Lighted Magnifier: Read menus in dim light

By:  Sylvia Stein   |  Posted: April 2, 2015   |  Updated: April 17, 2023


Reading under poor lighting conditions is a common problem, not only for reading menus, but also for reading in bed, or seeing small type in a poorly lit space. What is needed is some type of lighted magnifier.

There are four categories of solutions for this common problem. The pro’s and con’s of each solution are detailed below, as well as in the individual product listings we link to below.

The categories we discuss are:

  • a Magnifier with a Light (which includes a LED illuminator);
  • Magnifying Glasses with Light;
  • an Illuminating Magnifying Glass App for Smart Phones;
  • and finally a work-around solution.


A Handheld LED Lighted Magnifier

There are numerous examples of a handheld magnifying glass with a built-in LED light, which illuminate the area being magnified. These work well for reading menus or paying the bill at a restaurant, for example. They are also handy for reading small type in a darkened space: a serial number on an appliance for example.

These LED Magnifiers are relatively inexpensive. There are pros and cons to the different formats (detailed below), so if this is persistent problem it might make sense to purchase two or three of these Lighted Magnifiers.

Some examples of LED lighted magnifiers

One rule to keep in mind is that the smaller the area of the magnifying glass, the higher the magnification.  For this reason, most handheld magnifiers are quite small, with a 3X magnification (3 times the size of the original type). The UltaOptix, which magnifies 4X, and is quite portable, is an exception.

The LED lights included in these devices are of varying brightness. Some do not light up the full area of the magnification while others are as bright as a pinpointed flashlight. Most of the LED lights are long-lasting (up to 100,000 hours!) and thus do not require a new battery.

Compare the Sizes: Menu Readers

relative sizes of lighted magnifiers

Magnifying Glasses with a Light

This is a fun, hands-free option which comes in a range of standard prescription strengths (1.0, +1.5, +2.0, +2.5 or +3.0). The LED light is bright, however, the batteries only last ~ 50 hours. They are also often used for reading in bed.

See one example:  LED lights embedded in the sides of the frame


Smartphone Magnifier Apps

If you usually carry and use a smartphone, and are comfortable navigating apps, then Eye Reader by NetSoft is a very low cost ($1.99) example of a lighted magnifer app, which has proven popular among the Longevity Explorers.

The lighting is very bright, and you can dim or brighten the LED light by swiping one finger left or right on phone screen. Further, it is easy to zoom in on the image (by placing two fingers on the screen and separating them) to get just the magnification you need.

See one example of a smartphone Magnifier App:
Smart Phone Apps that illuminate and magnify

Work-around solution

If none of these options will work for you there is another solution, but it requires that you have a computer accessible, and it takes a little bit of planning.  Most restaurants post their menus online: either on their own website, or on a website called If you look at the menu before go out, and decide what you want to order, you won’t have worry about the lighting at the restaurant itself.  If you combine this work-around with your favorite way to magnify the type on your computer screen, reading menus, even small and faint type, is easy.





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