BINOCULAR MAGNIFIERS COMPARED

Standard headband (head-worn) binocular magnifiers, with or without lights.
Surgeons head-mounted binocular magnifiers give high magnification and a long working distance.

 

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We sell 16 different head-worn binocular magnifiers, most of which come in a choice of magnifications; not only do they give stereo vision but they also leave the hands free to work. Some clip to spectacles, some are worn over the head on a headband. They vary from standard binocular magnifiers (from £8.50) to the binocular magnifiers worn by dentists and surgeons (up to £290.00).


THE RULES

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 (100mm), at 4X this becomes 2.5 inches (about 60mm) and at 7X it's 1.5 inches (40mm). In other words, not really enough room to work with tools.

There is another problem with having to get very close to the object. Imagine wearing a binocular magnifier and viewing an object from an inch or two away - you will not be able to use both eyes, you will be too close, you will lose binocular vision, hold your finger two inches from your eyes and you will see what I mean.

Therefore, for the standard binocular magnifiers you have a choice: keep the magnification low to get a decent working distance, or make the magnification stronger but suffer a very 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 (scroll down very slightly).

STANDARD TYPE

The choices are: clip to spectacles, or wear around the head on a headband; with or without a light. As explained above, the magnifications tend to be low in order to keep a good working distance. I particularly like the models with the interchangeable lenses, they include a selection of lenses which you can combine, so that you have a choice of magnification.

Which one?

If you don't wear spectacles you will need the headband version (though spectacle-wearers can also use these, they fold down over the spectacles). Although I think the two 'cheapies' (cheapie 1 and cheapie 2) are unspectacular in quality, they might be OK for the very occasional repair job.

Those that come with a selection of lenses are a good idea if you tend to do different jobs that require different magnifications, e.g. changing a fuse in a dark cupboard one day (popular with electricians), gluing an antique vase the next day, reading a book in bed the next day. These are also a good choice if you don't know which magnification you need and want to experiment. There are three models:

The Binocular headband magnifier, 5 lenses can be used singly or in pairs, ref.binocmag-01H £21.50 - this is the best 'all-purpose' model, and the most comfortable to wear, especially for long periods. It is sturdily built yet feels almost weightless due to the special construction of the headband; it has good effective LED lights; it has five pairs of lenses, making this the most versatile for magnification - combining the lenses (or using them singly) gives a possible 20 different magnifications from 1.1X (working distance 9 inches) to 6X (working distance 1.5 inches). A simpler model is the Binocular headband magnifier, 4 lenses including 'visor' lens , ref: binocmag-1003, £17.50; it has a single LED light; it has three pairs of lenses (magnifications 3.8X, 4½X, and 5.5X) and it has a huge 'visor' lens (2X) which I especially like for reading; I also like the simple design which makes it both lightweight and compact to carry.

My colleague likes the headband magnifiers, he says they are more comfortable than those that clip to spectacles, he uses them for repairing clocks, and I know two people who use them when working on a lathe, I think the 'closed in' feeling makes them feel 'secure'.

Two of my partially-sighted 'testers' tried the clip-to-spectacles lenses with light, £12.50. One said it was 'OK' but that he 'couldn't be bothered with it' (he simply preferred to hold a magnifier); the other said it was very good because of the light, it always pointed at the page, unlike a bedside light (you turn over, to get comfortable...no light). The magnifier does have to be clipped onto your spectacles straight (when lopsided you get distorted vision). None of my partially-sighted 'testers' liked the headband magnifiers, they said they were too large, they wouldn't even try them!

If you wish to read about the many different types of magnifiers and their uses, see my main article, or if you really can't be bothered to read another article, you jump straight its recommendations section.



SURGEONS' TYPE

What is the difference between the three models?

There are three models: one is fixed to a pair of spectacles (included); one clips to your own spectacles; one is built onto a lightweight headband that is perfectly balanced. Each model comes in a variety of magnifications / working distances (i.e. you buy a model of a magnification / working distance that suits you). Prices from £120.00 to £290.00. Unlike standard magnifiers, with these you can achieve a good magnification and a long working distance.

Although there is not a huge amount of difference, the third model (the one on the headband) is slightly better in optical quality, and it has other advantages - it is mounted on a large, but lightweight, headband, which makes it very comfortable to wear for prolonged periods and easier to set up (collimate) for your eyes. But, as I say, there isn't a huge amount of difference in optical quality between the three models, most people couldn't tell the difference, they are all superb.


Which working distance?


Choose 12 inch (30cm) or 34cm working distance for jewellery, clock and watch repairing, model-making and other close-up jobs. Choose 42cm for arms-length work such as dentistry, standing at a lathe or working on machines "in-situ." There is one size of the headband version with a working distance of 50cm (longer than most people's arms) and this would be suitable for looking at a computer monitor, or the make-up of paintings in a gallery, or exhibition exhibits in showcases.


Which magnification?

For working with very small items, such as watch making, painting miniatures, renovating paintings, gluing porcelain - any job where you really do need to see every spec of dust, go for the 4.5X magnification. For all other jobs, including close lathe work, clock repairing, model making and soldering, the 3X will be ample, there really is no need for anything stronger. So howabout a 6X? You might want to go for 6X if you are untangling small watch spring or turning steel on a lathe to within 0.2mm, but even then - 4.5X would probably be high enough.

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 2X or 3X.

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 perfectly. This also give me an idea. You could view finely-made items in museum showcases, since there would be no other way of getting close enough to use a magnifier. I digress. My point is that there really is no need for a high magnification.


SURGEONS AND DENTISTS

Although I call these 'surgeons' magnifiers' I do not seriously expect them to be used in operating theatres; those cost from £1200.00 (basic models) to £2500.00 (with lighting systems). This is because a surgeon will go to his optician who will check his prescription, takes lots of measurements, and then make the magnifier to suit his eyes. Ours are not custom-made and so you will have to spend the first 10 to 15 minutes adjusting it to line up with your eyes (collimating it) - though you only have to do this once, then it will be correct for your eyes. If you are a surgeon you won't expect to collimate a magnifier, your department should have the budget to buy one that is custom-made (imagine being about to perform an emergency operation and finding someone has been playing with your magnifier and you have to stop for 10 minutes to collimate it).

...however...

for a GP Practice that carries out small-ops or a dental practice, where there is no way the budget will stretch to £2000.00, go for one of ours, I absolutely recommend them!

 

RELATED ARTICLES

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)

 

 

 

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