Know your needs - "The decision is not wide-field versus confocal," says Watkins. "It's what you're trying to get out of the system." Figuring out the options can easily take a year. Talk to others who have set up similar experiments, and try out as many systems as possible. Or, suggests Maddox, reach out to live-cell microscopists who can translate your experiment into possible solutions.

Simplest first - "Start trying to image your sample with the easiest means possible" says Maddox. Before assuming you need a confocal, see what you can get out of a wide-field setup.

Don't bite off more than you plan to chew - A common mistake among imaging newcomers is to stock up on functionality your experiments don't require, says Sean Megason, who...

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