Selecting a new microscope/imaging system

Dear community, I was approached by a colleague for help with selecting a microscope/imaging system for a new lab building.
It is meant to be situated in the lab for everyday imaging when you don´t want to/need to go the the high-end microscopes in Imaging Facility.

Two of the possible choices are:
Keyence BZ-X800
Olympus APX-100

I wonder if anyone is using one of these systems and can comment on some pros and cons.
Thanks, Martin

Dear Martin,
If you are looking for all-in-a-box system there are a few nice options. The APX100 is one, the BC42 from Andor is another, Nikon has Eclipse Ji, and then there is the Leica MICA. Nikon and Olympus(Evident) have only WF and BF, whereas the MICA and BC42 have also a basic confocal. Have seen tested all except the Nikon Ji. All easy to use, nice in a box, so good to be sitting on a bench. Those with confocal add some $$ extra, so those without it are more cost effective.

I don’t know the Keyence but would look for (can’t find those details online) for what type of objectives (most likely will use eithe Nikon or Olympus) it has and the camera specs. Other factors: cost, support on your area, possible upgrades available, maybe you can ask for an on-site demo to test your samples. Just from the online info looks like a simple yet robust system.

APX has olympus X-line objectives which are among the best. Many of those in-a-box features are shared with the Keyence. I’m not sure if the APX could image more than 4 fluo channels. Can also stich, Z-stacks, time lapse etc etc. It does not have the ‘sectioning’ from Keyence (which may cost extra), but this comes from an ‘apo-tome-like’ (structured-illumination), which improves a bit without going full confocal. Olympus has a clearing like thunder (Leica) so something similar.

hope that helps, if need more info let me know.



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Dear Alvaro,
thank you so much - this is incredibly helpful.
The budget is not really fixed yet, so that is somehow difficult to make a suggestion that is really suitable. And yes, an all-in-a-box system is the aim.

The Keyence seems to have own “keyence” objectives - that´s at least what´s written in the paper brochure I have.

Meanwhile, the tendency shifted (even before your response) towards the Leica MICA, but it is still only a tendency. Nothing is fixed yet. Since you offered it, I may ask a few more questions (rather statements which you can comment on or correct if I am wrong):

From what I can extract from the websites, it seems to me that the Nikon Ji is maybe more optimized/tuned towards multiwell assays - which probably comes with a certain price tag as well and is not needed.

For the Andor BC43 (that seems to be current model), the widefield mode seems to be confocal w/o a pinhole,i.e. laser illumination, is that correct? Are there any advantages/disadvantages over widefield with LED illumination?

Anyways, a confocal system is not really needed (and probably to $$$), so a widefield system is probably the system of choice, e.g. the MICA w/o the confocal option.

It seems to me that the Leica MICA (w/o the confocal option) and the Olympus/Evident APX100 are not too different and if in the end the decision has to be made between one of these, whatever you decide, you can´t go wrong.
But since you tested both, the MICA and the APX100, you might have a better understanding if one has some advantages here and the other one maybe there. On paper/screen they look somehow comparable to me.


Dear Martin,

happy to be of help.

I am always concerned with ‘custom’ objectives. The heart of any imaging system is that.

The Nikon Ji is new and haven’t had the chance to see it in action. I think it could upgraded to confocal (either scanning or spinning disk). But that’s all I know. Having possibilities to upgrade is nice since needs may change.

BC43 has LEDs for WF and lasers for the confocal. It also has a 2x for fast imaging of the sample. This features, which also the APX and the MICA has is very nice since it is closed box and not always easy to ‘see’ where the sample is. I guess that having the option to upgrade to confocal is good, but a nice WF for so many things is good.

Ease of use, Leica software is easier to use than Olympus software. Users are up and running in 20 min with LAS whereas it can take longer with the Olympus. Olympus though tends to make better $$ offers than Leica. The Leica has this 4 simultaneous channel imaging, if you’re going to do live imaging that could be neat. This is not present with the APX. The APX cannot be upgraded to confocal. But as I said having a robust easy to use WF/BF can do wonders.

best, Alvaro

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Dear Alvaro,

Some thoughts on boxed systems.
Indeed, we found the Mica very easy to use; intuitive and fast with the 4 channel simultaneous acquisition. We did have issues with 24 hours live cell imaging: a slider determines light power and seems to adjust signal-to-noise tolerance. Problem was that users were not able to overwrite the automatically defines settings based on some signal-to-noise calculation. For sensitive or low fluorescence Mica would blast too much light on the sample trying to get acceptable SN from images. Additionally, we could not assess cross-talk on Mica because switching off one excitation band prevented that color channel from being displayed. Example, trying to see mStayGold bleed-through in ‘orange’ channel was not possible at all, we have to believe the ‘unmixing’ algorithm for this. Lastly, I always ask the sales rep about future software updates: will end-users be notified of changes to such algorithms or equally valid to pre-trained AI-tools? Data integrity validation is undermined by not being able to assess crosstalk and potential changes to automated functionality. This is something we struggle with on more these days.

APX100 would take more training time for users but did provide the flexibility we as research lab need to develop our assays. We liked to very quick sample overview capability.

The Nikon Ji is interesting as it contains multiple single-click automated microscopy assays such as transfection count efficiency. We see plate detection/alignment, automatic focus and built-in analysis reporting for these assays. Also can use water immersion via their dispenser which would enable high resolution live cell imaging on this boxed microscope.


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