Magnifying On The Cheap

Magnifying On The Cheap

If there is one thing we’ve learned during several years of running the Hackaday SMD soldering challenge it is this: Most people need magnification to do good soldering at a tiny scale. The problem is, like most tools, you can buy something as cheap as a $5 binocular headset or you can spend $1,000 or more on a serious microscope. What’s in between? [Noel] looks at some affordable options in a recent video that you can see below.

[Noel] started out with a cheap “helping hand” that has a simple little magnifying glass attached to it. The major criterion was to find something that would have no delay so he could solder under magnification. While it is possible to work under a scope with a little lag in the display, it is frustrating and there are better options.

The first attempt was a 10 Euro set of magnifying glasses that have different strength lenses that interchange for different amounts of magnification. Of course, each lens has a different focal length, and you won’t want to be an inch away from your hot soldering iron.

The next contender was a 26 Euro LCD microscope. We know from experience the stand is everything with these cheap scopes. Luckily, [Noel] got a stand that is pretty stable. He mentions that the scope isn’t USB.

We like the flip-down binoculars, with a few lenses that stack, although the ones in the video are probably workable. We also have enjoyed our cheap microscope, although you should be aware they can be flaky if you use any of the additional features. Also, pushing on buttons is likely to move you off target at high magnification. Still, what do you want for that price?

Some people prefer soldering with a stereo microscope for depth perception. If you want to work around some of the limitations of the cheap microscope, [Elliot Williams] hacked one to work a little better.