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What Are the Functions of Microscope Objective Lenses?

What Are the Functions of Microscope Objective Lenses?

The first time peering through a microscope is a memorable moment for many budding scientists. As kids grow, their early curiosity can ripen into a more serious interest in science. Teachers and parents can foster kids’ interest in STEAM fields by allowing them to explore the universe of microscopic life that surrounds us all.

The first step is involving kids in understanding scientific research methods. They should understand the instruments that help scientists make discoveries, engineers make micro-machines, technologists understand tiny chips, and artists interpret the world they see and hear through artistic expression.

When a child uses a microscope for the first time, they may ask lots of questions, which is a great quality in a scientist! One of the inevitable questions is, “How does it do that?” Here are ways to explain the functions of microscope objective lenses.

Start With Light

When light shines, nearly everything it shines on will reflect at least some of it back. Kids can understand that our eyes gather that light. The light travels through the clear outer layer of the eye, called the cornea, to the crystalline lens. The cornea and lens work together to focus the light onto the back of the eye, where the retina converts the light to electric signals that travel along the optic nerve to the brain. The brain then interprets the signals as an image.

Muscles in the eye adjust the shape of the lens to focus correctly depending on what we’re looking at and how far away it is.

Similarly, the objective lens in a microscope captures and refracts the light reflected from an object, even a tiny object suspended in a drop of water. The refraction of light through the objective lens creates a focused and magnified image of the object you’re looking at.

What’s the Difference Between an Ocular Lens and an Objective Lens?

Most microscopes used in schools and labs have at least two, and usually more, lenses. Objective lenses are the lenses that directly observe the object the microscope user is examining. In stationary microscopes, the objective lens then focuses reflected light from the object up a tube toward the ocular lens, which is the lens the user looks through.

The ocular lens provides additional magnification and is adjustable. Users can turn a knob or move the binocular lenses (on microscopes with two eyepieces), mimicking the adjustments the natural lens in our eyes makes to see objects at different distances. This way, users with different levels of eyesight can manipulate the eyepiece to focus the image provided by the objective lens.


In addition to simply capturing reflected light to render an image, the objective lens of a microscope magnifies the image. Many stationary microscopes have several objective lenses that the user can rotate to view the object at varying levels, or “powers,” of magnification.

Now, portable, lightweight microscopes have objective lenses that work together with cameras on mobile phones to provide magnification. Using phones with portable microscopes adds the ability to capture magnified images and send them to databases for analysis or store them in the cloud or locally on the phone for future examination.

Foldscope offers microscope kits for students that help students understand how microscopes and microscope objective lenses function while making them easy to take outside for exploration. Order microscope kits for your students today!