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new dissecting scope survey

David M. Eisenmann eisenman at cmgm.stanford.edu
Wed Jul 2 12:47:58 EST 1997

Hello All,

So the responses to my post asking about recent dissecting scope purchases 
have stopped coming in, so I will post the responses.  Thanks to everyone 
who took the time to respond, it has been very helpful to me.  I hope people 
do not mind me directly quoting from their e-mails.  

A summary of the results follows, with the model, the number of people 
reporting that they bought that model, how much they paid and when, and who 
they were with initials keyed to the excerpts appended below.

Nikon SMZ-1B         $2200 (94) - JL
Nikon SMZ-2B	(2)     $2700 - AG, $2780 (95) - WK
Zeiss Stemi 2000	(3) $2600 (97) - MH, CD, GS
Olympus SZ60         $3000 PB
Leica MZ6            $3100 - EJ
used M5A	(2)         $3524 (96) BW, $2759 (94) LA
Leica MS5	(2)        $4217 (96) BW, RB
Leica MZ8            RB, (approx. $4200 (97) DME)
Cambridge Inst.      JT

In addition, a summary of people's opinions from these messages is below 
where '>' indicates the better scope in that person's opinion, and '==' 
indicates the scopes were thought to be equivalent.

M5A > SMZ-1B	  - JL
M5A == SMZ-2B	 - AG, WK
Stemi 2000 > Wild/Leica M3	  - CD
M5A > Stemi 2000	  - CD
Leica MZ8 > Leica MS-5  	- RB
Leica MS-5 > used Wild M5A	 - BW

My own opinion, having looked at a used M5A side by side with the Leica MZ8, 
the Zeiss Stemi 2000 and the Oriental Scientific Instruments SM1 (from 
Tritech) is.

M5A > Leica MZ8 > Zeiss Stemi 2000 == Orient SM1

However, since the SM1 is a Wild M5A knock-off, I was able to put the SM1 
body on the M5A base and illumination (fiber optic) and found that when I 
did that the SM1 was almost as good as the M5A, suggesting that it has quite 
good optics.  My complaint about the MZ8 and Stemi 2000 is that they both 
make the bacterial lawn look very 3-dimensional, which is very distracting.  
I don't know enough about scopes to know if this is due to the optics or the 

What follows are excerpt's from people's responses to me.


In 1994, I bought 3 Nikon SMZ-1B zoom stereomicroscopes including 1.5X aux.
objectives.  This gives me a range of 10-50X.  They were ~$2200 each which
represented a 12% discount because I bought 3 of them.  I've been very happy 
with them. As a postdoc, I used Wild M5s which were clearly superior to the 
SMZ-1B but the SMZ-1B is fine for everything I have ever had to do.

Hope you find this useful.

Jim Lissemore


We use the Wild/Leica MZ6s.  The nicholas lamps are inexpensive and adequate
but dim at high powers.  The fiber optic lamps can be cranked to give bright
illumination at even high power.  Unfortunately the fan makes a racket. 
Mango, Maricq and I ordered 21 MZ6 scopes together and got the price with a
fiber optic light source for $3100 each.  

Zeiss configured their Stemi2000 with a transilluminator base so that it
could be used by worm labs.  The base is only a little more than an inch
thick so it is easier than the MZ6 to rest your arms on your desktop if you
work at your scope for long hours.  It has a flimsy plastic body but the
optics are very good and it is a lot cheaper than the MZ6.  The problem with
the stemi is that they originally had an unfrosted mirror which gave an
extremely high contrast image; the bumps in the bacteria looked like a 
map.  They installed a frosted mirror but now the image is too soft.  It
needs to be somewhere inbetween for the light to blow through the bumps in
the bacteria but not so scattered as to make L1s difficult to see.

Erik Jorgensen


i have 3 of them and really like them: Nikon's SMZ-2B Stereo Microscopes.

i recently purchased one from Image Systems in Maryland and paid about
$2700. i do not know if this is a special price for the gov't.

you can purchase 10x or 15x eyepieces too.  i really like them and i was
used to Wilds in the sternberg lab.

Andy Golden


We bought a pair of Zeiss Stemi 2000 scopes a couple of years ago for worm
work. I did side-by-side comparisons with a few Leica/Wild models (sorry,
don't remember which) and found that for about the same image quality,
Zeiss was much cheaper. And they are far sharper than the Wild M3 series,
which I think is actually pretty lousy for resolution. 

I have some mixed feelings in retrospect, though. When I need to REALLY
see something well, I take my worms down the hall to where there are some
Wild M5A scopes, which are far better than the Zeiss (and not made
anymore, alas). For regular worm work, the Stemi's are fine, and I prefer
the zoom to the rotating-turret style of changing magnification.

Creg Darby


we both have MZ8 and MS-5 from Leica, and the MZ8 are preferred by
everyone because they have zoom optics. The only alternative in my
opinion would be the Zeiss microscope, but even the Zeiss representative
suggested me to buy a Leica one due to its superior optical qualities !!!
Prices do not help, because we buy them here in Germany.
We do not see a difference in quality between the old Leica and the
new "spacelab" series, but do not buy the flat light box which is standard
with all the new ones. We use the gray, old light-box instead which adds
a lot to the aperture.

Do not even consider the Chinese replicas of the Leica/Wild microscope...

