Best Magnifying Glasses

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for Best magnifying glasses

Whether you’re having trouble with declining vision or working on a project that requires you to see tiny details, there are times when it can be difficult to see well with your eyes alone. Even with glasses, you may need a little help making out the fine print at times. With a magnifying glass, you can easily catch the details that your normal vision is missing.

A magnifying glass is a convex lens that provides a magnified image. You can use a magnifying glass to read small text or work on hobbies like model-building and knitting. It can also help reveal fine details on objects like coins, stamps, and gemstones.

To find the magnifying glass that meets your needs, pay attention to magnification power, focal length, and field of view.

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As you enter middle age, it’s common to develop presbyopia, which makes it difficult to read fine print. A magnifying glass can be helpful when you need to read small text.

Considerations

Magnification power

The magnification power of a magnifying glass is a figure that reflects how large it’s able to make small details and print appear. Magnification power is usually designed by a number followed by an X. This figure indicates how many times the lens is able to magnify an object.

For example, a magnifying glass with 2X magnification power allows you to view an object as if it were two times closer to your eyes. A magnifying glass with 5X magnification power lets you look at an item as if it were five times closer. You might assume that a magnifying glass with the highest magnification power available is best, but a stronger magnification power can sometimes distort the image you’re looking at.

For reading, it’s usually best to stick to a magnifying glass below 10X. For hobbies and projects that require you to observe extremely fine details, you may prefer a 10X magnifying glass to see more effectively.

Focal length

The focal length is the distance that the object you’re looking at can be from the lens while it’s still in focus. In general, a magnifying lens with greater magnification power has a shorter focal length.

The focal length of your magnifying glass matters if you plan to use it for hobbies or projects that require tools. That’s because you need to have enough room to maneuver your tools between the object you’re working on and the magnifying glass.

Field of view

“Field of view” refers to how large of an area you can see when you look through the magnifying glass. Typically, the higher the magnification power, the smaller the field of view. In other words, a glass with a high magnification power allows you to see extremely fine details, but you can only see a small window of the object you’re looking at.

If you’re using a magnifying glass for reading, a large field of view is usually recommended. For hobbies, however, a smaller field of view may be more appropriate.

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Did you know?
A loupe is a magnifying glass that’s meant to be held close to your eye. This is the type of glass traditionally used by jewelers.
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Magnifying glass features

Multiple lenses

Because there may be times when you need stronger magnification and times when you don’t want it to be quite as strong, it can be helpful to have a product with multiple lenses. For example, a magnifying glass might have a 2X lens and a 5X lens that you can alternate between to suit your activity.

Some magnifying glasses with multiple magnification powers have a split lens: one area offers lower magnification and another provides higher magnification. Depending on which area of the magnifying glass you hold over an object, you can increase or decrease the magnification power.

Other magnifying glasses feature multiple individual lenses that you simply pull off and replace as needed. The lenses usually snap into place easily, so it’s not difficult to change them based on your needs.

Hands-free

Many traditional magnifying glasses have a handle you must hold. But if you’re using a magnifying glass for a hobby like jewelry-making — or even if you’re going to be reading or relaxing with a crossword puzzle for a while — it may be helpful to have a hands-free model you don’t have to hold at all. With both hands free, you can use any tools that might be necessary for your project.

In most cases, hands-free magnifying glasses have some sort of stand that allows you to position the lens over the object you’re looking at. The stand is adjustable so you can position the lens as close to the item as you need and angle it to get the best view possible.

Some hands-free magnifying glasses are actually wearable. This type of glass has a strap that you wear across your forehead or neck to keep it on.

Lighting

Even with a magnifying glass, you may not be able to see as many details as you’d like without the proper lighting. To make sure lighting isn’t a problem, some magnifying glasses have built-in lights. These models usually use LED bulbs, which are long-lasting and energy-efficient.

Lighted magnifying glasses usually have at least two LED lights, but some have as many as 15. The more lights a magnifying glass has, the easier it will be to see, especially if you plan to use it at night.

If you opt for a lighted magnifying glass, you may want to choose one with a dimming feature. That allows you to easily adjust the brightness to suit your needs.

Most lighted magnifying glasses use AAA or AA batteries, though some hands-free models have an AC adapter that requires access to an outlet.

Accessories

Some magnifying glasses include accessories that make caring for and maintaining them easier. For example, if you buy a magnifying glass with a protective case, you don’t have to worry about the lens getting scratched when the glass is in storage.

You can also find magnifying glasses that include a cleaning cloth. These cloths are usually made of microfiber for gentle yet effective cleaning of the lens.

Magnifying glass prices

Magnifying glasses vary in price based on how many lenses they have and whether they’re lighted or not. They run the gamut from $2 to $45.

Budget magnifying glasses: The most affordable magnifying glasses have a single lens with one magnification power and aren’t lighted. These usually cost between $2 and $10.

Mid-range magnifying glasses: Mid-range magnifying glasses usually have built-in lighting and two lenses, each with different magnification powers. They typically have two or three LED lights, too. Prices range from $10 to $24.

Pricier magnifying glasses: The priciest magnifying glasses typically have two or more lenses with different magnification powers and built-in lighting. In fact, some models have as many as 12 built-in lights. These deluxe magnifying glasses usually cost between $24 and $45.

Tips

  • While you may assume that you should hold a magnifying glass at arm’s length from your eyes, you typically get the best results if you hold it close to your eye and bring the item you’re looking at right up to the lens.

  • If you have trouble reading fine print, it helps to carry a travel-size magnifying glass in your bag or pocket to help you with everyday tasks, such as reading a menu or food nutrition labels.

  • If your magnifying glass gets dirty, you can clean it with a photography lens cleaner. Make sure to wipe it away with a soft microfiber cloth to avoid scratches.
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Magnifying glasses can help individuals with conditions that impair vision, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.

FAQ

Q. What type of magnifying glass is best for reading?

A. Most people find a handheld magnifying glass is usually the best option for reading books, magazines, and newspapers. The reason: you can easily move the lens closer or farther away based on text size.

Q. What features increase the durability of a magnifying glass?

A. The most common reason for replacing a magnifying glass is scratches on the lens. If you want your magnifying glass to last as long as possible, opt for a model with a scratch-resistant lens.

Q. What makes a handheld magnifying glass more comfortable to hold?

A. Choose a model with a lightweight plastic handle. That way, your hand is less likely to fatigue while holding it. Consider one with an ergonomically designed handle to fit the contours of your hand.

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