Tools for Learning: Digital Blue QX3 Microscope (Now the QX5)
QX5 Microscope Buying Information
(Note: This article is about the QX3 model. Since publication you can also buy a QX5, which has a brighter light and other enhancements).
Are your kids ready to see the world in detail? The QX3 microscope makes a great addition to your Windows-based computer. It's terrific for family explorations, because you don't look through an eyepiece. Instead, images are projected onto your computer screen for all to see. You can save the images and even create artwork with them using the software that comes with the microscope. If you don't like the QX3 software (but your kids will), you can also run the microscope directly from other programs - I run it through Adobe Photoshop Elements.
The QX3 has three magnification levels: 10x, 60x, and 200x. At 10x, objects are still recognizable and you can still see all of a small object such as a bug. At 60x, fine details, like the color dots in a newspaper photo, become visible. At 200x, you can see even more fine details, but the images get hard to focus. 200x doesn' t seem to be enough magnification to see truly microscopic objects, at least not very well, and for that we're considering a more powerful microscope.
Even if I get a traditional microscope, I won't throw out the QX3. Besides the interface with the computer, the QX3 has other advantages over a traditional microscope. Technically the QX3 is a digital camera, rather than a true microscope. You can capture video in addition to still images - we made great videos of tiny monster-like creatures swimming around in pond water. Also, you can remove the QX3 from the stand and use it to look at your own tongue - pretty tough to do with a traditional microscope.
The QX3 comes with some pre-made slides and some minimal equipment - cool little transparent containers with lids for samples and some other stuff we haven't found a use for. We did buy some traditional glass slides. That's because when we view an object in the little cont ainer at high magnification, the varying height of the object is enough to require refocusing every time you move to a different part of the object. Slides make objects nice and flat.
The biggest problem we have with the QX3 has nothing to do with the QX3 itself - the problem is that half the time we don't know what we're looking at. Is that circle we see a cell or an air bubble? It helps to look at microscopy images on the Internet, and there are several nice microscopy books for kids - stay tuned to Big Learning News for more later.
If you'd like to see the kind of images you get with the QX3, check out these image galleries:
Everything you ever wanted to know about the QX3 can be found here: