What to Look For in a Low Vision Magnifier

Published August 7, 2020

With the large variety of low vision devices now available on the market, our guide will help you choose a magnifier that suits your needs. 

Before purchasing a low vision device, speak with your eye doctor or low vision specialist to determine which type of device is most appropriate for you. Each device has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but your main goal should be to choose a magnifier that will help you to perform your daily activities with greater ease.

Keep in mind, some devices are more complex than others, and require you to be more technologically savvy— so be sure to try out all of your options before purchasing your new device.

As you read through our guide, it is important to think about your goals and the device features that are important to you.

Types of low vision devices

Low vision devices can be categorized into five main types:

  1. Head-mounted magnifiers
  2. Handheld magnifiers
  3. Stand magnifiers
  4. Video camera magnifiers
  5. Telescopes

Head-mounted magnifiers

Head-mounted magnifiers are useful for reading, writing, sewing, and any other type of near vision work. This magnifier is secured to your eyeglasses for improved vision without having to worry about holding the magnifier in your hand.

Handheld magnifiers

Handheld magnifiers are compact in size and are useful for on-the-go.

This magnifier offers multiple magnification powers, and is easy to use. It is available in different sizes, weights, and features. The handheld magnifier can function as a traditional magnifying glass for reading a label on a bottle, or as an advanced electronic magnifier for extended use, such as when reading a book or magazine.

Advanced handheld magnifiers often feature options for both handheld and surface resting modes, as well as lighting and magnification adjustments, the ability to capture an image or freeze the screen, and color/contrast settings.

Stand magnifiers

Stand magnifiers, also called closed circuit television or CCTV magnifiers, are stationary low vision aids that are useful for reading and other near vision tasks. These devices provide higher levels of magnification power, viewing mode options, and other specialized features.

Most desktop magnifiers offer computer connectivity, and split screen capabilities. Some desktop magnifiers offer a vertical viewing option if central vision is compromised or lost. They also provide peripheral reading and the ability to adjust the sharpness of an image.

Video camera magnifiers

Video camera magnifiers are useful for prolonged use, such as reading a book, using a computer, filing paperwork, giving presentations, self-care, and more.

These magnifiers contain a camera that can be directed at the images in the font of the room and displayed on the screen in front of you.

Additionally, this device features an option to adjust the magnification to as much as 82x, as well as color selection, and contrast settings. A mirror image display can also be used for shaving and applying makeup.

Telescope

Telescopes are low vision devices that are used for distance vision clarity. They are available in handheld, clip-on, mounted, or hands-free variations. Telescopes are useful for reading street signs, the board in school, watching TV or a ball game, and any other distance vision task. Some people use telescopes to read the number on the scale, or a label on a product in the supermarket.

Questions to ask yourself before deciding on a low vision magnifier

1. Does the device fulfill your needs?

When it comes to purchasing a new low vision device, each individual has his own personal needs, as well as set goals they wish to achieve in order to enhance their quality of life. It is strongly recommended to speak with your eye doctor, low vision specialist, and even your loved ones to help you determine what you would like to accomplish with your magnifier.

Some people may wish to drive again, while others desire increased independence while cooking, shopping, or applying makeup.

Keep this in mind as you search through your options, and ask as many questions as you wish to obtain a clear understanding of each device.

2. Is the device portable?

Being able to travel with your magnifier is generally one of the biggest advantages you can look for in a low vision device. A portable device will allow you to bring your magnifier wherever you go (even just around your home), and enable you to perform your daily routine tasks with an increased sense of independence.

3. Does it have OCR technology or voice commands?

Text to speech technology is a feature that will ease your daily struggle with low vision. Some specific features to look for include: the ability to read text out loud, voice quality, and the ability to detect and read different languages.

 4. Does it provide internet connectivity?

In recent years, internet connectivity has become available on almost all digital devices— so why shouldn’t your low vision device also provide an easy way to connect to cyberspace? With the ability to connect to the internet, you wont need to carry around extra devices to download or upload images, read documents, or search the web.

5. Is the device easy to use?

Being able to comfortably navigate through your device and access all of its unique features is an essential factor when choosing a magnifier. Before settling on the magnifier of choice, try out all of the device’s features to ensure that they are easy to find and easy to use.

6. What type of magnification power does it provide?

As a general rule, the lower the magnification power, the more you will be able to see in your visual field. A higher magnification strength is ideal for reading labels or ingredients on a package, but as the words get bigger, the number of words that can appear on the screen are reduced. Therefore, if you are looking for a magnifier that you can use when reading a book or magazine, or using a computer, look for a lower magnification strength.

Every magnifier is unique, which one is right for you?

Now that you understand the differences between each type of low vision magnifier, you can make an educated choice based on your individual needs and preferences.

Are you a student who needs a low vision device to see the board? A portable camera magnifier will be able to capture the image and send it to the viewing screen on your desk.

Do you work with your hands all day as a carpenter, mechanic, or seamstress? A magnifier that can be fixed to your eyeglasses will be able to provide the vision you need, for an extended period of time.

Do you need a magnifier that you can bring with you to the market to read labels, or the post office to pick up your packages? A handheld magnifier will be your best option, as you are searching for a device that provides easy access without the need for extended use.

If you are still unsure which type of magnifier is best for your needs, speak with your eye doctor or low vision specialist.

When chosen correctly, your low vision device can enhance your quality of life, and give you the vision you need to live your life with greater independence.