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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 October 2010 Issue  Volume 11  Number 6

Product Reviews

Lighting Up Your World: A Closer Look at Illuminated Magnifiers, Part 3

If traditional eyeglasses or contact lenses do not provide enough visual correction for a person to read printed material, he or she, a family member, or friend will often purchase a magnifier. However, there is a good bit to consider when selecting a magnifier, and without a proper clinical low-vision eye examination and guidance, few actually get the magnifier best suited to their needs.

In this ongoing series, AccessWorld reports on the findings from a study of illuminated magnifiers conducted at AFB TECH. The study incorporates laboratory research and data collected from experts in the low-vision field. This project is being undertaken to provide relevant information to the increasing number of people with vision loss who are looking for an appropriate illuminated magnifier. This information will enable consumers to become much better informed about these devices and, with the assistance of their professional eye care team, select the magnifier best suited to their vision needs.

The first article in this series discussed the importance of a clinical low-vision evaluation and provided background information about the characteristics of illuminated magnifiers, including the types of illuminated magnifiers, magnification levels, illumination levels, types of light bulbs, light color, battery life, size of the lens, and weight of the magnifier. In the second article, we compared the Mattingly Advantage and LS&S lines of handheld and stand magnifiers, both of which are typical mid-range magnifiers. In this third article, we compare two high-end magnifiers that are advertised as having especially bright and powerful illumination: the Modular Akku Kryptolux by Schweizer and the Coil Xenon.

The Kryptolux and the Coil Xenon are both relatively expensive magnifiers that use high-powered light bulbs in order to provide more illumination than mid-range magnifiers. This article will examine these two high-end magnifiers to illustrate the differences that often exist between mid-range and high-end models, both in the amount of illumination they provide and their ease of use. The Kryptolux and the Coil Xenon are two of the more popular high-end magnifiers on the market. The high cost of these magnifiers makes them a major purchase for many individuals, and it is important that consumers understand the differences between these magnifiers before they make any such purchase.

Measuring Illuminated Magnifiers

When presented with many choices, it can be difficult to decide which illuminated magnifier is best for you. There is little information available to consumers regarding the differences among magnifiers, such as which magnifier provides the highest level of illumination, which has the best battery life, and which provides the largest viewing area.

One purpose of this article is to provide consumers with the information they require to more fully participate in discussions with their eye-care team as to which magnifier best suits their needs. With that goal in mind, we compared handheld and stand magnifiers currently available for sale by using the following measurements:

  • The amount of light given off by the magnifier (illumination)
  • The color of the light
  • Battery life (only for magnifiers that use batteries)
  • Magnifier weight and size of the lens

Different Types of Light Bulbs

All illuminated magnifiers use a light bulb built into the handle of the magnifier to direct light onto the viewing surface, but the type of light bulb used can differ between magnifier models. Most illuminated magnifiers on the market use low-energy LED lights, including the Mattingly Advantage and LS&S magnifiers reviewed in the last article. These LED lights provide a fairly bright light that can run for hundreds of hours of a single set of batteries. This is becoming increasingly common among mid-range magnifiers due to their longevity. Many high-end magnifiers, however, use high-power light bulbs in order to provide a greater amount of illumination over LED magnifiers.

The Kryptolux and Coil Xenon magnifiers both use these types of light bulbs. As their name implies, the Kryptolux uses a Krypton light bulb, whereas the Coil Xenon uses a Xenon light bulb. These light bulbs claim to offer high levels of illumination; however, the added brightness comes at the cost of increased power consumption. Most of these magnifier types use AC adapters that require the magnifier be plugged into a wall outlet, and the ones that do use batteries, use larger batteries that often do not last as long as their LED counterparts. These magnifiers also tend to cost significantly more than LED magnifiers, often in excess of $100. These are all important considerations when examining illuminated magnifiers.

Schweizer Kryptolux and Coil Xenon Illuminated Stand Magnifiers

In this article, we examine a sampling of the Schweizer Kryptolux and Coil Xenon lines of illuminated stand magnifiers, which included the 3x, 4x, 7x, and 10x magnifiers for the Schweizer Kryptolux and the 2.8x, 4.7x, 7.1x, and 12x magnifiers for the Coil Xenon. We examined two different models of the Coil Xenon: one that operates on an AC adapter and one that uses batteries.

Additionally, the Kryptolux magnifiers were provided with three color filters that could be inserted into the magnifier to change the color of the illuminated area. The color filters provided with the Kryptolux were white, blue, and yellow. We inserted each of the color filters into the Kryptolux and measured the illumination and light color for the magnifier with and without the filters. Our complete measurements and comments for each of these magnifiers can be found in the table below.

