I don't feel that a microscope is all that helpful in producing a sharp razor - there are many other ways of determining that. Where a scope comes in handy is in detecting very small edge imperfections that could produce nicks when shaving. If all I did was hone new razors, I would never use one. Since I work almost exclusively with antiques, I find it very handy.
It is possible to hone without a microscope. I hardly use mine anymore and I actually think its more of a novelty than anything. I have found that the handful of hair extensions that I got from the local hairdresser(free of charge too!) come in much more handy than the microscope. I can tell better with a hht than I can with the microscope if the edge is ready or not.
You don't need a microscope. I just use a cheap 30x jewler's loupe.