One of the first things to consider when selecting a research microscope is the type of specimen you want to explore. For fixed samples mounted on a thin glass slide, you can use an upright microscope. Living cells demand special characteristics of the microscope because they are kept in relatively large cell culture vessels filled with cell culture media.
Only an inverted configuration, with the objective below and the condenser above the specimen, facilitates the essential free space and the required proximity of the objective to the specimen. At the same time an inverted microscope keeps a good accessibility to the cells, e.g. to add micromanipulators.
In addition, living cells require an adequate environment to survive. Temperature and CO2 concentration have to be kept at certain levels. A climate chamber with the corresponding controllers is necessary to fulfill this task.
Microscopic specimen spread out into three dimensions: length, width, and height. Whereas some specimens, such as histological sections, are imaged only in xy-direction, there are other applications demanding acquisition also in z-dimension. To image 3D volumes e.g. of living cells, a motorized objective revolver is recommended which is able to guide your sample stepwise through the focus. The imaging software should be able to reconstruct the single images for 3D visualization.
For living cells you have to add the dimension time. In this case, for example system stability is another critical feature. Due to the fact that temperature changes influence the imaging system during acquisition, effective counter measures are essential. An automatic focus adjustment such as the Adaptive Focus Control (