Difference between Simple and Compound Microscope

Before seeing the differences between the simple and compound microscope, lets see the classification of microscope so that the understanding between these two microscopes types becomes clear.

Classification of Microscopes

The three types of microscopes are

  • Optical microscope – These use transparent lenses and visible light to see objects to the order of one micrometer ( one millionth of one meter)
  • Charged Particle (ion and electron) microscope – These microscopes employ electrostatic or electromagnetic lens along with a beam of charged particles to focus on specimens. These microscopes can see objects as tiny as one nanometer ( one tenth billionth of one meter)
  • Scanning probe microscope – These microscopes don’t use lenses but use a sharp probe to probe the surface of the specimen to view subatomic structures to the order of a nanometer.


Optical microscopes are generally classified based on the types of lenses used. The most common types of microscopes are.


A simple microscope employs a single lens while a compound microscope employs more than one lens to achieve higher order of magnification.

A simple microscope is used for basic magnification of specimens and is generally used in the fields of soil study, schools, dermatology among others.

Compound microscope, on the other hand, are used in more advanced study of microorganisms, cellular level study to identify bacterial and other infections.

Although both simple and compound microscopes fall under the optical microscopes category, both have a lot differences in the parts used and magnification level achieved.



difference between simple and compound microscope parts labelled


Labeled Diagram showing differences between compound and simple microscope parts


Differences between Simple microscope and Compound microscope

S.No Characteristics Simple Microscope Compound Microscope
1 Number of lens Typically has only one lens for magnification Has multiple objective lenses to achieve higher order of magnification
2 Complexity It is a basic level microscope used for general purposes This is comparatively complex and is used by professionals in research
3 Magnification It has only one lens for magnification It uses objective and eyepiece lens for magnification
4 Condenser Absent Present
5 Light Source Natural Artificial light source (illuminator)
6 Magnifying Power Up to 300x Up to 2000x
7 Mirror Type Concave One side is concave and the other side is plain
8 Level of magnification Only one level Higher level
9 Adjusting magnification No Yes
10 Focusing adjustment It typically has only one adjustment screw called the coarse adjustment used to adjust the limb up and down to focus on the specimen It has two adjustment screws – Coarse and Fine

Coarse – It is used to quickly adjust the focus on the object
Fine – It is used to make finer, minute adjustments to focus

11 Application areas These microscopes find utility in basically enlarging objects to view them clearly. These are used for rudimentary analysis in microbiology, pedology and dermatology Compound microscopes find utility in advanced analysis of microorganisms, in-depth analysis of cells in living beings.

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