How to use a magnifying glass
Observing nature is one of the most enjoyable parts of spending time outdoors. It’s also a key part of being a naturalist. This is true whether you’re a professional, a dedicated hobbyist, or a curious hiker or gardener. However, there are limits to what our eyes can observe. To look at things that are far away or difficult to approach, we typically use binoculars. But what about people who are interested in other aspects of nature? If you want a better look at objects that are close-by, you’ll want to bring along a magnifying glass. In this second installment of the Beginner Naturalist Tips series, I’ll show you how to use a magnifying glass.
Photo of a carnivorous sundew plant (Drosera sp.) by the excellent naturalist Lark Heston, used with permission.
A closer look
A good example of how not to use a magnifying glass.
Rather than making an object that is far away appear closer, a magnifying glass enlarges an image of an object that is already close at hand. In this way, it will help you notice details, colors, features, and structures you may not see with the naked eye. This type of tool is excellent for studying things in nature that can’t move, for example:
- Bugs (if dead or captured)
- Bird feathers
- Trees (branches, leaves, and bark)
- Scat (animal poop)
- Fur or bones
I didn’t start carrying a magnifying glass around with me until I made some botanist and entomologist friends with whom I could nerd out about flowers and bugs. Now, it’s a trusty part of my naturalist gear that helps me get a new perspective on things I find in nature.
Me checking out some moss sporophytes on a rock outcropping in the Georgia piedmont. Note the bad technique before I learned from my botanist mentors!
Plenty of names
Depending on where and how they are used, magnifying glasses go by a lot of different names. Most often. Other names include:
- Hand lens
- Magnification loupe
- Hand loupe
- Botany loupe
- Hand glass
While ‘loupe’ typically refers so a specific type of magnifying glass, these various types, and how to choose your own, is a topic for a future post. In this post, I’ll show you how to use a magnifying glass to get a closer look at objects in nature. Before getting started, it’s good to take care of some simple prep work first.
The face and antennae of a Geometrid moth come into alien, startling view through a hand lens.
Identifying your dominant eye
Just like people are right- or left-handed, you also have an eye that you habitually prefer over the other. This is known as your dominant eye. When you’re properly using a magnifying glass, you can only use one eye at a time. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re holding it up to the eye you find it easiest to look with.
Me finally using proper technique to inspect a rust fungus on a leaf in the mountains of North Georgia.
I use this easy trick to help people find their dominant eye:
- Take one or both hands, and make a circle with your fingers that you can look through
- Hold out your arm(s) and look at a stationary object through the window between your fingers
- Close one eye, and then the other. Do you see the object when one eye is closed, but not the other?
- If not, make the window smaller with your hands, or choose a smaller stationary object, then try again.
- The eye that can still see the focal object when the other is closed is your dominant eye.
This trick works because our brains instinctively align our dominant eye with an object that we’re looking at. By using our fingers to shrink the field of view, we accidentally block out non-dominant eye’s field of view to the object.
How to use your magnifying glass
Once you’ve figured out your dominant eye, the rest is pretty easy. When you’re choosing something to look at with your magnifying glass, I recommend you choose something that is:
- Stationary (standing still)
- Small enough to hold in your hand
- In good light (sunlight or well-lit indoors)
The easiest way to look at something with a magnifying glass is to hold it in your hand. That way, you can move it around in front of your eye and the glass to get a clear, focused image. Unlike binoculars that have a focus knob, magnifying glasses only focus at a particular distance. In other words, you’ll need to bring the object to the lens to see it well. Consequently, it is much easier at the beginning to pick something up and examine it, than to try to learn over a flower or dead bug with your hand lens.
An important note: try to avoid picking leaves or flowers from living plants. It is a crime in many parts of the world to do this without a permit if the species is endangered or protected. Even if it isn’t, it can be harmful to the plant or fungus if you remove part of it. So avoid picking parts of plants and other organisms. I recommend starting by starting with dead or fallen leaves, flowers, animals which you can handle without doing any harm.
