The Compact+ Hand Held Electronic Magnifier

Compact+ Hand Held MagnifierElectronic magnifiers allow you to adjust the level of magnification depending on the task you are using them for with some desktop models offering between 2 and 50 times magnification. They can enhance the appearance of text providing a high contrast mode and allowing you to switch between light text on a dark background or vice-versa. Traditionally these have been desktop models not designed with portability in mind. Products such as the Bierley mouse and Max Mouse designed to plug into a standard TV set are more portable in that they can easily be moved from one TV set to another making them ideal for taking on holiday.

Improvements in both LCD and camera technologies over the past few years have seen several hand held electronic magnifiers come onto the market. In this, the first article of three on hand held magnifiers I will be looking at the Optelec Compact+.

If you're used to using an ordinary hand held magnifier then you'll find the Optelec Compact+ very easy to use. The camera mounted directly beneath the display makes it easy to find what you want to magnify. A collapsible handle means you can hold the magnifier as you would a magnifying glass using either hand.

Measuring 5 inches long (10 inches with the handle extended) 3 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep. It comes with a protective case that can either be worn on a belt or round the neck using the supplied neck strap. The fashion conscious amongst you will be pleased to know it is available in a variety of colours. The unit is supplied with two standard AA rechargeable batteries the use of standard batteries means spare batteries are cheap and easy to get hold of.

The front of the unit features a 4.5 inch display and a button for changing the magnification level and colour mode. It offers five different display modes Full Colour, White on Black, Black on White, Yellow on Black and Yellow on Blue. The unit also features 3 different magnification levels 5 times, 7.5 times and 10 times. Adjusting the magnification and colour mode is done with the thumb. Just as with a magnifying glass you can adjust the zoom by moving the compact closer or further away from the object though it is best to do this with the lowest magnification setting. This also makes it easier to examine objects such as remote controls, mobile phones or reading text on bottles.

The Compact+ performed well in all our tests although at the higher level of magnification there was some slight blurring around the letters. The high contrast modes made newspaper text much easier to read and also helped make the text on packaging easier to read though this worked best if the packaging had contrasting colours. I did find on some shiny surfaces text was obliterated by the reflection from the units LED lights. Though tilting the magnifier did help overcome this.

The Compact+ has both a reading and writing mode. To use writing mode you slide the camera to the side position and select full colour. The manual tells you to place the magnifier on the page and tilt it. I found it is easier to hold the unit a few inches above the page and then position the pen underneath the camera. This allows you to see the word you are writing rather than just a few letters.


Offering up to 10 times magnification and 6 colour modes, the Optelec Compact+ scores top marks for ease of use. Its size means it is easily transported and the use of standard batteries (rechargeable supplied) means you'll never be stuck for spare batteries. The slight blurring around letters at the highest magnification is the only thing that lets the unit down.

The Compact+ costs £395. For a demonstration please contact Antony on the Helpline. 

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