Magnifiers – all kinds

This page will show you all the types of magnifiers which are currently available for home use.  We provide an explanation of how the magnifiers are to be used, which will help you see how they can help with reading, crafting or hobbies, or more comfortable viewing of a phone screen.  While intended to give information for those with low vision issues, seniors, or their family or carers, these magnifiers can be used by anyone who needs them, and are attractively priced in relation to their usefulness.

We use the term low vision to mean the inability to see things clearly, even with correction such as prescribed reading glasses.

We use the term magnifier to mean any of a variety of special lenses set in a frame or on a stand, which gives the user a larger image.   When using a magnifier, the strongest and clearest part of the lens is usually in the middle.   The outer edges will inevitably show some distortion.

Here is a list of the magnifiers we look at on this page:

Reading magnifiers

These are magnifiers designed for those who are visually impaired or who have low vision, and they come in various forms.  The most popular type is the rectangular reading magnifier, which comes with a handle and is equipped with built-in LED lights for illumination.  The lens is usually acrylic, to make the magnifier lighter in use. The best ones do not distort the text when used as a book reader or map reader, magnify by 300%, and have dimmable lights.  You move the magnifier as you read.

Reading magnifier on a page
A reading magnifier resting on a page
A reading magnifier in use
The same magnifier raised from the page and magnifying it

These rectangular magnifying glass are very popular and get good reviews from users.

You may prefer a hands-free full-page reader or text magnifier with a stand, which sits over the reading material, and also comes with lights. These may come in a form like a little table or come with a single stand.

Another option, designed solely for reading, is a magnifying bar, or bar magnifier, which is shaped like a large ruler.  This is designed to magnify one line of text at a time at 2X magnification, and has a built-in guide-line.  It is made of optical grade acrylic, and is used by simply resting it on the book or magazine being read.

A bar magnifier for reading
A bar magnifier in use for reading. Note the guide line.

Other magnifying glass and reading magnifier options

A traditional magnifying glass with a handle can be used by those with low vision, and is probably the most low-cost and reliable way of getting the magnification you need.  The main difference with other magnifier types is that the lens is often actual glass, which is heavier but also more scratch-resistant. 

Magnifying glass - Wikimedia commons - public domain image
Magnifying Glass – Wikimedia Commons – Public domain

When choosing a magnifying glass, check the magnification factor (4X will give a larger image than 2X) and the field of vision – determined by the diameter of the glass.  Some magnifying glasses also come with built-in lights, which are useful if the user is elderly and has low vision, and is intending to use the magnifying glass for reading. 

This type of magnifier is good for occasional use, such as in hobbies where a bit of magnification might be sometimes needed, for example to have a closer look at a stamp.

Glass magnifying glass on a stamp collection
Large glass magnifying glass

Browse magnifying glasses like this 

Video magnifiers also called Electronic magnifiers

These magnifiers are electronic, and for many visually impaired people this type of magnifier, often referred to as a desktop magnifier or a portable video magnifier, is the best choice.  Such rechargeable magnifiers have LCD displays (like a phone or tablet) and are made with screen sizes from 5 inches upwards, and the magnification setting can be changed depending on your needs. The display can also be set to a preferred option – full color, black and white, white on black, so they are much more flexible than simple optical magnifiers.  Some models also come with their own stand and have LEDs for illumination.  

See some video magnifiers

Top of the range video magnifiers like the Eschenbach Visolux have 7 inch or 12 inch displays, can scroll without moving the unit, and have the advantage over simple optical magnifiers of the same size that they do not have image distortion at the edges.  Ports also allow sending the current image to other devices like the TV or computer or a camcorder.  If you want the absolute top quality magnifier, this is the one to get.

Headband magnifiers

Magnifiers which fit over your head and allow for movement and hands-free activities come in two types, and this is not always clear when searching for one.  One type of headband magnifier has very high magnification and a narrow field of view and is intended for use my jewelry work, dentistry, and for other professions working with small and intricate components.  But our interest is in the other type, which is designed for reading and other general activities.  Sometimes there is an overlap and the head mounted magnifier comes with multiple lenses providing different magnifications for all uses.

Headband magnifiers consist of a holder which fits over your ears or around your head, with an adjustable hinge holding the acrylic magnifier, often shaped like a pair of spectacles.  These often come with light provided by LEDs.  The headband is intended to take the weight of the magnifier and to hold it steady.

Browse headband magnifiers

When searching for a plain or illuminated headband magnifier for general use like reading or sewing, then include the word ‘reading’ in your search.   Here is an example of the results you will then get.  Bear in mind that you, or the person you are buying for, will likely be using the headband magnifier for years, so it is worth searching for a sturdy one with high lens quality (‘optical grade lens’) and good user reviews.

Here is an example of a well-reviewed headband magnifier, with an LED lamp and a selection of lenses.  Illuminated magnifiers like this will require batteries.

Hobby magnifiers

These magnifiers are designed for use in activities like cross stitch, sewing and embroidery.  Any type of optical magnifier can be used, but the most useful kinds have a stand which holds the magnifier in position above your work.

