Do you find that you have trouble seeing small details up close? This happens to most of us as we age, and there isn’t much we can do about it, except find ways to overcome the issue. One of the most common things that we tend to do is use a magnifying glass with light. While we use these devices each and every day, most of us probably have never stopped to think about how they actually work. Let’s find out.
A Simple Microscope
A magnifying glass is basically a simplified microscope. It is a convex lens that when held up to an object, that object looks larger. When we think of the traditional magnifying glass, our minds tend to automatically think of detectives such as Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew. They knew the value of a good magnifying glass, and used them to look for clues at crime scenes.
The magnifying glass is nothing new. In fact, it just might be one of the oldest inventions that is still in use today. In 1021, Alhazen, a master scientist, created the first magnifying glass. Alhazen also published “The Book of Optics”, which discussed a variety of optic devices and ideas. One of the devices described is what we know today as a magnifying glass, and this early invention has led to the invention of many other optical instruments, including microscopes.
How does it Work?
Let’s take a look at how a magnifying glass actually works. First of all, the lens is curved, which is how it can enlarge objects. Think about how large something looks under a drop of water. It is pretty much the same principle. The strength of the magnification depends on the curvature of the lens, as well as the thickness.
How much magnification one can get from a glass is decided by two factors: the power of the lens itself; and the distance between your eye and the object you are looking at. For instance, a 2X magnifier would double the size of an object. This is often the strength of the cheaper magnifying glasses that people who have good eyesight tend to use. Those with poorer eyesight need to use much stronger lenses.
Only the area that you can see through the glass is going to be enlarged. Anything else around it is still going to appear as its normal size. There are varying focal distances on magnifying glasses, and you can find your best viewing distance by moving the lens farther away from or closer to the object you are viewing. The preference of most people is to keep the magnifying glass closer to their eyes than to the object.
Types of Magnifiers
Now we are going to look at the various types of magnifiers. We will start out with the basics, and finish off with information about magnifying lamps, which are becoming more and more popular all the time. So, what are the different types of magnifiers you can get? Let’s take a look.
- Hand-Held Magnifiers – If you just need to see something larger, quickly, a hand-held magnifier is just the thing you should be using. You can pick it up and look through it to enlarge things like menus, price tags, recipes, prescriptions, etc. Many people carry one of these in a pocket or purse because they can come in pretty handy at times.
- Stand Magnifiers – These are great to have when you are reading a book and you don’t feel like holding onto a hand-held magnifying glass. You can place it right over the page and it will stay there. These can be set on desks or other surfaces. This is one of the best types of magnifiers to use in the kitchen when you need to see a recipe but also need to keep both hands free.
- Spectacle Magnifiers – These are also known as reading glasses, and they are a lot handier than the hand-held magnifier. You can get this type of magnifier in a variety of styles and strengths, so there is sure to be a pair that will suit your needs perfectly. Keep them with you, and you will always be able to read the fine print in stores, price tags, contacts, etc.
- Telescopic Vision Aids – Most people think of telescopes as something to view the stars with, but they have many other purposes as well. Depending on the strength of the magnification, they can be used for anything from working on a computer to looking at the moon and stars. You can choose from monocular and binocular.
- Contrast Enhancing Glasses – This type of lens reduces blue light and cuts glare to make looking at objects easier on the eyes. It also helps to give things better contrast. You can get these in a variety of styles, and there are different levels of tints.
- Video Magnifiers – These are magnification devices that are electronic. There are both hand-held and desktop styles that let you enlarge images. The color, brightness, and contrast of text can be adjusted so it stands out more. These magnifiers have magnification levels from 1.5X to 50X.
- Magnifying Headlamps – Have you ever wondered about the contraption that jewelers wear on their heads? This a magnifying headlamp. Basically, it is a magnifying glass with light. It shines a light directly on what you are looking at, and the magnifier enlarges it so you can see even the tiniest of details.
- Magnifying Lamps – These are ideal for anyone who has poor vision due to aging, macular degeneration, glaucoma, etc. There are three basic styles: table top; table-mountable; and floor lamps. They offer varying degrees of magnification, and will help bring everything you are working on into better focus. We will discuss magnifying lamps in further detail later in this article.
How to Choose a Magnifier
Now that you know about the various types of magnifiers, it is time to learn how to choose the best magnifier for your needs. One of the first things to consider is what you need the magnifier for. Do you do arts and crafts? Do you need it for reading? Is it for reading recipes in the kitchen? Is it for looking at prices, lists of ingredients, etc. when shopping? Once you decide on what you need the magnifier for, then you can move on to the next step.
What is the Viewing or Task Distance?
