The most powerful magnifying glasses for the visually impaired are digital magnifiers (aka video magnifiers, electronic magnifiers, or low vision cctvs). These can magnify up to 80 times (80X), and prices start from $300.
If you want to stick to a non-electronic version of a magnifying glass, magnification levels can go up to around 30X. However, at this strength, the lens will be VERY small and tiresome to use. See below for an explanation of why.
How can you tell how strong a powerful magnifying glass is?
Magnifying glasses usually have written on the handle, and on the packaging they come in, a number with the letter X next to it. eg, 2X, 5X, 10X, 30X, 70X etc
This number tells you the amount of times a magnifier enlarges the subject matter. eg: “2X” enlarges it to twice its size; “20X” enlarges it to twenty times the size.
What determines the strength of a magnifying glass?
Magnification strength or ‘power’ is determined by the level of curvature of the lens. A stronger magnification level needs a more steeply curved piece of glass or plastic.
Hence, the rule of thumb is – the stronger the magnification, the smaller the lens must be.
This is why powerful magnifying glasses with 30X magnification have a very small circular lens.
When reading with one of these, you can only see a couple of letters at a time.
Many people find this makes reading very slow and tedious. Often they’ve forgotten the first half of a sentence by the time they reach the end of the sentence!
The solution to this is to get an electronic magnifier, because then you can have both strong magnification and a larger view.
What strength magnifying glass do I need?
This will depend on your level of vision, as well as what you are viewing at the time. The same person would need a more powerful magnifier for reading small print than for reading large print writing.
As a general guide:
- 2X – 10X magnification is for mild vision loss.
- 5X – 20X magnification is for moderate vision loss.
- 20X – 80X magnification is for severe vision loss.
You might like to have more than one magnifier to cover different tasks. For example you might find a 5X hand-held magnifier would be enough for everyday reading but need a more powerful 12X lighted magnifying glass for fine print or food labels.
What makes electronic magnifiers more powerful than magnifying glasses?
Electronic magnifiers are not limited by the physics of light bending through glass or perspex.
They work by directing a video camera at an item of interest, and displaying the live camera image on a large screen.
The better the quality of the camera, the screen and the software that’s running it all, the better the quality of the resulting image. This is what allows them to magnify up to 80X.
Some electronic magnifiers have other abilities too! Such as being able to change the color of the font, or even being able to read aloud the text it’s displaying.
Who would benefit from an electronic magnifier?
People who have severe vision impairments will need to use a digital magnifier, as regular magnifying glasses do not increase the size enough.
If selecting one for an elderly person, or someone who isn’t familiar with technology, go for one with minimal buttons. You don’t need extra fancy features. However, quality does make a difference. The better the quality of the device the better the result when it’s magnified.
If you have mild vision loss –
- go to this page to find a magnifying glass with low levels of magnification.
If you have moderate vision loss –
- and you are on a budget, select a more powerful magnifying glass with a light and around 10-20X in strength.
- If you can afford it go for a digital magnifier as this will provide a much more effective, satisfying and pleasurable reading experience for you.
If you have severe vision loss –
- go to this page to find a digital magnifier. Digital magnifiers are the most powerful magnifying glasses. The regular optical magnifiers simply won’t be strong enough for people with severe vision impairments.