Not Sherlock Holmes
Detectives in movies always hold our their magnifying glasses toward an object and look through it at arms length. Although this looks cool, it defeats the purpose of the magnifying glass. Their lenses are built to provide a specific magnification, and this functions best at a certain (usually very close!) distance from your eye. So, to view something through a magnifying glass:
- Identify (and preferably hold!) the object you want to examine
- Bring your magnifying glass to your dominant eye, maybe an inch or two away at most
- Close your non-dominant eye
- Bring the object closer to your dominant eye and the magnifying glass until the image comes into focus
From there, you can turn and move the object however you need to, to get the view you want. If you want to examine something that you’re not holding, you need to be able to move yourself. For example, if you’re checking out a lichen on a tree trunk, a flower on a living plant, or a sleeping moth. If you touch or handle these things, you could harm them, so you want to look at them in place. In this case things are mostly the same:
- Identify (and preferably hold!) the object you want to examine
- Bring your magnifying glass to your dominant eye, maybe an inch or two away at most
- Close your non-dominant eye
- Lean or step closer to the object, keeping the magnifying glass the same (close!) distance from your eye, until the image comes into focus.
Go try it out!
Now that you know the basics of using a magnifying glass, go have a look for yourself! Try getting a new, closer perspective a natural object that you might be taking for granted. I have found amazing patterns in everything from bumblebee wings to acorn caps. It’s good practice for when you’re especially curious about something, and will teach you new things about the natural world around you.
If you’ve had any great micro-sightings with your magnifying glass or hand lens, I’d love to hear about it in the comments! As always, if you’d like to see any other naturalist advice on Gulo In Nature, let me know via the contact form.
15 Best Magnifying Glass Reviews
The best magnifying glass for is the one you feel good with, your eyes don’t hurt and you don’t have a tired hand after 5 minutes because of the weight. They are specially designed for making it possible to read small prints and inscriptions.
As a result, it is used by professionals like jewelers, old people, people with poor vision and students for science experiments.
That is why we have taken the liberty to review the 15 best magnifying glass. We have included reading glass that comes in rectangular shapes as well. We picked large magnifying glass, big enough to allow you to cover a large reading space at once yet, light in weight to prevent fatigue.
This is important to allow you to read comfortably in low light condition. This and many other features are the qualities we seek for in the magnifying lens of our choice.
We have picked the top 15 magnifying lenses and provided the basic review on each one. We hope this review guides you to select the best one that works best for you.
1. MagniPros 3X Page Magnifier with 12 Anti-Glare Dimmable LEDs – Best Magnifying Glass for reading
Seeking for a very comfortable reading glass chose the MagniPros 3X Large magnifier. It is a led magnifier that comes with 12 anti glares SMD light. This makes it better than traditional LEDs. It features a very large viewing area with crystal clear lenses which magnify up to 3 times.
This magnifier features SMD led which can last as long as 50,000 hours. This makes it superb as it consumes less power than traditional ones. It is light in weight, hence can be used to read for a long time.
2. MagniPros Magnifying Glass For Reading 3X Magnification with 10 Dimmable LEDs
This is a large horizontal reading glass, large enough to guard against having to move your hand while reading. It is perfect for reading small prints and maps as it gives a crystal clear magnification. This makes it ideal for senior citizens and macular degeneration.
If you experience eye strain while reading, this magnifying glass is a good option. It gives out light with the option to adjust the brightness while reading. It is light in weight, efficient and long-lasting.
3. Jumbo Rectangular Handheld Magnifying Glass
This is the ideal glass for specialists and people with poor vision. It gives a very clear and triple magnification. The lens is very wide and clear. This reduces eye strain with improved image quality.
The lens features optical grade materials that add to its quality and clarity. It is pretty light hence; handling it will never cause fatigue. Users also enjoy a lifetime warranty.
4. MagniPros Premium 3X (300%) Page Magnifying Lens
The MagniPros Premium is ideal for everyday use – reading, starting a fire, as a survival tool, etc. It is the best component to read instructions, maps, and newspapers. It is thick glass with premium quality glass which gives a very clear image.
It is made from flexible PVC materials which makes it last longer. It is light in weight and users enjoy a lifetime warranty.
5. MagniPros Jumbo Size Magnifying Glass
This is a 5-inch magnifying glass with a medium weight which makes it suitable for long-term reading. It gives high-quality magnification that makes it ideal for reading small prints, maps, and Newspapers.
