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Advice on buying a used Meiji stereo microscope

Hello there, I’ve been a member here for a little while but this is my first post. I’ve only got serious about making jewelry over the last 2 years. This site and all that it’s members contribute has helped me more times than I count and encourages me to stick with it when I get frustrated with a project.
I’ve been looking at stereo microscopes for quite awhile hoping for a good deal to come across. I’m hoping I may have found it. It’s a meiji EMZ series stereo microscope. It has the 10x eyepieces and is mounted on a meiji stand for viewing slides through. The only other number on it is NOVA PS 621 961162210002.
The person selling it doesn’t know much about it, she purchased a house and the contents came with it. This was among a bunch of other equipment that dates to the 1980’s. That’s as close as I can come to dating it. I’m hoping the picture I’m including shows up below this in the post. The women has used microscopes in the past and she indicates it is working as it should. She believes it’s around 7- 40x magnification. Images are sharp and clear with no artifacts showing up in the field of view throughout the magnification range and the zoom knobs spin freely.
Unfortunately the microscope is hundreds of miles away from me so seeing it in person isn’t an option. I’m hoping the picture I’m including show’s up in the post. From what I’ve read any Meiji EMZ scope should work for my application. I have no idea what different models were available from meiji back then though and I want to be sure. I’m hoping you members might be able to help out with identification and advise if it’s suitable as a setting/engraving microscope. She’s asking $500 for it, seems like a more than fair price to me. Any help you can provide will be very much appreciated. Thank you,
Jeff

here is another picture


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Hi Fella/Jeff,
I’m in a similar position to you…thinking of increasing my magnification to improve the precision of my jewelry work. I have a couple of stereo microscopes which I have used to examine gemstones and jewelry, so I’m familiar with what is available. The microscope you are considering looks like a good one, and Meiji optics have a pretty good reputation. The problem that I would see with using this at the jewelry bench is that there isn’t room for an engraving ball or other means of securing your work above the stage. If you have a way to work around this, the Meiji may be for you. What I’ve decided is that I need a boomstand to go with my stereo microscope head in order to make it useful at the bench. With a boomstand there isn’t a stage to get in the way and the scope can be used with an engraving ball, above your bench pin when using it as a resting place or brace, or above some sort of vice or work clamp. If you go with a boomstand, you will have to get one that is compatible with your particular stereo microscope head…there are usually some of both the heads and the boomstands for sale on ebay, as well as at microscope suppliers. If you look for an older scope from Bausch and Lomb or American Optical, the scope with boomstand can be priced near what you are considering paying for the Meiji (~$500) but you would have to do a lot of looking and might have to assemble a system from various suppliers…that is, find a head here, some eyepieces there, and a stand from another sale. HTH, royjohn

Hello Royjohn, I’m really hoping it would turn out to be a great purchase. I just can’t seem to find a lot of information about the older Meiji scopes. Right know I’m assuming that it has the same specifications as the newer EMZ 5’s but that might not be the case. I don’t want to be chasing down 30 year old barlow lenses if the thread size turns out to be different. I just don’t know enough about them. If the microscope head uses the same eyepieces and barlow lenses as those sold today (or readily available) it would be worth taking the chance on it. It looks like it’s seen a lot of use and a few knocks and bangs as well. While the seller states it functions perfectly and the optics are clear and crisp I may find my eyes tell a different story. I suppose I should have mentioned it’s $500 canadian, which works out to about $375 US. It’s a great price.
The stand isn’t suitable for most the work I need it for but it might come in handy. I could use it for gem viewing or even parts should I find a deal on a boom stand that needs modifying to fit the meiji. I may even build one myself, I have the machines to do so. A lot of people seem to prefer the acrobat boom stand, ergonomics are important to me so I may go that route from the start.
I’ve been looking at the older scopes you mentioned as well as a few others. At some point in the search I decided I’d rather buy something that parts are still readily available for now and in the future.
The price seems to go up significantly for that convenience though. I hope you find the boom stand to suit your needs and thank you for replying.
Jeff

Hello Jeff,
Having a microscope is really a huge step up in your ability to REALLY see. Maybe I’m a really frugal/cheap person, but let me suggest another possibility. Any scientific lab most likely has dissecting scopes. As the lab upgrades, the old scopes are discarded -sometimes for free!! Try your state surplus store - old lab equipment might be for sale. The standard microscope used for viewing slides is NOT what you want. You want a dissecting scope. Entomologists and plant taxonomists have them to see the tiny features necessary to distinguish one species from another. As noted by another, being able to attach the scope to a boom makes it much more usable. I rely on my dissecting scope to see gems, evaluate a fused joint, and remove a splinter! ;-}. While I would love to have it mounted on a boom, the scope is wonderful as it is!!
Judy in Kansas

