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magnifying glass for cannabis

How to Look at Trichomes with a Magnifier

by Sirius Fourside

Learn how to look at cannabis trichomes under magnification

Table of Contents

As you can see, we’ve purchased many magnifiers/microscopes over the years…

This tutorial shares which magnifiers are good for looking at trichomes!

Trichomes Tell You When to Harvest

It’s so rewarding to harvest your own weed. Not only does it mark the end of a grow and a lot of work, but you’ll soon be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

That being said, any cannabis grower who has made it through the flowering stage knows that waiting for the right time to harvest can be a major test of a grower’s patience, and it can be hard to know when is the best time. This is where learning to use a microscope or magnifier to examine trichomes comes in.

3 Most Popular Ways to Determine When to Harvest Cannabis:

  • Timing: This is done by just waiting and harvesting when the breeder-specified flowering time is up. Please, don’t do this!
  • Pistil Method: When at least 60% of the pistils have darkened and curled in, the harvest window is open. The pistil method has a huge advantage in that it requires no tools! And it’s MUCH better than using the breeder specified timing. However, it can still be inaccurate, and inaccuracy in harvesting means lower yields/potency.
  • Trichome method: Trichomes are the “glitter” on buds. When most of the trichomes appear cloudy-white under a microscope, the harvest window is open. While this method isn’t perfect, in my opinion, it’s the best thing we have right now by far. The downside to this increased accuracy(and yields/potency) is that you need more than just your eyeballs to observe trichomes because they’re so tiny!

Today, we’re going to focus on the best tools to use for the trichome method. You’ll learn what to expect from each type of tool (with pictures) so you can get better potency and yields in your next cannabis grow. Let’s get to it!

Trichome Method – Quick Overview

By looking closely at the sparkly trichomes on buds, you can determine when to harvest your plants for the highest potency. Here’s a quick guide, or read the full trichome harvest tutorial.

Buds are not ready to harvest (low potency) – Clear trichome heads look like glass

Highest Levels of THC (strong psychoactive effects) – Milky trichome heads look like white plastic

Most Narcotic (stronger body/stone effect, some people feel sleepy) – Amber trichomes look yellow

Handheld Magnifiers (Not Great)

Handheld magnifiers let you see buds closer, but they don’t get close enough to easily judge the color of trichomes.

None of the handheld magnifiers we tested got in close enough to see trichomes

Notes: Handheld magnifiers are the easiest to use and have the widest viewing angle, but they don’t zoom in close. Some magnifiers have a smaller lens built-in with a higher zoom, but these small lenses are inconvenient and hard to see through.

Best example: If you simply must have one, this magnifier has changeable heads so you can get more magnification without sacrificing much lens size. But honestly, I recommend you choose any other tool on this list. For example, a jeweler’s loupe is usually both cheaper and better at viewing trichomes.

Jeweler’s Loupes

Jeweler’s loupes are designed to look closely at fine stones and jewelry and make it much easier to see trichomes. They’re cheap and convenient, but trichomes may still be too small to see for some people.

Example of looking at a bud through a Wesley’s 40X Jewelers Loupe

When I pressed the bud close

Notes: Jeweler’s loupes are cheap and deceptively effective. You can use them to get a pretty good look at the state of your trichomes, and you can also put them up to the camera lens of a smartphone and take pictures like the ones above. The zoom feature on cameras make trichomes easier to see clearly. Loupes are also very easy to use and made from tough materials, so if you buy one, you’ll probably have it for years and years.

Best example: You can’t go wrong with a loupe. Almost any loupe you get from a local hydro store or online will suffice. We did try several and this is the one we liked best and used in the pictures above: Wesley’s Jeweler’s Loupe

Smartphones

Example pictures:

Click images for larger versions

Notes: Smartphones are a great choice since many people already have one. Another cool thing about smartphones is that the picture quality tends to get better as newer phones are released, so some newer phones can produce high-quality pictures without needing anything extra!

