21st September 2001 at 01:00
ENHELION MICRON PORTABLE MICROSCOPE. Educational price pound;99. Enhelion, 13 Denington Road, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire NN8 2RL.

Tel: 01933 228 953 e-mail: website:

Seeing is believing, and this is certainly true with the Enhelion Micron portable microscope. An innovative design provides x80 and x160 magnifications in a robust, plastic body. Measuring just 103mm in diameter, 27mm thick and weighing 225g, the Micron, for ages eight and above, is a pocket-sized instrument that gives good results at both magnifications.

A built-in light, powered by two AA batteries, can be used to look at slides or retracted so surfaces are illuminated with incident light. A detachable magnetic collar to hold specimens in place makes moving prepared slides a little awkward but means you can see flat surfaces without the obstruction of clips.

The eyepiece along the side of the microscope is easily detached to provide a x10 magnifying lens for viewing larger specimens.

The underside has a simple slider control to change magnifications, and a thumb wheel to adjust the focus.

Obtaining a sharp focus when viewing slides at high power can be awkward, but many more expensive and cumbersome microscopes have the same problem.

The Micron is less sophisticated than other microscopes, but the two magnifications are adequate for most uses: objects such as insect parts and leaf structures can be viewed on low power while stained nuclei are visible using the x160 magnification. Optional couplings allow users to attach 35mm SLR and digital cameras or camcorders.

In secondary schools or colleges, the Micron should not be considered a replacement for standard laboratory microscopes but as an addition. It is ideal for use in the field. Its low price will appeal to primary schools.

Current users include the Eden Project, veterinary surgeons and family doctors, but perhaps its greatest use will be in little hands exploring the detail of the everyday world. Spiders beware!

Cliff Porter

Cliff Porter is a freelance writer on science education.

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