How to Use a Dissecting Microscope

How to Use a Dissecting Microscope

Microscopes are More Versatile than You Might Think  

Have you ever felt like you are not getting as much out of your dissecting microscope as you expected to? Keep reading this post to understand how to get it to reach its full potential.

A microscope is a boring piece of laboratory equipment until you know its capabilities.

These types of microscopes have stereo optics and large working distances.

Pictured above is NIGHTSEA fluorescent viewing system with a blue excitation cube.

Downsides including eye strain and ergonomic concerns can be addressed with an understanding of equipment and how your specific microscope works.

Magnification and Working Distance

Dissecting microscopes do not have as much magnification power. There are no rotating objective lenses like a compound microscope, and they are usually limited to 1x-50x magnification.

This is partly because the magnification power and the working distance are inversely related to each other. The further the lenses are positioned from the specimen, the less they magnify.

Parfocality is the ability of a microscope to stay in focus when changing magnification. These types of microscopes are less prone to optical distortions because they focus in 3D instead of looking at flat projections.

Hence the mightiness of dissecting microscopes for processes that require a topographical, working view of a specimen.

They typically have working distances that range from 80mm to 100mm, as opposed to a working distance of under 20mm.

This is the claim to fame of the dissecting microscope that allows handling within view.

Base Parts and Accessories

The base of the microscope contains the stage where specimens can be clipped in place and viewed. Helpful base inserts make viewing your specimen easy.

If you need to secure a plate of microbial colonies for study, there are base inserts that hold petri dishes. If you need to reduce glare or improve contrast, there are inserts to place under your specimen.

Most bases include a semi-matte white insert or frosted glass. For work with fluorescent lighting or light colored specimens, a black insert may be preferred.

Lighting and Add-ons

Learning to use your microscope to its full potential can require some research, but there are plenty of accessories available to help you through the journey.

Your microscope may or may not have its own light source, but it’s easy to find accessories that will allow for full control.

Want more contrast, an easy way to check temperature while you work, or what about a light that you can move from side to side? This is all possible with a knowledge of available accessories.

We carry a wide array of microscopes and accessories, and what makes us special is that we cater to your needs. If you ever have a particular concern with a microscope, we work with you to address it.

Research Applications

Lighting adaptations can be useful for unexpected purposes. The NIGHTSEA fluorescent viewing system has been used in over 500 publications.

One such study on coral larval production used the system to assist with counting the smaller larva in samples using the qualities of green fluorescent protein.

Motic digital cameras and imaging software have been paired with other types of microscopy to capture high-resolution images of leaf tissue for environmental study on the impact of radiation.

Cleaning and Troubleshooting Help

Dissecting microscopes are fairly easy to clean and do not require much maintenance.

You will need:

  • A sanitizing solution that does not streak
    • Cotton tipped swabs
      • Kimwipe or other delicate task wipes

Use the sanitizing solution to clean the workspace as usual. If using a glass insert in the base, wipe using delicate task wipes. Clean the ocular lenses using cotton tipped swabs in a circular motion to help prevent streaking.

If there are any tissues left behind on the workspace, use the cleaner indicated by your laboratory protocol to remove initial debris.

Oculars should be shiny and streak free at the end!

If you need resources for setting up a new lighting accessory on one of the Motic microscopes we sell, you can call us or head over to Motic’s own resource center and look for your model number.

Stellar Scientific has Alternatives

Whatever your plight, we can find a way to help you. Eye strain or difficulty viewing a specimen should never get in the way of your research. Stellar Scientific offers lighting accessories that can improve your laboratory experience.

Consider a gooseneck light guide with bifurcating angles to enhance your existing light source or add one to a microscope that came without. Light sources can be controlled and repositioned easily with our guides.

In need of bulbs? We have LED ring lights for brightness and controlled illuminators with temperature readouts to prevent overheating of specimens. If you need a replacement bulb, we’ve got those. See our full catalog here under microscope lighting!

Sometimes you need a whole new microscope, or something we don’t feature here. That’s okay, we have you covered. Check out our entire selection of microscopes, and if we don’t have what you need, you can let us know on the contact us page.



  1. Abdul Wahab, M.A., Ferguson, S., Snekkevik, V.K. et al. Hierarchical settlement behaviours of coral larvae to common coralline algae. Sci Rep 13, 5795 (2023).
  2. Rojas A, Hernández-Rosales E, Montúfar J, Juárez-Gracia AG, Nogal U, Hernández-Wong J, Rojas Trigos JB, Marin E, Calderón JA. Stomata damage, photosynthesis, and transpiration evaluation of aquatic lirium after ultrasound irradiation. Int J Radiat Biol. 2024;100(3):445-452. doi: 10.1080/09553002.2023.2295299. Epub 2024 Jan 3. PMID: 38166555.