of this website). Remember, though, that it doesn’t matter how strong the camera is – you still need to get the focus right!

Trinocular Microscope Upgrade

Swift also offers the SW380 as a trinocular model. This upgrade keeps all of the features of the SW380B, but includes a simul-focal third ocular tube to capture images.

The big benefit of a trinocular head is that it allows you to record images and videos, project them onto large screen, and even livestream footage, of your specimen. It’s great for teaching both in class and online.

You can attach a camera to a binocular model as well, but this means you can’t use the camera and look through the ocular lenses at the same time.

Overall, a trinocular upgrade to this microscope is really nice to have, but it’s not for everyone – and mostly best for teachers or enthusiasts who like to record their findings.

Important Questions to Ask Yourself

Overall I think this is a really good microscope. There aren’t a ton of downsides. But here are a few things you might want to keep in mind:

  • Do you need a Camera? I really like my camera. It makes microscopy more fun. I capture my specimens, create YouTube videos, and can present them to others. When teaching, I can print out what we see to label our specimens. If you need a camera, it might be worth buying a trinocular microscope with a camera attached (this is the most comfortable way to film).
  • Is Binocular Right for you? Binocular microscopes are comfortable. But there’s also the choice of monocular and trinocular. I usually recommend monocular microscopes for elementary school students because they’re easier to handle for kids. You might also want a trinocular model if you want to look at your specimen and record it on a camera at the same time.
  • Will you be doing Darkfield Microscopy? This model doesn’t come with a darkfield condenser. You’d need to buy aftermarket parts to do darkfield experiments.
  • Will you need to move this Microscope Around? This microscope is not battery powered so it won’t be very portable. It would be best if this microscope had its own desk and stayed there.

My Final Verdict

I’m very impressed by the Swift SW380B. There’s not much to dislike about this model! The main question you need to ask is whether this model is too advanced or not advanced enough for you.

Many beginners choose to get monocular compound microscopes such as the M150C-MS, which is more entry-level but still allows you to do similar experiments. It’s monocular and not as comfortable as a binocular model for personal use, though. I usually like the M150C-MS for educational purposes mainly.

More advanced people or people who want to do teaching and recording with their microscope might lean toward a trinocular model, which is what I did (I got the Amscope T490B which I review here). So while I chose not to buy this microscope, that was only because of my personal preference for another model. I took a good hard look at it and liked what I saw. I think it’d suffice most hobbyists and university-level biologists. You can get the Swift SW380B here.