Digital magnifiers, electronic magnifiers or low vision CCTVs

Electronic reading magnifiers for visually impaired can display white on black writingDigital magnifiers are also known as electronic magnifiers, video magnifiers, reading machines, or low vision cctv magnifiers.

They are the most powerful magnifiers for low vision users, because they use electronics to enhance an image.

Electronic magnifiers for low vision are more expensive than traditional, optical magnifiers but much more powerful. They also have extra abilities such as increasing the brightness and contrast or completely changing the color of the writing.

Scroll down to find my top picks available on Amazon.


How do electronic video magnifiers work?

Electronic magnifiers work by directing an inbuilt camera at an item of interest, and displaying the live camera image on a large screen.

The built in, easy-to-use software allows you to change the image in various ways.

The image on the screen can be magnified many times more than a non-powered magnifying glass because it it uses a different process.


Who should use electronic magnification?

As vision deteriorates it gets to a point where optical magnifiers are no longer strong enough for your needs. Then you’ll need to try a digital magnifier.

Some people prefer to transition to a digital magnifier even sooner than they need to.

It can make reading easier and more comfortable for people with vision problems, including those with macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.

Some elderly people are initially wary of the term “electronic magnifier” or “digital magnifier”. They think it’s going to be complicated like a computer. That need not be a concern as they are designed with the elderly in mind and it is possible to get models that are very simple to use and operate.


What are the different types of electronic magnification?


Hand held electronic magnifier by Humanware reading small newspaper printHandheld digital magnifiers

  • These are small enough to fit in your bag or pocket.
  • They are great for taking shopping, reading medicine bottles, and general day to day use in and out of the home.
  • They are more powerful than magnifying glasses and are the next step to progress to when magnifying glasses are no longer useful.


Humanware Smartview portable video magnifier connected to iPadPortable digital magnifiers

  • These are about the size of a small computer screen.
  • They are set up on a table for use, but usually have a handle so can be moved around with a carry handle or wheeled suitcase.
  • They are good for people who need to use magnification in different locations from time to time, such as in a meeting, classroom or holiday home.
  • They take up less space than desktop magnifiers so are also a good choice when you want a big screen but space is limited, such as for someone in a nursing home.
  • The screen on these is set further back on the table compared to the desktop magnifiers which does not provide as good a result for reading.
  • As the camera is in front of the screen, it is a good option for people who want to do handiwork or craft and see their hands magnified.


Desktop digital magnifiersEnhanced Vision electronic magnifier display photos in full color

  • These are the size of a computer screen, and are set up on a table.
  • The large screen is quite close to the users face to provide a clear image. This usually provides a better result than a portable digital magnifier, particularly for people who need a very large level of magnification (10x or more).
  • Desktop electronic magnifiers plug into the mains power and have lights built in for great results with reading paperwork.
  • They have built in XY tables which help to move the reading material smoothly as you’re reading. This provides more comfort and a better experience for large amounts of reading.


What features should I look for in a digital magnifier?

Standard features

There are many brands and most of them have these same basic features:

  • Increase and decrease magnification (to change the size of print you’re viewing)
  • Change color combinations (because different people find different colors easier to see)
  • Freeze an image (to temporarily keep something, such as a phone number, on screen).

Some will have other features… but when it comes to extra features more is not necessarily better. Often people prefer to have simple technology so there is less to learn and remember.

People who are using magnification for work, study or business may benefit from the extra features.

Typically seniors don’t need many extra features and do better without them. Unless you have a particular need for a certain extra feature, it’s probably not worth paying more for.