Illumination

The light provided by illuminated magnifiers can help to increase the contrast and brightness of the magnified area, making it easier to see. However, whereas all of these magnifiers can brighten the reading area, the actual amount of useful light provided--the illumination--varies widely from magnifier to magnifier. To measure illumination, we used a state-of-the-art light meter to measure the candelas per meter squared (cd/m2), the most widely accepted unit of measurement for illumination, that is provided by each magnifier.

The Kryptolux and Coil Xenon both claim to offer higher levels of illumination than typical LED magnifiers because of the high-power light bulbs they use. However, the amount of usable illumination offered by a magnifier is dependent on a number of factors aside from just the strength of the light bulb. Another important factor is how well the magnifier focuses the light onto the reading area.

Most stand magnifiers, including the Mattingly Advantage and LS&S magnifiers examined in our last article, have an enclosure around the light bulb designed to trap the light and focus it on the reading area. This ensures that little to none of the light is wasted. Unfortunately, the Kryptolux does not feature an enclosure that effectively focuses the light on the reading area. This means that the light is shined in all directions, and only a small portion of the light is on the reading area. As a result, the Kryptolux provides much less useful illumination than can be found in many LED stand magnifiers, even with the brighter bulb.

In our last article, we found that the Advantage stand magnifiers ranged from 1,465 to 4,900 cd/m2 depending on the lens strength. The Kryptolux, without any color filters inserted, offered illumination levels that ranged from 91 (the 3x) to 222 cd/m2 (the 10x). With color filters inserted, the illumination worsened: the white and yellow filters lowered the illumination by a small degree (1 to 15%), but the blue filters reduced the illumination by over half. The Kryptolux provides less than one-tenth of the usable light provided by an LED magnifier, but at double the price. The design of the Kryptolux may be better suited to a flashlight than to an illuminated magnifier, and as a result does not offer as effective a lighting situation as other magnifiers on the market.

The Coil Xenon, meanwhile, does have an enclosure around the light bulb that focuses the light. Unfortunately, the Xenon bulb in the Coil does not provide any advantage in illumination over typical LED stand magnifiers. The Coil Xenon with AC adapter offered illumination levels that ranged from 440 (the 2.8x) to 1,790 cd/m2 (the 12x), whereas the Coil Xenon that uses three C batteries ranged from 410 (the 2.8x) to 1,310 cd/m2 (the 12x). Although these numbers are a significant improvement over the Kryptolux, they are still far below those offered by the Advantage or LS&S LED magnifiers.

For both the Coil Xenon and the Kryptolux magnifiers, the actual amount of useful illumination provided is a major disappointment. These magnifiers are supposed to offer a substantial improvement over LED-based magnifiers, but the fact that they offer only a fraction of the illumination is an issue for anyone looking to purchase an illuminated magnifier.

Handheld Magnifiers: Light Color

Both the Kryptolux and Coil Xenon provide a white light, which effectively retains the color(s) of the surface it is used on. By comparison, most LED bulbs provide a bluish light. If you prefer a colored light, the color filters provided with the Kryptolux allow you to change the color of the light to give it a yellowish or bluish tint; however, the filters do reduce the total amount of illumination. People with low vision respond differently to different light colors; consult your eye-care team to determine what color light is best for you.

Handheld Magnifiers: Battery Life

Both the Kryptolux and Coil Xenon use an AC adapter, which requires that the magnifier be plugged into the wall, although the Coil Xenon is also available in a battery-powered model. The Kryptolux is not available in a model with replaceable batteries, but it does have a built-in rechargeable battery that can be charged with the AC adapter. This allows for the Kryptolux to be used when traveling as long as it has been properly charged beforehand.

The Coil Xenon is available in both a two-battery and three-battery model, although we only evaluated the three-battery model, which uses three C batteries. To determine how long the batteries would last under normal use, we left the magnifier on for 24 hours of continuous use and measured how much power was left in the batteries afterwards. Following 24 hours of use, the Coil Xenon was at about 70% battery strength. This was approximately the same as the LED magnifiers; however, the Coil Xenon requires three C batteries, which are much larger and heavier than the AA and AAA batteries used in most LED magnifiers.

Handheld Magnifiers: Magnifier Weight and Lens Size

The Kryptolux and Coil Xenon use interchangeable parts, meaning that the handle (with light bulb) and the lens can be purchased separately and attached manually. This allows consumers to switch lenses easily without having to purchase multiple magnifiers. This is a particularly useful feature for these magnifiers, as the handle can be quite expensive compared with the lens. Also, the process for removing and replacing lenses in both magnifiers consists of two simple steps: grab the lens and detach it from the handle, and then attach the new lens to the same spot.

