The 10 Best Headband Magnifiers
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in May of 2016. Perfect for hobbyists, arts and crafts enthusiasts, watch and jewelry repairers, and anyone who works on today's tiny electronic devices, these headband magnifiers let you see what you are working on clearly while leaving your hands free to get on with the job. Whether you need something sturdy and durable or lightweight for all-day use, you'll find it here. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best headband magnifier on Amazon.
Two Crucial Concepts: Magnification and Focal Length
If a lens has a focal length of 20 inches, you’ll need the object you’re looking at to be 20 inches away from the lens for it to be in focus.
When you’re buying a headband magnifier, two prominent pieces of information you’ll see are magnification and focal length. The former refers to the strength of a lens, while the latter tells you at what distance you can view items. To get the most comfortable experience, you’ll want to not only pay attention to these numbers, but also consider what you’re working on and how you work. This means avoiding the tendency to assume that a bigger magnification is always better, a common error. To give you a better idea about how to choose, we’ll break down magnification and focal length separately.
Magnification refers to how much bigger the lens will make an item appear. If a lens has a magnification of 1.5x, that means it’ll cause the item to look 1 1/2 times as large; a magnification of 2x will make the item twice as large, and so on. You’ll also see the term diopter used from time to time. Lenses with a higher diopter will also have a higher magnification. You can calculate the power (i.e., magnification) of a lens if you know the diopter: the diopter divided by 4 plus 1 equals power. So, a lens with a diopter of 12 would have a magnification power of 4x (12/4 + 1).
Focal length tells you how far away an object should be from the lens for optimal focus. If a lens has a focal length of 20 inches, you’ll need the object you’re looking at to be 20 inches away from the lens for it to be in focus. Focal length and magnification are inversely correlated, meaning that as one gets bigger, the other gets smaller. For example, one of the most popular headband magnifiers comes with lenses that range from a 20-inch focal length lens with 1.5x magnification to a 4-inch focal length lens with 3.5x magnification.
As mentioned, a common error people make is to assume they need the most powerful magnification they can get. But if you’re painting model cars, will you really be holding them 4 inches from your headband magnifier? Or if you’re knitting or working crossword puzzles, will you want to hold these items so close to your face? Or would it be more comfortable to hold them in your lap? Thinking about what you do and how you do it will ensure that you choose a product with the most comfortable focal length and magnification power.
Other Important Features
Luckily, many headband magnifiers come with several lenses, or allow you to purchase additional lenses as your needs change, which makes these products versatile. Perhaps one day you’re painting tiny artwork on pennies and the next you’re reading a book; a visor with a range of lenses will let you tackle each task in comfort. But interchangeable lenses aren’t the only feature you should seek. Headband magnifiers are available with a wide range of features that will make various tasks much easier.
Luckily, many headband magnifiers come with several lenses, or allow you to purchase additional lenses as your needs change, which makes these products versatile.
To begin with, most headband magnifiers offer extras that make wearing them more comfortable. Most, if not all, are adjustable, and the majority have some type of padding to keep your forehead from feeling pinched. Some even let you switch between wearing them like a headband and wearing them as a pair of glasses, thanks to a removable headband strap.
Next, some headband magnifiers let you flip the lens portion up so that you don’t have to keep putting the headband on and taking it off as you switch between normal and magnified work. These also commonly let you adjust the angle of the lenses.
Then, you’ll find headband magnifiers that feature a bright light to help illuminate the item you’re magnifying. These are especially useful for hobbyists who work with small details. Many lights are fixed in place, but a few models offer lights that are moveable.
Last, but certainly not least, is how well the headband works with your own prescription glasses. Some headband magnifiers are designed so that the wearer can keep his or her own glasses on, while others have a tighter fit and don’t offer enough room. There are even headband magnifiers that let you wear safety goggles at the same time.
A Historical Perspective
With all of these great features, it’s pretty obvious just how many uses a headband magnifier has: electronic work, jewelry repair, painting, needle crafts, and just plain old reading. But imagine that archaeologists 3,000 years from now dug up one of these items. Would they immediately understand why it was so useful and how people actually used it? Or might they speculate on the range of uses of such an item?
This is equivalent to the lenses of many headband magnifiers available today.
This is a problem that archaeologists have faced before with optical devices, perhaps most notably with the Nimrud Lens. This piece dates back to around 750 B.C.E. and is also called the Layard lens after its discoverer, the English anthropologist Sir Austen Layard. He found the item in what is now Iraq and immediately identified the piece as a lens. Examination of the piece confirmed that it could, indeed, have been used for magnifying; it has a focal length of about 4 inches and provides 3x magnification. This is equivalent to the lenses of many headband magnifiers available today.
Many optical experts and scientists oppose the idea that the Nimrud lens is a magnifying device, however, since there is no other evidence to support the idea that the Assyrians who fashioned it knew about or used these devices. Some experts have suggested that the lens could have been used for starting fires, and a few have suggested that it was part of an astronomical device. If the latter were true, then this device would predate what is accepted to be the first telescope, Hans Lippershey's model from the early 1600s.
Although these are exciting hypotheses, the truth is probably much more pedestrian. According to the British Museum, the piece is most likely a decorative inlay from a piece of furniture. No future scientists will mistake a headband magnifier for a piece of a chair or sofa, especially since we now leave overly ample written records, but who knows? Your humble headband magnifier could end up in a museum someday.
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