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Corporate microscope buyers - Tips and Ergonomics

First of all, I would like to mention that ergonomics in sense of it is not only quick fix, purchase of magic bullet or gadget and we have it made. From my point of view, it starts by acquisitions of new microscopes. It requires careful planning and careful approach on management side and deep understanding from users that we all shall benefit and save our health and money from the right strategy.

As for the management, if our employees are happy, healthy and satisfied, if they get environment and tools to perform well for many years, we get uninterrupted production, avoid sick leaves and grievances and at last, but not the least, dedicated work force and that = success.

On the microscope user side, we know what we feel is comfortable and what makes us miserable. If we wait until our hands will hurt day and night it will be quite late.

We have a choice of several leading manufacturers all competing to sell us their products. We know what that product should do, we know what we have now, but in many instances we don’t push from the salesperson enough information’s about available features or ourselves to alternate our limbs to avoid repetitive stress.

It is now a common knowledge that low; drop-down coaxial controls are the best for avoiding long term fatigue and injuries. But our bodies are all different and none of the manufacturers can produce so wide selection of microscope controls to accommodate all.

So, if we purchased a product with lowest stage controls, most of the people still have to raise their arms to rest comfortably without lifting our arms. This is an easy fix with Arm Supports adjusted to our stage controls height and motion controls.

Providing we have to live with older scope equipped with short stage controls, we can still raise our hands with Arm Supports and even get stage controls extensions. You can purchase one pair under US $ 100.00.

Next is the head posture. If you realize how much our heads weight you will probably wonder why we are all not handicapped yet. The head should be as upwards as possible. Most sales people will readily offer tilting heads for mere few thousands more. The tilt head on microscope is moving on a curve only, but does not push the eyepieces forward to your eyes. Does it? It may work well for some, but definitively not for all of us. It is an expensive feature and same money can give you whole lot of additional perks. I suggest looking into microscope base tilting feature and definitively adjustable seat height (chair). Arm supports and whole microscope tilt can be purchased for couple of hundred dollars.

Do we realize that many users are left handed and they are, or were forced to work with microscopes designed for right handed people? They worked with right hand stage controls for many years and performed very well. Stage operation is simple task, performed in one position only, over and over. If you think about it, envision the process, the answer is quite simple. Knowing this, we can agree to alternate microscope stages to eliminate cumulative disorders or injury right from day one. You don’t need to exchange whole scope. Only the microscope stages. The management should suggest microscope sharing program, where some users will work on left handed stages for a period of time and then switch for a right handed one. This will exercise different muscles and putting tensions on alternative hands will avoid long term injury. It is not a discovery of America, but long term observation of users and their behavior. When we are 25 years old we are invincible. When we get lasting injury, we will try anything, but it’s usually too late. I met several middle aged users with “Carpal tunnel Syndrome” who were very happy to start using alternative stage controls. Surprisingly enough, a number of private labs are quicker to recognize the need for it then some government institutions. Would that be the vision of profit?

Most end users will embrace it and praise their management for that thinking.

I will quickly go trough some tips on other microscope accessories.


Many labs don’t purchase what they need but what the salesperson thinks they need. Every reputable leading company carries several levels of objectives each design for certain purpose. Every one of them has different price tag. So what do you need? The best. Well think this way. The best for whom? Always ask for manufacturers pamphlet on all parts and especially on objectives. Insist on that. And learn! If you don’thave time to learn – assign someone to do it a make you a report. Compare products as per their specifications and then compare the prices. Never price before you know what you are buying. I always try to show my customer the objective, evaluate it for some time and then reveal the price. Some people will choose less costly one only because they can not see any difference. Microscope operators know their work and what they want to see. They should have deeper knowledge of products available and their specifications on hand. Store your pamphlets on file and get back to them to keep up your knowledge.


Learn about eyepieces available, discuss with lab stuff to find who is wearing glasses for microscope work and who is not. Investigate about eye shields and if you can get spare pair FREE in time of purchase, since they disintegrate with contact of our body grease. And wash them often with soap & water. It is your eyes in contact with them.


Plan what do you intend to do in years from now. Do we need a Trinocular heads for future computer interface? Remember that fellow in San Jose was very far yesterday, but e-mail away today and video e-mail tomorrow. That is next desk to you. But with Trinocular head only. Fire wire or USB doesn’t plug to well in our ears.


When we set our microscope in most comfortable fashion, we must not forget the omnipotent computer. Make sure that screen is positioned high enough that users do not need to bow their heads down and keyboard’s are on adjustable supports. We should be able to readjust our keyboards from time to time to change positions and guess what? Avoid long term problems. Do I sound too expensive? How much is the keyboard? $10.00 to $20.00 bucks. Wow.

Now to our stages: Most of the leading brand name manufacturers do make right and left hand stages. They carry the same price tag. Do they sell them? They should. Are they in stock? Ask. Demand two same scopes for trial. One left one right. Be frank and ask for it. The lab personnel deserve to try it and the management who pays for it deserves it too.

If left hand stage is not an option ask which company sells them. And give them a chance to bite their lip. After all, you pay the company, not the other way around. You are the boss.


Always plan and discuss with your end users exact need for future microscopes. Personally I would prefer few units in favor of one great monster with ability of performing many formidable tasks. More scopes may be used by more people.

I saw scopes from the best manufacturers collecting dust or with a line-ups, only because the buyer purchased a toy. Toys for boys? As far as I am concern, only one person can sit in front of one scope and it may have a Bright Field, Dark field, Phase, Fluorescent attachments, and Fontana De Trevi built-in, only one Homo sapiens can perform one task at one time.

Beside the point that so many features are found only on the most upscale units for which you will pay the same price as for several scopes.

As for your sales person, he or she should be knowledgeable and helpful that after dealing with them you will learn more about their products. If you find that they don’t know their merchandise well, or force you what you don’t need, do not deal with them. They are losers and it may stick to you. Complain to the dealer and/or change a company.

Good salesperson saves your money and time. Bad one does the opposite.


Everybody works for profit. If you are in a power buying position (several microscopes), the dealer can give you a substantial discounts and obviously great support. An independent dealer or agent should and will get a finders fee if he/she will help you.

The discount will vary and can be quite high. The finder’s fees are much less, but it will pay for itself if you use someone’s knowledge to get the best deal. It’s becoming a common practice with some dealers that they play very successful, pretend to be in high demand and experience shortage of products. It is a game! Every manufacturer is trying to sell as many products as he can, but dealers prefer to order only limited stock in order to save money tied to it. So goes for parts. You, the customer have to explain that if you don’t get their products for trial quick, you will find other product since they are all great anyway. When it comes to purchase of new units you must keep your independence otherwise you loose money and freedom of choice. Always ask for a LIST PRICE and discount price on your quote! If you buy directly from big dealer and without discount, or if you have to wait long time for your order of whole microscope or several of them, you have a problem. Getting a new microscope is not a problem. To sell a new microscope is a problem! Do you need a microscope?????