Low Vision Magnifiers And Their “New-Age” Alternatives

Last updated: June 23, 2022

Low vision magnifiers are optical devices that assist people with low vision to perform daily activities, by magnifying or enhancing vision. Magnifiers include a wide range of devices, including hand-held devices, stand magnifiers, high-powered reading glasses, video magnifiers, and more. These styles of magnifiers usually vary according to their purpose of use and are different from regular glasses or commercial magnifiers. If you’re in the market for a magnifier device, know that there is no “one size fits all” approach. There are several factors to consider in your selection process. This article covers the different types of magnifiers available for low vision, how you can choose the right magnifier, and high-tech alternatives to magnifiers.


Types of Low Vision Magnifiers

There are 6 general types of low vision magnifiers:

  1. Telescopes
  2. Video camera magnifiers
  3. Hand-held magnifiers
  4. Stand magnifiers
  5. Magnifiers mounted atop glasses
  6. Low vision reading glasses

Low-Tech Magnifiers vs High-Tech Magnifiers

Low-tech magnifiers are simple devices, such as hand-held magnifiers (such as a magnifying glass), that are relatively easy to use by people with vision impairment. However, they do have a limited function as the field of vision tends to be small with this kind of magnifier.

High-tech magnifiers, however, use technology to improve the sight of people with low vision. Examples of high-tech magnifiers include desktop video magnifiers and portable video magnifiers. High-tech magnifiers can greatly improve vision, but are typically more expensive and may not be suitable for people who struggle with technology.


Telescopes have magnifying powers from 2x to 10x and can assist people with low vision to carry out tasks at both close and distant ranges. There are several types of telescopes available including hand-held, clip-on, head-wear, bioptic, and more. Telescopes are portable, making them suitable for people who need assistance with on-the-go, short tasks, such as reading the newspaper headlines. However, telescopes offer only a narrow field of vision.

Portable Video Magnifier

A portable video magnifier is a compact, electronic, hand-held magnifier that is relatively easy to use and carry. Like handheld magnifiers, portable video magnifiers allow the user to easily read items in their environment, like a label, menu, or map.  Since portable video magnifiers are small in size, their field of vision is narrow. Also, note that because they operate using batteries, portable video magnifiers are not well-suited for long periods of use.

Hand-held Magnifier

A hand-held magnifier is best used for on-the-go, quick spot reading. For example, a handheld magnifier is useful for reading fine print such as price tags and viewing menus. Handheld magnifiers vary in size from small, portable pocket magnifiers to a 5.5 inch full-size one. Sometimes, magnifiers will have built-in light to make reading easier. However, handheld magnifiers are not suited to all tasks, especially those requiring object magnification at a distance. Ranging in price from $5 to $150 USD, handheld magnifiers are the most affordable version.

Stand Magnifier

Stand magnifiers are ideal for tasks that are longer in duration, such as reading a novel or magazine. Stand magnifiers are popular due to their affordability ($30-$150 USD) and suitability to people who have trouble with hand-held magnifiers. However, stand magnifiers are not recommended for portable use cases.

Desktop Video Magnifier

Desktop video magnifiers use a built-in camera lens to display highly magnified images on a computer desktop screen or a video monitor. This kind of magnifier allows the user to modify the image to their preferences, with options to adjust magnifying power, brightness, contrast, and color of the display according to user requirements.

Desktop video magnifiers typically require a power outlet, so they are rarely portable, and they also tend to be more costly, with an average price tag of $3,000 USD.

What Magnifiers Can Do For Your Low Vision

If you have low vision, magnifiers can greatly improve your vision and ease of performing everyday tasks. A low vision specialist, such as an optometrist can help you identify the correct device for your needs. 

Magnifiers are known to improve vision for people with the following conditions: 

Although magnifiers for low vision are effective, you may require different types of magnifiers for different tasks. For example, a hand-held magnifier can help you to scan maps and labels, but a stand magnifier would be more suitable for reading a book.

All-In-One Assistive Technologies

All-in-one assistive technologies, such as eSight, have led to breakthroughs in vision improvement. Assistive technologies are easy to use, have a wide range of applications, and offer great flexibility to the user. eSight is worn comfortably like glasses and offers immediate enhanced vision plus easy to use advanced vision controls. Used by thousands of people with visual impairments daily, eSight includes 24x zoom magnification; focus, contrast, and brightness controls; and patented bioptic tilt. Learn more about eSight.

Clinically-validated, eSight enhanced vision glasses are used daily by thousands of people with sight loss. Try eSight today!

Right Device

Choosing The Right Magnification Device

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right magnification device for low vision, such as your current level of vision, what your needs are and personal comfort levels.