The distance between you and the object you are viewing is referred to as the task or viewing distance. The task distance will play a large role in the type of magnifier you chose. There are three basic types of task distances to consider:
- Near Tasks – This is when you are viewing something that is about 16 inches or closer to your eyes, such as reading a book.
- Intermediate Tasks – These are tasks that have you viewing objects that are about 17 to 40 inches away from your eyes, such as a computer monitor.
- Distance Tasks – This is when you are looking at something that is five feet or more away, such as your television.
Now you need to consider the amount of time that you think you will be using the magnifier for the task you will be using it for. A short-term spotting task is something that only takes a few minutes to perform. An extended viewing task is something that will take much longer, such as reading or watching television. What you need to do is put the duration and the distance together to come up with the device that is going to be best for you.
Light it Up
The last thing to consider when choosing a magnifying device is illumination. Whether you need to have a magnifying light or lamp will depend on a few factors:
- Do you have any underlying eye issues or diseases, such as macular degeneration?
- Is there adequate lighting in the room where you will be using the magnifying device?
- What type of illumination do you prefer: LED, halogen, incandescent, or fluorescent?
If you have vision problems, it is best to contact your eye doctor to discuss illumination. They can tell you which is going to be the best type of device for your particular needs.
How to use Magnification Devices
There are two main things to think about when using a magnification device:
- Big Lenses – When you use a bigger lens, you have a lower amount of magnification, but a bigger field of view. A larger lens is best for looking at objects that are far from your eyes.
- Small Lenses – With a smaller lens, you have more magnification, but the field of view is smaller. Smaller lenses are best for when you need to have the magnifier close to the object you are viewing.
Now, let’s talk about how to use the various types of magnifying devices.
- Hold magnifier parallel to what you are viewing
- Use the correct focal length for the best view
- Hold magnifier against the object you are viewing
- Look just above the lens at the right focal distance
- Move magnifier across what you are looking at, such as a printed page
- Hold viewing material at focal length of the spectacles
- Move material across the field of view, keeping it parallel with the spectacles
- Turn device on and find the object you wish to view
- Select the preferred viewing mode
- Move object or camera to view (i.e. reading)
- Look at object without telescope
- Place monocular telescope in front of eye
- Locate object to be viewed
- Focus on object
- Locate object to be viewed
- Cover one eye and focus the side with the eye that is open
- Repeat for other side
More about Magnifying Lamps
When you are working on things such as craft projects, wiring, reading, and anything else that has small details, it can cause a lot of eye strain. The older we get, the more strain there is, because we have weaker vision. This is something that is unavoidable, and usually most of us end up with a pair of reading glasses at some point in our lives.
Instead of putting additional strain on your eyes while reading or working on projects, it is a better idea to use a magnifying lamp. Not only are you going to get the magnification you need to see the tiniest of details, you will also get plenty of light to work or read by.
You can also benefit from using a magnifying lamp at work. Most offices don’t use appropriate lighting, and there are usually shadows. Using a magnifying lamp will help you see things better while you are working.
Typically, magnifying lamps are available with three different types of lighting:
You may find older models that use incandescent lighting, but if you want something that is softer and more like natural daylight, it is best to choose one of the above three lighting types.
Many people prefer the LED lighting, because they never have to change the bulbs. These lamps will still be working in 20 years, on the same bulbs they came with. LED lighting is also cool lighting. Even if you have the light on for several hours at a time, it is not going to get hot. You can put your hand directly on the lamp head or lens without getting burned.
How to Use a Magnifying Lamp
There are no special instructions to follow when using a magnifying lamp. All you need to do is set it up, plug it in, and then adjust it to the position you prefer. The light is not too bright, and it will allow you to be able to see details much better. It is recommended that you have the glass about 8-10 inches from your eyes.
These lamps have adjustable necks. Make sure that you adjust yours so you are able to sit in a comfortable position without being slouched. Speaking of adjustments, some magnifying lamps can also have adjustable magnification settings. This is probably the ideal option, so you will be able to use your magnifying lamp for multiple purposes.
There are many different types of magnifying lamps available on the market, and you may be confused as to which one is going to be best for your needs. Here are some things to consider before you make a purchase:
- Table Lamp – Place this on any table top or work surface and move it around as you need it
- Floor Lamp – If you don’t want to have anything extra taking up room on your desk, a floor lamp is a great option.
- Attachable Lamp – The final option is to have a magnifier lamp that clamps to your desk. That way, it is on the desk without being in the way.
Now that you have all of the information you need to know about magnifying glasses and other devices, you will be better able to choose the device that is best for you. Many people tend to choose the magnifying lamps, because they are so versatile and easy to use, and because there are so many styles to choose from.
Shop LED Black Light / RGB LED Flood & Security Light / UV LED Light