Optical microscope

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The optical microscope, often referred to as the "light microscope", is a type of microscope which uses visible light and a system of lenses to magnify images of small samples. Optical microscopes are the oldest design of microscope and were designed around 1600. Basic optical microscopes can be very simple, although there are many complex designs which aim to improve resolution and sample contrast. Historically optical microscopes were easy to develop and are popular because they use visible light so the sample can be directly observed by eye.

The image from an optical microscope can be captured by normal light-sensitive cameras to generate a micrograph. Originally images were captured by photographic film but modern developments in CMOS and later charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras allow the capture of digital images. Purely Digital microscopes are now available which just use a CCD camera to examine a sample, and the image is shown directly on a computer screen without the need for eye-pieces.

Alternatives to optical microscopy which do not use visible light include scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.

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