Tips for clear pictures with a smartphone camera (or any camera):

  • Use lots of bright natural light for the best trichome pictures. Low light produces blurry pictures and makes it harder to see the true trichome color.
  • Keep the phone as still as humanly possible when taking shots. Leaning or bracing your phone against something can help keep it steady.
  • Try taking pictures from different angles to see which works best.
  • Try moving the phone both closer and further to take pictures. Weirdly, sometimes you get better pictures by moving the phone camera a little further away.
  • Try zooming in and out with the camera software. Each camera is a little different as far as focusing and different levels of zoom can work best for different phones
  • The more pictures you take, the greater the chance you’ll get a really good shot. So don’t be shy. Keep clicking!
  • Some growers take pictures through a magnifier for even closer pictures (more info next)

Best example: Many people already have a smartphone that will take pretty good pictures. The best phones for magnifying trichomes have optical zoom (as opposed to digital zoom), which means they can take bigger pictures without losing resolution. The pictures above were taken with a Samsung S8+ (a 3-year-old phone now), and it still did a good job even though it only has digital zoom. Great smartphone options include most iPhones (all models after iPhone 7 have optical zoom), and Samsung Galaxy phones (Galaxy 9 and later have optical zoom). Pixel phones also take excellent close-up pictures.

Small Pocket/Phone Microscopes

Example pictures:

Click images for larger versions

Notes: These types of tiny pocket-microscopes are relatively cheap and can be used alone or with a smartphone. If you have a smartphone, make sure to get one with a phone attachment like the ones in the picture above. This makes for better pictures and it also makes it way easier to focus on the piece of plant you want. Pro-tip: these are great for video if you don’t have a USB camera available.

Best example: First and foremost, if you get a microscope meant to clip on to your phone, make sure you get one that fits. If the clip isn’t the right size for your phone, the camera won’t be able to focus on your beautiful trichomes. Nebula and I both use this pocket microscope since it fits our Galaxy phones. Clip-on microscope

Clip-on microscopes are nice, but make sure to find one that fits your particular phone!

Big Pocket Microscopes

Example pictures:

Click images for larger versions

Notes: The larger class of pocket microscopes can produce some really impressive pictures. The only problem is that they can be frustrating to use, especially when you’re trying to inspect something like a live branch on a cannabis plant. If you can afford to cut off a small piece of plant matter or if you’re trying to inspect an already harvested bud, this tool becomes a lot handier.

Best example: No matter how many of these we buy, our old Carson is still the best of our larger pocket microscopes. Have patience with learning how to use one if you decide to take the dive! Carson Pocket Microscope

Endoscopes

Example pictures:

Notes: Endoscopes aren’t meant for inspecting cannabis, but we tried a few anyway. They’re fun and easy to use, but they’re not that great for figuring out if it’s time to harvest your plants. There are much better alternatives for the price unless you’re also aching to see what’s in your ear or on your teeth. Endoscopes require a connection to a smartphone or laptop.

Best example: There isn’t a ‘best’ since it won’t help you harvest, but this one definitely works as an endoscope…especially if you want to be reminded to wash your hands often. USB Endoscope

USB Microscopes

Example pictures:

Click images for larger versions

Notes: USB microscopes were cutting-edge when they first came out, but they were also a burden because they had to be connected to a laptop or computer. These days, many newer Android smartphones have OTG, which means that they can be connected to USB devices just like a computer. The combination of a smartphone with a USB microscope is tough to compete with since images come in so clearly without a steep learning curve. Make sure your phone can support OTG before getting a USB microscope. This means no iPhone/iPad users just yet…

Best example: If a USB microscope works with your phone, it’ll probably do a decent job. That being said, I have yet to try a better USB microscope than this one. I wish the focus feature was easier to use with one hand, but it’s worth it for the pictures/video it produces. Pluggable USB Microscope

This is the USB microscope we liked the best

Stereo Microscopes

Example pictures:

Click images for larger versions (second images is a 1.3MB animated .gif)

Notes: Using a stereo microscope to view trichomes is going overboard. Although they’re a blast to use and cool in a very nerdy way, there’s almost no chance that one of these will ever pay for itself in terms of making your harvest better.

Best example: We have an AMScope-306R and it definitely takes some cool shots. So much money and work, though!

Our Picks

Best Overall Magnifier/Loupe/Microscope:

  • For Android smartphones that support OTG: Plugable USB Microscope
  • For Apple users or those without smartphones: Jeweler’s Loupe
    • Some phones don’t support OTG, so USB microscopes won’t work for this group. Surprisingly, a jeweler’s loupe is the next best thing in our book!

