Types of loupe, triplet loupes, magnification, price and quality, pictures, examples
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Examples of what you will see through the lense - 10X magnification
Examples of what you will see through the lense - 30X magnification
Recommendations (most popular) out of 45 models (£2.00 to £27.50)
Recommendations / reviews of the six best loupes (£24.50 to £89.00)
WHAT IS A LOUPE?
A loupe is a small folding magnifier, typically 10X magnification (though it can be as low as 5X or as high as 30X). When examining marks on jewellery or the quality of gemstones, or anything small (stamps, coins, insect & plant samples, PCB solder joints...) a loupe is your most important tool, without being able to see, all other tools are useless. Scroll down to see why loupes vary in quality, and the meaning of a 'triplet' lens.
The following is just a very approximate idea of the difference in quality between lenses. The pictures are 'approximate' because I've simply held my camera to each lens (not the best way to take a photograph), and photographs on a monitor are never as good as real life (you'll get a slightly better view if you click on each picture):
of a £3.00 loupe.
of a £6.00 loupe
of a £24.50 loupe
Just a tiny bit of distortion, good contrast
of an £89.00 loupe
EXAMPLES: 30X MAGNIFICATION, GENUINE AND FALSE
There seems to be a fashion for printing random numbers on magnifiers. Here is one I found at a market, marked '30X" (and guaranteed to be 30X by the seller) Even a novice should be able to see that the magnification is nominal and cannot possibly be 30X. Click on the picture to see close-up through the lens. A bargain at £2.00? I think not!
This one is typical of those I see at antiques fairs; again, the sellers insist they are 30X magnification. Click on the image, above, see close-up through the lens. In reality, they are not as good (or as powerful) as our donwmarket 10X magnification loupe 10X21, £4.50.
Click on the picture to see the view through lens. Making a true 30X magnification loupe is very difficult, it does have to be a good quality genuine triplet loupe for you to be able to see anything at all, but look at the result (click on the image, above), this is what you should see through a 30X. We do sell this one, 30X18, £35.00. You will (with any genuine 30X) be working about 3mm from the object, and the area you see will be absolutely tiny, and focusing will be very fiddly (if you move the lens 1mm too far or 1mm too close to the object, it goes out of focus). That's why I don't recommend 30X (or even 20X, except for very specialist applications).
RECOMMENDATIONS / MOST POPULAR (out of all 45 loupes we sell) - from £2.00 to £27.50
The numbers: the first number is the magnification (e.g. 10X) and the second number is the diameter of the lens in millimeters (e.g. 20) - so 10X20 means 10X magnification with a lens diameter of 20mm. Some customers express surprise, when they receive a loupe, because the size is not as they had imagined (see our feedback!), it may be worthwhile looking at a ruler.
The most powerful (quality quite good, and you can keep them in focus if you have a steady hand): 15X12, £16.50 or 20X12 5-element, £19.50. There are many loupes that are larger and / or more powerful (see a selection) but you cannot maintain good quality and high power and large lens size, it simply is not possible (you would need a microscope). .
Budget, 10X12, £6.50 is the one many traders choose, because they keep losing them and don't want to spend much money and the quality is "acceptable". Our most popular budget loupe is a 10X21, £4.50, I notice that, at our stand, customers who buy these never look through them, they just want the largest jeweller's loupe at the lowest price (you do, of course, get precisely £4.50-worth of lens...not to be confused with the identical-looking 10X21 at £27.50). In this category I would include a range of English-made loupes by Gowlland, from 5X to 8X magnification.
Cheapies just like you see on eBay or in street markets, the specification looks good but you are not buying the best quality lenses [I would like to say, "you are buying the worst possible lenses" but my colleagues tell me I must never say anything negative about our products]: 10X15, £2.00; or 3 single lenses on top of each other, combine to make 3.3X or 6.6X or (near enough 10X), £3.00; or Double Folding Magnifier, 2 lenses, 6X or 8X or (together) 14X, £5.00. But there is one I quite like, a larger magnifier (30mm), 2 lenses, 5X or 5X or (together) 10X, £4.50, it's a copy of a Bausch & Lomb magnifier and it is very nicely made, by no means the quality of the good loupes described above but really not bad for £4.50.
Larger lenses come in many sizes and strengths, they are not, technically, "loupes", but if you want something larger (and, by definition, lower power) we do have quite a selection.
Must be more powerful, must be small? - choose a pocket microscope.
