Types of loupe, triplet loupes, magnification, price and quality, pictures, examples.
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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 and testers are useless. Scroll down to see why loupes vary in quality, and the meaning of a 'triplet' lens.
What you will see through the lens
(scroll down to see examples of 30X)
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:
Example of a £3.00 loupe.
This really is the best photo I could take!
(This particular item is discontinued but we do have a slightly better-quality model, click here to see it)
Example of a £6.50 loupe, many traders like this one because the quality is quite 'acceptable' and they don't want to spend a lot of money, especially if they keep losing them.
Example of a £29.50 loupe, a large lens with virtually no distortion, and good contrast, quite impressive (by Quicktest).
Example of an £89.00 loupe
No distortion, high contrast and very few reflections. This one is by Zeiss, the best that you can buy.
EXAMPLES: 30X MAGNIFICATION, GENUINE AND FALSE
The pictures below show a British penny, so find a penny to see the actual size.
There seems to be a fashion for printing random numbers on magnifiers. Pictured above 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. A bargain at £2.00? I think not!
The one pictured above is typical of those I see at antiques fairs; again, the sellers insist they are 30X magnification. In reality. We DO sell these! They are really cheap. But we do not pretend they are 30X.
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, this is what you should see through a 30X. We do sell this one, 30X18. 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
The numbers: the first number is the magnification (e.g. 10X) and the second number is the diameter of the lens in millimetres (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.
If you really want to go stronger than 10X (though all genuine high-power loupes must be held very close to the object and you need a steady hand to keep them in focus): 15X12 or 20X12 5-element. 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).
For 'general purpose' (e.g. not tiny hallmarks, gemstones and rare coins) there are some nice loupes of magnification less than 10X, e.g. the English-made Gowlland, from 5X to 8X magnification.
Must be more powerful, must be small? - choose a pocket microscope.
The Best 4 Loupes We Sell
Some customers look at this articles and say, "Spare me pages of technical explanations, I'm a professional trader and don't have time for that, just give me a list of the best loupes!"
As usual, the first number is the magnification (e.g. 10X) and the second number is the diameter of the lens in millimetres (e.g. 20) - so 10X20 means 10X magnification with a lens diameter of 20mm.
Zeiss 10X20 (it splits into a 4X or 6X, or use them together to get a 10X)
Lens Quality including triplet loupes
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 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 triplet loupes are not triplets! - and the optical quality is so poor that the weaker magnifications give a fuzzy image and the stronger magnifications 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!
You can see this in the two pictures below. Both loupes are identical in outer appearance, even the markings ("10X18, 20X12") are the same. But the lense are completely different. On the left: fake (single lenses); on the right, genuine (triplet lenses).
Look at the PICTURE ON THE RIGHT, the left side of the loupe has three lenses cemented together (you can see where they are joined) and the right side has five (5-element), two of which comprise two lenses joined together, and the third is a single lens, all very precisely separated with metal spacers - that is why it costs £30.00, click here to see.
Now look at the PICTURE ONT THE LEFT, although the printing on the casing is exactly the same as the genuine version, both sides have single lenses; not only is the optical quality very poor but the magnifications are far less than stated. We do sell this one! But we don't pretend it has genuine triplet / 5-element lenses, and it's only £6.50, click here to see.
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.
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.
Different Types of Loupe and Where to Find Them
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
(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 millimetre 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.
- 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)