Adaptive Technology

Choosing the Right Magnifier for Your Needs

Adaptive technology advancements have improved magnifiers across the board. However, basic handheld magnifiers with an actual lens have not seen many advancements. We often view the handheld magnifier as the standard Sherlock Holmes clue-finding magnifier. The large lens on this magnifier increases the viewer’s field of vision when viewing text or other small items. Often, we think a larger lens gives us a more expansive viewing space. However, this is not necessarily the right way to think about a magnifying glass.


The power of a magnifier can be measured in several ways. The most common, “times magnification” or “power,” refers to how much bigger an object appears when viewed through the device versus the naked eye. The “X” notation on many magnifiers represents the power a given device provides. So, a 3X means three times the magnification.

Lens Curvature and Focal Point

The magnifying power of a lens depends on its focal length (FL), which in turn depends on the lens’s curvature. The greater the curvature, the shorter the focal length, and the greater the power. When a lens is several inches wide, there tends to be less curvature, resulting in more viewable space, but it will be relatively low in power.

Good examples are page magnifiers used to see a whole book page or magnifiers used to go over a television screen to allow a person to see the image better from a distance. Because both of these examples have very large surface areas, their magnification will be very low. Often from a 1x to 3x magnification power. When somebody starts having problems reading a page, a magnifier might be the direction they go, thinking, “I will be able to see the whole page and not have to move it around.” However, as their vision changes, the page magnifiers are often not strong enough to allow the individual to see the letters clearly.

Low vision aids include various adaptive technology devices, such as magnifying reading glasses, handheld and stand magnifiers, loupes, and small telescopes. Magnifying devices are generally either handheld or mounted on a stand, and their zoom ranges from 2x to 10x.

Reading Glasses

Store-bought readers, often called cheaters, are readily found at popular pharmacies across the country and are frequently the first place an individual who does not wear glasses will turn when printed material becomes increasingly challenging to read. They come with lots of fun frames and are readily available. These lenses are in the lower power ranges from 1x to 3x magnification. Reading glasses help bring small text into focus through magnification, making text appear larger. The downside is that when wearing these single-vision glasses to magnify text, they also magnify everything you view through the lens. While suitable for close work, they may distort anything in the distance. This can cause headaches and other eye strain-related issues. If you find you are using cheaters frequently, this would be the time to have your eyes checked by your eye care professional. Bifocals, to many, are a dirty word, but the advantage to bifocal glasses is they only change part of your field of view. If you view something through the base of the lens, the text will appear larger or clearer, but if you look through the top of your glasses, objects appear as they would normally.

Points to Consider

Here are some key points to remember when choosing a magnifier:

Magnifiers come in many shapes and sizes. Answering some of the above questions will help evaluate the best fit.

Types of Magnifers

A low-vision specialist may prescribe several different low-vision optical devices for various tasks or help determine the correct type of device for your needs. These low-vision evaluations are often covered by health insurance.

As adaptive technology continues to improve the way of life for those with vision impairment, we are here to help. Whether you need more information about a low vision evaluation or a magnifier. Contact us to get started.

Doug smiling
Impact Stories Icon

Adaptive Technology, Impact Stories

Inspiring Aha Moments With Doug

Read More
close cropped photo of jane smiling
Impact Stories Icon

Adaptive Technology, Impact Stories

Jane’s Story: Moving Forward & Giving Back

Read More
Young visually-impaired Black man wearing headphones and reading a braille book.
Adaptive Technology Icon

Adaptive Technology

Braille Services

Read More
See All Resources