Most of us have to deal with print that is too small to read with the unaided eye. A frequent question we get is “How strong a magnifying glass do I need” for books, prescription bottles, or assembly instructions? A common misconception is that a 10X magnifier is the minimum magnification for these otherwise routine tasks. For most people, a simple,  inexpensive handheld magnifying glass may be all you need.

What Can’t I Read?

If you can make out words in the first paragraph of the eye chart, the weak hand magnifier, 2.5X, should be enough.

If you struggle to read the bottom paragraph of the chart below, you’ll need a stronger magnifier, 3.25X should be enough.

See our magnifier page for products that will help.

Reading Glass Eye Chart

This is a typical eye chart your optometrist will show you for reading needs. If you can read the top paragraph you need little if any help. If you can only read the bottom one, read the recommendations in the next paragraph.

So What Magnification Do I Need?

The macula is the part of your retina with the highest density of cone cells. It sees what is directly in front of you and offers the greatest detail that you need for reading. Your peripheral vision is outside the macula,  uses rod cells, and detects motion, like a baseball that’s about to hit you.

Think of magnification in terms of how much area your macula is using to see something. A 2X magnifier expands a word so that it uses twice the area, i.e. twice as many cone cells. This might not seem like much but it should make most or all of the paragraphs above comfortably readable.

Of course, we all have trouble with very fine print and for that, we recommend a stronger magnifying glass such as the 75mm (3″) that goes up to 2.5X. This is the middle of the 3 magnifiers in the picture below.

Magnifying Glasses

The largest (4″/100mm) magnifier in the picture above magnifies the least but it means you can scan a larger area like a map & see more adjacent streets or words without moving the magnifier. The smallest hand magnifier (2″ 50mm) should be enough for fine print in contracts or pill bottle instructions.

Still Can’t See?

If you have some form of eye disease like macular degeneration, we put together a cost-effective 2-magnifier combo for this. Or, if you want to see really small stuff, a geology loupe & cell phone together can give you 25X or more magnification.

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