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A Poor Man’s Mineral Microscope

Last Updated: 10th Sep 2019

By Gareth Evans

A Poor Man’s Mineral Microscope

Shown below are three views of my ANDONSTAR Digital ADSM302 Microscope. I acquired this unit about six months ago for my electronics projects involving the soldering of surface mounted components. Surface mounted components are very small and sometimes difficult to see even for a young person with 20/20 vision. I have also used it in my mechanical work – determining the integrity of custom made screw threads and checking for hair-line cracks in metal parts.


A full description of the unit can be found online. It comes with some very useful software (Mandarin or English), and it can be interfaced (USB) to a PC to take full-advantage of the inexpensive large LCD’s screens now available or it can be used as standalone microscope, video maker or camera. The photos taken with the unit can be edited with many PC packages such as Photoshop.

There are many similar units available for sale on the internet, and my unit comes from China direct.

After my success with the unit as a soldering aid and a mechanical tool I have subsequently used it to take close-up shots of some of my minerals. It may not have the ‘oomph’ of a dedicated Mineralogical Microscope but it is a very useful and inexpensive tool.

Shown are some of the photos taken with the unit.


I am thinking about making a modification to the microscope so I can use it with large and very large minerals specimens. This modification would enable me to go prospecting at the sub-millimeter level. Below is a photo of what is known as a compound table. It enables one to carry-out precise movements in a 2-dimensional frame. By incorporating a ‘lazy Susan’ I will be given access to movement in 360 degrees, and by mounting the microscope focusing stand on a pivot (universal joint) such that I can move the microscope through a full 180 degrees of rotation, I should be able to access every point on a specimen.


Article has been viewed at least 1217 times.

Discuss this Article

10th Sep 2019 02:36 BSTLloyd Van Duzen

Nice approach to mineral photography Gareth.  I am planning a similar project myself.  I am still in the planning stage and collecting parts.  Nice pics for sure.  Thanks for sharing.

10th Sep 2019 02:38 BSTRocky Mineralowicz

That looks very nice.  Do you know if there is anything comparable that in not Chinese?  Thanks for the heads up.

10th Sep 2019 03:35 BSTGareth Evans

Hello Rocky:When I was a young boy everything came from either Europe or the USA. Japan was the only nation in Asia then exporting stuff. I suspect anything made in the west would be very expensive. The Chinese product is very good, and I am more than happy with the purchase. I could give you the source but I might then be contravening Mindat rules – and I do not want to get into bad odour with the managers. Help please!!!!Gareth

10th Sep 2019 19:37 BSTKevin Hean

Hi Rocky
Proxxon make a few bits and pieces you may find interesting.  (yes double x )   :-)

Edit:- Talking about the X-Y Table etc not the microscope

10th Sep 2019 16:42 BSTDonald B Peck Expert

Interesting, Gareth.  And beautiful photos of the minerals, also.  I used a lazy-susan bearing to make a rotating, circular stage when I  altered a simple compound microscope to a near petrographic microscope.  I did a lot of searching through hardware store stocks before I found one that did not have too much "slop" in its movement.  Even then I had to carefully tighten the race.  Later I obtained a ball-bearing assembly that was about 8 cm in diameter that was much better.  It was about 15mm thick.  Mounting it was more of a challenge, but you obviously have the skills to do it.  Please keep us informed.


10th Sep 2019 21:55 BSTGareth Evans

Dear Don:Minerals and elements are not my only passion – I enjoy making metal chips. I have a fully equipped home machine shop complete with metal turning lathe, vertical milling machine, bandsaw and lots of cutting tools (High Speed Steel, Carbide and Diamond) and lots of metrology instruments (micrometers, gauge blocks etc.). I too became frustrated with what was available at box stores, so I decided to develop machining skills so I could make whatever I might need. Adam Savage of myth busters’ fame once said, with a lathe and a milling machine you could reinvent western technology should it ever fall. It is so true – I am amazed at what one can do with some basic machine tools. So I highly recommend getting involved in the use of machine tools. These days you can pick up some very good imported machines designed in Germany but assembled in China. You can also pick up some fine USA made lathes and milling machines that only require some dedicated work to make them fully functional.RegardsGareth

10th Sep 2019 18:11 BSTDoug Schonewald

Gareth I would be curious to know the FOV in the mineral photos. Particularly
948391, 942321, & 943451

10th Sep 2019 21:44 BSTGareth Evans

Dear Doug:

All between 3 and 5mm. I will need to double check the Cadjebut piece.



10th Sep 2019 21:52 BSTRonnie Van Dommelen Expert

Nice!  Have you tried stacking photos?  If the focus is manual, then you could take 20 photos without tremendous effort and process them with free stacking software.  A little paper protractor stuck on the focus knob would help with getting somewhat uniform distance between photos.

11th Sep 2019 03:51 BSTGareth Evans

Hi Ronnie:

I have watched a few YouTube videos on photo stacking, but have not tried the technique yet. Any suggestions on the most user friendly software would be welcome.


12th Sep 2019 05:51 BSTThomas Lühr Expert

I am using Zerene Stacker and I'm very satisfied. Really easy to handle and it is fast, in comparison to CombineZP, wich is a bit outdated. Zerene offers you a free trial for 30 days, so you have the time to test it before buying.
I can't say anything about Helicon, though.

13th Sep 2019 00:43 BSTGareth Evans


Many thanks for the tip. I will give it a try.


12th Sep 2019 00:56 BSTRonnie Van Dommelen Expert

I can't comment on the most user friendly; I only have Helicon and like it, but I don't know/use all the features.  But if low cost is more important, then there are a couple free software solutions.  CombineZP has been around a long time.  And ImageJ can do stacking (might be a plugin).  I would suggest starting with a simple test of say 4-5 pictures and run them through the different software to see which you like.
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