Best Value Magnifier/Loupe/Microscope:

  • Jeweler’s Loupe: They’re cheap, easy to use, durable and they magnify enough to help determine harvest time. A jeweler’s loupe and a phone together are better than either one is on its own. It’s really hard to beat this much value and dependability!

Best for each category:

We tested quite a few microscopes, loupes, magnifiers, etc., but there’s a good chance we missed some good stuff! If we didn’t cover a tool that you use to look at trichomes, make sure to drop us a line and let us know. We’ll take a look and add any good suggestions to this page!

Do you want to maximize your cannabis yields and potency? Read our guide to learn how to use magnifiers/microscopes and pick the perfect harvest time!

5 Reasons Why You Need a Magnifying Glass in the Grow Room

Want to up your grow game? You can eliminate many of the most common frustrations of growing cannabis just by looking closely at the leaves, nodes, and trichomes. A trichome microscope, also called a cannabis magnifying glass, makes this inspection simple.

At every stage of the plant’s development, a close examination of the plant can help you make crucial cultivation decisions.

While many growers can (and do) harvest without a cannabis magnifying glass, the process gets much less risky with a closer inspection. From trichome development to pest patrol, a cannabis loupe or magnifying lens has a lot of benefits for both the amateur grower and an extremely experienced one.

Stay tuned to discover the basics of magnification in the grow room, including:

  • Types of Magnifying Devices
  • The Best Loupe for Trichomes
  • 5 Reasons Why You Need a Magnifying Glass in the Grow Room
  • Plus! How to See Trichomes Without Magnifying Glass

Types of Magnifying Devices for Cannabis Cultivation

There are several types of devices, both handheld and table bound, useful for growing cannabis.

Handheld Magnifying Glass

This is the classic detective-style handheld device, which relies on a convex glass lens to zoom in on whatever it’s held in front of. It’s a bit simplistic for the needs of a grow room but will do in a pinch if nothing else is available. A typical magnifying glass comes in 2x to 4x magnification.

Jewellers Loupe

Arguably the most useful type of magnifying glass for cannabis cultivation, a jewellers loupe, is a small, handheld, and usually foldable device. It often has multiple lenses, with 30x or higher zoom.

It offers enough magnification to see the microscopic details of the trichomes, but still fits in your pocket and won’t break the bank. This small lens is called a jewellers loupe as it is a tool of the trade for stone setters and other jewellers working with fine details. If they can set diamonds with it, you can expect to find it useful as a trichome microscope.

Digital Microscope

A digital microscope is a magnifying lens connected via a USB cord to a screen. The most straightforward version is a handheld device that connects to a phone, tablet, or computer.

The most expensive digital microscopes are scientific grade tabletop microscopes, with a live feed to a digital display. Even the most affordable option is fun to play around with to provide a unique perspective on your grow.

Laboratory Grade Microscope

The traditional microscope is the most familiar as most of us have experience with it during high school science class. These microscopes can be so bulky they are unwieldy and impossible to move from room to room.

The higher the price tag, the more advanced the features, not to mention, the more skills required to operate. Although commercial grow operations may need the capabilities provided by these advanced tabletop devices, as small scale or at-home farmers, these laboratory microscopes are overkill.

What is the Best Loupe for Trichomes?

Keeping a close eye on trichome development is the single most important step come harvest time. Capturing peak potency by monitoring trichome development is only possible with a trichome microscope or a jewellers loupe.

The close-up inspection of trichomes required during this stage is not available with the naked eye. You’ll need a magnifying glass to see the color and cloudiness of the microscopic trichomes, which will then dictate your harvest decision.

A jewellers loupe is best suited to daily trichome inspection. The best LED Light Loupe is:

  • A bright LED light
  • Two lenses (30x and 60x)
  • Foldable
  • Portable
  • Pocket-Friendly
  • Ergonomic

As you can imagine, a standard magnifying glass just won’t cut it, and a microscope is too expensive and bulky for the job.

Loupes make it easy to perfect trichome inspection without leaving the grow room with a sample. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be? Simply check trichome development while wandering through the grow room on your daily rounds.

5 Reasons Why You Need a Magnifying Glass in the Grow Room

It’s not just about trichome development – taking a deep dive into the small details of your cannabis crop can help reduce pests, avoid disease, and more.

