I bought some magnifying sheets to help me with reading books and ingredients labels and things – off Ebay because Swedish stores stock with zero variety – and tested them out. All three are 3x magification (you can’t go higher unless you want binoculars, cameras or tiny tiny things meant for jewellers). I have about -9 sight in one eye and -11 in the other, in other words by normal people’s standards I’m almost blind. I CAN read normal books and papers but only if I stick them extremely close to my face, everyone can tell I see badly and my arms, hands or neck end up hurting. 12pt font is hard to read but I CAN read it (if it were up to me, I’d have 16pt font at the minimum). Frankly it’s becoming more and more common that everyone, online and offline, use smaller and smaller fonts – for example, on ingredients lists – and I got fed up with it.
The sizes I got were: “full page” (24,5 x 17 cm – a little smaller than half of one page from the newspaper), a medium-sized one that the description said was approximately 18 x 12cm (it’s really 18 x 11,5) and meant for reading books and newspapers, and a “bookmark” one that’s 19 x 6,5 and has a ruler on the edges. I bought them from spmart on Ebay, the total cost was AUD $12.42 including shipping and they arrived to Sweden after 4 weeks.
Before buying I was worried about two things, the first being that they wouldn’t magnify enough and the second being that they would be so thin and flimsy that they’d immediately get bent out of shape and become useless. Actually, they magnify much better than photos (including the seller’s photos) can show because the camera simply can’t focus well on this kind of thing, and they don’t bend as badly or easily as they seem like they wuld either.
Examples of magnification:
This first one is the bookmark size, it works great for small books such as the Narnia one (which is 11 x 18 cm) and for reading packaging, receipts or just temporarily peeking at things, but for any larger book so far I think the middle-sized sheet is best. This is because you’ll simply have to move your hand more as you read if you don’t use a larger one, but on a small book or really unused one (that has a stiff spine so it’s hard to bend the book open) it’s too difficult to hold the book open and hold a larger sheet at the same time. The middle-sized one, despite being sold as “ultra-thin”, is slightly stiffer than the bookmark one due to its shape – and of course, if the sheet bends it gets harder to read so stiffer is better.
Below is the middle-sized one with the same book. I’ll repeat it here: The sheets magnify much much better in real life! It’s not simply that the text is clearer, the size is actually much larger as well. With the medium one, the very edges can’t be used due to the bending, so it takes off about 1-2 cm of the viewing area on all sides. This isn’t a problem though because the viewing area is actually really large (about the length of my hand – remember that you stick this close to your face, so it doesn’t have to be huge). However if you don’t have any kind of protective sheet over it, your fingers will eventually smudge the view, as you can see from my finger placement in the photo.
Below is the full-page one. It’s about the height of my hand, and the width of a hand and a half. Frankly, I don’t think it’s worth buying unless you want to do experiments with cutting it up smaller – the viewing area is reduced by around 3cm on all sides thanks to distortion, and it’s big so if you don’t pay attention it just bends. I also just feel that it’s more uncomfortable to hold, I think holding it for a long time would probably make your hand cramp up. The medium-sized one is about half the height as the full-paged one, and I think one that’s two-thirds of the full page would probably also work well. (The distortion isn’t actually as bad as the photo shows, it’s just the camera’s fault.)
Here’s the smaller ones on a few different items, but again, the text is bigger and clearer in real life. The camera also show more glare than exists in real life. When you hold them properly the distortion on the two smaller sizes is almost unnoticable (I can’t hold it well and take photos at the same time so that’s why it looks worse). Here’s a VHS tape (probably size 8-10 font):
Here’s a PS2 game case – this is size 8 or 10 font, on a bad day I can’t read it at all without the magnifier. For some reason, Japan loves small-sized fonts, which is the main reason for why I thought to buy these sheets in the first place because otherwise I can’t read my school textbook.
