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!