Your Vision: Visual Acuity And Low Vision Condition

While magnifiers for low vision are effective, you will likely require multiple types to meet all of your needs as one size does not fit all. One magnifier is unlikely to fulfill all of the functions you require in your daily life. You would need to buy a pair of low vision reading glasses, a handheld magnifier, and a stand magnifier just to be able to read your favorite novel, go shopping, and study.

What You Are Trying To Achieve with your Low Vision Magnifier: Lifestyle And Personal Goals

Magnifiers with higher power typically provide you a small field of vision. This can limit what you are trying to achieve. For example, if you are trying to read a novel, it will allow you to visualize only a part of the page instead of the entire page for easy reading. This can be an inconvenience for those who require high power magnifiers, who are now restricted to seeing only a fraction at a time. Your lifestyle, hobbies, and personal goals also determine what kind of device you need.

Low Vision Magnifiers for Students

For students with low vision, it is important that the magnification device allows them to spend prolonged periods of time reading, learning, writing, or viewing screens. As such, a desktop video magnifier would be an ideal solution.

Low Vision Magnifiers for Seniors

Seniors typically require high-powered magnifiers that are portable and easy to use. This makes head-worn magnifiers an ideal candidate.

Low Vision Magnifiers for Work

Workers with low vision require task-specific magnifiers that are suitable for their job. For example, someone who works at an office may find desktop video magnifiers more appropriate, while a mechanic may require magnifiers that are head-worn or special eyeglasses with high magnifying power.


eSight® – The Award-Winning “All-In-One” Alternative to Magnifiers

eSight, a head-mounted assistive vision enhancement device, is the most versatile and advanced all-in-one device for people with visual impairment. Designed to move seamlessly with the wearer through daily life, eSight offers best visual acuity whether sitting, reading, commuting to work, or exploring a new place.

More Than A Magnifier, Loved By Users

eSight users are raving about the device as it has positively changed their lives. Recent success stories include:

  • Drue Collins, a recent college graduate, hoping to pursue her Master’s degree in art therapy.
  • Zora Natanblut, who wrote and published a memoir about her life with vision loss and discovering eSight.
  • Jennifer Melanson, a special education teacher who could pursue her love for teaching since discovering eSight.
  • David Lee, who won a curling championship and can now enjoy his favorite sport again.

Trusted By Doctors

Eyecare specialists and ophthalmologists trust eSight to provide the best low vision assistance for their patients. 

Dr. Robert Devenyi, an ophthalmologist at the University Health Network, has attested to the life-changing possibilities of eSight for his low vision patients:

eSight opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for low vision patients and allows us to help them in ways we never could before.

Clinically Validated

The eQUEST (eSight Quality of Life Efficacy Study), completed in collaboration with researchers at six leading universities, including John Hopkins University and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, proved that eSight improved distance acuity, reading performance, contrast sensitivity, facial recognition, and activities of daily living (ADLs) for people with vision loss

eSight also demonstrated:

  • 100% mobility retention
  • A 7-line gain in distance acuity
  • A 12-letter contrast improvement

The results of our study indicate significant improvement in a number of validated visual performance measures. More importantly, study participants reported much improved day-to-day visual ability when using eSight.

Dr. Gislin Dagnelie, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

eSight is a Class 1 Medical Device. It is registered with the European Databank on Medical Devices (EUDAMED) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and inspected by Health Canada.

eSight’s low vision electronic eyewear significantly enhances vision, empowering you to explore new possibilities in school, work, and home. Speak to an eSight advisor today.


What is a low vision magnifier?

A low vision magnifier is an assistive optical device that helps people with low vision make the best of their remaining sight.

What is the best magnifying glass for low vision?

People with low vision typically require different magnifying glasses for different tasks. However, all-in-one assistive technology, like eSight, provides users with a single device that can help them accomplish different tasks.

How do you use a magnifier for low vision?

Directives for use vary based on the type of magnifier you are using. For example, some magnifiers are hand-held devices you can easily carry in your pockets. Others are head-worn magnifiers that fit your head or are mounted on a stand.

What is the best magnifier for Macular Degeneration?

Many people with macular degeneration have benefitted from eSight to enhance their vision. That said, it is always best to consult with a medical professional to determine the best device for you.

Where can I buy low vision glasses and magnifiers?

Low vision glasses and magnifiers are widely available in many online stores, as well as physical stores that carry assistive eyewear devices.

eSight eyewear is clinically proven to significantly enhance vision for people living with visual impairments, legal blindness, and vision loss. Try eSight‘s all-in-one solution!

eSight electronic eyewear enhances vision for people living with central vision loss, impaired colour vision, blind spots and more.
Try eSight today!

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