Types of loupe, triplet loupes, magnification, price and quality, pictures, examples.
BUY LOUPES: CLICK ON THE PICTURE
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. Click on on each picture to get a slightly better view:
Example of a £3.00 loupe.
This really is the best photo I could take!
Example of a £29.50 loupe
Just a tiny bit of distortion, good contrast
Example of an £89.00 loupe
No distortion, high contrast
and very few reflections.
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. We do sell these! They are really cheap. But we do not pretend they are 30X.
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. 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 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.
My personal favourites. Quite small but remarkably good quality, 10X12 4-element; or the best of the large triplet lenses 10X20. If you want a reasonably good lens but want something much larger than the 10X12 4-element and cheaper than the 10X20 then the 10X18 is a good compromise, a good quality lens, a true triplet (see below).
The absolute best - scroll down to see my recommendations / detailed reviews of four loupes from £42.50 to £89.00 and how they compare with those listed above.
The most powerful (quality quite good, and you can keep them in focus if you have a steady hand): 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). .
Budget, 10X12 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, 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; or 3 single lenses on top of each other, combine to make 3.3X or 6.6X or (near enough 10X); or Double Folding Magnifier, 2 lenses, 6X or 8X or (together) 14X. 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.
The Best 6 Loupes We Sell
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.
Here are detailed comparisons between the following loupes:
Quicktest (made in China for Quicktest) 10X20
Let's start with the two most expensive, the DOUBLE Zeiss and Eschenbach 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:
- the Eschenbach is very slightly better for contrast, showing the difference between subtle shades of gray
- the Zeiss is very slightly better as regards reflections, if you're working under bad light (e.g. an overhead light shining from above) other loupes do show some reflections coming from the surface of the lens, the Zeiss has a special anti-reflective coating.
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? If you are totally taken aback at the price of the Zeiss, then go for the Eschenbach, it's much cheaper. Cost aside, I prefer the Zeiss, I prefer it because it's nice to hold, you can hold it in one hand and 'flip' it open with your thumb. The Eschenbach is a fancy shape that I find clunky, too large to fit comfortably in your pocket, awkward to hold in the hand.
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 I far prefer.
How do the two 10X loupes above (Zeiss 10X13 and Eschenbach 10X20) compare with the QUICKTEST 10X20, and our tiny 10X12 4-element loupe?
Comparing the Eschenbach 10X20 with the QUICKTEST 10X20 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 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
- 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.
There is one more loupe you might consider. As I said above, the Zeiss 10X13 isn't really comparable with the two 10X20s (it's 13mm diameter compared with 20mm). But the 10X12 4-element (i.e. 12mm diameter lens) is, a goo alternative to the Zeiss. It is, in my expert opinion, every bit as good as the Zeiss 10X13. But it's slightly smaller than the Zeiss. 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. HOWEVER, please look at a ruler to see how big 12mm is, some customers return this, saying they didn't realise it would be so small...so I'm telling you: 12mm.
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 (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 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!
The 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.
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). This loupe costs £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 (these tend to be relatively poor quality).
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, 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)