Re: Olympus BX41/51 versus Nikon 50i/80i
In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I am a seller of Olympus and Nikon microscopes. I'll skip the hard sales pitch, and give you some options and information that you may wish to consider.
1) If you spend any significant amount of time viewing specimens you may wish to consider the Nikon 55i. The 55i uses an LED array for illumination in place of the typical halogen lamp that comes in the Nikon 50i and the Olympus BX series. This bright white light reduces eye strain. If you've never used an LED microscope, I should warn you, it takes a few days to get use to the color improvement.
2) Objectives: Both Nikon and Olympus make outstanding objectives with excellent optical quality. Nikon has a line of CFI objectives that, in my opinion, are slightly better than the Olympus objectives. Plan objectives are acceptable in most cases, but plan fluorite as well as apochromat objectives are available from both manufacturers. I would give a slight advantage in optical quality to the Nikon. The biggest difference in my opinion is on the 1x and 2x objectives. I believe that Nikon has an advantage when comparing the lower powered objectives based on my personal experience.
3) Ergonomics: Both Nikon and Olympus microscopes are built exceptionally well. The BX45 has an ergnomic stage design that allows the user to basically rest his hand on the table while manipulating the specimen. This takes a little while to get use to. Nikon has a very comfortable stage control. Both the BX series and the ECLIPSE series are available with PLAIN stages (no specimen holder) for those who like to manipulate the slides with their hands. (The plain stage is also less expensive than the mechanical stage) It's an option to consider. Also, you will want to get an ergonomic head. They are more expensive than the standard head, but you will be much happier in the end. I would say that the ERGONOMIC HEAD is a must.
4) Pricing: Nikon tends to be more willing to negotiate on price. In my personal experience, Olympus is somewhat difficult to deal with on price bartering. (as well as obtaining parts for service). I find Nikon to be significantly better from a customer service stand point.
5) Upgradeable: Both Nikon and Olympus are excellent at providing customers with options to upgrade their microscopes. This allows you to buy what you need now, and upgrade later for applications such as PHASE, IMMUNOFLUORESCENCE, or POLARIZATION. Also, both companies provide cameras and software for digital pathology.
6) Teaching Unit: Both Olympus and Nikon provide teaching modules with multiple heads and a pointer unit. Nikon's is slightly less expensive. Also, you should use the standard binocular head for students, instead of the ergonomic binocular head. This will save you money.
I hope this information helps. No matter which of the models you chose, I think you'll be extremely happy.
If I had my druthers, I would chose the Nikon 55i over the rest of the field.