To second what Jim said, whatever scope you end up with, get the GRS
It’s much more adjustable than anything else out there, and the
best part about it is the headrest.
It lets you brace your head, so that you stay stable relative to the
eyepieces, without resting your face on the eyepieces. Also lets
you swing the scope a bit side-to-side, to follow your work if you
have to. Helps reduce the problem with the work vanishing out the
side of the view as you move something. At the end of a day, you’ll
be amazed how much less tweaked your back will be by using the
headrest on the acrobat.
Whichever scope you get, go for a zoom. Swapping lenses to change
power is a real pain, and they’ll get covered in crap on your
average jeweler’s bench. All sorts of dusty stuff flying around.
I have two stereo scopes: An ‘ottoset’ which is actually a Meiji
clone, and a Nikon that I picked up at an estate sale. The Nikon’s a
much better scope, but it’s also $5,000 new. I’ve used Meijis, and
they are nicer than the ottoset. Are they $1K better? interesting
question. (the big issue is that the Meiji will hold focus as you
zoom. The clone won’t.) I find that as I work, I tend to pick a mag
level that lets me do what I want, and pretty much leave it alone,
until I get into inspection or something. So holding focus while
zooming isn’t that much of a big deal for me. I actually leave the
Ottoset on the acrobat, and use it for most of my engraving. I save
the Nikon for closeup inspection work. The standoff distance on the
Otto works out better, and there’s not enough quality difference
that I care between them until I get into looking at something at
40X. Then the Nikon wins hands down. For general engraving at 3-5X?
Not such a big deal.
I’ve got both LED and fluorescent ringlights. The LED is variable,
which is nice, and it’s a better color balance, but either works
well. The LED is brighter. I’ve also got a twin-head fiber optic
illuminator (same estate sale). Interesting, and it gives BRIGHT
light, but really harsh shadows and dazzling reflections. It eats up
a lot of bench space. I save that for other uses.
Short form: almost any scope is worlds better than no scope, and
any ringlight is better than none. Whatever you do, get an acrobat.