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Updated January 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best magnifying lamps

Sometimes your eyes alone aren’t enough. Whether your work involves materials and objects that require added magnification or your hobby and crafts projects have started to blur over time, we could all use a bit more magnification and light on occasion.

A magnifying lamp, with its combination of both a magnifying glass and a powerful lamp, may be just the tool to bring all your projects into a clearer focus.

To successfully find the magnifying lamp for you, you'll want to consider a few things, like specs such as focal length, brightness, and magnification level as well as features like the lens and base. 

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Magnifying lamps are also sometimes referred to as “low-vision lighted magnifiers.”

Key considerations

Type

There are two general types of magnifying lamps to choose from: desktop magnifying lamps and floor magnifying lamps. Desktop magnifying lamps have a shorter neck, usually 12 to 15 inches long. This type of lamp often features a clamp or clip that you can use to secure the lamp to a shelf or the edge of a desk. Desktop magnifying lamps are usually lighter and more portable.

As you might expect, floor magnifying lamps have a longer neck and sit on the floor. These tend to have a heavy base to prevent tipping, making them less easy to move around or take on the road.

Focal length

The focal length of a magnifying lamp is the amount of distance between the lens and the object you are viewing when it is in focus. Lens magnification is a big factor in focal length, which can be a significant issue if space is tight where you are using the lamp. Focal length can vary, with the average being around 12 to 15 inches.

Magnification

Magnification is obviously a primary consideration with magnifying lamps. Magnification can range considerably from lamp to lamp, from a low of under 2x up to 10x or more. The average magnification for magnifying lamps is around 5x. The higher the number, the more powerful the magnification. Some magnifying lamps include a way to adjust the magnification, which you can use to focus on different tasks and projects.

When looking for a magnifying lamp, consider your own eyesight’s strength and limitations carefully to determine what magnification you need.

Light

In addition to magnification, a magnifying lamp’s light is another primary factor. Bulbs can range from LEDs to fluorescents to even halogens. If you plan to use your magnifying lamp for hours at a time, the light it produces can be a big factor in eliminating eye strain.

Magnifying lamps start out at around 350 lumens and can reach upward of 2,200 lumens or more. Some magnifying lamps include controls so you can adjust the brightness level to better meet your needs or even change color modes from cooler to warmer light.

Durability

Some magnifying lamps are primarily constructed from metal, while others go with a much higher ratio of other materials such as plastic. If you have durability in mind, stick to metal magnifying lamps.

Lamps in general typically fail because they are knocked over, so avoiding this will lead to longer lamp life. If the magnifying lamp features a clip mount, be sure that it is sturdy and won’t slip on its own. If you have a lamp with a base, verify that the base is flat and heavy enough to keep the lamp upright.

Power source

While the majority of magnifying lamps are powered via a cord plugged into a standard wall outlet, some also include a disposable or rechargeable battery option. If the lamp does include a battery option, this can open up the use of the lamp to areas without a power source.

When selecting a magnifying lamp, you should take cord length into consideration (too short and you’ll need an extension cord), in addition to how often you will need to swap out or recharge the batteries.

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Did You Know?
Some popular hobbies where magnifying lamps come in particularly handy include reading, needlework or sewing, fly tying, stamp and coin collecting, and model building.
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Features

Adjustability

The more adjustable a magnifying lamp is, the more flexibility you will have in how you use it. While both desktop and floor magnifying lamps typically have twistable necks (and sometimes necks that can be adjusted for height), clamp-on lamps will often feature spring-controlled necks that can be raised, lowered, or rotated. All magnifying lamps should have swivel heads, with the best capable of 360 degrees of rotation.

Lens

The lenses of magnifying lamps can be glass, acrylic, or plastic. We recommend sticking with a high-quality glass lens. Glass not only provides better clarity, but it is also less likely to warp or become scratched. A glass lens will last longer than a lens made from other materials.

Two numbers you will need to consider when comparing lenses are the diameter and diopter. The diameter of lenses can vary in these lamps, usually ranging from 3 to 6 inches or more. While magnification can be a big factor, in general, the larger the diameter of the lens, the larger the object you can use it with. The diopter – or thickness – can also vary, with the majority of lenses falling in the range of 3 to 5. The higher the diopter, the thicker the lens and the more magnification you’ll have.

Lens cover

Some magnifying lamps include a lens cover, which can be useful for keeping the lens dust-free. These are usually flip covers that attach to the lens housing and can be raised or lowered as needed.