Hello Judy, thank you for the good advice. A couple red flags came up in my conversion with the person selling the meiji. Because I’m unable to view the scope in person I’ve decided to take a pass on it. I’m going to take your advice and search locally for something suitable. I’ve read just about all I can find in regards to what to look for so I’m fairly confident in that regard. I can always come back here and ask for advise if I’m unsure anyways. Thank you.
Jeff

Jeff,
Few more comments on your reply…the stand might be reversible so that it could be turned 180 degrees, but it still might not go low enough if your bench pin and any attachments are below the top of your bench as mine are.
I would not obsess about optical quality, as all of the established manufacturers have good quality…at 7X to 15X, aberrations are not likely to make a big difference. If a little color fringing at the edge of the field makes a big difference to you, you need to drop the bucks on a Zeiss or some such, not a likely issue for most of us.
I don’t think you will need to chase down a barlow, as most of the zoom scopes will go from 7X to at least 30X with a set of 10X eyepieces. I would think that the range you would be using for jewelry work would be 7X to 10X most of the time. I do use a barlow for some gemology (inclusions in gemstones), but they are available for the used B&Ls…the AO zooms go to 45X with a set of 10X eyepieces and double that with 20X’s. The only trouble I have had with the older scopes is lenses getting loose on two old AO’s, but the heads are common on ebay for about $150, which is cheaper than professional repair…
If you can build or rig a boomstand, you are home free. The stands are more expensive than the old microscope heads, since a lot of these older scopes were used with traditional stages/bases instead and the different heads each require a different stand receptical. HTH, royjohn

Hello Royjohn, I’ve spent some time looking into the old B&L stereo microscopes that you suggested. One will suit my needs just fine. There is a well established business that sells them an hour or so drive from me and they come with a one year warranty. They do repairs, refurbish and carry accessories for them as well. I think the 0.5 Barlow lense is a good idea, it really extends the working distance and I’ll need all I can get using pneumatic engraver. The B&L Stereo zoom 4 (one option)would still give me 3.5x to 15x zoom with a 0.5 Barlow lense and that will satisfy most of my needs.
As far as the boom stand goes I’ll likely modify a simple track stand to get the fine up/down (Z) movement I’ll need. I’ll make it so I can tilt the microscope head in any direction should I ever need it. I already have the hardened shafting and linear bearings left over from another project that will provide the in/out (Y) movement. I was going to use the same shafting for the coarse up/down (Z) and anchor it to a heavy base plate but I have another idea in mind.
I have an old drill press that has seen better days. It has a 2 1/2" round column with a rack and pinion for moving the table up and down. It would be ideal for the main column for the microscope and make rough positioning (up/down) quick and easy. It’s overkill and not really necessary but it makes for a much easier build.
Thank you for your help, (you to Judy from Kansas) you’ve really simplified the buying process for me and saved me a lot of money in the process. I’m no longer agonizing over a decision and it’s clear what I need to do now.
Have a great day!
Jeff

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@Fella you are solving a problem that I have on the horizon. I would GREATLY appreciate hearing about your journey to your solution through periodic posts and pictures. I believe it would serve many who follow this forum. Thanks in advance!
Regards RLW

Good day Rwade, I’ll be more than happy to post pictures and share all the details I can as I progress. I’m lucky enough to have a lathe and mill to machine the neccessary parts. I believe the parts could be made with a drill press with some small changes in design though. I’m going this route because I have the thompson shafting and linear bearings already. I won’t need much, if anything to complete it. The parts will likely end up costing more than a used one on ebay. The amscope boom stand looks like a great deal and could be adapted to any scope with a little thought. I don’t like the mild steel shafting and linear bearings in them though. The bearings gouge the soft shafting quickly. They can be replaced with hardened steel shafts with minimal effort and basic tools though. It doesnt cost much to buy adequate shafting either.
I’ll be getting started on it once I have my rolling mill project complete.
I’m putting a variable speed gearmotor drive on my pepe rolling mill. That was originally going to be my first post. I thought some people might be interested in seeing one done. I suppose I should leave that for a seperate post. It’s been a fun project. Have a great night!

