The optical microscope, often referred to as light microscope, is a type of microscope which uses visible light and a system of lenses to magnify images of small samples. Optical microscopes are the oldest design of microscope and were possibly invented in their present compound form in the 17th century. Basic optical microscopes can be very simple, although there are many complex designs which aim to improve resolution and sample contrast.
The image from an optical microscope can be captured by normal light-sensitive cameras to generate a micrograph. Originally images were captured by photographic film but modern developments in CMOS and charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras allow the capture of digital images. Purely digital microscopes are now available which use a CCD camera to examine a sample, showing the resulting image directly on a computer screen without the need for eyepieces.
Alternatives to optical microscopy which do not use visible light include scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.
On 8 October 2014, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Eric Betzig, William Moerner and Stefan Hell for "the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy," which brings "optical microscopy into the nanodimension".