Microscope Optical Components

Section Overview:

Modern compound microscopes are designed to provide a magnified two-dimensional image that can be focused axially in successive focal planes, thus enabling a thorough examination of specimen fine structural detail in both two and three dimensions.

Review Articles


The optical components contained within modern microscopes are mounted on a stable, ergonomically designed base that allows rapid exchange, precision centering, and careful alignment between those assemblies that are optically interdependent. Together, the optical and mechanical components of the microscope, including the mounted specimen on a glass micro slide and coverslip, form an optical train with a central axis that traverses the microscope stand and body.

Microscope Cutaway Diagrams

Examine the internal components of the optical microscope with these cutaway diagrams of popular teaching and research microscopes. Each illustration is extensively labeled to aid understanding of the placement and proximity of lenses, diaphragms, mirrors, filters, shutters, lamps and other components contained within a modern microscope.

Interactive Tutorials

Selected Literature References

Selected Literature References

The list of reference materials provided in this section attempts to cover both early reviews and the latest information available on microscope components and the microscope optical train. Many references are comprehensive and cover a majority of topics concerning lenses, principal planes, off-axis light rays, virtual images, and image planes, while other references explore these concepts in conjunction with topics such as image formation, optical aberrations, and illumination.

Contributing Authors

Mortimer Abramowitz - Olympus America, Inc., Two Corporate Center Drive., Melville, New York, 11747.

Kenneth R. Spring - Scientific Consultant, Lusby, Maryland, 20657.

John C. Long, Matthew Parry-Hill, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.