Handheld Digital Microscope: Parts, Principle, and Uses

The microscope is a laboratory instrument that helps magnify smaller objects for easy visualization. There are two types of broad microscopes based on the source used for visualization; electron and light microscopes. A handheld digital microscope is a type of portable microscope, a type of light microscope.

A handheld digital microscope is an advanced form of digital microscope which is small in size and easy to use. It is also known as USB microscope. Its unique feature is observing the microscopic objects with the help of mobile phones and PC (personal computers) instead of regular eyepieces. It is used by amateurs, professionals, and even children for various purposes.

Digital Microscope

The modernization in the microscopic technique brought a revolutionary change in the image detector system from human eyes to digital cameras. The digital camera helps in visualizing the image and capturing the image. The digital camera is now being replaced by mobile phones. Software suitable for both computers as well as mobile is available. Once connected with the software, the person can save the captured image on the computer for future use.

So, a digital microscope requires input hardware, components of the microscope, a USB cable, output hardware, a computer or mobile phone, and software that helps connect the mobile phone/computer with the microscope.        

Different types of handheld digital microscope
Different types of handheld digital microscope

Parts of Handheld Digital Microscope

The parts of a handheld digital microscope are broadly divided into two types; hardware and software.

Parts of handheld digital microscope
Parts of handheld digital microscope


  1. Microscopic components: The microscopic components of a this microscope includes the following parts :
    1. Light source: The LED is the source of light. Typically, it is adjustable and 
    2. USB port: The USB port is adaptable for various computers, mobile phones, and digital cameras. It is present in the upper part of the microscope. It helps in connecting with the camera, mobile phone, and computer. The screen of these appliances acts as the objective lens for the microscope. 
    3. Focus knob: A knob is present on the side of the microscope that is used to bring the object to focus. 
    4. Working stage: It is present at the bottom part and comes in contact with the sample/object to be magnified.
  1. Computer: The requirement of computer hardware and operating system (OS) varies based on the software provided. But most software supports MAC, Windows, and Linux OS. Likewise, the Intel microprocessor, RAM capacity, and USB port also determine the software.
  2. A digital camera or mobile phone: A USB cable connects the microscope with the digital camera/mobile phone. The mobile phone/digital camera is used to view the image like the eyepiece. The lens of the camera acts as the objective lens for the microscope. Zooming the image can occur using the camera/phone.
  3. USB (universal serial bus) cable: It is a cable that connects the microscope with a computer and digital camera/mobile phone.


The company providing the microscope provides the software for operating the handheld digital microscope. Like AmScope provides a handheld digital microscope with AmScope 3.1 software which is free to download and compatible with operating systems; Windows (32/64 bit) XP/Vista/7/8/10, Mac OS 10.8+, Linux kernel 3.13+. Its hardware requirements are Intel Core2 2.8GHz or comparable processor, 2GB RAM, and a USB port.

Principle of Handheld Digital Microscope

The software helps to operate the microscope. After correctly assembling the hardware, connecting the mobile phone and computer with software is required. Once software and hardware connect, the software helps capture the image with the help of a digital camera or mobile phone from the microscopic components of the hardware. 

Depending upon the companies, different software provides different features. Some have the feature of capturing colored images and editing them as well. In contrast, some can only capture black and white or colored images. Choosing the suitable digital microscope depends on the operating system in the computer and CPU’s (central processing units) microprocessor. 

Uses of Handheld Digital Microscope

The handheld digital microscope is used in various fields, science as well as non-science. Some of its uses along with the fields are as follows:

  1. Automobile industries: It helps in inspecting brake pads, 
  2. Cosmetic field: Dermatologists, beauticians, and cosmetic manufacturers use the handheld digital microscope to analyze skin, hair, and product quality. 
  3. Biological laboratories: It is helpful in the analysis of flower structures, seed structures, and the structure of live insects in biological laboratories.
  4. Medical procedures: These microscopes’ portable, smaller, and digital imaging nature is helpful in medical procedures involving microsurgery. 
  5. Forensic sciences: Since forensic sciences involve collecting proof after analyzing plants, insects, soils, and other biological components, this microscope is handy for research and storing images.
  6. Research: Research in different fields involves proper documentation after analysis of the required components; the microscope helps obtain good-quality images and store them properly. 
  7. Coin study: The miniature carvings in the coin are of great interest to people interested in coin collection and research. A handheld digital microscope makes the investigation easier.

Benefits of Handheld Digital Microscope

Like a portable analog microscope, a handheld digital microscope also has excellent benefits, which are as follows:

  1. Portable: A handheld digital microscope is small in size. It is easy to travel with, and portable to any surrounding as long as the USB connection is available. Some handheld digital microscope requires WiFI connectivity. So, places with good WiFi connectivity are ideal for working with these kinds of microscopes.
  2. Easy to use: The working principle of the handheld digital microscope is simple and requires menial components to work. Zooming and focusing on the object is easier than on other light microscopes. So, it is relatively easy to use.   
  3. Less stress on the eyes: These microscopes use mobile phones or computers to view images instead of eyepieces with a small viewing area. So, handheld digital microscopes are less stressful for our eyes.
  4. Digital image: Unlike the image obtained by an analog microscope that is not generated by mobile phones or computers, it is not digitally presented. Developing digital images from an analog microscope is tedious, so a handheld digital microscope is beneficial to obtain the digital image.  
  5. Easy to save the images: Saving the digital image is easy. It remains as a file on computers and mobile phones.
  6. Good image quality: Clicking images from analog microscopes generates inadequate or unfocused images. The handheld digital microscope helps to obtain good quality focused images.
  7. Easy to share: The image saved using a handheld digital microscope is easy to share with different personnel due to digitization.
  8. Magnification: For a small microscope, 100x magnification is quite impressive. Further zooming in on the digitized image is also possible. 
  9. Cost-efficient: The cost of the microscopes is affordable. The price changes based on the magnification available. 

Other Types of Digital Microscopes

There are various types of digital microscopes commercially available, which are as follows:

  1. Fluorescence digital microscopes: These digital microscopes use fluorescence or phosphorescence as the light source. 
  2. Metallurgical digital microscopes: These are used in studying metals or any opaque structures.
  3. Inverted digital microscopes: The condenser and light source are at the top instead of the bottom and are available for various fields.
  4. Polarizing digital microscopes: These microscopes use polarized light to direct the light wave in a single direction, which helps generate 3-D images.
  5. Phase digital microscopes: These are used to view unstained objects.
  6. Stereo digital microscopes: These reflect light off the specimen instead of shining through it and are ideal for viewing plants, artifacts, and different automobile parts.


Ashma Shrestha

Hello, I am Ashma Shrestha. I had recently completed my Masters degree in Medical Microbiology. Passionate about writing and blogging. Key interest in virology and molecular biology.

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