1. Sex Plants Easier, Earlier

Although an experienced farmer will take one look at a seedling and instantly know whether it’s female, this step is more difficult for the beginner. The tiny growths in the nodes of your plants determine the sex, but for most of us, these developments are far too small to see.

A magnifying glass or loupe makes the sexing process easy for the beginner cannabis cultivator. Get up close and personal with the node of the seedling to determine whether that tiny growth is a pollen sac (male) or a stigma (female). A jewellers loupe dispels the guesswork and even makes the signs of a hermaphrodite plant easy to spot.

2. Manage Pests Before They Become a Problem

You see the signs of pests on the underside of fan leaves, but you can’t quite see the details. Google turns up super-zoomed images of these pests, but it’s hard to interpret these from the evidence in your grow room.

The naked eye might not be able to tell an aphid from a spider mite . Worse, the tiny deposits of eggs you’ve discovered lining the bottom of leaf are tricky to pin point.

Pest management gets infinitely easier with a cannabis magnifying glass. With a trichome microscope or at the very least a handheld magnifying glass, you can examine the problem up close and personal. Suddenly the spot on the underside of your leaves does look like a spider mite!

3. Catch Bud Rot Early

An experienced grower might be able to identify the early stages of bud rot instantly, but it’s a disease with many stages of development. In wet and humid growing conditions, bud rot can explode from one plant into the entire crop in the blink of an eye. It’s prudent to know the signs to catch it early.

The early stages of bud rot are easily confused for other diseases, nutrient issues, or even regular cannabis coloration changes. To the untrained eye, the first signs of bud rot aren’t always easy to identify.

With daily bud inspections using a magnifying glass or loupe, even a beginner cannabis cultivator can clearly see the signs of bud rot.

4. Destroy Mold and Mildew Before it Destroys Your Crop

Speaking of bud rot, there are other types of mold, mildew, and disease, which can decimate your crop if not caught early on. As a cannabis cultivator, you have to contend with a host of environmental ailments such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria.

With a close daily inspection of your crop, using a trichome microscope or magnifying glass, it’s simple to catch the early indications of disease. Furthermore, with the magnification provided through a lens or loupe, the signs are straightforward to diagnose.

Whether you find the first spots of white powdery mildew or scabs associated with leaf septoria, you’ll know how to take action to address the infection.

5. Monitor Trichome Development for Perfect Harvests

A LED Loupe with Light is perhaps, the most useful as harvest time nears. Growers of all experience levels rely on the 30x magnification to monitor trichomes development as they transition from clear to cloudy. Peak potency is almost impossible to determine unless you have a cannabis magnifying glass or a trichome microscope at the ready.

Although some growers have developed a sense for harvesting, it takes years (if not decades) to perfect. Eliminate the guesswork by looking through a lens to monitor the slow and steady shifts of the trichome.

A simple 30x LED loupe is all you need to monitor this development.

How to See Trichomes Without Magnifying Glass

One of the most commonly asked questions on grower’s forums is about whether a magnifying glass is really necessary to see trichomes. The short answer is, yes. The human eye cannot see trichomes without a lens.

But, you don’t absolutely need a magnifying glass to get down to the level of the trichome. In a pinch, an iPhone or Pixel camera can suffice (some mobile phones may not have a camera with a high enough resolution).

  1. Set your phone’s camera settings to marco.
  2. Snap a steady photo of the flower you wish to inspect.
  3. Transfer the image to a desktop computer with photo editor software (LightRoom, Photoshop, etc.).
  4. Zoom in to examine trichome coloration.

This technique is a useful workaround, but it’s not perfect. Arguably, the cost of your phone, computer, and software far exceed even the most expensive cannabis magnifying glasses.

A LED Loupe to Achieve Peak Potency, Pest Control, and More

A trichome microscope is a small one-time investment, and well worth the affordable price to capture peak potency of your crop. Manage the health of each plant from seed to harvest by getting up close and personal through the lens of a cannabis magnifying glass.

Not only is it a fun gadget to fool around with, to analyze the microscopic details of the flower, but it also takes much of the guesswork out of cannabis cultivation. A LED Light Loupe is a critical component in any growers tool kit.

Want to up your grow game? You can eliminate many of the most common frustrations of growing cannabis just by looking closely at the leaves, nodes, and trichomes. A trichome microscope, also called a cannabis magnifying glass, makes this inspection simple. At every stage of the plant's development, a close examination