My collection of hand lens including a triple-lens, a Coddington and a Hastings Triplett. The bright ribbons help make the lens easy to see if I drop it.
Hand Lens are small but powerful magnifiers and very useful for naturalists. But how many times do you see a guide to choosing a hand lens for nature study? Rarely, but here is one.
Buy Hand Lens from my Naturalist’s Shop
Using a Hand Lens for Nature Study
Hand lens are held in the hand. I use a hand lens to look at tiny flower parts, dead insect legs, or the shiny crystals in a rock.
The photo above shows my collection of hand lens. The black and silver hand lens on the bottom is my Bausch and Lomb 10X Coddington Magnifier. It magnifies an object up to ten times the actual size.
The top two magnifiers are inexpensive plastic models. The magnifying power ranges from 5 to 20 times. I bought them when I thought an inexpensive plastic magnifier would be just fine for the simple nature study I wanted to do. I should have just saved my money and bought the one high quality Bausch and Lomb magnifier. I find quality is always worth having and extends to most things in life.
Choosing a Magnifier
There are three basic types of hand lens, the Hastings Triplett, the Coddington and a plain old low powered magnifier.
Basic magnifiers consist of plastic or glasses and magnify at most 3 or 5 times actual size. They don’t always deliver clear sharp images like the Hasting Triplett or Coddington magnifiers. The Hastings Triplett and Coddington magnifying power ranges from 10 to 40 times.
Keep these things in mind:
- 3x to 5x is small magnification
- 10x to 14x is good magnification for nature study, 10X is the most common
- 20x is small diameter viewing area, you must hold it close to your eye to focus: for specialist use
- over 20X is for specialists like jewelers and diamond merchants
Hastings Triplett hand lens with light for illumination. I think the circular metal thing is the battery cover. Photo by Donna L. Long.
The Hastings Triplett
The Hastings Triplett was invented by optical designer Charles Sheldon Hastings. It has three separate lenses, two concave and one convex bonded together to form a compound lens. It has a sharp focus over the entire lens. The silver hand lens with the clear lens is a Hastings Triplett. I received it as a gift and I use it more than my Coddington, simply because it is illuminated. You use it the same as a non-illuminated hand lens but make sure the light is pointed at the object you are viewing. I haven’t changed the battery yet, can’t report on how easy or tough that procedure is or isn’t.
More on the history of hand lens design on the website: Data Deluge: The Intimate Study of Lenses and Tidepools
Hastings Triplett hand lens with light for illumination. The two round things are the lights. Photo by Donna L. Long.
Here is my illuminated hand lens on Amaon.com: 20X Lighted LED Illuminated Jewelers Jewelry Loupe Magnifying Glass Magnifier
My Coddington Magnifier, 10X by Bausch & Lomb. Photo by Donna L. Long.
The Coddington Lens was a refinement of an existing design by Henry Coddington in 1829. It is a single thick lens with a central grove around the equator of the glass. It provides a sharp clear image. The grove around the equator of the round glass limits the rays close the axis and minimizes optical distortions. This allows for greater magnification and smaller lens. In the photo above, the hand lens on the bottom is a Bausch & Lomb 10x Coddington.
Bausch & Lomb Coddington Magnifier, 10x on Amazon.com
Here is an illuminated Bausch and Lomb Coddington Magnifier, 10x on Amazon.com
The Low-Power, Low Cost Models
The three lens magnifier in the photo above is not a ‘Hastings Triplett’ but a low-price, plastic Bausch and Lomb hand lens with three lens which range in power from 5X to a combined power of 20X. I found juggling the three lens a hassle and I don’t take use this one at all anymore. I rather use my illuminated Hastings Triplett or my Coddington.
If you like this model, here it is on Amazon.com – Bausch & Lomb Folding Pocket Magnifier, 5-20x
How to Shop for a Magnifier
This video explains the differences between Coddington and Hastings Triplett magnifiers.
How to Use Your Magnifier
- hold the magnifier close to your dominant eye. How do you find your dominant eye? Watch the video.
- move the object, not the magnifier, until the image is sharp and clear
Buy Hand Lens and binoculars in my Naturalist’s Shop