Modern electronics are so compact that seeing the individual components so you can work on them can be a challenge and those aren’t the only things with miniaturized components either. Many other items from jewelry to specialized craft items have components which are hard to see with the naked eye so a magnifying glass is often essential when working with them.
Of course, holding a magnifying glass in your hand while you are trying to work severely limits what you can do. Jewelers solved this problem long ago with the use of an eye loupe; while functional, an eye loupe is still somewhat hard to use because of its small size.
Putting the magnifier on a stand or adjustable arm is the obvious solution. These have been in use for a variety of applications, especially in manufacturing industries, for a number of years. Having a combination magnifier and lamp together makes it much easier to see small objects that are being worked on and the built-in light eliminates the problem of shadowing the light with your body.
There are several styles of these available on the market, but the three main styles are:
Desk Mounted – A short, flexible neck on a weighted base.
Arm Mounted – An articulated arm, with the magnifier and lamp mounted to the end. The arm anchors to the desk or workbench edge with a clamp.
Floor Mounted – The flexible neck is attached to a stand on a weighted base. This allows it to be moved around and used where needed.
In most cases, the arm mounted models are the best, providing a larger magnifier and longer reach. Desk mounted magnifiers must be placed right at the workpiece; moving them requires that there be a clear area on the workbench where the magnifier needs to go.
Older models of these magnifiers all used fluorescent bulbs, usually 22 watt “ring” bulbs but many of the newer options have replaced the fluorescent bulbs with LEDs, providing longer life and lower energy costs. Since LED provides light without heat, they’re also safer to work with, even safer than fluorescents which are typically quite cool.
When looking at a magnifying lamp, there are several things you should consider:
What do you need to use it for? This will affect the style you choose.
How big a magnifier do you need? Generally speaking, the larger the magnifier, the easier it is to use.
How much light do you need? For most applications, the more light the better.
How much magnification do you need? Five diopter, 2.25x magnification, is the most common for arm mounted magnifiers, while desktop units will usually have less. The greater the magnification, the easier it might be to see what you’re working on and at the same time, it cuts down the viewing angle. If you need to see a lot of things, such as several parts and how they go together, a higher magnification might not be helpful.
Pro Magnify makes the best magnifying lamps on the market. This one, their largest, has a 7x6 inch magnifier, surrounded by 108 LEDs for plenty of lighting. Read Full Review
For those that need the best, Pro Magnify builds it. Actually, I think they’re the best manufacturer in this market, producing a broad line of excellent models of magnifying lights. This one has the largest magnifying lens and plenty of light, even though it only consumes 8 watts of power. The arm itself is 36 inches, which isn’t the biggest around but plenty big enough for most applications. Movement is feather touch without springs so it stays right where you put it. The lens is 5 diopter, offering 2.25 magnification. This one comes with a clamp to mount it on the edge of your workbench and a power switch mounted right on the head.
If you're looking for a magnifying lamp that has it all, it's this one. The LED lighting comes in from both sides, eliminating shadows. This lamp is also dimmable and has a self-timer for shutoff. Read Full Review
This lighted magnifier from Luxo is probably the most sophisticated magnifying light ever developed and the only reason I didn't give it first place was the price. This unit is designed for use in static sensitive environments, something that no other magnifying light is designed for. The lighting comes from two directions thereby eliminating shadows. All lighting is provided by LEDs to reduce energy consumption and heat. When only one light is used, the unit provides 3D magnification while the self-balancing arm doesn't need any tightening or adjustment to maintain position. An auto shut-off feature turns the unit off after four or nine hours to save electricity.
This round magnifier from Pro Magnify is much like the other one we looked at, except with a round lens. It also has 108 illuminating LEDs, but in a ring configuration for good even lighting. Read Full Review
This is very similar to the number one pick and from the same company. However, it has a 7 inch round lens as opposed to the 7x6 inch lens on that one and its arm is slightly longer as well at 38 inches. The same feather touch, spring-fee movement is provided as well for ease of use. The 108 LEDs will provide you with project lighting for 100,000 hours of use and provides 2.25 magnification through its 5 diopter lens. The switch is mounted on the head and there is a clamp to attach it to the edge of your workbench.
For a magnifier lamp that has it all, take a look at Luxo. This low-profile LED lamp has a 50 percent dimmer for those times when you don't need as much light and a self-timer to shut the lamps off, should you forget. Read Full Review
This lightweight, cast aluminum unit from Luxo provides lighting and magnification wherever it is needed. The unit is available with 45 inch arms, making it ideal for use on a busy workbench while the LED lighting is LED means lower energy usage and cooler temperatures. The LED lighting can be dimmed 50 percent as needed and there is an automatic shutoff to turn it off after four or nine hours. Positioning is extremely easy and the magnifying head doesn't creep once set in position.
For those that feel they need a floor mounted magnifier, take a look at this unit form Might Bright. It allows you to use the magnifier anywhere, with the same no-hands convenience of a swing arm magnifier. Read Full Review
I decided that I needed to include at least one floor lamp in this list even though arm lamps are much more common. The nice thing about a floor magnifier is that you can use it anywhere and not just attached to your workbench. If you need it to read in your favorite armchair or are working at the kitchen table, you can use your magnifier without having to worry about messing up the table’s finish with the clamp. Being a LED light, it uses minimal power and the LEDs will last for a good 100,000 hours. This model will run off of either 120 VAC or batteries.