A loupe is a magnifying lens, usually set within an eyepiece or frame, allowing the user to achieve a larger image in order to view small details with greater clarity. It’s no surprise therefore that a loupe is traditionally utilized by jewelers, watchmakers, stamp collectors, instrument repairer, dentists and even for microsurgery – though, alternatively, they can be attached to the LCD screen of a digital SLR to provide a glare free view outdoors.
As there are a wide variety of loupes available for an equally broad selection of specialist disciplines, there is rarely one jack-of-all-trades loupe solution to be found. Rather, each needs to be selected with what the user is trying to achieve in mind. This makes narrowing down the best loupe you can buy a little easier, as you need to marry up your selection with its intended use before you start considering the likes of the best price and the best deal. But, as with anything, it pays to shop around, as we noticed a sizeable price drop on at least one item as we were compiling our recommendations here.
Added to this, if it’s a magnifying loupe you’re after, then you’ll need to take care that the magnification provided is sufficient for the task to which you wish to put it. And that it’s able to let in sufficient natural or artificial light – unless of course you’re aiming for a LCD loupe that doubles as a shade – to allow the user to see their subject clearly.
With the above in mind, let’s now examine what we consider are the best loupes out there for 2021…
The best loupes in 2021
This traditional folding or flip-out metal loupe from optical specialist Opticron is small, ultra portable and won’t break the bank. OK, so for the value-added outlay it doesn’t feature an additional LED lamp of any description, but when viewing gems in daylight that should not be an issue. This product, which comes with a standard 23mm diameter glass lens, is available with various choices of magnification, from 6x up to 15x presently – but the 15x magnification model is probably the best choice for those wanting to expect gems and jewelry. The metal frame is also chrome plated, making for a quick, handy and very affordable solution.
Just a little bit larger in terms of size and shape than a USB memory stick, this familiar looking solution for examining precious gems and more slides open to reveal three magnifying lenses of, variously, 10x, 20x and 30x strengths. While the diminutive nature of the product means it will easily slip into a top pocket, it’s also of a size that ensures you won’t be struggling to operate it while holding another potentially small and much more valuable object in your other hand. Better still, as you slide open this loupe/magnifying glass, its built-in LED lights plus UV blacklight automatically illuminate, making for a clear and surprisingly powerful little handheld device. Fortunately, the three LR44 batteries required to power its LEDs are included, as is a leather effect ‘travel sleeve’.
Offering a magnification range from 1x to 3.5x, thanks to five detachable goggle-like lenses, this head-worn unit may resemble a gadget from Star Wars, yet costs considerably less than a journey to the outer galaxies. The considerable appeal of a head-worn magnifying device like this is that it keeps your hands free – very useful whether you’re extracting teeth, building a Spitfire out of matchsticks, or valuing precious stones. The lenses are angle adjustable and detachable too, as is the headband, while the integral light can be tilted to enable a better view. Being a headset, the only downside is it’s larger and bulkier than most loupe solutions, yet lightweight and fairly economically built. A case and cleaning cloth comes included as standard.
This alternative hands free, head mounted gizmo doesn’t cost much more than the Fancii option, or weigh much more than it either. Like that model, this Carson headset comes not only with an adjustable fabric headband but also a LED lamp that is, in this case, removable, thereby allowing it to act as a free standing light source if necessary. The four clip-on goggle-like lenses provided –1.5x, 2x, 2.5x and 3x – can also be adjusted upwards of 85° if they are not needed for magnification. Powered by three LEDs, the lamp can also be adjusted 30 degrees either right or left and about 90 degrees up and down. The only fly in the ointment is that you’ll need to provide the three AA batteries required to power the lights yourself as they’re not included in the box.
Photographers or filmmakers who find their DSLR or mirrorless camera’s LCD rendered impossible to view in strong sunlight are directed to the Hoodloupe from US manufacturer Hoodman. Designed to be uses with a rear plate LCD that’s either 3 or 3.2 inches in size – just make sure you buy the correct option to match your screen size – this may not be the cheapest of viewing solutions. But the Hoodman is one of the longest available and most feted, as well as being well constructed with it. Clarity comes courtesy 1:1 German glass optics and diopter adjustment; although the magnification is fixed, you can adjust the magnification of the image using the camera's playback options. So if you’re looking for a way to exclude daylight from the back of your camera to aid composition, this simple yet practical product could make all the difference – with a provided neck strap meaning it’s always close to hand. A one-year warranty provides added peace of mind.
Cheap as a bag of chips from the local chippy, this is a simple, small, lightweight and inexpensive 10x magnifier for examining slides, precious coins, stamps and/or proofing pictures and prints. With a construction comprising pre-focused dual lenses, the magnifying loupe is placed over the flat object you want to view, while its transparent acrylic base lets in sufficient ambient light to allow bright and clear viewing. With a construction the width of a 35mm color slide, in weighing just 40g the LumiLupe is easily portable and can be stashed in a pocket or the corner of a gadget bag.
See also: Best slide viewers
• The best microscopes in 2021
• The best monoculars in 2021