Hello again Rwade1,
I may have misspoke when I said you might not be able to build a microscope boom stand for less money than a used one on ebay. I took a look on amazon and the prices were quite low for 20mm hardened shafting and linear bearings. You can buy 4 20mm linear bearing blocks (the bearing mounted in an aluminum housing with holes so you can bolt them to a plate or block) for $25 on Amazon. Using this type of linear bearing blick can really simplify the building process. The shafting was resonable as well. Ebay has endless listings as well. I was really suprised, not that long ago your options were limited and the prices were significantly higher. While they may not be the highest quality, people are using them successfully in cnc routers and custom 3d printer builds. They should stand up well in a microscope boom stand. Just thought I should share that. Feel free to message me if you have any questions.

HI Jeff (and all),
Glad to be able to be of some help for once on this forum which has been so valuable over the years to me. Jeff, I think what you’re proposing will work fine…I have two of the B&L zoom 4 heads which are old, but work quite well. I would just get a return privilege when buying one and examine it closely to make sure that there isn’t some fungus or haze inside that you can’t easily get to to clean. If one has been kept in a damp environment, there could be fungus on the coated optics. Luckily, most of these were used in labs where the atmosphere was pretty good, if the condition of most that I see for sale is any indication. As far as the barlow, that is certainly an option, but so is a pair of wide field (marked WF) 5x eyepieces. You might want to chose whichever is cheaper. The 5x eyepieces are used in a lot of binocular microscopes, so used pairs are out there. I guess you know you’d have to make sure that the barlow you bought had the right threads to fit the B&L…it doesn’t have to be a B&L barlow, just has to have the same threads, but the exact dimensions of the threads I don’t remember…altho’ I do have a 2X B&L barlow for gemological uses. The boomstands always seem to me to be pricey for what they are, but making one seems to me to be a time soaker, too, so I’ll probably go on and spring for one soon. Now you might want to think about an LED ringlight for the scope…they are all over ebay for cheap. IDK if it is easy to fit one if you are using a barlow…which might be an argument for the 5X eyepieces instead, but I’m sure you can figure all this out, as you are quite handy and have some metalworking tools…I, too, would be interested if you decide to share some photos of what you come up with. Thx for sharing! -royjohn

Hello Royjohn, You make a great point regarding the 5x eyepieces, I hadn’t considered that. Barlow lenses seem hard to come by on some of old microscopes and switching the eyepieces would solve that, perfect! I’m want to get out to the microscope shop in the next week or so, it’s a bit of drive. I’m hoping the online classified ads might produce some local options as well. I’d prefer to try it out before buying it. The boom stand is still up for consideration, fabricating one is the smart move. It would allow me to spend more on the microscope as well. It’s finding the time. I’d prefer to spend that time creating and increasing my skill level. It can be quite the balancing act when your getting established. I’ll make a decision once I have purchased the microscope. I actually have a 144 led ring light. I use it on the spindle of my small milling machine. I can use it as a starting point anyway. Winter is just about here and I’ll have more time to get things done.
Thanks again, it’s really great having a two sided conversation about this stuff. The freinds I have love to wear jewelry but that’s about where their interest level starts and stops.
I’m looking forward to finishing up a few projects so I can start sharing more on here. I’d planned on contributing a bit before I started asking questions!
Jeff

Hello again, Jeff and All,
Inspired by this discussion, I decided to spring for a stereo head with boomstand that I’d been thinking about getting…as I said before, I’ve four scopes/heads here, but no boomstand that fits any of them. So I bought an old American Optical (AO) model 570 zoom head (0.7-4.2X) with the standard 10X eyepieces. I’ll probably get either the 0.5X barlow or a set of 5X eyepieces, but I want to get it set up and see how 7X looks to me first. My reason for posting is to get advice from anyone here who uses a stereo microscope at the bench on lighting. I have so far used swing arm lamps and desk lamps with halogen lights, but I was thinking of a ringlight for the scope, since there are lots of them on ebay and they are cheap and easy to install. My other option would be to drag out an old fiber optic light source and get a two armed cable for that, but I’m afraid the lights would have to be so close to the object you’re working on that they would get in the way of jeweler’s saws, flex shafts, pliers, files, gravers, etc. What do folks recommend? -royjohn

