A compound microscope provides a single optical path divided at the observation tube to give the same image to both the left and right eye. A compound microscope is used to look at specimens under very high magnification (40x – 1000x or greater). Typical specimens would be bacteria, animal or plant cells, blood counts and chromosomes.
A stereo microscope, which is also referred to as a zoom stereo or dissecting microscope, has two different optical paths or axes, which are offset from one another. The two independent optical systems allows for the depth perception and three-dimensional view that is created by a stereo microscope. Stereo microscopes are offered at fixed magnifications (i.e. 1x and 3x or 2x and 4x) or they can be in a continuous zoom (zoom stereo) and offer a range of magnifications (0.7x thru 4.5x). Stereo microscopes are often used to inspect electronic components, minerals, jewelry, coins, textiles, insects and animal dissections.