It features a lens made of optical grade acrylic. This makes it stronger and less shatter resistant compared to glass. It is large hence, less hand movement while using. The design is also resistant to scratch and comes with a replacement guarantee.
6. Marrywindix Magnifier For Reading
Made of plastic, this magnifying lens features 1 LED for the small one and 2 LED for the large one. It features an ergonomic design giving better lightning with the ergonomic handle to switch the light on or off.
It comes in white and black color, with 3 LED lights of huge brightness. This makes it durable, making it suitable for use in a dark environment. It is the best component for reading newspapers, design and drawing codes, identifying stamps and jewelry etc.
7. Marstree 30X High Power Handheld Magnifying Glass
Seeking for a perfect magnifying glass for your aged dad/mum, the Marstree 30X High Power is the answer. It comes with a simple and special LED lighting design which makes it appropriate for old people. It is shatterproof, resistant to scratch and can be used by students, professionals and everyone with low vision.
Weighing just 250g, it is light and uses 2 AA batteries. It is suitable for use at night for reading as well.
8. Dicfeos Lighted Magnifier Glass
This is a good magnifying glass that can help the aged regain a crystal clear vision when reading or identifying diamonds or jewelry. It is handy, light in weight and ideal for checking out small prints on prescriptions and newspapers.
It features 3 AAA batteries, making it suitable for night time use. This is a high-quality magnifying lens resistant to scratching. Ideal for use by seniors, kids, professionals, etc. users enjoy a lifetime warranty.
9. iMagniphy LED Illuminated Magnifying Glass Set
The iMagniphy LED features two lenses that can be interchanged. Hence, you can pick a lens for professional work or reading. It is perfect for the aged and bedtime reading, as it features energy-efficient led light that emits just the right amount of light you need to read.
This is the perfect choice for everyone suffering from maculate degeneration or any eye problem. It is light in weight hence, no fatigue of any kind. It comes with a wiping cloth and carries a pouch to keep the lens clean.
10. UNIMI Magnifier 5.5 Inch Magnifying Glass with Light
This is a full large magnifying glass with which you get to read, identify jewelry or artifacts. Featuring a built-in 3 LED magnifying glass, it can work effectively in the dark. It is compact, light in weight and can fit comfortably in the hand.
With this magnifying glass, users will enjoy a distortion-free image on far and near images. There is a lifetime replacement policy on the glass.
11. RockDaMic Magnifying Glass Handheld Magnifier for Reading Maps
This is a stylish and portable magnifying glass that is perfect for everyday use. It is appropriate for technicians; jewelers etc and are handy for reading maps and tiny texts. It features three different modes of magnification (3x, 10x, and 45x) hence; it can handle whatever you throw at it.
This professional magnifying glass lasts longer. It is powered by battery giving you the ability to use it in low light condition
12. Insten 10X Handheld Magnifying Glass with Handle
This is the ideal magnifying glass to take with you on travel, picnics and for reading. It is perfect for jewelers and professionals. It is very light and comes with a compact design. It gives a 10X magnification.
The material is made of very high-quality metal and optical glass lenses which make it resistant to scratch. It is ideal for kids and seniors.
13. Magnifying Glass 3X Handheld For Reading
Need to read without squinting, this is the ideal magnifying lens. It is a strong lens resistant to scratching which delivers top quality images without distortion. It comes with a long rubber handle that makes it comfortable to use.
It is enclosed by a rubber frame to prevent shatter. It is ideal for kids and seniors as it can be sued to view small prints. Users enjoy a lifetime warranty with this magnifying glass.
14. Foldable Magnifying Glass with LED
This is a collapsible magnifier, high in quality with four led lamps. It can be comfortably hung around the neck making it suitable for reading anytime and anywhere. It is ideal for the aged, people with macular degeneration, jewelers and kids.
Light in weight, it is very portable and features a distortion-free lens to give high-quality optical clarity. It is rectangular hence, can cover a large viewing area. It can be used in low light as it features high quality led light.