For more functionality, gooseneck magnifiers can be adjusted to the height you need.

Most of the hobby magnifiers come with built-in lighting to enhance the clarity for your work.

Dome magnifiers

These are ‘half ball’ shaped glass magnifiers, which are used to help with reading or viewing of flat text or images on books or newspapers or printed maps.  Dome magnifying glass magnification is usually between 2X and 6X, and the dome magnifier itself is usually between 2 and 4 inches in diameter.

Here you can see both sizes on a stamp collection.

Two glass dome magnifiers on a stamp collection
Two glass dome magnifiers, shown from above
Two glass dome magnifiers on a stamp collection
Two glass dome magnifiers, shown from the side

These are used by sliding the dome across the page to be read. Some varieties come with their own lighting.  Users who need magnification often prefer this dome style of magnifier because it is discreet and portable – it can be carried in a purse or pocket.  It is also useful for those who are not able to hold a magnifying glass steady when reading – as the dome magnifier sits directly on the page this is not an issue.  They can also function as attractive paperweights!

Browse more dome magnifiers

Prescription bottle magnifiers

These are useful as they ensure the instructions on your medication bottle can be read accurately.

Magnifying sheets

These are used for reading books and magazines, and consist of a clear page-size sheet of acrylic or PVC which magnifies reading matter to 3X (300%) of the original size.  They come in slightly smaller than US letter size and have the advantage of allowing viewing of a full page when held above it, without having to move the magnifying sheet.

See some magnifying sheets

Similar to these magnifying sheets are credit card size magnifying lenses, which can be carried in a purse or wallet.  These also have up to 300% magnification.

See some credit card magnifiers

Magnifying Mirrors

These are used for shaving, makeup, or for checking your hair.  They often are double sided, with a 3X magnification one one side, and a huge 8X magnification on the other.

A magnifying mirror in use
Using a magnifying mirror

See a range of magnifying mirrors

TV magnifier glasses

Keywords: low vision glasses for watching TV, Max TV glasses

These spectacles are used by those who have age-related presbyopia, which is the inability to focus clearly on near objects.  Since the television is out of range of reading glasses, but still too close for good focus, the solution is television magnifier glasses.  These are double lens spectacles, which allow for focusing on a TV about 3 metres away.  The best brands allow for independent settings for your left and right eye, so full clarity can be achieved.  Magnification will be about 200%.

Look at some television magnifier glasses

Hands free magnifiers 

These usually come with a cord and can rest on your chest while sewing or knitting.  This type of magnifier is useful if you prefer to do crafts like sewing, quilting, crochet or needlepoint while sitting in a chair.  As you sit, you view your work though the magnifier and can use both hands.  The diameter of the 2X magnifying lens is usually about 5”, for a good field of view, and the best models have their own battery-powered LED lights.

Browse hands free magnifiers for crafts

Magnifying eyeglasses

While reading glasses are good for most purposes, sometimes extra magnification is needed for hobbies or craft work, and for that you can obtain magnifying eyeglasses or spectacles.  Wearing magnifying spectacles means both hands are free, which is not the case when you use a magnifying glass.   

See some magnifying eyeglasses

Another similar option is clip-on magnifiers, which attach to your ordinary glasses but allow close focus.  These can be flipped up out of the way when you need more normal focus.

Both of these types of hands-free magnification are very popular, and can also be used for computer work.

Clip on magnifiers

Device/phone/tablet magnifiers

Watching movies or videos, or having Zoom meetings on your smartphone or iPhone or iPad can be tremendously enhanced by using a magnifier.  If you have poor vision, these screen enlargers can also make the experience much better. Modern screen quality is now so good that cell phones can be optically magnified while retaining most of their sharpness.  They can help to lessen the eyestrain associated with viewing a small device over a long period, as when watching a movie.   These are not expensive devices.

Phone / tablet magnifiers

Screen enlargers, also known as screen magnifiers, consist of a stand which has a place for your phone or other device, and an enlarger which magnifies the image.  These come in sizes from 8 inches right up to 14 inches, which indicates the maximum size your screen will appear to be when magnified.  The 12 inch size is the most popular.  These screen enlargers do not require power, being a simple flat sheet of acrylic.  Some enlargers have a curved screen, which may help with viewing quality.

Curved magnifiers

More advanced smartphone screen magnifier models, which do require to be charged via a USB or battery, have built in Bluetooth speakers which can enhance the viewing and listening experience.

Bluetooth enhanced screen magnifiers

Adding a Bluetooth keyboard for use with your phone would allow you type texts and emails while still enjoying the larger screen size.  Some people also use these magnifiers to show movies to young children.

Magnifier apps

If you have a smartphone or tablet, that can be used along with a specialized app to magnify text (the apps use the device’s built-in camera to display whatever you hold the phone over). 

Find the app for Android devices:

Find the app for Apple / iOS devices:

You can also magnify your computer screen.  On a PC most programs have a zoom option, and in a browser the command is usually CTRL and the Plus key to zoom in, and CTRL and the minus key to zoom out.   On a Mac, you can use the Zoom program- instructions are here –