Scoping out the micro world

Handheld digital microscopes let you expand your vision and allow you to capture closeups of life's minutiae.

Celestron Handheld Digital Microscope
Celestron Handheld Digital Microscope Celestron

They're not the highest tech at the show, nor are they the easiest to find--I tripped over a couple in the furthest reaches of the exhibits--but I find myself intrigued by a couple of handheld digital microscopes I encountered while killing time before a meeting. These gadgets connect to your system via USB and allow you to capture megazoomed (albeit not terribly high-resolution) closeups of life's minutiae.

The first, from well-known Celestron, seems like it'd be a great gift for the child prodigies in your life. Reasonably priced at $139.95, the Handheld Digital Microscope can record 640x480 snapshots or 15 or 30 frames per second (fps) video at 20x or 400x magnification. It's about five inches high with an LED light. Although the company declares "It's not a toy!"; it's also not really a pro tool--the lenses are plastic, after all.

Celestron does offer a slightly better quality consumer LCD Digital Microscope, which will ship in February. It's not handheld, but a fixed, traditional microscope design. It's got a nice, large 3.5-inch LCD display and a built-in 2-megapixel digital camera. It supports 4x, 10x, and 40x optical magnification levels. At $299.99, it's also pricier.

Big C, the other company showing its microscopic wares, offers the irresistibly named Dito-Lite handheld models. They're even more expensive--the plastic-shelled AM413T runs $349, and its new-for-the-show, metal-hulled sibling AM413Mcosts $595--but they're also a bit more powerful. They have built-in LED lights, capture 1.3-megapixel images, 10x to 50x (continuous) or 200x zoom, can capture 15 or 30 fps video, and support add-ons like a stand and calibrator.

 

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