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~*~ 'Making a mountain out of a molehill' ~ Reasoning Behind The Purchase~*~
My adult son wanted to purchase an affordable microscope to add to his collection of educational gadgets. We had clubbed together to buy a telescope for my young grand-son, and although the microscope would technically be my sons, we bought the scope with my grand-son in mind too! The amazing magnification that Microscopes furnish one is not only an excellent study aid but also a brilliant hobby too in examining many biological structures at their cellular level.
~*~ 'Crunching numbers' ~ Magnification Statistics ~*~
Although I knew some obvious details of a microscope, my son informed me of the more technical details on the magnification process. I have now learned that the higher a magnification, then the closer the lens must be arrange to the object under observation.
On the Apex microscope, the magnification is engraved on the casing of the actual lens barrel extension and on both the eyepieces. The lens magnifications for this 'learner' microscopes is 4x, 10x and 40x.
In basic terms, the x10 eyepiece affords an objective magnification of x40 when using the x4 lens, x10 lens = x100, x40 = x400. Using the other x15 eyepiece, furnishes an x60 magnification using the x4 objective lens, x150 with the x10 and x600 using the x40.
~*~ 'Blowing out of all proportion' ~ The Kit ~*~
The toughened grey plastic container that holds the microscope and kit is pre-shapened to enable the items to be stored safely, securely and correctly in their ordained places.
The kit contains a plastic box of slides. The plastic box has grooves to hold the glass slides in safely along with foam square that sits onto the slides when the box is sealed. Five of the twenty-two slides have prepared organisms: onion cells, corn root, pumpkin stem, tillia stem and pine needle. The remainder have cover slips to enable the user to collect their own specimens, then cover to secure and protect.
The onion cells look like a tightly knitted school of tiny fishes without the gills and tails, with a small dot within each cell that looks like an iris! The corn root looked as if an outer layered lace net had suffered some holes. The inner circle having pronounced circular holes. Within this appeared copious amounts of small circles, finished off by one larger circle identifying the middle. The pumpkin stem again appeared like torn lace. But this time with combined sizes of small and larger circles. The pine needle looks similar to a cucumber skin with its pronounced lines skin but with rows of circular rings in dispersed. For me personally, the tillia stem is absolutely amazing. It looks like some kind of planetary star burst. A beautiful array of vibrant circular strands with delicate connections not unlike the uniqueness in snowflakes. All of these specimens are in clear focus using the x10 eyepiece and alternating the objective of x4 and x10 to obtain a magnification of x40 and x100.
Included in the kit are four small plastic pots with blue screw caps to capture specimens! Another two pots contain colorant powders.
There are dissecting tools: stainless steel tweezers, small circular transparent container with lid, black plastic handled tool incorporating a stainless steel needle point, a long plastic droplet tool, a transparent vial, eighteen glass covers in a plastic box, a strip of sample notes to peel and stick onto specimen collections, a magnifying glass and a tiny plastic jug with fluid ounce and ml measurements ingrained on the outer surface. Although there is a pre-shaped space to contain a scalpel, this tool did not come with the case and is noticeably missing from the manual's pictures. No doubt, this is part of health and safety due to it being a starter's kit for young ones!
The microscope comes with two separate eye pieces of x10 and x15. The microscope has three attached columns of objectives that can furnish magnifications of up to x 600!
There are spring loaded slide holding stage clips, a simple focus control and a circular mirror for illumination.
~*~ 'Making a mountain out of a molehill' ~ Our Experience ~*~
Both I and my adult son wanted to have the microscope all assembled and ready for when my grand-son came to visit. One thing I have learned as a parent and grand-parent is that young children have limited patience! There was very little assembly to be done with the microscope. The eyepiece to the scope is simply held into the tube with a screw. The mirror sits neatly beneath the slide tray.
We then proceeded to slide the prepared specimens onto the slide tray, securing by sliding under the spring loaded clips. We tried the five slides each in turn. By rotating the column or turret, until we could ensure the sample was in line with the actual eyepiece. Then we took turns in using the focus control until it was around 0.5mm for the x40 mark. By looking carefully through the lens, and adjusting the focusing control dial until the specimen comes into focus we soon could see an excellent image of the exhibit.
My son then proceeded to make a small puncture in his thumb to squeeze out a droplet of blood...not at my request! Using a clear sample slide, he centralized the droplet of blood, and then covered it using one of the glass slide covers. I found it pretty emotional to see this sample under the lens. I could clearly identify the red blood cells with their disk shaped features.
I chose a strand of my hair by snipping it into a small length to fit onto the slide along with a couple of droplets of water. The strand looked like a bark of a tree clearly showing the cuticle that appears like scales.
My son continued to collect specimens such as a dead moth...he promised me that it was dead already!
By the time my grand-son came to visit the following Friday, the surprise was all ready laid out on the table. For safety purposes, I explained to my grand-son that I didn't want him to touch any of the dissecting kit. I had left these in the carry case which was then placed out of reach.
Although the prepared slides held a certain amount of interest, my grand-son was enthused to collect his own! With the help of my son they located a fly's wing! Using the same procedure as before the lens was then focused to see the wing 'close up and personal'! Although I dislike the thought of flies due to their interest in rotting constituents, I was assured by my grand-son that it 'its amazing Nan, you just gotta see this'! And yes, it is amazing. The wonderful intricate system pale lined veins and darker black ridges are most distinctive. It was like looking at an Indian ink sketch created by a unique artist, which, when you think about it, really is true!
As my grand-son arrived late afternoon, by the time we had given the microscope its first trial run, it was time for tea. Then my grand-son wanted to go back to investigating his environment under the eye of this remarkable gadget. Of course, natural light was virtually gone so we turned on a lamp. This is where the little circular mirror really comes into play to illuminate subject matter. As there was no natural light I directed the mirror towards the lamp. The mirror actually has two usable sides. One for low magnification, the plane side. The other is for high magnifications, this is concave in shape.
My grand-son had lots of fun turning the dial in order to focus onto the slides. It is best to use the lowest power of magnification to observe an object and simply use the higher power to support. I helped my grand-son use the focus adjuster by moving the microscope's tiny barrel. Thankfully, the microscope contains a safety stop to prevent the barrel touching the slide. This was most handy as my rather enthusiastic grand-son did continue turning the lens to its fullest degree!
~*~ 'Dry cleaning' ~ Maintainance ~*~
Needless to say, after the excited handling of the gadget, the microscope needed some maintenance! It is very simple to clean as the microscope is covered in a sturdy paint/ I simply wiped clean using a moistened cloth avoiding the lenses, mirror and attachments. Dust is one of the worst elements this vulnerable tool can suffer. Therefore, the optical attachments need to be kept covered using the clip lids and placed in the carry case. I have an eye glasses cloth for the lenses should they become marked, as yet, not needed. I used the cloth to wipe smears from little finger prints off the mirror.
~*~ 'Under the microscope' ~ Recommendation ~*~
I thoroughly recommend this for any age from six upwards. But, in the interest of safety, if the Apex Learner Microscope is for a child, the tool must be used under the supervision of a responsible adult. The dissecting tools are far too dangerous for children to use. Although, children can still enjoy collecting and observing the process of dissection...leaves, petals...
Adults can enjoy an array of biological matter to dissect, providing they have strong stomachs!
We purchased the microscope from Amazon, but I have checked and it is currently unavailable as on 20th February 2011. But it is possible to obtain this tool from http://www.cameramodels.info for around £53 offer price. Additionally, stronger Apex lenses can be purchased that are compatible with this model. There are numerous extras that are available via Amazon and other on-line outlets to add to the kit.