Top microscopes for SMD soldering this year – Guide & Comparative Analysis
If you’re short on time and you just want to find the best microscope for SMD soldering, you’ll probably be glad to know that all you have to do is read this concise paragraph. Based on what we found about it, it looks like the AmScope SM-4TZ-144A is the one you should give some thought to. This model is a winner in terms of performance, reliability, and convenience. It comes with a four-zone LED ring light that will ensure that your workpieces are lit as they’re supposed to. Plus, the 3.5X to 90X magnification appears to be more than generous for most soldering purposes. The model also proves its worth for other applications, so if you were to buy it for educational purposes or for kids, you would not be disappointed. If the SM-4TZ-144A is unavailable, be sure to give the AmScope SE400-Z a shot as it’s almost just as good and is even more affordable.
Finding a soldering microscope can take a toll on anyone given the immense number of alternatives available out there. To make it slightly easier for you to cope with this challenge, we have created a step-by-step buyer’s guide that can hopefully assist you in selecting the right model for your needs. Just make sure to look at your expectations and preferences to avoid ordering the wrong unit.
Unlike other types of microscopes, those destined for SMD soldering don’t have to be winners in terms of magnification. Sometimes, a range of up to 40x or maybe 90x might be more than enough as the components you are likely to glance at aren’t as tiny as microbes.
However, the way the unit looks like is an important factor to consider. In fact, the actual appearance of the device isn’t all that crucial, but the way you are going to use it is. There are two ways of going about things.
You can either get a USB microscope for SMD soldering with a compact design focused on portability or opt for a stereo microscope for soldering, in which case transporting the device might be a bit trickier.
Most of the portable choices (very similar to a handheld microscope) you might come across are actually magnifiers. Typically, they are outfitted with optics made out of plastic instead of glass. So, in terms of image quality, they might not satisfy you. By contrast, a stereo unit, also known as a dissecting microscope, can serve you very well in this sense.
What’s your budget?
While a small digital microscope for soldering can cost under fifty dollars, you’ll come to see that that the price point of a real dissecting microscope can be incredibly hard to digest. Some cutting-edge units can cost as much as six hundred dollars and more. The sky’s the limit when it comes to how expensive such a unit can be, and that’s because the optical components in these can be the epitome of quality.
If you soldering isn’t one of your primary concerns or if you don’t plan to invest a lot of money in such a product, you may have to opt for the portable, cheaper version. The same rule applies if you’re only doing this as a hobby, in your spare time.
If, however, you also want to get the microscope for educational purposes, jewelry making, and other applications like these, be sure to invest in a high-end one.
Find out all you can about the illumination system
When it comes to lighting, you may want to devote some time to researching the topic before making your final choice. Full-size microscopes can come with a myriad of bulbs, be they fluorescent, tungsten, halogen, or LED. When it comes to reliability, LED is a good choice, especially if you intend to leave the microscope on all day long. While halogen is excellent, it dims over time.
Aside from the actual types of bulb or bulbs that the unit has been equipped with, you will have to see whether there is any method that you can utilize to customize the brightness or light intensity. Portable microscopes come with a ring light that you’ll simply have to rotate in order to adjust the brightness.
Our 2018 list: Find the right SMD soldering microscope for your needs
If you still find it hard to choose one model over the next, perhaps you might want to take a peek at the following selection. It’s packed with some of the critically acclaimed options out there, most of which have garnered the best microscope for SMD soldering reviews. If you have the time, be sure to consider them.
If you want an all-around stereo microscope, don’t hesitate to take this one into account as we’ve noticed it has gathered the appreciation of most of the people who have purchased it. Unlike many of its competitors, this model has been designed with a focus on quality. That’s why it costs a pretty penny.
The unit is equipped with anything from a four-zone LED ring light to a double-arm boom stand. The neatest thing about it is that it is trinocular, which means that it comes with a C-mount that you can safely utilize to install a camera. Compatible cameras are available from AmScope and can be purchased for a variable fee online.
Most of the buyers’ opinions we have analyzed praise the quality of build, the illumination type, the lenses and eyepieces that come with the base unit, as well as the freedom to install a separate camera.
This model is a stereo microscope that enables you to perform work with ease as it will allow you to benefit from an enhanced working distance.
The model comes with a four-zone LED ring light that ensures plenty of brightness on your pieces.
The C-mount that you’ll find is part of the design of this choice can give you the freedom to use the microscope with a camera, later on when you decide to purchase one.
The lenses are said to be made from quality materials, which is why they can provide excellent images and withstand the test of time.
It’s not a particularly budget-friendly choice, despite its many features that automatically place it above lower quality alternatives.
Some owners have noted that the spec 3.5x to 90x might be misleading, as the magnification ratio you will get is, in fact, from 7x to 45x.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($659.99)
If you have no intention to transfer the images to your computer or laptop or watch them on a larger screen, perhaps this model might be just the right solution to your problems. On the one hand, it’s way more budget-friendly than that which has been showcased above, which might be an important detail to consider depending on your budget.
Secondly, this unit comes with most of the features you may have been looking for. It comes with WF10x and WF20x eyepieces and a 1X objective. Besides, the boom arm allows you to take advantage of a bit of freedom as it provides a 12-inch working distance.
