Difference Between Simple And Compound Microscope

Difference Between Simple And Compound Microscope: It is very common to have some confusion when it comes to distinguishing between simple and compound microscopes. All and having certain similarities, these devices have different and distinct functionalities. These two types of microscopes, all and having the same objective: to enlarge images of elements imperceptible to the naked eye, are completely different.


The simplest microscopes are very rudimentary as they only consist of one lens and can barely increase the size of an image. When Zacharias Janssen, in 1590, invented the compound microscope, he revolutionized the field of microscopes by allowing scientists to access a totally new microscopic world. There are some very obvious differences between these two types of instruments that increase the size of an image

Key Differences

  • A simple microscope is a magnifying instrument that uses only one lens or a group of lenses in a unit to magnify objects. Simple microscopes are pocket magnifying glasses, reading glasses, etc.
  • The difference can be established by looking at the number of lenses in each of these two microscopes and the level of magnification. Other differentiating factors include cost and portability.
  • A compound microscope is a magnifying instrument that uses two types of lenses to magnify objects. The two types of lenses include the eyepiece and the objective.
  • A simple microscope is only equipped with a biconvex lens, often with a short focal length. A simple microscope is used to produce a magnified image of an object placed within its focal length. On the other hand, a compound microscope has two sets of lenses, an eyepiece lens and the objective lenses.
  • A simple microscope has only one level of magnification, that is, its magnification is not adjustable and is equivalent to the lens used. The compound microscope has a much higher magnification level and is adjustable. Its total magnification is a multiplication of the eyepiece lens and the selected objective lens. For example, a 10x ocular lens combined with a 40x objective lens will give a total magnification of 400x.

Simple Microscope Vs Compound Microscope in Tabular Form

Simple MicroscopeCompound Microscope
only one lens is present to magnify objects.3-5 lenses are present to enlarge objects
The condensing lens is not presentThe condensing lens is present
Natural Light source is used. Illuminator is used as a light source
Concave reflex mirrors are used in a simple microscopeit has a smooth one side while the other side is concave.
it can Increase only one level it can increase at the highest level
Power of increase is up to 300XPower of increase is up to 2,000X
do not have a Magnification settingit has a Magnification setting
it is used for a basic level magnification.it used for and by professionals for research purposes

What is a simple microscope?

A simple microscope, on the other hand, is a magnifying instrument that uses only one lens to magnify objects. That is, it is the most basic type of microscope. Some examples of simple microscopes are jewelry eyepieces, reading glasses, and pocket magnifiers.

What is a compound microscope?

A compound microscope is a magnifying instrument that uses at least two types of lenses to magnify an object at different levels of magnification. The two types of the lens in this type of microscope are:

  • The objective lens , which creates a determined image;
  • and the eyepiece lens, which magnifies the observed object.


A compound microscope is called a “compound” because it composes light by passing through two or more lenses to magnify the image. We found a lens near the object to be observed – known as an objective lens – which naturally magnifies the image of the object by causing the light used to observe it to pass through curved glass. Another lens – called an ocular lens – is where true magnification occurs with a compound microscope. The eyepiece lens will magnify the image already magnified by the objective lens, making it look even larger.

Focal length

The focal length – or the distance between the lens and its focus – is relatively short in a simple microscope. A magnifying glass, for example, only focuses on one area and, in order to see our enlarged image, we must move the lens until the object is in focus. Something similar happens with compound microscopes, with the difference that the magnified image from the objective lens becomes the focal point for the ocular lens, making the total focal length longer and more precise. In a compound microscope, the original magnified image is projected somewhere inside the microscope cylinder, within the focal length of the second lens. This allows the second lens to re-magnify the virtual image of the first lens and thus provide an even larger representation of the object.


The magnification of a simple microscope is fixed. Increases the size of the image to the extent that the lens allows. If a simple microscope could magnify an image ten times, that would be the only magnification you would see. The magnification of a compound microscope can be multiplied thanks to the additional lens. If the objective lens of a compound microscope increases the size of an image ten times and the ocular lens allows you to increase the size 40 times, then the total available magnification is 400 times the size of the object. This means that the resulting image is 400 times larger than the naked eye size.

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