The American Optical series 10 microscopes were considered premium microscopes in their time and many are still in use today by Vet offices and various labs as well as by dedicated hobbyists.

My current microscopy set up

A while back I decided to obtain a lab quality microscope and ultimately wound up purchasing a brand new cheap Chinese instrument, the kind that sell for about $250-$400. The one I bought was pretty much top of the line as far as those microscopes go, it was trinocular with 4X,10X,40X and 100X (oil) objectives and 10/16x oculars, yielding powers from 40X to 1600X and coaxial fine foucus. Of course, being a cheap microscope it did not have reverse nosepiece and the controls were not very smooth, kind of jerky. It also had a 1.3 n.a. condensor and 20W halogen lighting system.

This system, equipped with a 3.1Mp camera really blew away any toy microscope I had as a child and this is the setup I used to produce most of the images now on my microscopy pages. I found, however, that the images obtained with this setup, whether viewed on screen or through the eyepiece, just weren't on a par with the images I remember seeing in school through the school's microscopes. I replaced one objective with its plan equivalent and replaced the seemingly worthless 100X lens with a 60X lens but I still found it less than fully satisfactory in both image quality and in brightness at higher powers. I couldn't afford the better instruments from National Optical so I thought that for now I'd have to settle for what I had.

I came a across a webpage that talked about cheap microscopes in less than complimentary terms and suggested that users should look for an older used American Optical microscope instead. Even if they needed a professional cleaning and servicing, they would still be a much better bargain, would have better optical quality and would last longer. Having obtained a cyclopic stereo microscope which gave images as good as what I remember in school looking at aphids I decided to check on eBay and see what was available.

I saw a microsocope described as a "model 1036A" which appeared to be just what I was looking for. It seemed to be complete and in good shape and was being sold by a seller with good feedback so I placed a bid. When I got the microscope it turned out that it needed a good cleaning, especially the 40X objective which just wouldn't seem to focus, I gave it a good cleaning and wow, that was the best 400X image I had seen! I proceeded to replace the stage which was a bit jiggly. Later I replaced 3 of the 4 objectives with plan equivalents.

Finally I had a microscope with reverse nosepiece and optical quality that was every bit as good as the 'scopes I used in school, and even with the upgrades, it cost less than the old scope!

rabbitganglia magnified 1000 times

Actually, 1036A is the model number of the incandescent illuminator . The microscope is model number XL10BU-QW. The Dec 1967 price list lists the XL10BU-QW with the earlier 1036 illuminator (sans field diaphragm) at $928. In the March 1975 catalog it is listed with the 1036A illuminator at $1497.
To put these prices in perspective, the inflation adjusted prices in 2015 dollars would be $6676.26 (1967) and $6683.04 (1975) so when it was new this scope was quite an investment!
Currently it has the following objectives, all infinity corrected:
1017 4X Plan Achro, 1019 10X Plan Achro, 1023 40X Plan Achro and 1079 100X oil Achro, the only one that isn't Plan.

Though it has an 18.75 watt incandescent bulb vs a 20 watt halogen, it has a lot more available light and images at equivalent power are much brighter than those from the old scope. This contributes greatly to the higher quality of the images. Even the 1000X images are remarkably clear, espcially when you consider that I haven't used immersion oil!
I also upgraded to a 5.1 Mp camera with max res of 2584x1936. What is really impressive is that it does 1272x952 at 15 fps! This is more than adequate for focusing and taking high res movies of pond critters! In fact, the camera works so well I almost never use the ocular!

The camera replaces one of the oculars and with the reduction lens the camera is equivalent to a 10X ocular. Without it, it is equivalent to a 25X ocular. Pages posted from now on, and any pages redone with new images will reflect this. The calibration dots have been re-imaged to give accurate measurements for the new setup

In the future, images of pond critters will usually be done at 250X with oblique lighting or dark field, accomplished by using a dark patch and strategic adjustment of the condensor elevation.

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