The size of the lens and weight of the magnifiers depends on the strength of the lens that is attached. For both brands, the least-powerful lenses are the largest and heaviest. The Kryptolux ranges from having a lens size of 3.3 inches and a weight of 11.9 ounces in the 3x model, to a lens size of 1.3 inches and a weight of 9.5 ounces for the 10x model. The Coil Xenon without batteries ranges from a rectangular lens size of 2.9 inches by 4 inches and a weight of 11 ounces in the 2.8x model, while the 12x has a lens size of 1.1 inches and a weight of 3.6 ounces. With batteries, the weight of the Coil Xenon increases to 18.4 ounces in the 2.8x and 11.0 ounces in the 12x.

Stand magnifiers are typically heavier than handheld magnifiers as they are meant to be rested on a surface. That being said, the weight of these magnifiers is still noticeable when moving the magnifier around the page or when traveling with the magnifier. The Kryptolux has an average weight for a stand magnifier and the lens sizes are about what you would expect: a large 3.3-inch lens for the 3x magnifier and a smaller 1.3-inch lens for the 12x. The weight of the Coil Xenon depends heavily on whether you use the AC adapter or battery-powered model. The Coil Xenon with AC adapter is exceptionally light, weighing only 3.6 ounces with the 12x lens, whereas the battery-powered model is one of the heaviest magnifiers we've seen with a weight of 18.4 ounces (over 1 pound) for the 2.8x. The lens sizes for the Coil Xenon are very similar to those for the Kryptolux.

Weight and size is an important consideration if you plan on traveling with the magnifier or using it for extended periods. A large magnifier provides an increased viewing area and can be easier to use, but it can also be more difficult to move around. At the same time, if you intend to use your magnifier for extended reading, keep in mind a 1-inch lens may be too small to fit more than a few letters at a time in the magnified field.

The Bottom Line

Once the proper magnification level and magnifier type (handheld or stand) are determined for your situation, you may want to ask your eye-care team questions about illumination, battery life, light color, weight of the magnifier, and size of the magnified field, in addition to those concerning price, warranty information, and return policy.

The Schweizer Kryptolux and Coil Xenon are two of the more expensive illuminated magnifiers on the market, and for the added cost you get a magnifier with significantly less illumination than competing models at half the price. Although both of these models do offer some advantages in terms of providing adjustable light color and easily replaceable parts, they simply may not be worth the higher price. These magnifiers are perfect examples of how difficult it can be to compare magnifiers based just on packaging and appearance. If you keep these issues in mind when shopping for magnifiers, you should be able to find a magnifier that fits your needs comfortably.

Product Pricing

Kryptolux (w/ AC Adapter): $199.75 to $214.75

Coil Xenon (3 Batteries): $40.75 to $75.95

Coil Xenon (w/ AC Adapter): $69.95 to $79.95

Results Table

Manufacturer Model Type Magnification
Level
Lens Size (in) Weight (oz) Illumination (cd/m2) Battery strength
(after 24 hours)
Bulb type Light color
Schweizer Modular Akku Kryptolux Stand 3x 3.3 11.9 91
38 (Blue)
77 (White)
77 (Yellow)
N/A Krypton White
Blue
White
Yellow
Schweizer Modular Akku Kryptolux Stand 4x 2.7 11.1 141
67 (Blue)
140 (White)
138 (Yellow)
N/A Krypton White
Blue
White
Yellow
Schweizer Modular Akku Kryptolux Stand 7x 1.4 9.4 197
89 (Blue)
190 (White)
191 (Yellow)
N/A Krypton White
Blue
White
Yellow
Schweizer Modular Akku Kryptolux Stand 10x 1.3 9.5 222
102 (Blue)
212 (White)
215 (Yellow)
N/A Krypton White
Blue
White
Yellow
Coil Raylight 2 (Adapter) Stand 2.8x 2.9 × 4 11.0 440 N/A Xenon White
Coil Raylight 2 (Adapter) Stand 4.7x 1.8 4.6 1410 N/A Xenon White
Coil Raylight 2 (Adapter) Stand 7.1x 1.4 3.8 1670 N/A Xenon White
Coil Raylight 2 (Adapter) Stand 12.0x 1.1 3.6 1790 N/A Xenon White
Coil Raylight 2 (Battery) Stand 2.8x 2.9 × 4 18.4 410 70.1% Xenon White
Coil Raylight 2 (Battery) Stand 4.7x 1.8 12.0 1130 70.1% Xenon White
Coil Raylight 2 (Battery) Stand 7.1x 1.4 11.2 1220 70.1% Xenon White
Coil Raylight 2 (Battery) Stand 12.0x 1.1 11.0 1310 70.1% Xenon White

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Copyright © 2010 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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