Last Updated on November 17, 2020
For a long time, magnifying glasses were the preferred method of amplifying the size of small objects for viewing. However, the inherent drawback to a magnifying glass is that it takes up one of your hands. This is unacceptable for most detailed work. Luckily, headband magnifiers now exist to free up your hands for the fine work of jewelers, watchmakers, and more, or even just for reading without tiring your arm out. Some of these units include multiple lenses with varying levels of magnification. Most also include built-in LEDs to illuminate your subject, making it possible to work in unfavorable lighting conditions.
We’ve tested quite a few of these devices, and the following reviews will compare ten of our favorites. By the end, you should have a good idea of which ones are worth investing in and which ones are better left alone.
|Best Overall||Carson Optical Pro Head-Worn Magnifier||
|Best Value||MagniPros Headband Magnifier||
|Premium Choice||Donegan OptiVisor Headband Magnifier||
|SE Illuminated Flip-In Head Magnifier||
|Glam Hobby Head Mount Magnifier||
With four interchangeable acrylic lenses, the Carson CP-60 Optical Pro Series head-worn magnifier can magnify from 1.5X up to 3X. For protection, a soft case is included so you can carry the lenses with you and not worry about their safety. It’s a visor-style headband that features a quick-release button for easy adjustments. More importantly, it’s very comfortable. We hardly even noticed we were wearing it. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but for what you get, we think it provides enough quality to justify the price. For instance, one of our favorite features is the LED lamp on the front. This one is detachable and it has a magnetic base. You can attach it to any metal surface to get light at whatever angle and placement is best. Overall, we think it’s pretty hard to beat the performance of the Carson CP-60.
If you’re looking for the best headband magnifier for the money, we think it’s hard to beat the value of the MagniPros Magnifier Visor. It’s very affordably priced, even though it includes five optical-grade lenses. They span from 1.0X to 3.5X magnification and can be interchanged using the simple click and release system that makes it quick and easy to switch lenses. Unlike many other models we tested, the MagniPros are a sunglass style unit that we thought was very comfortable to wear and easy to put on.
One of the biggest benefits of hands-free magnifiers is the LED lights that are often built-in. This model features two LED lights mounted on the front, and they’re advertised as being ultra-bright. While we did find them to be very useful, they were also pretty weak compared to other units. Luckily, they’re adjustable, but the beam is also very narrow. Despite this, the MagniPros headband magnifier is one of our favorite units overall.
This binocular headband magnifier from Donegan is a professional option for hands-free magnification. It’s great for any fine work such as making jewelry, watches, inspecting print, etc. It’s a simple design that only includes a single lens with one level of magnification. That said, the viewing quality is incredible. The lenses are of the highest quality and the magnification is ultra-clear with no blur or distortion. It may not look super luxurious, but we were surprised that it was actually quite comfortable to wear. However, the headband is a bit small, even at the largest size. Some of our testers weren’t able to fit it on their head! We appreciate that these can be worn over eyeglasses though, something that many other models aren’t capable of. Altogether, we think the Donegan DA-5 OptiVisor is a top-performer, which is why it’s our premium recommendation.
As one of the cheapest units we tested, we didn’t have very high expectations for the SE Illuminated dual-lens flip-in head magnifier. But we were pleasantly surprised. It didn’t quite earn one of our top recommendations, but it did perform admirably in our testing. The main lens isn’t interchangeable, and it has a 1.9X fixed magnification. However, there’s another 1.9X magnification flip-down lens that works in concert with the main lens. If that’s not enough magnification for you, there’s also a 4.5X flip-down loupe that allows for detailed inspecting.
While we appreciate all the additional lenses, our biggest problem with this unit is that they don’t work as well together as we’d like. They didn’t seem to focus properly when used in tandem, so everything seemed blurred and slightly distorted, especially when using all three lenses. We appreciated the LED light built into the front, but the cheap construction of the whole unit was a disappointment. The adjustment knob for the headband also never worked properly, so it was difficult to get a comfortable fit.
Affordably priced with an included money-back guarantee, this head mount magnifier from Glam Hobby looked great on paper, but only provided middle of the pack performance. Five lenses are included which magnify up to 3.5X. In our experience, they didn’t stay in place well and would fall out of the unit if you turned your head too fast. Worse, these weren’t very comfortable, despite being a sunglass-style design. They stay put though and don’t seem to migrate around your head as much as other brands, which we appreciated. But the Glam Hobby magnifier is very heavy and we could never get used to the extra weight. For some of our testers, it was too heavy to wear for more than just a few minutes at a time. In the end, this unit is relegated to the center of our list with mediocre performance.