Ralf Baumeister


I have the Nikon SMZ-2B ( in 1995 was approx $2625 with lamp in stand;
about $2780 with Dynalite fiberoptic illuminator).  I tested it side by
side with the latest Zeiss and with Paul's old Wilds...the optics are at
least as good as those of the zeiss, and much better than the older
generation of Wild.  I'm still happy with mine 2 years later.

Wendy Katz


I bought one refurbished M5A from John Oren of Vermont Optechs 
802-425-2040.  It took about 5-6 months.  If he has them in 
stock and the waitlist is short when you order it might be as quick as a 
month or two.

Price was $3524 including shipping.  I also bought a brand new Leica MS5 
for $4217.  IMO it is well worth the extra $800 or so.  The new MS5 is 
significantly better than the refurbished M5A.

Bruce Wightman


I don't know if you can still get them directly from China, but I am sure
that they are not anywhere near $1000 by the time you pay duty and
customs clearance, etc.

We import them, do some often-needed quality control (so that any
flawed parts go back to China and our customers get only perfect scopes),
put U.S. plugs on the power supplies, and sell them with a full parts and
labor warranty.  The price is $2099 - $2399 depending on quantity and
each scope comes with a full set of optical accessories that Wild would
charge another few grand for: 10x, 15x, and 20x eyepieces, and 0.5x,
1.5x, and 2.0x objectives to modify the standard 1.0x objective.

Andy Papp
Tritech_Research at LAMG.COM


We really like our Cambridge Instruments scopes, but they are more than 
five years old and I don't know if they are still sold.  the model
is the Stereo Zoom 7.  Don't know the price.

John Thaden


Well yes I demo'd every conceivable scope under the sun (i.e., Leica, Wild 
[they're NOT the same anymore], Nikon, American Optical, Olympus, even Andy 
Papp's cheap M5a knockoff).  For the price that we were willing to spend (<= 
@$3000) I think I got just about the best optics at the price.  In the final 
analysis I felt more comfortable with a zoom than fixed (such as Wild's, 
which I 
know the rest of the worm community is crazy about), and with a slightly 
mag range than what others might use.  So I ended up with an Olympus SZ60, 
bought the 1.5x and 2x objectives with 10x eyepieces, a Fostec fiberoptic 
source, and transmitted light base from a third party manufacturer (don't 
remember the manufacturer's name; can give you details if you want, it's a 
transmitted/darkfield baseball diamond-shaped base with lots of room for 
like plates and hands-- it's the one commonly used by zebrafish people, I 
it better than the other Olympus fiberoptic-compatible transmitted bases).  

I am VERY happy with this setup.  Olympus gave me a 10% institutional 
which brought to total package price below $3000.  Now admittedly this is 
not a 
super-duper does everything scope, but for basic worm use it works 
admirably.  I 
basically felt that with Wild and Leica I was basically paying for the name 
optics probably *are* the best, but the best is not just soooo much better 
Olympus, i.e., the marginal optical superiority was not readily apparent), 
was about the same price but the Olympus optics were slightly better.  
didn't come close on the optics or price.  I had heard from the Olympus rep 
some big worm labs here (i.e., Horvitz?) had ended up trading in their Wilds 
Olympus given the price and optics.

Peter Barrett


After writing that summary you quoted, we ended up getting two used
M5As from Vermont Optechs.  He charged us $2750 for each, I believe.
They are of course lovely scopes, and that's a good price for a
high-quality dissecting scope.  There are still people around who'll
service them, but in my experience they work forever without service,
unless dropped from a height.  The main disadvantage, then, is the
necessity to wait an unpredictable time to get one.  I should mention
that I have used an M5, and it is just like the M5A except for the
shape and the unattractive puke-yellow color.  So I would recommend
anyone waiting for an M5A to take an M5 if it happens to turn up

I have no further experience, except that we have bought some cheap
dissecting scopes for undemanding purposes, and there's a reason
they're cheap.  My impression (based solely on hearsay) is that Zeiss
is currently offering the best deal in new dissecting scopes.

Leon Avery


Congratulations on your new job! I have chosen the Zeiss Stemi 2000 and am
quite happy with it. The trick is to select a base that gives you the kind 
illumination you like. We have chosen one with an "in-base illuminator"
(catalog number 45-51-36), which eliminates the need for an outside power 
The total cost was $3600 for one unit, discounted to $3200 if we bought four
at a time. My advice to you: whichever scope you decide to buy,  don't
hesitate to bargain!

Geraldine Seydoux


I bought 2 zeiss stemi 2000's with the new low base.  I like them because
they are cheap (I got mine for $2,600 each), the mag. range is 6x-50x, and
the base height is nice.  They are the most inexpensive scope out there
that goes up to 50x.  Some folks have told me that they don't think the
image of the field is very flat.  I've had mine for a month or so, and I'm
I think I may be seeing what their talking about--but it's not too bad
really.  I may look into getting a better objective for it.

The other options I've looked at and had quoted are Olympus and Lecia.  The
Olympus that got quoted was the SZ40 (~$2500).  It seems ok-I saw it at a
show, but it only goes up to 40x.  The Lecia's are nice, but expensive.
The MZ8 zooms from 6x-50x, and is real nice, but its ~$4,000.  A cheaper
alternative is the MS5, which steps from 6x, 10x, 25x, 16x, 40x.  Although
I think I could live with only 40x, I really hated the 25-16-40x steps--too

Mike Herman


 Dave Eisenmann
 eisenman at cmgm.stanford.edu

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