Several people have suggested I write more product reviews in these pages. Readers are correctly getting the idea that I use a lot of devices to keep me going. Now that a very good electronic pocket magnifier has come out for under $300, I think it is time to write about pocket magnifiers. I think I will write "Magnifying on the Go" as a series, because there are several products and much that has changed, fortunately for the better.

A basic point is that everyone with a vision impairment that prevents easy reading of price tags, restaurant menus, ingredient labels, and the hundreds of printed items encountered while “out and about” should own some form of pocket magnifier to remain engaged and to feel less isolated from the information that is around them.

The most common pocket magnifier is a traditional magnifying lens. Alas, as you will learn in earlier posts and our FAQ section, the magnifying lens issue is a big fat can of worms, particularly as vision worsens. In a nutshell, you need the right power; you need to hold the lens correctly to get its best help; the lens needs to be a lighted one or you otherwise have to find good light. And, as I mentioned in an earlier post on this topic, you absolutely run into your prescription glasses as a bump on this road. Multi-focal glasses and pocket magnifiers are a prescription for confusion!

People who work or trade at my local Trader Joe’s have seen see me over the years, elbow of my magnifier hand propped on a shelf, food box in the other hand, and my old, hand-held, lens magnifier up against my eye, light on, a couple of inches from the usually tiny ingredients list I am trying to read on a food box. (I am on a perpetual hunt for the dreaded potato starch, hidden under other names and enemy to my body’s digestion.) Grocery shopping is a slow process, indeed, if you lack good vision and care about food labeling!

A couple of new things are out that make the magnifier issue less difficult. For those able to use a 3x or 4x lighted magnifier, which is more forgiving about focal distance, but who dislike the bulk or weight of the traditional pocket magnifiers of that power, Eschenbach’s LED-lighted Easy Pocket lens is thin and light as a summer breeze. Unfortunately, these are not available stronger than 4x magnification, which is about 14D in this brand.

Even better for people like me is to try an electronic pocket magnifier. I haven't liked them until recently. Now they have gotten much better, cost less money, and they work! For example, the new Aukey, by the Chinese company Aumed, is a great place to start. The Aukey offers an ultra sharp and steady image. It is easy to use and allows you to view that ingredients list with the contrast, comfortable distance, and print size you need to see it well. You hit a button to make the type bigger, rather than needing to find a stronger magnifier for smaller type. A miniature CCTV, Aukey is the lightest electronic pocket we’ve seen to date. The freeze frame button lets you capture and view the ingredients list (or clothing label, for that matter) as a still image. The very best thing, besides the cheerful Aukey colors and true “pocket” size, is that Aukey is under $300.

It is my view that many more people will now consider electronic pockets as convenient, and the best way to stop struggling so hard when you need to see things on the go.