Customer Reviews: Aven 26700-300 ZipScope USB Digital Microscope with 2 Mega-Pixel 10x-50x Optical, 200x Digital Magnification
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on August 24, 2011
The video might be enough to convince you. But please read this extended review for all the details. Every one of the images in the video was captured with THIS microscope camera.

EDIT: Please see W. Nicholls review for more current information on software and a solution for the weak stand! We've both found that the stand is okay for very basic use, but leaves a lot to be desired. The software is the same way, but there are several excellent freeware alternatives available.

I am an IT professional for a major police department. I specialize in video enhancement and conversion. I ordered this for my Mom, who collects and sells antique buttons. Because of my Prime Membership, and because I would be the one installing this for my parents (naturally), I had it shipped to my place. When the package came in, I couldn't resist opening it and trying it out on my system. There are a few things that I didn't like, but more that I did like. First, the stand is stable enough, but not rock-solid steady like a tripod. Specifically, the stand itself appears to be very sturdy stainless steel, although the arms holding the camera are plastic. The software included (for my Win7x64 system) is actually a very basic Microsoft program, so don't expect a custom application. That's okay, though. It gets the job done, and I had no problems with program or driver installation. The magic is in the scope itself.

The grippy rubber surrounding the unit helps with positioning, especially when you are using it in a hand-held photo/video shoot. The focus ring might be a little tough at each of the extreme ends, but is otherwise very smooth and easy to adjust.

I was able to grab several very high quality images right off the bat. I used a twenty dollar bill as a test subject. I was able to zoom in so much that the ultra-tiny "USA 20" shadows under the right-side text were clearly visible, yet I was also able to zoom out enough to capture almost the entire bill. Going further, I captured an entire US Quarter at about a half-screen size, and was able to zoom in so close that I the screen was filled with only 3 grooves of the 119 grooves around the edge of the quarter. That's pretty impressive. In fact, that is a HUGE range of magnification. Ask your photographer friends. They will confirm this.

The software was a piece of cake to install (Win 7 x64), although I had to use my other computer to copy the mini-CD to a regular CD. My second computer has a tray-load CD drive, while the system I wanted to use it on has a "suck-load" (ie slot-load) CD drive. This program/driver package is NOT available on the manufacturer's website, and the mini-CD is not labeled, but it's really a minor problem. If you use any other webcam or video capture program, this camera will work with them as well. Also, any other webcams you have will work with this software for effortless still and video capture.

Overall, the stand is nice and stable, provided you really crank down the screw (which still allows for some forceful movement but still keeps the camera in place), but the arms that hold the camera are a little weak. This is a tiny weakness that can be easily overcome by adjusting from the bracket instead of grabbing the camera itself. If you won't be using the very wide range of zoom/focus levels, this will NOT be a problem for you. The best way to operate this camera is by moving the object instead of the camera. My mother just wants a little visual aid in identifying manufacturing marks on antique clothing buttons. For her, I set up the focus and camera angle, and she hasn't touched it in several weeks of examining antique buttons. She just moves the buttons around beneath the lens.

The LED lights are very good. Even with the rest of my household lights turned off, the built-in LEDs had enough power to provide plenty of bright light for proper exposure. At some zoom/focus levels, I even had to move the switch to the "half-led" position to prevent washout.

The zoom/focus range is incredible. To make it clear, please understand that "zooming" means moving the camera away from the object and adjusting the focus, but I was really impressed with the incredibly wide range of zoom/focus on this system. I got great pictures in the range from less than 1/10 of an inch all the way to 6 inches+ away from the subject. To give this some context, I should remind you that I got a picture of a US Quarter that took up 1/2 the frame, then "zoomed in" (aka moved closer and adjusted focus) so that I had a shot of only 3 of the 119 ridges on the edge of the coin. Both shots provided great detail, and the 2 MP resolution was a pleasant surprise. At 1280x1024, it isn't quite true HD, but provides a very good image.

Because the cradle that holds the camera is a little weak, you might need to push the "shutter" button a few times to get a clear shot, but this is a very minor inconvenience, and doesn't cause any software or storage problems, since you only save the image when you're happy with the result. A typical shot was just under 1 MB in size, and only took two to three attempts to get one without blur. That probably sounds terrible in a review, but I want to emphasize that it is really easy to get a nice clear shot. Just press the camera-mounted shutter button a couple of times until your image is nice and crisp. This works reliably even when holding the object and camera in each hand.

Overall, I can say this. I would love to have one of the four hundred dollar super precise professional forensics lab-type USB microscopes, but for anything less than a couple hundred bucks, this is the best of the bunch. I loved it so much that I ordered one for myself. I am not a professional, but I am a very good amateur. You can see some of my close-up my videos by looking for "SloMoHolic" on a very popular video sharing website that starts with "You" and ends with "Tube", taken with non-microscope professional equipment :-). Hopefully you will see actual ZipScope footage very soon!

