Magnifiers for the Partially Sighted (Low Vision Aids)
LVA - Low Vision aids, powerful reading magnifiers
Before buying a magnifier please check with your optician / eye doctor. If your purchase is not suitable you may return it within 14 days of receipt, you could even buy two or three and keep the most suitable. However, there are many conditions (e.g. advanced macular degeneration) for which no magnifier will help, so please check with your optician / eye doctor.
These magnifiers are high quality (they give a very clear image) and are the best for the partially-sighted (visually impaired). They are also suitable for anyone who doesn't like to use their reading spectacles or who cannot read clearly even with their reading spectacles. Fascinating Fact (according to my optician): most people who wear vari-focal lenses (progressive lenses) can't use them for reading, they simply 'don't get on with them'.
1.2X to 3X is what you should be choosing for 'just a bit of help' when reading, e.g. if you like to use a magnifier rather than reading spectacles.
If your eye sight is bad enough to need a magnifier even with your reading spectacles, go for 4X to 5X.
More powerful will show you more detail but (see below) the higher the magnification the closer you have to hold the magnifier to the page and the less you will see in area, e.g. at 7X, less than one word at a time; at 10X, just one or two letters at a time. There is no choice about this - this is how lenses work.
More about Magnification
Firstly, with a lens there is a rule. If you want to see a wide area, the lens will be large, you will hold it a few inches away from the object, and the magnification will be low. If you want high magnification, the reading area will be small (covering maybe two or three words at a time, maybe two or three letters at a time), you will have to hold the lens close to the object and the lens size will be small. This is not a choice, this is how lenses work. For a full explanation see my article about magnification.
Secondly, don't get obsessed about magnification, using a low magnification of high quality is easier than a higher magnification of poor quality. Don't just look at the magnification, look at the distortion (a wavy image around the edge), look at the contrast (how the text stands out against the background), imagine moving the magnifier along a line of text (a poor quality lens will make you feel seasick).
Lighting is all-important, you must have bright daylight, or good diffuse overhead lighting, or an adjustable light that you can point at the object - then simply choose any good quality reading magnifier.
If you are using an adjustable light, spend a few minutes working out how to position the light.
This applies both to small magnifiers (a small magnifier must be held very close to the object) and large magnifiers (a large magnifier must be held further away).
With a small magnifier you must shine the light onto the page and hold the magnifier away from the direct light, as shown in the top picture, above. The actual light fitting doesn't have to be underneath the magnifier (it will get in the way) but you must angle it so that the light is pointing under the magnifier. Do not position the light as shown in the bottom picture, with the light shining directly onto the top of the magnifier, all you will see is reflections.
The same applies to this large magnifier, though you can, if there is room, position the light underneath the magnifier.
We get many enquiries about magnifiers suitable for macular degeneration. It depends. If the 'blank spots' are slight or are on the edge of your field of vision, the brain will 'stitch together' the fragments of vision, a magnifier might make all the difference. However, if there's a large 'blank spot' in centre of the field of vision (i.e.when looking straight ahead) then no magnifier will help because you don't have any vision when you look straight ahead. There's no harm in trying out some magnifiers, if they are unsuitable simply return them within 14 days. My only tip is: go for the best quality you can afford, a cheap lenses won't give a clear enough image. My recommendation, here, is the 5X55 Schweizer.
For watching TV we have a special TV magnifier. However, if you have no vision in the centre of your field of view (i.e. when look straight ahead) then siting at a normal distance from the TV and looking straight ahead through the magnifier simply won't help. The solution is to get a larger TV and sit very close to it.
Which magnifier? (recommendations)
HANDHELD LENSES UP TO £5.00
We have many simple, small (and really quite powerful) pocket magnifiers for under £5.00. We also have a credit-card size magnifier or mini-Fresnels. Even if you are buying an expensive magnifier, it's good to have a selection of cheapies to keep in each pocket, bag, wallet and purse. Then each time you find yourself without your 'main' magnifier and desperate to read the label on a jar, the time of the next bus or the menu in a café - you will be prepared. But please don't expect to read books and magazines with these.
HANDHELD LENSES UP TO £20.00
If your eye condition isn't too bad, you may-well find that a standard large lens is quite adequate, go for a standard reader with a handle, those with the large round lenses are best; or one of the larger flat (Fresnel) readers.
HANDHELD LENSES UP TO £60.00
For a good specialist magnifier for the partially sighted it really is worth spending £30.00 to £60.00. Many people say to us, "I've tried every magnifier and can't find anything that works for me!" - and it turns out that they continuously buy magnifiers for £5.00 or £10.00, and they simply are not good enough! So please be prepared to spend up to £60.00 for a specialist magnifier. Recommended: 5X55 Schweizer.
If you are going to leave a magnifier plugged in and have no need to move it or carry it around, and providing you have room, then I recommend either of the mains-powered magnifiers.
HEAD-WORN TV MAGNIFIER
There is a special spectacle-type TV magnifier for watching TV, also suitable for use in lecture halls and theatres (providing you're not sitting too far away).
I use one of these myself (I am not partially sighted). I go to a photographic society where they have competitions showing prints. Each print is displayed at the front of the hall and inspected by a judge who peers at each one very closely. For us in the audience it's well-nigh impossible to see them, they are just too far away. These TV magnifiers are compact and unobtrusive and the quality is so good that I can see every detail in the photograph.
If you are registered blind or partially sighted, fill in our VAT-free form, give us your registration number, then when you order will will manually remove the VAT before taking the money from your card.
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