Video magnifiers compared

Contents

Introduction
What are Video Magnifiers?
Advantages of Video Magnifiers

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Introduction

There are many words for these: portable reading aid, digital magnifier, LCD magnifier, low vision electronic reader, magnifier camera.

 

This is the desk model:

It connects to a computer (computer and monitor not supplied) for reading and it can be switched to 'distance'.

This is the handheld model 

Aumed video magnifier Eye-K (3.5 inch screen)

Scroll down (or click here) to read all about video magnifiers.


Aumed video magnifier, model EyeU-5" (5 inch screen)

If you have a permanent chronic eye condition, then you don't have to pay the VAT, download a form.

What are Video Magnifiers?

These are known as digital magnifiers, video magnifiers, LCD magnifiers, low vision electronic readers.

The handheld versions are made out of a video camera on the back of a screen, a very bright light and a stand so that it can, if you wish, be slid along the page. They vary from the size of the smallest phone to the a large tablet computer. Since these are specialist readers, they are far better than any app. you will get for your phone!

Advantages of Video Magnifiers

HANDHELD MODELS

- these have powerful built-in lights. Lighting is as important as magnification. The best magnifier will be of little use in dim light (that's partly why apps on phones aren't good enough).

- even with the most basic handheld model you can vary the magnification (zoom), something you can't do with lenses. The size of print can vary from tiny (the small print on a form) to large-ish (a large print book) so being able to change the magnification is a useful; also, if you have a degenerative eye condition, you can increase the magnification as your eyes deteriorate.

- a standard feature is to change the colour of the text and background. White on black, for instance, is much easier to see than black on white. Other colour combinations help users with various eye conditions.

- another standard feature is to 'freeze frame' (like taking a photo). If you can't easily see the object (a timetable at a bus stop, a tin on a supermarket shelf) you can point the magnifier at the item, press a button, and the image stays on the screen. Then you can then read it at your leisure (the better models even enable you to magnify the 'frozen' image).

DESK MODELS

Desk models have (or connect to) a large monitor. If your eyesight is so poor that you really do need to display each word 12 inches across X 3 inches high - then a desk model really is the only way to do it, if you try to make the print this large on a handheld viewer you will only see one letter at a time. Low magnifications (if you don't need super-high magnification) enable you to see an entire page at one go.

Size and Quality

A larger screen will show a larger area (obviously). For handheld models this is like choosing between a small or large mobile phone or tablet. You therefore need to compromise: a small screen that will fit neatly into your pocket, to carry around, or a larger screen that will show you more words at one go, but will be bulky. TIP: when you look at the items on the web site, look at each picture with the hand so see the relative sizes.

The smaller screens are good for occasional use, e.g. menus, supermarket shopping, bus timetables, occasional reading of mail or football results, TV listings etc, but might only show two or three words at a time; larger screens will be bulky to carry around but are much nicer if you want to read books and magazines.

As with lenses, don't get obsessed with magnification: as the magnification gets higher, the quality suffers, and this applies to any size of screen. 2X to 4X magnification? The quality is good. 5X to 6X? OK, just about. 7X to 10X? You really are losing quality here, the image will be a bit fuzzy. Yet you can turn digital magnifiers up to 20X or 30X. The result is the same as you get when zooming into a tiny detail in the far distance in a digital photo - not good. It really doesn't matter if you have the best camera and the best screen, you are still viewing little dots of colour on a screen and at high magnifications you get to see...dots. For this reason do not use a video magnifier as a microscope. For instance, for small insects, inclusions in gemstones, die marks on coins, laser-engraving on diamonds, razor blade edges, soldering on micro-circuits, jewels in wrist watches - just buy yourself an ordinary optical microscope.

Why can't you get video magnifiers and video microscopes the same quality as lenses? Surely, with modern technology.

Think of it this way. This (dots) that make up the picture are 0.2mm across. The ‘dots’ of light you see through a lens (in terms of wavelength) are 0.00055mm across. In other words, nature’s light is of better quality than any manmade screen.

However, for reading (rather than scientific applications) and providing you don't expect to get a clear image at amazing magnifications, video magnifiers have features you cannot possibly get with a lens.

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Examples of different magnifications (this is from the Eye-II digital magnifier)

Lowest magnification, 2X:

Magnification 5X:

Magnification 10X:

Magnification 30X: