by Sirius Fourside
Learn how to look at cannabis trichomes under magnification
Table of Contents
- Handheld Magnifiers
- Jeweler’s Loupes
- Small/Phone Microscopes
- Big/Handheld Microscopes
- USB Microscopes
- Stereo Microscopes
As you can see, we’ve purchased many magnifiers/microscopes over the years…
This tutorial shares which magnifiers are good for looking at trichomes!
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 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 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
Recommended: Wesley’s 40X Jewelers Loupe
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.
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!
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
Click images for larger versions
Click this link to see a short animated .gif of an endoscope in action!
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
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
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!
- 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!
- 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!
- Handheld Magnifier
- Jeweler’s Loupe
- Smartphones (the one you already own)
- Small/Phone Microscopes
- Big/Handheld Microscopes
- USB Microscopes
- Stereo Microscopes
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!