Product Type: Natural History Museum Novelty Toy
Newest Review: ... very blue and green. A small white area had a picture f the contents, which made it more appealing...............it did look rather nif... more
Do You See What I See?
Natural History Museum Pocket Microscope
Member Name: noodlesandwich
Natural History Museum Pocket Microscope
Advantages: high quality optics, crisp clear images, fun, educational
Disadvantages: could do with extra slides
I like the fact that it looks just as a microscope should; no tv characters, no bright colours or big buttons, just an unadorned pocket microscope. I've seen some toy microscope abominations - talking, flashing, day-glo obscenities. In my opinion too many manufacturer's think children need toys to be like that when in fact, children like to imitate adults and a plain microscope such as this is is all that is needed. The design is simple, it's plastic, the colours are silver and black. There's a little button on the side to switch on the LED light, below the eyepiece is a zoom lever to adjust the level of magnification, (from 20x to 40x), and just above the lens is the focusing wheel. The base, (or 'specimen stage'), detaches so that the microscope can be carried around and objects viewed directly.
It comes in an attractive thin cardboard box into which it is packaged in a plastic mould, ours still gets packed away in this in the box. There's also a lens cloth and a couple of plastic slides. Batteries are included, there's a small screw down compartment and a battery insulation tab to be pulled out. The batteries are the little silver button types; three x LR44, ours have yet to need replacing and I should think they'll last ages as they are just for a single LED light.
Although I knew it would be small, I was still surprised by how small and light it actually is. It weighs just 132g and is, literally, a pocket microscope. If you remove the base it's less than 4 inches long, 4.5 with the base), and 2-3 inches wide, (depending on whether you keep the base on), so it fits easily into a pocket or small bag. This means it's no problem to take out for explorations on day trips, as well as coming in handy for keeping children amused at times when you'd like them to be well behaved, (such as getting them to examine crumbs from restaurant tables while waiting for meals - keeps the staff on their toes too).
There is an instructions leaflet in the box which also includes information about the Natural History Museum and has suggestions for objects to view and how best to view them. The leaflet appears to be aimed at older children; "Take notes on what you observe and make drawings of what you discover. Scientists always date their observations..." Obviously all this is well beyond the capabilities of a three year old, but although I was aware that this might be too old a toy for my daughter, she still likes it and is keen to be hands on with it, despite not necessarily grasping concepts such as focusing and magnification.
Taking the lead from the instructions we began our explorations by looking at sugar granules followed by various other kitchen grains, soil, leaves and newspaper print. The sugar was the first thing we looked at and the most impressive that morning. I have to say my daughter wasn't immediately fascinated by her new microscope and I think the adults actually had more fun with it, but to be fair this is probably down to the fact that: a) it was Christmas day so lots of other distractions and b) it's probably more suited to a child at least couple of years older.
We followed most of the suggestions in the leaflet and came up with more ideas of our own, but being uncreative dullards we soon struggled to think of suitable things to look at. While you can look at almost anything I have found it's much easier on the eye to stick to specimens that can be placed on slides. That way the microscope stays steady and items are easier to bring into focus. Once you've managed to focus it, which is easy enough, the quality of the images is superb. The instructions suggest sellotaping specimens to the slides but we tend not to do this as it seems too time consuming when examing several things in a row.
After an initial flurry of interest I'm afraid this got stuck in the cupboard for a few weeks until inspiration struck. One day when I was doing something completely different it suddenly occurred to me that the peacock feather I have in a plant pot in my living room would be interesting to look at, so out came the microscope and we examined it. This led to a renewed interest on the part of my daughter to find other interesting things to examine. She's had fun searching for things small enough to put under it but is yet to grasp what will magnify well and so insists on examining innumerable dull bits of fluff, paper and cardboard.
My daughter was very interested in just some plain paper on which you could see nothing, but under the microscope there were lots of little specs and tiny hairs, talking about this may have helped her understanding of germs and other things you can't see with the naked eye. We've also looked at details on coins and stamps that are difficult or impossible to see otherwise.
We haven't taken ours outside much, but probably will do now that we're beginning to have some nice weather. We have had it in the garden where we studied various greenery, feathers and so on. We haven't looked at any small creatures yet so that's something to look forward to. I've seen some excellent images taken from this microscope on Amazon, from reviewers who have taken pictures of lavae and other things photographed via the eyepiece. The peacocks feather is probably the most striking item I personally have viewed, although that's also the most unusual of all the objects we've looked at but photographs taken via the eyepiece don't show the image quite as clearly as you would see it in real life.
I read several reviews of this product on Amazon and many of them commented on the fact that they had used much more expensive microscopes with lesser results. In fact, several reviews were by adults who used this a functioning microscope for studies and not as a toy at all.
~Durability and Other Issues~
It's hard to say how robust this is, as it hasn't been subjected to any particularly rough treatment, being so small and light makes it seem fragile so I have always advised my daughter to be very careful with it, and tend to supervise her use of it. It's certainly in as good a condition now as it was at Christmas, although the slides have received a few scratches. It would be better if there were more slides, or at least an obvious way to order replacement slides as the two supplied have small scratches on already and will probably need to be replaced at some point.
Upon writing this review I've had a chat with my little one who has told me that she thinks her microscope is fabulous but that I don't let her play with it. This has made me realise how I have tended to hover over her with it, so I've decided to give her free reign, after all it's hardly an expensive piece of equipment. As a result she is now covering the specimen stage with shiny stickers - they look nice though. She does need a little guidance with positioning things under the lens as she tends to position something and then move the microscope. Obviously a three year old's attempts at being careful differ somewhat to an adults, and I have perhaps been a little over careful with it. (If it suddenly falls to pieces I will return and update).
A quote on the box reads; "There are more living, tiny organisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on earth," but I have to say you won't see them through this microscope as the magnification levels are too low. Nonetheless although the magnification may be low, the optics are high quality and produce crisp clear detailed images. This toy has actually whetted my own appetite for a high powered microscope. Because it's a single lens, looking through the eyepiece the image is reversed which means that if you move an object one way, it appears to go the other. This isn't much of an issue, but I thought it worth noting as it can sometimes be a bit frustrating.
The two wheels, (for focusing and zoom levels), can take a bit of fine tuning and fiddling, beyond the scope of a three year old, but instructive for older children. My eyes get tired after looking through it a lot, although this doesn't seem to bother my little one who, it should perhaps be pointed out, will 'wow' in an awestruck manner at blurred fluff as well as at amazing sparkling feather threads.
It's not just children who will enjoy playing with this. In fact it's feasible that I've had more fun with this than my daughter and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I have found myself squabbling over the eyepiece with her on occasion. My daughter has probably played with this more at my instigation than through choosing it herself. That said, she is a bit young for it and she's always enthusiastic when I suggest using it to look at something.
As you can probably tell, I am impressed with this microscope. The images it produces are top quality. I think it's an excellent introduction to scientific exploration for children. Great fun and educational too, it's an item that should encourage an interest in science and the natural world. It won't leave you out of pocket and if it proves to be a big hit you may choose to buy a higher powered microscope at a later date. My only niggle concerns the slides, but overall I'd say this is an excellent toy that should bring fun and interest for a long time to come.
Summary: an excellent first microscope
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