Something other that has to be mentioned about this product is that it comes equipped with a 1-watt LED installed on its adjustable gooseneck. Also, you may want to know that one of the first reviews we came across was from a buyer who said that the unit is perfect for SMD soldering work.
This model is significantly more cost-effective compared to others, and if this fact matters a lot for you, you may want to check out the specs of this model.
The unit provides a 12-inch working distance, thus enabling you to maneuver your pieces as you deem fit.
The gooseneck of this product has been outfitted with a 1-watt LED light that can provide enough brightness.
Some of the people who have taken the time to review this product have said that it does wonders specifically for SMD soldering.
One of the drawbacks that you ought to take into account if you’re tempted to go for this choice is that there is no way of connecting it to a storage or viewing device such as a laptop, personal computer, or mobile devices like tablets or smartphones (even iPads).
There have been owners who have noted that the LED could have been just a bit brighter.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($208.99)
If you’re looking for something even more affordable, perhaps you should bear this unit in mind. While it does have a series of limitations, you’ll be able to use it and get great results as long as you understand its capabilities. The maximum magnification allowed by this unit is 80x, so in some respects, it’s better than many of its counterparts.
The only detail that might bother some prospective buyers is that this is not a stereo microscope in a traditional sense. It doesn’t come with a boom arm, and while it does give you a certain amount of space, you may have a bit of trouble when working on some pieces.
Notwithstanding its limitations, this model can be used for multiple purposes. For example, it boasts a frosted stage plate that enables light to pass through specimens. So, if you were to explain to a child various basic notions about plants and insects, this model would be an excellent choice.
The maximum magnification allowed by this device is 80x, so it’s capable of excellent performance and will assist you in completing most of your tasks.
The model has been outfitted with a frosted stage plate that lets light pass through the specimens that need to be analyzed.
Unlike other choices in the same line, this one can be utilized for a broad array of purposes such as looking at leaves and plants of all types, making handmade jewelry, as well as SMD soldering.
Another detail that should convince you to give this product a try is that it has been equipped with both upper and lower halogen lighting.
The working distance is practically non-existent, and this model does not come with a boom arm or gooseneck that you can use to direct the light as you deem fit.
The lamp can get rather hot, so you need to make sure that you avoid touching it so as not to get burnt.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($142.99)
Plugable USB 2.0
As we were saying in the buyer’s guide, there are two ways you can go about things when you’re in the market for a soldering microscope. One of them is to choose a model such as those we have already talked about, and the other is to select a digital unit such as this one.
The Plugable alternative has been praised time and time again, and that’s because it’s efficient, convenient, easy to use, and above all, extremely reasonably priced. Besides, it even comes with a flexible arm and an observation stand with the help of which you can focus your attention on the pieces you need to work on.
Since this is not a microscope in a typical sense, it’s been outfitted with a 2-megapixel camera, and you’ll need a constant connection to a laptop or computer in order to look at the specimens. The maximum magnification permitted by this unit is 250x, so the range is significantly more generous than that of formerly mentioned choices.
Since the design of this device is very straightforward, the product is extremely easy to utilize, whether you have any prior experience with regard to working with microscopes or not.
The maximum magnification capability of this device is 250x, so in some respects it does better than other choices.
The 2-megapixel camera that the unit comes with will allow you to look at the images using the displays of your mobile devices, laptop, or personal computer.
The arm of this magnifier is rather flexible, so you won’t be in for some surprises in case you decide to look at other types of pieces.
The measuring board that accompanies the product is another detail to take into account as you won’t have to bother with performing measurements separately.
The quality of the optics that are part of this device is less impressive, especially if you compare it to a full-size standard microscope, be it a compound or a stereo one.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($35)
This AmScope model should also be on your shopping list as it comes with an upper and lower halogen light source, a pillar stand, a maximum magnification range of 80x, and various attractive features you may be interested in.
What’s more, the SE306R-PZ takes the cake when it comes to durability as it boasts an all-metal framework. Whether you intend to purchase and use it for educational purposes or just for soldering, it’s very likely that you will enjoy the capabilities of this alternative.
As for the user feedback received by this unit, it’s worth noting that most of the customers have declared that they were impressed with the build quality, optics, and magnification range enabled by this model. Some buyers have bought it for their kids (here you can find a list of microscopes for kids) whereas others have used it for examining coins, seeds, jewelry, and other tiny items of this sort. Working on microelectronic components is also made possible by the SE306R-PZ.
The all-metal framework of this choice can give you a pointer as to whether it will withstand the test of time or not.
The model can magnify your specimens, samples, or pieces by up to 80 times.
Given that most of the materials used in the construction of this choice are high quality, including the optics, the microscope offers plenty of value for the money.
In case you don’t have a strict purpose in mind other than SMD soldering, perhaps you could utilize this device for looking at various items such as coins, if you’re a collector.
The upper and lower halogen light sources are great if you want to make sure you get the chance to look at your pieces appropriately.
Some owners might argue that the end price for this product is a bit higher compared to that of other alternatives.
As with other types of stereo microscopes, this one doesn’t offer you the benefit of a working distance per se.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($153.99)