The game booklet (the text doesn’t look like it’s enlarged very much, but in real life it’s a lot bigger):
Here’s a children’s book, I assume it’s size 14 font because it’s just slightly bigger than the font in the novels for adults that I checked. The medium-sized one:
The bookmark one:
The captions on these images are size 6 to 8 font. Certainly smaller than size 10, at any rate.
These next photos are just to show you the difference between “real life” and with the magnifying sheets.
Here’s what kind of distortion you’ll have if you put the full-paged sheet in front of the computer. Ideas to fix this are at the bottom of this post. With a sheet in front of the computer, 7pt font becomes 12pt!
bookmark: (again, the camera makes it seem like it has more glare and reflection problems than it really does)
Definitely buy the 3x magnification type, they’re worth it. They don’t work if you don’t have your glasses on. Only buy the full-page size if you’re going to cut it down to fit the size of something else. If you’re only going to buy a single one, I say to buy the middle-sized one (if you decide it’s too big when you get it, just cut it smaller).
I think I’ll cut my full-page one down and make one piece that’s the size of a credit card so I can carry it in my wallet and use it when I’m out shopping.
Tips and Ideas:
1. Buy transparent plastic page-protectors (for things like artwork and portfolio papers), or extremely thin, transparent vinyl (available at fabric shops or online), or some other sort of transparent plastic, and make a little case for each magnifier sheet. That way they won’t get scratched up as fast. You can use the sheets even through the case, it only makes things a tiny bit blurrier and a tiny bit darker. If you buy vinyl you can use the leftover pieces as screen protectors for your phone and stuff (anything that has a hard screen, like a 3DS or old computer), it just sticks right on and peels right off.
2. Create some sort of hook on a stick that attaches to your glasses and clamps down onto the magnifier, that way you can use it at home while having both hands free and it covers your entire field of vision – which makes you able to see anything you want at the right distance. This also fixes the problem with the distortion when using it on the computer.
If you don’t do one for your glasses, you’re gonna want one for your gameboy, one for your mobile phone, one for your computer etc etc. and then have to hold one up with your arm when you want to read a book. If it gets too tiring holding books up or craning your neck towards the table you can buy or make a little book-stand that sits on your lap or on the table. I have a cheap metal fold-out one that works for everything except the smallest books, and a wooden lap-table that I got after a surgery that I can then set this book-holder on if I want to.
3. If you’re holding it up by hand a lot, you’re going to eventually want to make the edges stiff somehow so that it bends less on its own. It might be a good idea attach it to a stick so that you have a handle and can keep your hand away from the viewing area. Maybe you could somehow attach a small one to the end of your pen and make it magnify the writing area?
4. It’s easier to read when there’s more light. The magnifying sheets are a little blurrier than normal vision but sometimes all you need is more light and you’ll stop noticing it.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like everyone could benefit from having these around the house, even if they have normal vision. You don’t know how tired your eyes are until you actually get something that lessens it (I would know, I didn’t grow up using any kind of sight tools like this). I basically couldn’t bother to read physical books or newspapers before, instead I was only reading stuff on the computer, but using these sheets I’m fine with books too. I didn’t realize the problem was really just the text size before.
Notes to anyone who’s thinking of producing or selling this kind of stuff:
If you have a company and want to make something like these, make them thick or stiff so they don’t bend, but the viewing area needs to be large enough so that it’s comfortable to read entire books with it. Think of how often you’d have to move your hand across the page, whether horizontally or vertically, if you can only see using a window the size of a stamp. You’d quit reading right away. It’s not always about simply having the largest magnification possible.
The reason why it needs to be stiff is because this tool is going to go everywhere with you – to school wedged in-between some textbooks, to the store shoved in your pocket or wallet – so you’re going to end up sitting on it, or stepping on it, or bending it on accident. If it’s stiff nothing will happen, but if it’s soft it’ll immediately bend out of shape and never be the same again. “What about repeat customers?” It’ll eventualy get scratched up and at that time they can buy a new one from you.