Binocular (Head-Worn) Magnifiers Compared
The following article is about head-worn magnifiers, to see a fascinating article about everything you ever need to know about magnifiers and magnification click here.
With simple lenses (the 'standard' type) the stronger the magnification, the closer the magnifier has to be to the object (the 'working distance'), so a magnifier of 2.5X magnification would give a working distance of 4 inches, at 4X this becomes 2.5 inches and at 7X it's 1.5 inches. Bear this in mind if you need to work with tools.
Therefore, for the standard binocular magnifiers (with simple lenses) you have a choice: a long working distance and low magnification, or a high magnification and a short working distance.
However, it is possible to get magnifiers made out of "little telescopes" (the type that surgeons use) which have a good amount of magnification and a long working distance.
As explained above, the magnification must be low if you want a good working distance. I particularly like the models with the interchangeable lenses, you get a choice of magnifications / working distances; these are especially good if you're not sure which you need, or if you tend to do different jobs requiring different lenses:
The simplest, binomag-L2, works fine, just two pairs of lenses (1.8 and 2.3X magnification); it also has an extra single lens (4.8X when combined with the others); the double light gives a wide 'floodlit' area. OK for 'occasional' use...and it's a discontinued line (only a few remaining) so the price is exceptionally good. This certainly isn't the cheapest but it's the cheapest that is 'OK' - the optical quality is acceptable, the headband design is crude but comfortable.
Good for reading text and the very occasional fiddly DIY job is binocmag-specs. The lenses are large-spectacle size, selection of three lenses (can be used in pairs, maximum 4.5X), better than any ready-made reading spectacles. Very similar and suitable for a wide variety of DIY jobs is binocmag-9892, with its selection of five lenses. Good for working in fuse cupboards, soldering wires or pipes in dark corners, poking about under floorboards or in lofts or behind computers, but not particularly comfortable to wear for long periods, e.g. on a workbench.
The most flexible and most comfortable to wear is binocmag-01H, it's sturdily built yet feels almost weightless due to the large adjustable headband, and it works just as well with or without spectacles. Good for long fiddly jobs or for serious use at a workbench. It has good effective LED lights (the light is adjustable, and is also removable); it has five pairs of lenses, making this the most versatile for magnification - combining the lenses (or using them singly) gives a selection of 20 different magnifications from 1.1X (working distance 9 inches) to 6X (working distance 1.5 inches) so you will be able to find the right combinations for any job. It's not small and neat to carry around it a bag (or unobtrusive to wear in a library) - but this is the best for both comfort and versatility.
By far the most poweful is binocmag-watchmaker. If you have set your mind on the most powerful, this is it! Combining various lenses gives 21 possible magnifications right up to 25X. But please be aware that all of of the magnifiers in this section ("Standard Type") use simple lenses with the rules listed at the top of this page: the more powerful the lenses the shorter the working distance. This means that once you are very close to the object, you lose stereo vision, you can only use one eye at a time. Personally, I rather like this one for watchmaking. If you're working on a pocket watch, set one side to about 4X for general work and the other to about 8X for more intricate work; or for wrist watches 6X and 10X; or for untangling a small hairspring, perhaps 15X. You will always have two 'watchmakers eyeglasses' and you can 'swap lenses' simply by closing one eye and opening the other - but you will never get stereo vision at these high magnifications (you would need either the surgeons-type or a stereo microscope).
For the absolutely best optical quality, binocmag-zeiss (choice of two models, identical except for the magnification). A no-frills headband magnifier with just one double lens, can be worn with or without glasses. So what's so special? It's by Zeiss. If you're going to be spending significant time at the workbench or lathe then, personally, I'd spend the extra and go for one of these, everything will appear so much clearer.
These are made of two miniature telescopes rather than 'simple' lenses. Not only is this the only way to get a long working distance with a relatively high magnification but the optical quality is absolutely superb - it really takes you aback, you can see (at 2.5X or 3X) tiny detail that you struggle to see through the standard models at twice the magnification.
Binocmag-S2-clip clips to spectacles. What I like about these is that they are so small and neat, slip them into their carrying case, put them in your bag. The downside is that you do notice the weight after a while, so I wouldn't recommend using it continuously for an hour or two. You can flip the magnifier upwards, out of the way, without having to take it off.
Binocmag-S4 is THE standard model of surgeons-type. Large easily-adjustable headband for maximum comfort, you can wear this for hours. There is also (as an optional extra) a light that can be clipped to the frame. You can flip the magnifier upwards, out of the way, without having to take it off.
Binocmag-8521-25 is a remarkably low price. Why? - because the construction is very simple. I do like the design, being so small and neat and having no fiddly adjustments to align them for your eyes. But there is a downside. They are pre-made (fixed) for an 'average' person, which means that if your eyes aren't averagely-spaced, they won't work for you - which means you have to try them out and send them back if they're not suitable. Also, if you ever drop / twist them, there are no adjustments to get them back to the way they were.
Which Working Distance?
Sit at your workbench / lathe / patient. Work. And get someone to measure the distance between your eyes and your fingers. It's that simple. You will find that 34cm (or 37cm) will work for a workbench; you will find that that 42cm will work for arms-stretched work (dentistry, lathe work, PCB in-situ.work, art renovation). The 50cm working distance is 'specialist' for examining the make-up of paintings in a gallery or exhibition exhibits in a showcase where you simply can't get any closer.
Incidentally, I used a 4.5X at my evening class where I learnt watch making. It gave me stereo vision at comfortable working distance for working on wrist watches, so much easier than using an eyeglass of the same magnification (which would give mono vision and just 3 inches working distance). For larger items such as pocket watches I found 3.5X magnification to be ample. And if you work on really large items, such as clocks, there really will be no need to go for more than 2.5X.
I also found it perfect for when the tutor needed to show me something. Instead of trying to get so close that our noses were touching, I could stand back and see everything he was doing.
Surgeons and Dentists
I call these 'surgeons-type' magnifiers'. I do not seriously expect surgeons to use these particular models. True surgeons magnifiers cost from £1500.00 (basic models) to £2500.00 with lights (though dentists tend to use cheaper models for under £1000.00). They will go to their optician who will check their prescription, take lots of measurements, then customise the magnifier. Ours are not custom-made, you will have to spend the first 10 to 15 minutes adjusting them to line up with your eyes (collimating them) - though you only have to do this once, then it will be correct for your eyes. Imagine a surgeon about to perform an emergency operation and finding someone has been playing with his magnifier and he has to spend 10 to 15 minutes adjusting them to line up with your eyes! If you are a surgeon, your department should have the budget to buy one that is custom-made (telephone Zeiss). ...HOWEVER... for a GP Practice that carries out minor ops or a dental practice, where the budget is more limited, ours are perfect.
- How to choose a magnifier (plus everything you would ever want to know about magnifying lenses)
- How to choose a jewellers' loupe (including examples of what you will see through loupes)
- 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)