One of the drawbacks to many of these devices is the constant need for replacing batteries. The YOCTOSUN LED head magnifier eliminates this issue by incorporating a USB rechargeable battery. This is a feature we loved on paper, but the battery completely died and quit functioning after just a few weeks of use. We liked the built-in LED with adjustable brightness settings, but once the battery died, this function was only usable with the magnifier plugged in.
Five optical lenses are included that are interchangeable using the quick-release system. They’re crafted from scratch-resistant acrylic to save weight. Our problem with the lenses had to do with the focal point. With the highest magnification lens, 3.5X, the focal point is simply too short. You must be about one-inch away from your subject to get it in focus. Though we like the overall design of the YOCTOSUN, the lackluster performance limits it to the sixth position on our list.
With a design that mimics the Donegan DA-5 at a lower cost, we were hopeful that the MagnifyLabs MAG0020 Headband Magnifier would be a top performer. In reality, it’s overpriced. Other models we tested that cost less outperformed this model in many respects. Compared to the Donegan, we were happy to see four interchangeable lenses. That is, until we used them. The cheap construction means they don’t fit well, and some of them didn’t even lie flat. This meant that each eye was a different distance from the lens, throwing your vision into disarray. We liked the real leather headband, but it didn’t adjust well in our testing. Like the Donegan, you can wear this setup over your glasses. Unlike the Donegan, we don’t recommend this device at all.
The ANDSTON head mount magnifying glass can be worn as glasses or a headband, depending on your preference. It includes five lenses from 1.0X to 3.5X magnification. The lens angle is even adjustable so you can set it to the right distance from your eyes. But it’s not a very comfortable unit, and none of our testers enjoyed wearing it. Making matters worse, it’s also very large and bulky and we couldn’t seem to get a good fit with the headband no matter what we did. All that extra size has the additional drawback of adding extra weight, weighing down the neck and adding to the discomfort. We did appreciate the built-in LED light, but with so many models including similar features at the same price point, we can’t really recommend this one.
With four replaceable lenses and an overall design that’s similar to the Donegan, the gerleek headband magnifier looks like a great unit, but it doesn’t perform like one. Small pins hold the lenses in place, but they gave out quickly, making it nearly impossible to hold a lens steady. Worse, the 3.5X lens with the highest magnification has a very short focal length that requires you to get far too close to your viewing subject.
We got the headband set to the right size, but it kept loosening up and slipping down our testers’ faces. This is pretty frustrating, especially for one of the most expensive units we tested. Altogether, we don’t think it’s worth the price since it doesn’t provide as much value as other less expensive models.
Zega has made a very affordable headband magnifier that includes 3 multi-depth lenses. They’re not interchangeable though. Instead, the additional lenses flip down into place to provide additional magnification over the fixed lens. This is a great idea in theory, but the execution is below par. The lenses don’t focus well together, and it gets worse the more magnification you attempt to use. They do go up to 10X, but it’s too blurry to be helpful. The all-plastic construction is also a bit of a turnoff, but for the low price, we didn’t expect much more than that. It’s not very comfortable to wear, especially because the headband won’t stay where it’s set. It kept loosening up, causing the magnifier to slip down our tester’s heads. We feel that the Zega ZHM has earned the bottom position on our list, thanks to its poor quality and performance.
Many issues can occur with a headband magnifier, and during our testing, we experienced nearly every one of them. Loosening headbands, poor focusing lenses, short focal lengths, you name it. Hopefully, after reading our reviews, you know which products to stay away from. To make sure you remember which ones we recommend, we’re going to do a short recap. The Carson CP-60 was our favorite overall for many reasons. They were comfortable and included lenses up to 3X magnification. We also really loved the detachable LED lamp with a magnetic base.
If you’re looking for the best value, we’d recommend checking out the MagniPros headband magnifier. They can be worn like a pair of glasses and the quick-change lenses span from 1.5X to 3.5X magnification. They’re also very affordable for any budget. Finally, if you need professional quality, our premium pick is the Donegan DA-5 OptiVisor. It had the highest quality lenses of any unit we tested, featuring ultra-clear magnification and no distortion. You can also wear this pair over a set of glasses, which many of our testers loved. In the end, all three of these are great options that we feel confident recommending to you.
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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