* Prices may differ from that shown
Technically, this is just an illuminated magnifying glass.This shouldn't be confused with a pocket microscope, which would be far more powerful. The magnification on this device is only 6x. This is about the same as a decent child's magnifying glass. You can easily get ordinary hand held magnifying glasses at 10x or 15x if you're willing to pay a bit more. This not an especially powerful magnifier, but it does have two features that make it worth buying for the little wildlife explorers. There is 3 1/4 " clear concave structure on the end of the device. This is perfect for temporarily trapping an insect for close up observation. You just plop the concave section over the bug and look through the other end. When your done you lift the scope and the bug walks away unharmed. It is also quite handy for viewing leaves, flowers or other small objects. The second great feature is the light. This really makes a massive difference and combined with the magnifier makes it possible to get an excellent up close look at bugs, seeing little hairs on their bodies, feelers, eyes etc...
This does have its limitations. It really is not very good at all without a light, it requires a flat surface if you wish to observe a living bug. You do need to have whatever you want to view inside or pressing against the concave viewing area. It really isn't at its best if you just hold it over a branch with an insect crawling about. This requires a single AAA battery, and this really does work best a good quality battery. A cheap battery gives a dimmer light, and does make for a much poorer image. No battery is supplied with this toy, so do make sure to pick up batteries in advance if giving as a gift. It took us ages to find the battery compartment for some reason, but I think we were just being thick. It is accessed with a small screwdriver and built into the handle. I believe I paid under £4 for this, new and delivered from an Amazon Marketplace seller. I did end up with the French version which says Buki instead of Backyard Safari and has instructions in French, but this is pretty self explanatory. Considering that the four year old could work it out without instructions, I wouldn't worry too much about the lack of them. However , the price on this is now a ridiculous £12.99 from Amazon. There is an almost identical model out now though, which is called a field scope rather than a bug scope and is all green in colour for £7.99. I do consider £7.99 a reasonable price, in light of how much the boys enjoy this and how sturdy it is. I would note that the French version is orange and green instead of yellow and green, but we preferred this.
This has been field tested for durability far more rigorously than most of my sons toys as they are usually pretty careful with their things. It has been dropped on the pavement ( by me) without any harm coming to it. It was also put to a bit more of a test when we used it to observe the relocation of ants nest yesterday, watching all the ants carrying pupa, eggs and immature queens. There was a wee bit of trouble and the toy was accidentally left laying beside the paddling pool. It wasn't noticed until the pool was emptied and this was found in huge puddle of water. I really didn't expect this to work after everything. It would have been entirely my fault if had not worked. We all know water and electronics do not mix, and even something as simple as a light is apt to be destroyed by being submerged. There are vent holes where it looks like water could have entered the toy, but thankfully it did not. I dried it off and switched it on as was pleased to find that it works as well as ever.
I only have one major complaint with this toy. I seriously doubt that it will be possible to change the light bulb in this There are screws, so theoretically the whole unit could be opened up but this doesn't look like a normal bulb and it does not look replaceable. So once the bulb burns out the toy is dead. Because of this, I have deducted one star, but I do still think this toy is worth considering at a fair price.
If you are expecting a microscope with this toy, you will be disappointed, but if you just want a fun bit of kit for a child to add to a nature exploring collection, then this little item is brilliant. This isn't just for bugs. We've used it to look at skin, hair, leaves, money, rocks, fossils and all sorts of things. I didn't really buy this for educational purposes. I bought it just because it looked fun. But I do feel this has some educational value as well. It encourages children to explore the world around them and learn about nature - not that mine need much encouragement there.