How To Choose The Right Magnifier

If you need a visual aid and are unsure whether to choose
an eye loupe, a monocle or a standard magnifying glass,
read this article before ordering your next magnifier.

When customers call in to order a magnifier and are unsure of the type or model
that they need, our first question to them is:

What is the intended use?

As with all other tools, magnifying lenses come in many sizes, types, shapes and strengths and (as with tools) bigger and stronger isn't always the best choice for the job.

Let's put it this way; if you are a size 9, would you buy a pair of size 11 shoes ... just because bigger is better? Of course not! So, deciding on the type and strength of magnifier that's right for the intended purpose is more important than going for the
biggest and most powerful unit that one can find.

Reading Magnifiers, Inspection Loupes, Hands-Free Monocles

Even though there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of different models on the open market, they can all be categorized in one of the above types and each type has a specific use.

Reading Magnifiers:

Definitely the most popular, reading magnifiers come in the widest variety of size, shape and strength. The most common, also known as the Sherlock Holmes Magnifier, is the classic handheld round magnifying glass. Do not limit, however, your choice to the old classic style (unless you want to) as now they come with many options and features: Some with light, some have legs, some are attached to a necklace, some can be worn
like a hat or visor and some can be attached on your prescription glasses.

Their sizes vary between 1-inch and 6 inches and they are between 2x and 5x in strength (some stronger units are also available but keep in mind that, usually, the stronger the power, the smaller the magnifier and the shorter the focal distance).

Unless you are severely vision impaired, do not choose a 15x or stronger loupe to read the newspaper or your favorite book because, besides the discomfort of having to keep the loupe right under you eye and the reading material one to three inches from your eyes, you'd be able to read only a few letters at a time!

Some vision impaired customers, especially those affected by macular degeneration, tend to prefer units that are between 5x and 10x in strength and that have a light source built-in. Bright light, in their experience, is as important as strong magnification.

Of course, this type of magnifier is also widely used in a variety of applications; to inspect plants, minerals, art ... and by anyone who just wants to see something larger.

Inspection Loupes:

Widely used in the jewelry environment, this type of magnifying glass is usually very small (between 12 mm and 30 mm) and very powerful (10x to 30x). Its main purpose is
to inspect gems, settings and other small items. It's not recommended for reading as it has a very short focusing distance.

To properly use an eye loupe, one side of the lens must be placed right under one eye and the object to be examined directly under the other side. Do not attempt to use a jewelry loupe like a regular magnifier as you'd get upside down images and plenty of distortion.

The object to be examined must be smaller than the circumference of the lens, to allow light to seep through. Placing printed pages or large objects under the glass would cover the lens and obscure the view. Some newer models come with built-in LED light, to improve vision in a dark environment, but ... if the lens is fully covered, the light won't
be of much use!

Hands-Free Monocles:

Also known as "watchmaker loupes", these magnifiers are designed to allow handsfree operation. Somewhere between a reading magnifier and a jewelers' loupe, handsfree monocles are ideal for crafting work as, besides the obvious benefit of having both hands free for the job, they usually have a medium focal distance (2-4 inches), various levels of magnification (2x-10x) and aren't as restrictive to use as jewelry loupes.

Customers with very serious vision impairment tend to favor one of these units to
read 2-4 words at a time. Not much but, for extreme cases, they are more suitable
than jewelry loupes.

One big drawback of the old classic monocles was the fact that, in order to keep
them firmly in the eye, one had to scrunch the face and train the eye muscles to stay positioned in a certain way for extended periods of time ... or they would pop out and jump away. When I was a child (I grew up in the business) I thought that in order to be
a proficient watchmaker one had to have a deformed face!

Modern models come with headbands or clips, to be attached to prescription glasses,
so they can be used for extended periods of time without straining facial muscles.


About The Author:
Ettore del Pozzo is owner and operator of and
Both websites offer a vast selection of Loupes, Magnifiers and other visual aids.

Home | Lobby | Magnifiers | Hourglasses | Scales | Tools | Knives | Binoculars | Jewelry | Decorative | Contact