Ask our experts – the SMZ edition
Our expert, Wilfried Vogel has been working the last 17 years within optics and lasers. We spoke to him regarding his favourite Nikon microscope family – the SMZ and why he gets so enthusiastic about this product range.
What is an SMZ Microscope?
SMZ stands for Stereo Microscope Zoom. If you take each word separately, you receive the whole picture and purpose of these extremely functional instruments very quickly.
Let’s break this down…First of all, yes – it’s a microscope! The name ‘Stereo’ comes from having two separate optical paths, one for each eye, which provides you with a much closer view of your sample in a really natural way as left and right views whilst still keeping the real 3D view. It is a real-world view, just as normal, only with the sample surface getting really bigger!
‘Zoom’ is because you can achieve an excellent magnification of a sample with a continuous and stepless change from the wide field into the finest of details. This is unlike using a compound or nosepiece microscope which has a fixed set of magnification steps via the individual and optimised objective lenses.
What benefits can customers expect when using a Nikon SMZ Microscope?
A big advantage of the SMZ is the superb working distance. With a standard nosepiece microscope, you only have a few millimetres or less between your sample and the objective lens, so of course you cannot put your hand in-between. With the SMZ you have the ability to hold the sample in your hands and move it around freely.
The recurring comment we receive from our customers is about the incredible quality of the image.
This epic imaging has come from Nikon’s history and growth – around 100 years ago, Nikon was a glass manufacturer who joined forces with a specialist in precision mechanics. First, binoculars were born from this alliance, then a (monocular) microscope… One thing leads to another and so today we have a complete range of products resulting from the original know-how of these pioneers.
50 years ago, Nikon were already sending film cameras to the moon, to the bottom of the ocean and more recently, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet was bringing a telephoto (teleobjective – really big, big lens) with him to the International Space Station. Nikon has been able to adapt their products to these very special conditions of use – thanks to the high level of manufacturing skills which all our customers benefit from today. We also remain the only microscope company to routinely manufacture its own glass, ensuring control of the very finest formulations and quality assurance throughout production.
Our SMZ microscope family is the result of all that experience, a robust yet versatile and comfortable in use range of products from routine to the largest zoom range stereomicroscope at 25:1
Even with a Stereo Zoom Microscope, you can reach a high level of accessories just as you would with a standard microscope… I’m thinking of polarization, on-axis illumination for semi-conductor materials, fluorescence contrast, digital imaging (of course) with intelligent features which communicates with the NIS Elements software suite, plus a magnification range which keeps getting wider and higher with every latest model.
What sectors & industries benefit from using the Nikon SMZ Microscope?
I’m trying to think of your question in the opposite way… But I don’t think I will be able to find a counter example! There is no sector/industry which could not benefit from using the SMZ product range. This is what makes my job stimulating every day, I can visit a medical device manufacturer and discuss with an aerospace company in the same day!
How does the Nikon SMZ Microscope compare to other market competitors?
We offer a large range of stereo microscopes – from entry-level, affordable models right up to world leading ultra-high zoom models with high-end technology seen in advanced, ergonomic trinocular units.
Every model has a specific design which prevents aberrations and shifts when using accessories. The quality of the imaging function absolutely remains the priority.
The ergonomic accessory program is also a nice advantage of our SMZ microscopes, when you are spending several hours every day and every week controlling small parts on a microscope, you need to have a really comfortable tool with enough flexibility to avoid eye fatigue trouble or headaches at the end of the day.
As a Nikon Metrology expert from the SMZ range, what is your favourite feature of the SMZ & why?
The SMZ25 is such an impressive piece of technology since it provides the world’s first and only zoom ratio of 25:1. Nobody else even gets close to this. You can access micro and macro imaging within the same system using the motorized focus and zoom… It is just super cool and I cannot help being excited when I speak about the SMZ25!
I would say my next preferred SMZ would be the robust model, the 745T – because it’s so simple, affordable and yet so very versatile. It finds its place in any laboratory and can incorporate accessories such as digital imaging cameras or on axis – episcopic illuminators for flat, highly reflective surfaces.
It’s very easy to use, robust, fits in a small case and can be easily moved from one place to another (I have it in my car right now) but also, the 745T has an exceptional zoom ratio in its category.
It is a small but mighty piece of equipment.