The best magnifier for a visually impaired person depends on several factors including:
- what you want to magnify (reading, objects, distance, self)
- where you want to use it
- the strength of magnification you need
- your budget
- your eye condition (eg aged related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, etc)
There are many different magnifying glasses and digital magnifiers available for people with vision impairments. When it’s not something you have much experience with it can be difficult to know which one is right for you.
This site is designed to help you work out which magnifier is right for you, and help you find a suitable one to order online so you can get it delivered to you.
Types of Reading Magnifiers
There are 2 broad categories of magnifiers – optical and digital.
Optical magnifiers are what everyone knows as a magnifying glass. They use the refraction of light through glass or acrylic to make a viewed item appear larger.
The strongest magnifying glass magnifies up to around 30x, but the stronger the magnification is, the smaller the lens will be.
So there comes a point when using a really strong magnifying glass means you’ve only got a tiny lens to look through. The page about magnifying glasses explains more about why this happens. (If you want both very strong magnification and to see a lot at once, you need to look at digital magnifiers.)
There are several sub-categories of optical magnifiers, including:
SHEET magnifiers (magnify 2x -3x)
magnifying glasses with LIGHT (magnify 2x – 20x)
Strong magnifying glasses (magnify 5x – 20x)
Large magnifying glasses (magnify 2x – 4x)
Click here to learn more about the different categories of optical magnifying glasses and for my recommendations of the best magnifying glasses.
They are much more POWERFUL than even the strongest magnifying glasses and magnify up to 60x.
Their main benefit is that they project the magnified image onto a large, bright screen.
They also have high contrast and multiple color modes to make reading easier.
There are a few main sub-categories of digital magnifiers, including:
hand held magnifiers
- sized to fit in a bag or pocket
- some can magnify as much as 25x
- portable magnifiers
- size of a small computer screen with camera attached and light enough to be carried in a case
- some can magnify as much as 60x
- desktop magnifiers
- size of a desktop computer and has all components built in such as a light and reading table
- the screen is at the front of the table and close to the users face for better viewing results
- some can magnify as much as 70x
Which is the best magnifier for YOU? Consider these factors…
To help you decide between the different magnification options available, you could consider the following questions.
What is your vision like?
What is your current level of vision and how does it affect you?
Is your vision expected to deteriorate? Or does your vision fluctuate from day to day or within a day?
- You could consider getting a magnifying glass with interchangeable heads of varying strengths.
- Or a digital magnifier that has a large range of magnification levels built in.
If you’ve used a magnifying glass in the past, what strength magnification were you using?
- This is often written on the magnifier in small print.
- Do you need stronger magnification now?
Are you affected by glare or brightness?
- Consider an electronic magnifier which allows you to change the color of what you’re reading to have white writing on a black background, hence less glare.
Do you find high contrast easier to see?
- Get a magnifying glass with light to ensure high contrast
- Even better than this is a digital magnifier which allows you to create numerous very high contrast color combinations.
Do you find certain colors easier or more difficult to see?
- Video magnifiers provide different color combinations.
What tasks do you want to do with the magnifier?
- This includes books, bills, correspondence, recipes, newspaper etc.
- Large amounts of reading for leisure may require a better quality product, while a basic magnifier might suffice for reading the occasional bill if you only have a little vision loss.
- Reading magnifiers often have some sort of stand built in so that your arm doesn’t tire holding up a heavy magnifying glass.
- Lighting is very important!
- Make sure you have a lighted magnifying glass,
- a digital magnifier with light built in,
- bright lamps for reading
- or a well lit room.
- Consider hands free options.
Craft, such as sewing, knitting or woodwork; or crosswords
- consider a portable digital magnifier where your hands are free and the camera can magnify your hands
Personal grooming or makeup
- consider a digital magnifier with a rotating camera that you can point at yourself
- take a look at the high contrast keyboards to make typing easier
Look at 3d objects, such as packets of food or medicine bottles
- Consider a magnification aid with a handle or that is easy to hold
- Or a hands free magnifier that is big enough to fit objects underneath
- Generally magnifying glasses show color. A magnifying glass with light will ensure the color is as bright as possible.
- Most modern video magnifiers are in full color, but be aware if you look for second hands ones that some older or cheaper models were only black and white.
Do you want your hands free while you use magnification?
- Look for a magnifier with a stand built into it including the varying types of electronic magnifier.
- At home at a dedicated reading table
- At home in a lounge chair
- Usually at home, but with the ability to take on holidays
- Away from home
- At school, college, conferences or meetings
- At the shops
- At work
- Is the environment well lit, or do you need a magnifying glass with light built in?
- If you’re getting a desktop magnifier, how much space is available on your table or desk?
Other factors to consider when you buy a magnifying glass or digital magnifier
- What is your budget?
- Does the magnifier come with a warranty?
- Do you have any physical limitations?
- Can it be conveniently ordered online and delivered to you?
If you need a magnifying glass or magnifier, there’s a good chance you will also benefit from other low vision aids, such as:
- simple, large button TV-remote
- magnifier lamps
- bright, portable lamps for reading
- large font, high contrast, computer keyboards
- large button phones including those made for seniors
- smart phones with accessibility features for visually impaired
For more information about these, look at the page Other Low Vision Aids.
I don’t know how I’d get by without my magnifying glass! I use it every day – it is SO useful and allows me to keep my independence. Gloria – 72 years old has cataracts and aged related macular degeneration
I like to check the share prices every day, but I couldn’t see small print in the newspaper anymore. I invested in a desktop digital magnifier which I’ve set up in my study. This helps me to continue managing my own financial affairs. Malcolm – aged 68 diabetic retinopathy
As my eyesight got worse, I had to use stronger magnification. I used to use a lighted magnifying glass for many years but eventually that wasn’t working for me. Then I started using a handheld electronic magnifier and it has been a God send! Mavis – 87 years old with aged related macular degeneration
I wanted to get a reading magnifier that showed the whole page while I was reading, so I didn’t have to keep moving my arm back and forth which was so tedious and tiring and slow. I found the best magnifier for me was a big digital magnifier that sits on my desk and it’s the size of a big computer screen. Now I can see the whole column of writing at once and I can enjoy reading again. Cynthia – 74 years old with ARMD
If you’re not sure where to start, then use this guide:
- If you have mild vision loss – look for a lighted magnifying glass.
- A magnifier with light is the best magnifier for people just starting to lose their vision.
- If you have moderate to severe vision loss – look for a digital magnifier.
- The best reading magnifiers are electronic ones because they’re much brighter and more powerful. Get the size option that best suits your lifestyle.