Here are detailed comparisons between the following loupes:
Zeiss (German) 9X20 (it splits into a 3X or 6X, or use them together to get a 9X), £89.00
Eschenbach (German) 9X20 (it splits into a 3X or 6X, or use them together to get a 9X), £75.00
Zeiss (German) 10X13, £69.00
Eschenbach (German) 10X20, £42.50
Quicktest (made in China for Quicktest) 10X20, £24.50
Unbranded (made in China) 10X12 4-element, £17.50
start with the two most expensive, the DOUBLE Zeiss
double loupes. I have spent some considerable time comparing them and,
even as an expert, I am really struggling to see any difference. They
are the same in lens size and magnification, they are the same as regards
sharpness, they are the same as regards lack of distortion, even at the
very edges, they really are the same. If you want me to find some differences:
My guess, which would explain all of the above, is that both loupes use the same lenses but slightly different coatings.
So how would you choose between the two?
- the casings are slightly different shapes, the Eschenbach has a little loop so that you can attach a chain, you cannot attach a chain to the Zeiss
- The Eschenbach is quite 'fancy' in its design, the Zeiss is very traditional, personally I prefer the 'feel' of the Zeiss, I find the Eschenbach too 'chunky'
- The Eschenbach costs far less than the Zeiss
- The Zeiss carries the 'Zeiss' name, everyone has heard of Zeiss, not so many have heard of Eschenbach
- both have the advantage of being split into a 3X and 6X (and use both together to get 9X), if you don't need the lower magnification, don't buy either of them, go for one of the following single 10X:
Comparing the SINGLE Zeiss 10X13 and the Eschenbach 10X20 doesn't quite work, because they are different sizes. Furthermore, the Zeiss is, actually, very slightly more powerful than the Eschenbach (slightly more than 10X) even though they are both described as "10X". For sharpness, lack of distortion and contrast, they are as good as each other. For overall size, the Zeiss is considerably smaller which you might prefer, especially if you want to carry it in your pocket and not know that it's there. However, the larger lens of the Eschenbach (and it's very slightly lower power) does give a wider field of view, and a lot of people do feel more comfortable using larger lenses...although...it depends on what you are looking at: inclusions in gemstones, the milling around coins, the printing on stamps, tiny hallmarks on jewellery, they're so small that the smaller lens is fine; prints, paintings and photographs, large marks on silver or furniture - go for the Eschenbach. If I'm really not helping here (because the two are so similar) then decide either on price (take the Eschenbach) or the better-known name and slightly higher magnification (take the Zeiss).
Comparing the Eschenbach 10X20 (£43.00) with the QUICKTEST 10X20 (£24.50) is a good comparison because both have the same magnification and the same lens size. As an expert, it took me about 30 seconds to see that the Eschenbach is better, but what came as a surprise to me was:
- it took me 30 seconds, if the QUICKTEST 10X20 wasn't an absolutely top quality loupe, it would have taken me 3 seconds to see the difference
- the QUICKTEST 10X20 shows some distortion around the very very edge (you can see this in the picture at the very top of this page) but apart from that, the two loupes are the same in sharpness, I was amazed, I had expected the Eschenbach to be far better! My conclusion:
- for value (top quality and price) go for the QUICKTEST 10X20 (£24.50)
- if you are prepared to pay nearly twice the price for the slight edge of quality (but, nevertheless, the best) then go for the Eschenbach 10X20 (£43.00).
Finally, as I said above, the Zeiss 10X isn't really comparable to the two 10X20s because it's so much smaller (13mm dia. lens instead of 20mm); there is one more loupe you might consider. We have an unbranded 10X12 4-element which IS, in my expert opinion, every bit as good as the Zeiss 10X13, but it's even smaller than the Zeiss (12mm diameter lens). This is the loupe I use myself, because I always prefer quality over size, and you really don't need a big lens for looking at very tiny items (for more details, see above).
The very simplest loupes contain just one lens; better loupes contain two (doublets), very good loupes contain three (triplets) and a few contain five ("five element"). These lenses (elements) are placed on top of each other, and each corrects for the distortions of the previous. Since all the lenses are transparent, the overall appearance is of just one lens.
There is a company selling "triplet loupes" who have registered the trade name Triplet and who claim that only they sell genuine Triplet quality.They are correct in that, having registered the name Triplet, it is only they who sell their own-brand (being 'Triplet') - however their loupes are not triplets! - and the optical quality is so poor that the weaker loupes give a fuzzy image and the stronger loupes are so bad they are unusable.
