Difference Between Simple Microscope and Compound Microscope

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A magnifying glass is a simple microscope that uses one lens for magnifying small objects like small alphabets.

Simple microscopes have real-life applications in the Biology lab, where we employ this device for observing the internal structure of plants, animals, and microorganisms.

If we talk about the compound microscope, the purpose of this microscope is the same as that of the simple microscope; however, it uses multiple lenses to magnify real-world objects that are invisible to the naked eye.

Here, we will learn to distinguish between a simple microscope and a compound microscope.


Differentiate Between Simple and Compound Microscope 

The difference between simple and compound microscope lies here under:

Simple Microscope

Compound Microscope

The first simple microscope was invented by Antony van Leeuwenhoek around 1670.

The first compound microscope was invented by Hans and Zacharias Janssen, circa 1950.

A simple microscope is used in places where rigorous research is not required. 

A compound microscope is used for professional purposes, i.e., at places where extensive research is required.


We use a simple microscope at a fundamental level. It is equipped with one bi-convex lens with a short focal length. It can enlarge the objects placed on the focal length.

It is an instrument used to have a magnified view of small objects on a glass slide.

Objects can be viewed with a single lens.


Compound means many, and compound microscope means using multiple (3 to 5) lenses.

One lens is embedded in simple microscopes.

It is equipped with one bi-convex lens with a short focal length.

Two sets of lenses are embedded in compound microscopes viz: objective lens and ocular or eyepiece lens.

The total magnification of the simple microscope is limited to one lens only.

The total magnification of the compound microscope is the product of the magnification of the objective lens and the eyepiece.

Low magnification as compared to the compound microscope.

The magnification of this microscope is higher than that of the simple microscope.

A condenser lens is not required in simple microscopes.

The condenser lens is embedded in compound microscopes for adjusting the intensity of the light to magnify the object.

Less usage of knobs, and hooks.

Use knobs to focus the light to get a clear and concise image of the object.

The light source is natural in simple microscopes.

An illuminator is used as a source of light when tiny objects are to be observed.

Since the stand is small, so the hollow cylindrical base is attached to hold the microscope.

A curved arm is used to hold the microscope.

A simple microscope employs a concave mirror.

A compound microscope employs a plane mirror at one side and a concave mirror at the other.

It contains only one adjustment screw to move the limb up and down for focusing on the object.

A compound microscope has two adjustment screws viz: coarse and fine

Coarse Adjustment: It is used for rapid focus on an object.

Fine Adjustment: It is used for fine and sharp focus on objects. 

These microscopes can be employed for obtaining an enlarged view of small objects.

A compound microscope has extensive use for the in-depth study of cells of living beings.


Differentiate Simple Microscope from Compound Microscope

A Simple Microscope


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A Compound Microscope


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From the above image, we can observe that there are two lenses in a compound microscope.


Applications of Simple Microscope and Compound Microscope

Let’s say, you are doing a simple eye exercise by focusing on the tip of your finger and bringing it close to your eyes slowly. On bringing near to your eyes, i.e., before the least distinct vision (25 cm), the image becomes blurred. To get a magnified view of the same, we use a microscope. 

Microscopes have wide real-life applications, let’s discuss the applications of the simple and compound microscope one-by-one:

Simple Microscope

  • It is used by watchmakers to obtain a magnified view of small parts of the watch.

  • It is used by jewelers to get a magnified view of the fine parts of jewelry.

  • A simple microscope is called the hand lens or the reading lens to obtain an enlarged view of hard-to-read small alphabets.

  • It is used by a dermatologist (a skin specialist) to examine various skin diseases.

  • It is used in studying soil particles (Pedology).

Compound Microscope

Compound microscopes are used to obtain a magnified view of objects at 40x to 1000x resolution, which is formed by the combination of the objective lens and the eyepiece.

The real-life applications of these microscopes are as follows:

  • Forensic labs: Crime cases are solved by drawing human cells and examining them under the compound microscope.

  • Compound microscopes are used in Pathology labs to detect diseases.

Fun Fact

Around the year 1670, Antony van Leeuwenhoek invented the single-lens simple microscope that magnified up to 200x and achieved twice the resolution of the objects at those times because he crafted good quality lenses.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Working Principle of the Compound Microscope?

Answer: A compound microscope is considered a light microscope.

The idea behind the working of the compound microscope is that a small object can be viewed by placing it beyond the focal length of the objective lens. A virtual, erect, and highly magnified image of the object is formed at the least distinct of vision, i.e., at 25 cm distance from the eye.

2. List the Types of Microscopes.

Answer: Microscopes are of various types with varying applications. Let’s discuss their types one-by-one:

  • Brightfield Transmitted Microscope (Mostly used microscope)

  • Phase Contrast Microscope (PCM)

  • Differential Interference Microscope (DIM)

  • Stereo Microscopes

  • Reflected Light Metallurgical (RLM)

  • Polarizing (PLM)

  • Epi-Fluorescence

 3. How Does a Microscope Work?

Answer: Microscopes are the arrangement of tubes packed with lenses, curved pieces of glass that refracts light rays passing through them. A lens above the object or the objective lens and another lens near your eye is the eyepiece or ocular lens.

4. Why Do We Study a Microscope?

Answer: A microscope enables scientists to ascertain in-depth contact between the structures and functions at varying levels of resolution. 

Microscopes have continued to be modified since they were first invented and used by the early scientist named Anthony Leeuwenhoek to observe microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, and blood cells.