How do compound and dissecting microscopes differ?

Difference between compound and dissecting microscopes

Life 2021

Microscopes are important tools in areas such as biology. They are used to enlarge objects that are too small to be seen by our eyes. Using a


Microscopes are important tools in areas like biology. They are used to enlarge objects that are too small to be seen by our eyes. Using a microscope is a science called microscopy. It has been around for many years and innovations have been made to develop microscopes that meet the specific needs of different users. Two of the most commonly used microscopes are the compound and dissecting microscopes. The following is a discussion of the differences between these two microscopes.


A compound microscope uses multiple objective lenses with different powers to view samples. A light is used that shines out from under the sample, so the sample must be thin enough for light to pass through it. Sample preparation includes staining to make certain sections of the sample easier to see. It has a magnification of 400X to about 1,000X and therefore shows detailed features of specimens. It has a shorter working distance of up to 4 mm.

A dissecting microscope (Likewise Stereo microscope) on the other hand has a longer working distance of up to 150 mm and a lower magnification. A beam of light is projected over the sample from above. It is commonly used to view larger specimens and even perform preparations on small specimens such as insects.

Comparison table

Compound microscopeDissecting microscope
Several objective lenses, one eyepieceSingle objective lens, two eyepiece lenses
High magnification up to 1000XLow magnification of up to 70x
Small work space for viewing small and thin samplesLarge work area for viewing large specimens
The light source is located below the sampleThe light source is above the sample

Compound microscope vs dissecting microscope

What is the difference between compound and dissecting microscopes? These two categories of microscopes differ in terms of their magnification, their use, their workspace, and the type and number of lenses they use.

  • Common compound microscopes have a magnification of 400 times, but there are compound microscopes with a magnification of 1000 times. Dissecting microscopes can magnify an object no more than 70 times.
  • Each of these microscopes is suitable for a specific use, hence their distinctive design. A compound microscope is mainly used for viewing small and thin objects such as cells. You therefore have a range of objective lenses to choose from to achieve the best level of magnification and focus your light under the specimen, which is placed on a slide in a small work space suitable for typical small specimens. The light passes through the sample and reveals detailed interior portions of the sample.
  • A dissecting microscope, on the other hand, has a large work space for viewing large specimens such as pollen grains. They have a single objective lens with a specific magnification. They use a beam of light over the object for easy surface observations. The larger workspace enables the user not only to view larger samples, which normally have a considerable degree of depth, but also to manipulate them while viewing. They are also used for small preparations, hence their name.
  • In addition to multiple objective lenses, a compound microscope is usually made with an eyepiece for viewing specimen images, while dissecting microscopes are usually supplied with an objective lens that comes with two eyepiece lenses for better viewing of the specimen as you work.

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