Base

Magnifying lamps usually have either weighted bases or clamps. Some ship with both options, although this is rare. For solid bases, weight is a key component. The heavier the base, the less likely the lamp will tip or fall over. However, a base that is too heavy can also result in a lamp that is difficult to move or even reposition. All solid bases should be flat on the bottom for stability. Clamps should be rugged and strong enough to hold the magnifying lamp securely.

Clamp-on magnifying lamps are sometimes much more compact, so you can use them on a clipboard or book.

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Magnifying lamp prices

Inexpensive: Magnifying lamps start out at around $20 to $30. In this range, you will find less bright options, often under 500 lumens. Lenses are typically around 3 inches in diameter and are often made from acrylic or plastic. Lamps in this range are often smaller desktop magnifying lamps with solid bases.

Mid-range: In the $30 to $50 price range, you will find larger desktop lamps, some with a clamp-on base. Lenses here are larger, often 3.5 to 5 inches in diameter. Bulbs are a brighter 500 to 1,500 lumens on average in this range, and some lamps include a battery option.

Expensive: For serious crafters and hobbyists and those who use magnifying lamps in their work, the $50 to $100-plus range will be the best fit. Magnifying lamps here feature 5-inch-plus lenses, a brightness typically in the 1,500-plus lumens range, and a greater degree of adjustability than less expensive lamps. Floor magnifying lamps and lamps with a robust battery option are common here.

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Staff Tip
If a magnifying lamp also has a rechargeable battery option, note not only how long a charge lasts but also how long it takes to recharge the battery for use.
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Tips

  • While you can see finer details with higher magnification, it will also cut down on the overall viewing area. Your best strategy when looking for a magnifying lamp is to go with the lowest magnification that you can comfortably use.
  • If the magnifying lamp will be frequently used by more than one person, try to find one that offers a variety of both brightness and magnification settings so the lamp will better meet the needs of various users.
  • If you have your heart set on a magnifying lamp with a battery option, be sure that it also uses an LED bulb. LEDs use much less power than incandescent bulbs, so a charge with an LED lamp will last longer.
  • Be sure when choosing a magnifying lamp that it offers secure hands-free viewing. With hands-free viewing, the lamp will stay in one position until you move it, so you can use both hands to work on the item you are viewing.
  • If you will be using your magnifying lamp to repair delicate electronic parts, be sure that it is designed to be electrostatic discharge safe. ESD-safe magnifying lamps typically are designed using special paints and polymers that minimize the chances of harmful electrical discharges.
  • If you get a magnifying lamp with a clamp base, go with one that includes a locking pin that locks the lamp into the clamp so that it can’t be accidentally lifted out of it.
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If you have less space available to you between the lens of the magnifying lamp and the object being worked on (the focal length), then go with a higher magnification lens.

FAQ

Q. How easy are magnifying lamps to assemble and install?
A.
Magnifying lamps typically ship fully assembled or nearly so. Any assembly required will generally be fairly light. Installation can vary a bit, depending on what type of lamp you go with. If you choose a desktop magnifying lamp, the installation will usually be as simple as clearing a space for the lamp and plugging it in. Floor magnifying lamps will be similar. You may run into some slight issues with clamp-on bases, as some of these can be a bit tricky to figure out right out of the box. You will also need to take into account the amount of space a swing-arm clamp-on lamp will need if you plan to utilize its full range of motion.

Q. What type of light bulb should I go with?
A.
Magnifying lamps typically use one of three different types of bulbs: LED, fluorescent, or halogen.

  • LED light bulbs: LEDs are the most common. LED bulbs are long-lasting, use little power, and won’t heat up as much as other bulb types. They also generally put out less light than other types.
  • Fluorescent light bulbs: While not as long-lasting as LEDs, fluorescent light bulbs put out what is generally considered to be a more natural light. The light produced by fluorescent bulbs tends to be cool and shadowless.
  • Halogen light bulbs: While the least common of the three, halogens can put out a warmer light than other bulbs. They also heat up more quickly than other bulb types.

Q. Where can I find replacement bulbs for magnifying lamps?
A.
Any magnifying lamp you get should ship with a bulb, so you should be set for a while. Still, bulbs do blow out, and finding a replacement can be difficult for specialty lamps of this type. Your best option is to go back to the original seller. The seller may also carry replacement bulbs, or the listing may indicate what type of bulb you will need. Locally, you can try hardware stores that feature a robust lighting department. You can also try doing an online search on the bulb type or on the number printed on the bulb itself.

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