Hand Held Magnifiers

Hand Held Magnifiers are ideal for spot viewing and are often the first device tried by those with vision impairments.  Their limitations include their small viewing area and the fact that they require one hand to hold them at all times.  Ideally it is best to choose the lowest magnifier strength that will still allow you to read the desired print size.  Also remember that the proper way to use a hand held magnifier is by holding the lens very close to your eye, not at arms reach, and then bring the object closer until it is in focus; This technique will maximize the viewing area and minimize distortions.  A Low Vision Assessment can identify the best magnifier strength as well as determine which other devices would assist in other tasks.

Types of Magnifiers Technology

All magnifiers are not the same. They vary based on their power, lens type, and design purpose. Magnifiers can be optical or video-based. Optical magnifiers include hand-held magnifiers, stand magnifiers, spectacles and telescopic devices. Video magnifiers typically employ camcorder-like cameras. Some video magnifiers are hand-held, while others may look like a computer, and still others are head-mounted. Each type of magnifier is designed to offer different benefits and distinct applications.


The power of a magnifier can be measured several ways. The most common, “times magnification” or “power”, refers to how many times bigger an object will appear when viewed through the device as compared to when viewed with the naked eye. The “X” notation on many magnifiers gives the manufacturer’s representation as to the power provided by a given device.


A “diopter” is another term that refers to the magnifying power of a device. A diopter is a metric measurement of the lens power. This is a unit of measure that your eye doctor uses when prescribing eyeglasses or contact lenses. The power of hand-held, stand and magnifying spectacles can be measured or represented in diopters or “times magnification”. [While ’X’ power measurements vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, diopters do NOT vary.]

Hand-held, stand and magnifying spectacles are available in power ranges from 1x to 12x. Video magnifiers can provide from 1x to as much as 70x magnification.

Be careful though! Stronger does not mean better! There is a “right” power for each individual and the task they wish to accomplish. This is a process that your Low Vision Specialist is uniquely qualified to determine.

Design Types

Various magnifying device designs exist for different purposes. The most common categories are as follows:

Hand Magnifiers

Designed for short-term spotting tasks of near objects such as reading menus, price tags and pill bottles. These helpful devices are very portable, versatile and economical, and are available with and without light sources.

Stand Magnifiers

Designed for extended viewing tasks of near objects such as reading books, magazines or newspapers. Stand magnifiers rest directly on the object and are available with and without illumination.

Magnifying Spectacles

Designed for hands-free viewing of near objects for an extended period of time, such as reading, especially in bed.

Telescopic Devices

Primarily designed to magnify distant objects. These devices can be hand-held for short-term spotting, or worn as eyewear for extended periods of viewing such as watching television.

Video Magnifiers

Provide the highest levels of magnification and help to enhance the contrast of objects being viewed. These devices can be hand-held, headmounted, or in a desktop design.

Multiple designs exist to help low vision sufferers accomplish multiple types of tasks. Low vision devices, and magnifiers in particular, can be thought of as tools that the low vision individual keeps in their toolbox, just as a carpenter would.

Call AbleTech to schedule an appointment to reveiw the many options that are available and to choose the magnifier that is right for you.