15. BearMoo 5.5 Inch Extra Large Magnifying Glass
BearMoo magnifying glass is made of acrylic lenses that are shatterproof and resistant to scratch. It is ideal for seniors, professionals, jewelers, etc. It features a large inch lens that gives double magnification for reading and the other auxiliary lens gives 5X magnification ideal for jewelers.
It is portable, light in weight and pretty easy to travel with. Inside the handle are energy-efficient light bulb powered by for AAA batteries which makes it ideal for use in low light situations.
Some magnifying glass features more than one lens with different magnification to ensure that you are able to do your work appropriately. The most magnifying lens also comes equipped with batteries so you can have a built-in light.
A magnifying glass is also a very important survival tool as it can even help start a fire while on camping. If you are seeking for the best magnifying glass, you could get confused on the myriads of magnifying glass available on the internet.
There is abundant magnifying lens out there. We have examined the distinctive features of each. We hope our best magnifying glass review guards you into selecting the best and most appropriate one for you.
Observe and Learn! How a Magnifying Glass Builds Kids’ Science Skills
Photo by David Hume Kennerly
Young children’s brains are hardwired for exploration and observation—two things that just so happen to be early science skills. By around age four or five, however, their scientific abilities really start to take off because they’re old enough to start using cool scientific tools.
Enter the magnifying glass.
“At this age, children’s critical-thinking skills and fine-motor skills have developed to the point where they can start using simple tools,” says Meg Davis from KinderCare’s Education team. Magnifying glasses help kids see things they’ve never seen before, like small insects close-up. It opens up a whole new world to them, which they find pretty amazing!
Everyone Belongs In Our Circle
At KinderCare, we’re committed to building warm, welcoming and supportive classrooms for children of all abilities, backgrounds and experiences.
That’s why this week in our centers, we’re taking kids out into the fresh spring air to take a closer look at the natural world popping up around them—and when we say a closer look, we mean really close.
Using Science Tools Gets Kids on the Path to Science Success
With magnifying glasses and journals, children work together to examine whatever they find—from leaves and soil to pebbles and ants. They then write about or draw pictures of what they see—which gives these young scientists a literacy-skills boost.
It seems pretty simple, but this activity can be a real eye-opener for prekindergarteners. “Using magnifying glasses to look at the veins on a leaf or an ant’s three body parts gives children new things to think about and wonder about,” explains Davis.
Photo by Agenturfotograf / iStock
There’s a reason we give kids journals to write things down—beyond building literacy skills. Getting children used to recording their findings sets them up for success in their science studies later in life (and gives them a head start on learning the scientific method, whether they realize it or not).
If you don’t have a magnifying glass in your home, you can find one pretty cheap and explore what other things look like up close. Make things even more scientific by handing over some crayons and paper so your child can write down what they discover. (Feel free to give them a little white smock to really set the scene.)
Build Science Skills with a Magnifying Glass: What Do Things Look like up Close?
1. Observe the Crystals in a Cube of Ice
Water and its various forms are intriguing to kids—so encourage your child to take a closer look at ice for a real “wow” experience. You both might be dazzled by the ice-crystal patterns and the shades of white and blue. Turns out a cube is pretty complex! Extend the learning even further by talking about the ways water can turn from liquid to ice and back again!
2. Take a Peek at Your Hairbrush
Are you helping your child brush their hair before bed? Sneak in some science before story time by looking at several strands of their hair and your hair up close. At normal eye level, hair looks smooth and fine—but what about up close? What does your child see? How is their hair different from your hair?
3. Check out the Fibers in a Strand of Yarn
Next time you’re snuggling with your kids under your favorite warm blanket, grab the magnifying glass to examine the fibers keeping the blanket together. Is there a pattern to the fibers? Once they’ve had an eyeful, encourage them to take a look at other fabrics around the room to compare—like maybe their T-shirt, socks, or even the couch itself!
A Lifetime Of Confidence Starts Here
Our teachers help every child build the confidence they need to try new things and explore the world around them.
4. Peer into Your Dinner Plate
Is your child shaking some salt onto her green beans? Before they dig in, encourage them to take a peek at a couple of those salt crystals. What do the granules look like up close? For that matter, what do the beans look like up close? (If they really can’t wait, though, let them eat—science can be put on hold for a growling tummy.)