Friday, April 19, 2013

Illumination Types for Microscopes

  • Tungsten – the least expensive method, and the most common on low-end scopes, tungsten illuminators use standard incandescent light bulbs. They are relatively bright, but they produce a yellowish light and considerable heat. In particular as the light is dimmed, it shifts further toward orange. This warm color balance can obscure the true colors of specimens. The heat produced by the incandescent bulb may kill live specimens and quickly dries out temporary wet mounts made with water. Lamp life is relatively short.

  • Fluorescent – costs a bit more than tungsten, and was quite popular before the advent of LED illuminators. Fluorescent illuminators provide bright light that appears white to the human eye, but is actually made up of several different discrete colors that are mixed to appear white. Accordingly, color rendition can differ significantly from the true color rendition provided by daylight. Fluorescent bulbs emit much less heat than incandescent bulbs, and so are well suited to observing live specimens. Some fluorescent illuminators are battery-powered, but most use AC power. Lamp life is relatively long.

  • LED – priced about the same as fluorescent illuminators, LED illuminators have become very popular, largely replacing fluorescent illuminators. LED illuminators have the same color-rendition problems as fluorescent illuminators, but are otherwise ideal for many purposes. LED illuminators draw very little power and emit essentially no heat. Their low power draw means they’re the best choice for a battery-powered microscope, and are ideally suited for portable microscopes that can be used in the field. Lamp life is essentially unlimited.

  • Quartz-halogen – the most expensive type of illuminators  and the one preferred by most scientists. They provide a brilliant white light needed for work at high magnification that reveals the true colors of specimens. Unfortunately, quartz-halogen lamps also produce more heat than any other type of illuminators  Their high power draw means they are AC-only. Lamp life is relatively short.


  1. Thanks for this posting.
    Your blog is very knowledgeable!! Keep it always updated.
    Microscope Illumination

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