Microscope for SMD

Since we have no idea when DMS will be back open, I’m considering buying a microscope for use in building some surface mount boards.

I see several that use a LCD screen and camera that are fairly reasonably priced.

The stereo microscopes are roughly twice as expensive ( and up ).

For those that have experience with SMD soldering - are the LCD versions good enough ? How much better are the stereo optical versions ?

Unfortunately I never got around to working with either kind at the E-lab before the shutdown.

Stero or bust, soldering on a LCD is awful.

I have this one and I love it:

Agreed. Stereo is the only useful way to go. Depth perception is an absolute must.

If I ever end up buying a scope, it’ll have a boom arm instead of the standard style Malcolm linked. I used a really high quality boom arm scope through college and it was much nicer than what I’ve used at work since.

IMHO, the mantis is overrated. I’ve played with one for a bit and you had to keep your head pretty still to get the depth right and it wasn’t an easy transition from a stereo scope.

I see in the comments on that one some gripes about the boom.

Looks like an extra $100 gets a better boom.

Any problems with yours on that front ?

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We haven’t had any problems with ours. I’ve used both, and I didn’t really see much of a usability difference, but if you’ve got the extra $100 to spend I guess it could be nice to have the extra adjustment options, but we’ve both used ours just fine (and we’re two very different heights and sitting/soldering styles). We both use a vice to hold our PCBs stable under the scope and then just move the whole vice around to move the field of vision.


This is the one that’s tempting me at present:

I may yet talk myself into the cheaper one, but the camera port looks like fun, and the base looks sturdier.

Just what I need. More expensive tools to further an expensive project… :slight_smile:

Just depends on if you want to spend the money. Camera port could be nice to take pictures/video if you’re teaching a class where it might be useful for the class to be able to see video of what you’re doing while you’re doing it, or if you work with clients to show a prototyping issue, etc. but most newer cameras can take excellent photos of even very small details in good lighting so for me getting pictures while I’m soldering something is a novelty.


I have almost that exact one, except my zoom knob is on the side of the head. Cost me a pretty penny back in the day, but I use it weekly, if not daily, for any number of things. I never regretted the purchase.

[Edit: Stereo Microscope is a previous thread on this topic.]

Trinocular is an option, but I just hold my phone up to an eyepiece to take a picture, and there are multitudes of drop-in USB cameras. Not that often that I need to see something on a screen.

I agree with @michaelb that the Mantis is way overrated. If someone gave me one, I’d sell it on eBay and get an Amscope.

[Edit: https://www.amazon.com/AmScope-SM-4BZ-80S-Professional-Microscope-Magnification/dp/B0055B3WRW appears to be the exact model that I’ve had for 15 years or so. Mine came with a fluorescent tube light ring, so the LED is a good upgrade. Might be cheaper to order direct from amscope.com with a coupon.]

I’ve had customers request photos or me need to include them in a report, but just phone to the eyepiece works well enough for that.

There are a bunch of microscopes in Science, as well as an old one with video capabilities. PM me when Makerspace is open and let’s see if Electronics can use any of them.

ELab has an AmScope SM-4TZ-144A

Also have video microscope.