Lighted Magnifier: Read menus in dim light

Written by: Sylvia Stein. Posted: April 02, 2015. 




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.






Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions


Key words: 
lighted magnifier, magnifying glasses with light, reading, dark, LED, magnifier, magnify, restaurants, restaurants. menus

Last Updated: December 16, 2020.

Topic Hub

Featured Research


Medical Alert Systems: Help

Medical Alert Systems GuideWe kept getting asked "which medical alert system is best?"; and "how do I choose the right medical alert system for me?". This independent, objective, hands-on research tries to answer those questions. If you are looking for a medical alert system, either for yourself or for an older adult such as a parent, this piece of research is for you.

Choose the Right Medical Alert System for YOU


Useful Apps Club

Useful Apps ClubUnlock the potential of your smartphone or tablet to improve your life. The Useful Apps Club is for older adults and Boomers who have a smartphone or tablet (or are thinking of getting one) and need help to turn it into a useful tool. We are focused on finding Apps that can change your life, and teaching you how to use them. 

View: The Useful Apps Club


Reduce Fall Risk

Avoid FallsRead the "best of the web" on: Avoiding Falling. Our team of clinicians and citizen analysts has scoured the web for the best available answers to a set of questions designed to help you make falling less likely, and make the consequences if you do fall less bad.

View: Avoid the Perils of Falling


Avoid Social Isolation & Loneliness

isolation and lonelinessOur community is exploring ways to avoid becoming isolated and lonely as we grow older. See what we are discovering — including one group of older adult's "recipe" for overcoming loneliness.

View: Isolation & Loneliness Hub


Medication Management Tools

medication management toolsPoor medication management is one of the key reasons people are forced to stop living independently. There are a wide range of tools that can help you manage your medications — and avoid, or at least postpone, that fate. We have researched which products work best for different types of people, ranging from simple inexpensive pill boxes and reminders to complex "automated" pill dispensers.

View: Medication Management Hub