Have fun and explore things you've never seen before. There are a lot of options out there, and I have researched them all (although I have not tried them all). This particular model seems to be the best option for anyone who is not in a forensics lab, that wants to have high-quality still and video imagery, with a very wide range of focus/zoom. I hope my review helps you make your decision.
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on September 28, 2011
Right off the top, the Amazon listing for the Aven 26700-300 claims 2MP resolution. I was only getting .3MP (640x480) via the primitive software pressing the shutter button. The instructions don't tell you how to get full resolution captures and I stumbled upon how it's done. Here's the arcane procedure:

Open the AMCAP application window so you can frame your image. This application only has controls for capturing video. If you press the shutter button you'll get a snapshot that pops up in a new window. However, this image will only be 640x480. To snapshot at higher resolution, you must use the tray application/control panel. This gives you access to Properties controls if you select the Properties Page, but that won't give you control over photo resolution. You must right-click or click and hold on the tray application, click on the snapshot menu item, then select a resolution from the fly out list. 1600x1200 is the sensor resolution if it's 2MP, but the Chinese manufacturer's specs (Oriental Inspiration, Ltd.) say 1280x1024 (1.3MP). When you pick the resolution, a snapshot is taken and it pops up in the snapshot viewer window. You'll only see a portion of the full res image since the viewer window can't be resized and there is no zoom. If you then press the shutter button on the microscope, new images will be captured at the resolution you set via the tray application. Be sure to save the image from the viewer window since the image will be lost if you don't. Beware -- when you quit the software the snapshot resolution will set back to 640x480. There's no way to make the full resolution be the default. This software isn't just primitive, it's stone age.

I appreciate Blake Ormand's extensive review, and I don't have experience with other USB microscopes to compare, but I find the software and the stand to be significant limitations on an otherwise good device. Pushing the image capture button on the side of the microscope causes it to move and blur images that would be simple to get sharp with a software shutter control. There is the snapshot control I outlined above and I recommend you use that instead of the hardware button.

The live view via the software is a small, low resolution window. If you maximize the software window, it expands to fill the display and thus distorts the image (at least with most current display aspect ratios). You can resize the window, but this distorts the image since the view will fit any shape window you create. The digital zoom function isn't particularly useful. The image quality is low and you don't see any additional detail. Plan on a real zoom utility of 50x. And you'll only get 50x with the microscope as close to the subject as the clear front ring allows.

Also, there's no white balance control (there's a hue control in the generic control panel, but that's not a substitute). Under normal ambient light, the image has a pink cast. The color is reasonably neutral when the LEDs are turned on via the oval slide switch on the microscope. Actually, the unit is now showing pink even with the LEDs and I suspect a problem with an RGB channel.

The microscope has a poor orientation for right side up. If the shutter button was on top, you'd get a bit more stability pushing toward the base. You can rotate and mirror the image via the generic software and I haven't seen if that's a viable workaround so I can work the unit with the shutter button on top. The stand has a really weak and narrow clip that isn't in the least bit secure or stable. The base and articulating arm are nicely finished, but the clamp barely holds the microscope at all. Unfortunately, the only optional base available from Aven is designed for backlit slide use akin to conventional optical microscopes. I'd like to find a boom-type stand with a clamp that could securely hold the Aven ZipScope's body.

The Dino-Lite model I was considering before buying the Aven is over $400. There are more and better stand options for Dino-Lites, and the software appears to be better (the high end software provides measurement capability). I have no professional use for a USB microscope,so the Aven's pricepoint is more rational for me to play with. I do volunteer fossil preparation and I'd like to use the USB microscope for demonstration and documentation purposes. It would be cool if I could use the computer display to do fine detail work instead of looking through a conventional low power stereo microscope, but I'm not sure that I could set the USB microscope up without having too much parallax error to work with.

Update 01/19/2012: I've found better software that works with this microscope. I did a trial evaluation of NCH's Debut Video Capture Pro Software. You can capture from the microscope at full 1600x1200 resolution and there's a still capture button. The preview scales proportionally, and there's a control that lets you view at actual pixel resolution. There's a 14-day trial, but when the license price is $40. There are other webcam video capture utilities for Windows, Mac, and Linux that you could try. Look up AMCap at the website.

I bumped up my rating to four stars because good free alternative software is available. Thanks again to Blake, for recommending ProScope HR software which is available free online for personal use. There are also Mac OS and Linux versions of this software. I've installed it but haven't tried the software yet, so I can't compare to the relatively expensive NCH utility.

I'm using a Manfrotto Nano Clamp to mount the microscope to various photographic supports like an articulating arm or flex arm and have uploaded a few to show this. The Nano Clamp does partially obscure the capture button, but using software to trigger captures is far better for vibration.
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on October 9, 2012
AVEN zipScope with measurement software.
The microscope: It does exactly as advertised and with amazing clarity.
The stand: It is as valuable as a milk bucket under a bull. It will not support the microscope at a 90 degree angle which is necessary for accurate measurements and a lack of subject distortion.
The programming: ... Horrible! The written dropdown boxes that are critical for measurement and marking the pictures were in the programmer's font (little square boxes).
Product support: Great, the company responded to correct the problem after which the measurements work.
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on September 23, 2012
I am a physician and medical researcher (now retired).
I first discovered USB microscopes at a recent Stanford engineering conference.
They were one of the great take-home memories of that conference.