Now I have no objection to other companies selling loupes, but registering the name Triplet and selling loupes that are not triplets...that is not right!
following example is of a a double loupe, one side is a 10X and the other
side is a 20X. They are identical in outer appearance, even the markings
("10X18, 20X12") are the same.
Look at the PICTURE ON THE LEFT. It has two single lenses, not 'triplet', not '5-element'. On the metal casing of the magnifier the big lens is marked "10X Triplet" and the small lens is marked "20X, 5-element" - this is completely untrue, one is 7X and the other is 10X. The 7X lens is OK in quality (for a 7X), the 10X lens is such poor quality that it is virtually unusable. When I say, 'virtually unusable' I mean that only the very middle of the lens can be made to focus but most of the image will be fuzzy. This is not (as many people think) a fault of their eyes, but simply because the lens quality is poor. We sell this loupe for £5.00 with discounts for quantity.
Now look closely at the PICTURE ON THE RIGHT (you may have to click on it to enlarge), the left lens is a triplet, it is made of three lenses ("elements") cemented together (you can see where they are joined), the right hand lens is a 5-element (two of the lenses are each made of two lenses joined together, and the third is a single lens, all very precisely separated with metal spacers). We sell this loupe for £30.00.
Please do remember that when you use these loupes (without taking them apart!) you can't see how many lenses there are in each section, because each lens (element) is transparent. It is the number of elements and the quality of the lens that makes good or bad quality.
Do not confuse a triplet lens (one lens containing more than one element) with a loupe that has two or three separate lenses. These can be one loupe one side, another loupe the other, as pictured above); or they can be two or three separate lenses that swing out on top of each other (again, each section may or may not be a triplet).
DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOUPE - WHERE TO FIND THEM ON OUR WEBSITE
On this website I have divided our dozens of models into the following categories:
10X magnification. This is the standard strength for hallmarks on jewellery and other small marks, diamonds and gemstones, stamps, coins and banknotes, insect and plants samples, paper and fabrics.
Dual magnification, where lenses slide on top of each other to give a selection of magnifications
Loupes that clip to spectacles, (actual loupes, not 'eyeglasses')
WHICH MAGNIFICATION? (more information in the article, How to Choose a Magnifier)
As regards magnification, there are very few uses for anything more powerful than 10X.
For extra power you might want to try a 15X (I'd recommend the 15X12, i.e. 15X magnification, 12mm diameter lens), if you go for a larger lens (e.g. 15X21) the optical quality will not be as good. A 15X lens needs a steady hand to keep it in focus.
If you have to read particularly small laser-engraving on diamonds (writing that is a fraction of a millimeter in size) then do go for a 20X, for quality I prefer the smaller 20X12 5-element loupe to the larger sizes. But, generally, 20X is too powerful, you lose image quality and focusing is very difficult.
By the time you get up to 30X you are asking the near-impossible, though we do sell one, a 30X18 triplet. You will have to hold the lens about 8mm from the object (to get it to focus) and it will go out of focus if you move the lens 2mm closer or 2mm further away, and the image will appear be dark and it will be distorted around the edges - because it simply isn't possible to make good loupes this powerful....though, all this said, our 30X is actually a 30X, unlike most loupes I see at fairs and markets which are marked "30X" but are really 8X or 10X.
If you want a loupe more powerful than 30X - you are just being silly, you need to go for a microscope. We do sell a tiny (not much larger than a loupe!) microscope which is 45X magnification. It includes its own powerful adjustable light, because, at this strength, the lens must be almost touching the object, and this makes everything too dark to see unless you have a powerful light - which this little microscope does. Because it must be held so close, it is really only suitable for flat objects, e.g. stamps and coins; the very surface of plant or insect samples; documents, photographs and banknotes (you'll see the dots that make up the print).
It is better, of course, to go for a full-size microscope, prices from £139.00 to £1400.00.
How to choose a magnifier (plus everything you would ever want to know about magnifying lenses)
How choose a binocular headband magnifier (from simple hobby model to a professional surgeons / dentists models)
How to choose a magnifier for the partially sighted (specialist low vision aids including lenses and video magnifiers)
How to choose a video magnifier (from small pocket-size electronic readers to a large table model)
How to choose a UV loupe (ultra violet light)
Calculator (Excel format) - enter the magnification, it tells you the working distance, or enter the working distance, it tells you the magnification.
How to choose a stereo binocular microscope (all sizes and magnifications)
Professional USB microscope attachment (it replaces the eyepiece of your microscope)
QUICKTEST, Watford, WD18 8PH, Tel. 01923 220206, email info(at)quicktest.co.uk