Other features on some magnifiers:

  • Handle on handheld magnifiers –  useful for viewing 3D objects, or when reading somewhere you don’t have a flat surface.
  • Screen tilt on handheld magnifiers for reading on a table top or flat surface  – allows you to read in a more comfortable, ergonomic way, because it saves you from having to lean right over to read a horizontal screen.
  • Ability to plug into a TV – usually via a USB or HDMI cable, allowing you to project whatever your magnifier is pointing at onto an even larger screen.
  • Reading lines and masks – puts a line on the screen to help you keep your focus on the right line when reading. This is particularly useful for people who want to view spreadsheets or information in tables.
  • Distance viewing mode – good for reading street signs, to look for products on high shelves etc
  • Selfie mode – allows you to do personal grooming, makeup, check your appearance, etc


What powers digital magnifiers?

They run from mains power or from rechargeable batteries.


How much does it cost to buy a video magnifier?

Prices range from a hundred dollars for a basic, handheld video magnifier, to a few thousand dollars for a top of the line desktop electronic magnifier.

As a general rule, you get what you pay for. Magnifiers with the same size screen can vary considerably in price. This is often reflected in the quality of the equipment.

The top quality electronic magnifiers for visually impaired users have HD screens, quality cameras, and better components resulting in a much better image on the screen. The cheaper models tend to be more flimsy, don’t provide as clear of an image, have distortion around the edges of the screen, don’t magnify at the level you need it to or have inferior color and brightness.

If I were buying a digital magnifier for a low vision user, I would spend the extra money to get a better quality model because they are much nicer to use. However, if you are on a tight budget, the cheaper ones will still provide you with a worthwhile benefit and help you keep your independence.


Best handheld digital magnifiers for low vision

Top pick electronic magnifier   

Hand held pebble HD magnifier reading labels on medicine bottlesBuy Pebble rechargeable magnifier from AmazonPebble Rechargeable Handheld Digital Magnifier

  • 4.3″ HD screen
  • Lightweight – 7.2 ounces
  • Adjustable magnification from 1.25x to 13.5x
  • Handle allows you to easily hold up to view 3D objects
  • Handle folds under into its reading position. It then rests flat on the page you’re reading at the right height to focus clearly, so you don’t need to hold it up to read.
  • 28 color contrast modes
  • Able to buy online and have delivered to you


Top pick budget electronic magnifier   

Cheap electronic magnifier for visually impaired usersBuy ViSee portable EM from AmazonViSee 4.3″ LCD Portable Digital Magnifier

  • 4.3″ LCD screen
  • Adjustable magnification from 6x to 25x (Note the lowest level of this may be too big for people who only need low levels of magnification).
  • Full color plus 6 other color modes
  • Cheapest digital magnifier
  • No handle
  • Rechargeable battery lasting 4 hours continuous use. Charger included
  • Dimensions: 6.2″ x 3.5″ x 1.1″
  • Weight: 8 ounces
  • Able to buy online and have delivered to you

Top pick electronic magnifier for moderate vision loss   

Hum,anware digital magnifier reading 3D objectBuy Humanware explore 5 from AmazonHumanWare explore 5 Handheld Electronic Magnifier

  • Large 5″ screen
  • Handle to easily hold up to view 3D objects. Folds away when not required.
  • Inbuilt stand for table top reading mode, makes the magnifier sit at an angle so it’s more comfortable to read.
  • Large range of magnification: Adjustable magnification from 2X-22X
  • More than 18 enhancement modes, for better color contrast options.
  • Able to buy online and have delivered to you

Top pick electronic magnifier with large 7″ screen  

Humanware handheld digital magnifier on stand reading small print in newspaperBuy humanware explore 7 from AmazonHumanWare explore 7 Handheld Electronic Magnifier

See my detailed review of the Explore 7 magnifier by clicking here.

