Magnifier / Loupe Buying Guide

Selecting the Proper Magnifying Glass or Loupe for your Project

Who needs a magnifier? A magnifying tool is essential for many people who do detailed work with their hands. In addition to increasing the clarity of sight, a good magnifier will also reduce eye strain and prevent physical fatigue. Jewelers, crafters, electronics repairman, electricians, geologists, and stamping enthusiasts are some of the professionals who employ magnifiers in addition to those who simply use a magnifier when reading small print. Choose the right magnifier, also called loupe, for your task by assessing your needs before you buy. Magnifiers come in many shapes and sizes with varying amounts of magnification.

Here are some main considerations:

  1. How much magnification do you need?
  2. Do you need to have your hands free while you work?
  3. Does your work space need additional lighting?

How much magnification do you need?

  Magnifiers are classified by an x, which stands for how much the lens will magnify. A 2x magnifier will make the object look twice as big (two times its normal size.) A 5x magnifier will make the object look five times its normal size. The proper distance to hold the magnifier is about 8-10 inches from your eye to view the magnification clearly. If you wear prescription glasses, there is no need to remove them when you use a magnifier. Given the same x factor, a larger lens diameter is preferable due to the field of vision. The field of vision is the size of the magnified area that is in focus under the lens. There will be a smaller field of vision when there is higher magnification, which is why some people look for a larger lens.

Magnifiers are also classified by a dioptre number, which means how much curvature the lens will have. A thicker lens has more curvature, more magnification, and a higher dioptre number. Divide a magnifier’s dioptre by 4, and then add 1 to find the magnification of a lens. For example, if you are looking at a 3 dioptre lens, it’s magnification = A¾ + 1=1.75x. Objects viewed under this lens will appear 175% bigger than normal.

As a general rule when the magnification gets larger, the lens and focal length get smaller. The focal length is the distance from the lens to the point where the object is in focus (focal point). It determines how much space is needed above the object to see the magnification in focus. Thus when you need a large amount of magnification, you will need to hold the lens closer to the object as you work on it.

Do you need to have your hands free while you work?

Many of us are familiar with the hand held lollipop magnifying glass. My great-grandparents kept one handy when they read the newspaper and it made their eyeball look huge! Hand held magnifiers are a great tool to have at your workspace but sometimes you need to have both hands to do your task well. Magnifiers come in several styles that offer a hands free option.

Magnifier with a clamp: If you work often with a magnifier then you might want to consider buying a table top magnifier that can be clamped to your work area. Look for a sturdy clamp and an arm that provides enough length to pull the lens over your work. An added bonus is a detachable lens that can be removed for certain hand held functions. Illumination is an option for some table top magnifiers; think of it like a desk lamp with a magnifying glass.

Magnifier with a base:If you do not prefer to clamp the magnifier to your work area, you may opt for a magnifier that has a heavy base. It sits directly on the work surface and has arms that pivot with tension screws. It is easily moveable. Another added feature may be clamps that hold your work as you look through the magnifier. This type of magnifier is sometimes referred to as a helping hand. It is an excellent tool for people who need stability and steadiness while they work.

Head visor: Look for an adjustable head band that will fit comfortably and allow for a range of adjustment. Many styles will flip up when not in use and can fit over prescription glasses. You may prefer to find one with multiple magnification lenses and/ or illumination. This is a good tool for people who want to work with multiple magnifications because you can easily switch back and forth between the lenses.

Small folding magnifiers:A folding magnifier is convenient and allows you to store it when not in use. It stands on a frame and gives space for you to work beneath the lens. This style is portable and can be carried with you. It will fit easily in a toolbox or a craft caddy.

Does your work space need additional lighting?

Good lighting is essential for small detailed work. Even if your work area has strong, direct, overhead lighting, a magnifier that comes with its own illumination can reduce eye strain and physical fatigue. Most small magnifiers with illumination will require batteries. Be sure to check when you place your order if you will need to buy batteries. Lighting is an option for both hand held and table top magnifiers.

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