Good day Royjohn, congratulations on your purchase!
I like the scope you bought, I’ve spent a fair bit of time going through the engraving forums and that microscope comes well recommended. They have a pretty substantial list of microscopes to buy and ones to avoid. The American opitical scopes are liked because they are high quality, rugged and most importantly they can be cleaned and refurbished with relative ease. I hope the boom stand serves you well. Can you post a picture once you’ve got it in hand?
I’ve looked into lighting for them. A couple guys who are world class level engravers both said it comes down to personal preference. One of them uses two desk lamps that have flexible goose necks positioned wherever needed. The other uses a led light ring and a desk light. The led light rings become less effective when your setup for for larger working distances. At 8 inches the light isn’t so great. That’s second hand information so take it for what it is. I find the same thing though with the led light ring on my milling machine.
Can you share your thoughts on working under the microscope versus optivisor type head gear. Curious to hear which you find easier. I’m hoping the microscope ergonomics are easier on the body. It’s a big issue for me.
I purchased a microscope this morning as well. I went with an Olympus sz4045, trinocular. The trinocular has a C-mount with a 0.5 lens with a focus knob. It’s for a video camera but I’ll need to do some research to see what’s involved. It has 10x eyepieces with a 0.67 to 4x zoom. It comes with with with a mount for the body that has the focus rack. It’s a good fit for what I have in mind. It has been cleaned and serviced, it also comes with a 3 month warranty.
It’s supposed to be a good scope and should serve me well. I decided to buy it after discovering the thread size for adding barlow lenses. It’s m48x0.75. Same size as most of the chinese scopes on the market. They are a perfect fit in all ways. Many SZ4045 owners are using them successfully. I know the quality won’t be the same but for lower magnification it should be ok. It’s better than spending a couple hundred or more for genuine Olympus ones.

Hello again, Jeff and assorted onlookers,
My scope hasn’t arrived yet; it will be a few days until it comes and I have a chance to try it out and figure out how to post any pix of it at my disorderly bench. I appreciate your feedback about the ringlights, but I note that there are several different ones with varying numbers of LEDs for sale from China and the lighting level may vary somewhat. I have an old fluorescent ringlight which I used for gemology in the 90’s, but even for that it was pretty weak…maybe partially because the actual ringlight was old even then! Not having any practical experience with currently available lighting, I’ll have to wait and see what specs I can come up with from vendors. Currently I’m wondering if a couple of gooseneck fiber optic fixtures which can be positioned inches from the work wouldn’t be better than a ringlight. but I do have a fiber optic source and merely need a set of dual goosenecks, avaiable cheap on the used market.
Here’s what I did find out. My particular scope has a 4" working distance as measured from the objectives and a change in eyepieces does not change that according to the original manual. The barlow, however, increases the working distance to 5.7". You’ll have to find out what the corresponding figures are for your scope. This is plenty of distance for stonesetting and engraving, but perhaps not if you are sawing or doing some delicate forging, if the scope is directly above the work…if you slant the scope and view from in front of the work, maybe you’ll have more distance. Also, my bench pin is set up at mid-chest level when my chair is set at its lowest level…my current vice attaches to the bench pin, but is higher and I think I may have to go to something similar to the GRS system, which provides a shelf lower than your pin on which you can rest an engraving vice.
I think it is going to be a lot easier to establish what needs to happen once you have a scope in place and can adjust the stand and figure out where your work is going to be most comfortably done. Then you put your bench pin, engraving block, work holder, etc., etc., where you want them. The GRS system is nice and there are certainly ways to DIY something similar if you need or want to. For reference, the Optivisor working distance is 4" for 3X (LP-10), 6" for 2.75X (LP-7) and 8" for 2.5X (LP-5). Your line of sight for the Optivisor could be about 45 degrees to the work…for the scope anywhere from directly above to way out front. TMI, right? Let’s talk more when we’re in the real world with scopes at the bench.
-royjohn

Hello there, I must have posted my message by accident. I hadn’t finished it, that’s why it ended mid sentence. My apologies.
As far as the ring lights go, I don’t think you can wrong with one. The more adjustable the better. 0

Seems I’m having trouble using my phone to reply… I built my bench with a cutout and a couple shelves. One for a ball vise that sits just below bench level. The bench pin is at a slightly different height, some work is too long and needs to sit on top of the bench. I’ll need the stand to accommodate that. I know a lot of people space the work up and down to accommodate the microscopes height. I suppose each person’s needs will vary. I agree though, it’s still speculation until you’ve actually used one! The working height on the Olympus is 210mm, increases to 800mm with the 0.5 (I purchased one). Part of me wishes I had purchased a stand as well. I’ll continue that debate with myself.
Regardless of the mess on your bench I hope you’ll still post a picture. I haven’t had a clean bench in over 20 years and I think it’s the same for most people.
Let me know how it goes.
Jeff