Look at the attached video captured by the Aven ZipScope
by my son (a Stanford cell biologist) and me.
It shows a tiny bug darting about inside a flower -
totally unanticipated. We were both blown away
by the resolution and sheer beauty of our images:
an aphid crawling on a leaf (again, not even suspected to be present),
fabulous morphology of bee's wings and insect anatomic parts,
the microstructure of my LCD screen, etc.

I can't imagine teaching a K thru 12 science class without a USB microscope.
I also think it's unforgivable for a dentist or a dermatologist not to have a USB scope.

I bought the AVEN zipscope because of its superior reviews
relative to other scopes. It has exceeded my expectations.
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on December 28, 2011
Picture quality is great. We are using other software to view images from Windows and Linux laptops, never had to instal software that came with this. Feels solid, handles well, focuses well, built-in light at two settings is great too. Whether the magnification is good enough for you is for you to decide, but it is amazing for our kids and for me to see stuff up close, sharp, intense colors, on large screen. Resolution is 1600x1200, but then it does only 5fps or so, which makes it harder to work with if you move stuff a lot, so I'm actually running it at 800x600 where is does 20fps, and it could 30fps at something like 640x480, but I like an integer divisor and 20fps is OK to work with. I did take a couple pictures too at 1600x1200 after I focused at 800x600.
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on May 8, 2012
I bought this to use for school science projects and checking of solder joints for home electronics projects, and for this it works well. Image quality is decent but not stunning, up to 1600x1200 for still shots. The LED illumination is switchable off/low/high.

Optically, it's much better than I'd expected. Depth of field is pretty good. It has a great range of focus, from several mm behind the clear shield all the way to infinity(!), which makes it easy to use on irregularly-shaped objects. It's a fixed-focal-length lens, so magnification depends on how close the subject is to the microscope. Focused at the front of the clear shield, the field of view is about 9mm x 7mm, and features are distinct down to about 15um (0.015mm). That's enough to see all the fine engraving details on a $20 bill.

The reason for the pinkish color cast described by another viewer is that the sensor does not have an IR (infrared) filter. This is easy to see if you point it at a TV remote control and press a button on the remote. This might be a negative if you're interested in really accurate colors. On the upside, it means you can use the camera for infrared science experiments, or as a low-light camera (like a security video camera) if you wire up some IR LEDs.

The included software is functional if a bit clunky. I had some trouble with it losing track of the capture button on the side of the scope. I don't consider this a big negative, because there's lots of freeware video capture software, and the camera shows up as a standard webcam.
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on August 11, 2011
I had ordered before a similar version, and ended up frustrating when realized that it had a fixed magnification. This one is much better. Small children have great fun.. In my case, putting the signal on the TV (using Wireless Display) made it even better. Tons of fun!
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VINE VOICEon January 28, 2012
I plugged this into my Ubuntu 11 machine in my electronics lab. I wanted to be able to use this to read part numbers on s all components and double check soldering and other things like that. Out of the box, this works fine with Ubuntu--the camera shows up as a generic USB webcam and I was able to do both 1600x1200 and 800x600. The focus and aiming takes a bit of practice, but I am satisfied with the results. The included stand isnt great, but it is a huge improvement over no stand! I am going to invest in some better mounts, which will exceed the cost of the scope, but improve the value. The USB cord is a bit short, so you might find yourself wanting an extension cable. The LEDs have two settings, or they can be turned off (controlled via a hardware switch on the side of the scope).

Overall, I am quite pleased, especially for the low price. If you need to look at small stuff, this is a wonderful tool!
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on August 2, 2012
This is a fun little digital microscope! I use it for inspecting circuit boards and solder work, and it is perfect for such work. My kids use it to look at bugs and other tiny things - they get a real kick out of it. It can focus at a relatively long distances (over an inch), or the focus can dial in right at the end of the plastic ring for higher magnification. The LED ring provides reasonably even lighting, but I prefer to use room lighting when possible for more natural color. The stand is barely passable, but it works once you get it adjusted. I recommend a proper X-Y table or a goose-neck if you need to adjust it frequently. The USB transfer speeds are slow; thus, the update rate at the highest resolution (1600x1200) is choppy. I recommend using a low resolution until you locate the scene of interest and then toggle to hi-res mode. The software is fair at best, but my needs are simple and it works to render the image on my large display in full-screen mode.
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on September 15, 2012
Great little camera for the price. Works at full resolution on Photobooth, the default app that comes with your MAC! My kids are able to see high resolution images of bugs, the stuff they are not cleaning off their teeth (that was worth the price right there in dental bills saved!)

We are going to try it with iMovie to see if we can make magnified movies, I imagine it will work fine, as the camera is identified as a USB 2.0 camera, will work with all default apps. No drivers to install, no nothing.

Got to love Apple.
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