  • Very large 7″ screen, means you fit more words on the screen when reading, but still a portable size.
  • Easy to use, large tactile buttons
  • No handle. Built in stand so you don’t have to hold it up at the right height.
  • High Definition, anti-glare screen
  • Distance viewing mode (to read street signs, or  look for products on high shelves etc)
  • Rechargeable battery with charger included
  • Adjustable magnification from 2.3X-19X
  • Able to buy online and have delivered to you



Best portable video magnifier for low vision

Top pick portable desktop electronic magnifier   

Humanware SmartView 360 portable electronic magnifiers can connect to iPadsBuy Humanware Smartview 360 from AmazonHumanWare SmartView 360 Video Magnifier

  • 19″ LCD screen
  • Camera can point any direction. Point down to read, write or do handiwork; point across the room for meetings or classes; and point at self for personal grooming.
  • Magnification levels for desktop – 2.6x to 57x; distance – 0.6x to 27x; self view – 1x to 4x
  • Portable unit with built in screen and handle
  • iPad connectivity
  • Weighs 8kg
  • Able to buy online and have delivered to you



Best large video magnifier with speech

Top pick electronic magnifier with speech  

These GoVision portable electronic magnifiers have an attached remoteBuy GoVision electronic magnifier from AmazonGoVision – 24″ LCD Auto Focus Portable Electronic Magnifier

  • 24″ High Definition LCD monitor for quality large images.
  • Approx 1.7x to 83x magnification
  • Magnify text to read, and look at pictures or photos in large size on a large screen.
  • Hands free – great for writing, crafts or crosswords.
  • Full color mode as well as enhanced contrast options in various colors.
  • Self view mode for personal grooming, makeup, shaving, etc.
  • Distance viewing.
  • OCR – Scan and Read Software – to have printed material read aloud.
  • Plug Tablet or SmartPhone into monitor.
  • Digital magnifier USB compatible.
  • Able to buy online and have delivered to you


Best desktop digital magnifier

Top pick desktop electronic magnifier   

Enhanced Vision Merlin desktop electronic magnifier viewing magnified photoBuy Merlin electronic reader from AmazonMerlin HD – Desktop Electronic Magnifier for Low Vision

  • 24″ High Definition LCD monitor for quality large images
  • Approx 2x to 70x magnification
  • Simple, tactile controls. Good for seniors.
  • Adjustable screen height for good ergonomics
  • Full color mode as well as enhanced contrast options in various colors
  • Moveable XY table to make reading at high magnification more comfortable.
  • Easy set up. Plug in and go.
  • This is one of the TOP OF THE LINE best magnifiers for someone with low vision. Particularly for elderly. I have recommended this to my clients more often than any other video magnifier, because of its clear image and simple controls.
  • Able to buy online and have delivered to you




I didn’t even know electronic magnifiers for macular degeneration existed until I saw a friend using one. I got my son to get one for me from the internet. It's called a Pebble and it’s been great. I take it in my handbag wherever I go. It’s wonderful at the shops because they print the prices so small.

Ellen – 62 years old with cataracts and aged related macular degeneration
I lost a lot of vision really suddenly and it was hard to adjust. Having good assistive technology equipment, like a desktop video magnifier, has helped me to cope with the practical challenges of having poor sight.

Michael – 68 years old with retinal detachment


When you have low vision, and it’s happened to you slowly over the years, you just kind of get used to it. You slowly stop doing the things that get too hard and you don’t even realize how much you’re struggling because it’s become your new normal. When I got a digital magnifier reader, I realized how much I’d been struggling before because this makes reading much easier.

John – 70 years old with dry macular degeneration


I do the accounts for my family’s business and when my vision deteriorated it was getting really hard to keep up. I was getting headaches, sore eyes and stressed out. Getting a large desktop electronic magnifier has made things much easier for me. I didn’t realize how much I was struggling before, and how much easier reading could be.

Sarah – aged 55 with glaucoma


Glare and bright lights cause me problems because of the glaucoma. The digital magnifier is great for reducing glare because I can change the color of whatever I’m reading. If I’m looking at something really white and bright it hurts to look at so I get the digital magnifier to change the display to white writing on a black background. Then there’s good contrast without the glare. When I want to look at a photo it’s easy to press the button to change back to the original colors again.

Robert – 77 years old with ARMD and glaucoma