Scalar’s ProScope is a handheld microscope. Unlike conventional microscopes, the ProScope doesn’t force you to cram subjects onto tiny glass slides, so it’s ideal for magnifying living things. It’s practical for many situations – from forensic investigations to lab experiments – and is an ideal learning tool for a science-class. The ProScope resembles a compact hair dryer, and it’s just as easy to use. To focus, nearly all you have to do is point; anything in its view is displayed on your monitor. The USB cable powers six bright LEDs, so you don’t need a separate light-source. If the standard 50x lens isn’t powerful enough, you can attach an optional 100x or 200x lens (£105 and £125 excluding VAT, respectively) in a jiffy, via the C-ring mount adaptor. A 1-10x lens is also available for £99. The device ships with a driver for OS 8.6 through OS 9; an electronic manual; and an intuitive application called USB Shot, for displaying and saving images. (The company is planning to release OS X-compatible drivers and software this summer.) USB Shot supports three image-capture settings. In the program’s Snapshot mode, the displayed 640-x-480 pixel image can be saved as a JPEG or PICT file when a button is pressed on the handle. In Movieshot mode, users can create 320-x-240-pixel or 640-x-480-pixel QuickTime movies. Interval mode lets time-lapse sequences be stored with intervals as short as one second, or as long as 24 hours – for recording the growth of a germinating seed, for example. The program’s image controls make it easy to tweak white-balance, auto-exposure, saturation, and other settings.


We had a great time using the ProScope to examine the world from an insect’s perspective – and to look up each others’ noses. Although it can’t replace a high-power microscope, the ProScope is a valuable educational tool that belongs in every school science- class and lab.

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