Our eyesight begins to fade.
It’s an unfortunate but undeniable fact that as the years creep by our health too scuttles away and our eyesight is often the first thing we notice slipping away.
This is especially frustrating for us modellers, whether it be scale models, trains, or miniature painters, who work with tiny objects and for who sharp eye eyesight, or the lack of it, is more keenly felt than most. I certainly find myself squinting at blurred edges of colours, missing the time when I can see every detail of my trains clearly.
But age needn’t be a barrier. Especially for model railways which are an otherwise great hobby for retirement.
There are lots of aids, from jewellers loops to glasses lights with magnifying lenses, to help but of the many I’ve tried and employed on my workbench, there’s one I find myself reaching for more often than any other.
Why do I like it? Well for starters, it’s really well made.
It feels strong but isn’t heavy.
The arms are solid and not flimsy and the clips that allow the strap to be fitted, instead of the arms, are strong but not so firm as to make releasing them an event suitable for a strongman competition or prone to snapping.
It also looks good. These look like quality precision instruments, not some mass-produced gimmick.
The comfortable factor — no headaches
Then there’s the comfort factor.
I suspect whoever designed this uses head magnifiers themselves and has experienced the discomfort of some makes.
I previously used several other head magnifiers. One, in particular, I won’t name it to save embarrassment, was made of cheap black plastic. Now there’s nothing wrong with cheap black plastic — I use it on my layouts for pipework and the like and of course, most models are made from it — but put a pair of glorified glasses on your head held in place with a strap of the stuff and you’ll soon realise the downside.
Wear it for more than a little while and the hard edges rub and even cut where they touch the skin. My temples and ears never got on with it. The strap, also made of plastic, has no give and ends up rubbing the back of my head.
The Rightwell model, however, has smooth, contoured, arms with rounded edges that sit comfortably on the ears and don’t continually rub.
And if you prefer a strap, there’s one included but it’s a proper elasticated variety that stretches and gives rather than the rigid plastic sort that ends up giving me a headache (something that as a migraine sufferer, I go out of my way to avoid).
Another subtle benefit is that, as already mentioned, the strap is fitted with clips. Other types use a tension knob to secure the strap and while in principle this should work I’ve found that more often than not the knob works lose and need regular retightening.
And there’s a nose rest too, made of soft rubber, and again it doesn’t rub or weigh heavy on your forehead.
All these subtle design features mean I can wear these for hours at a time and pack in some serious model work without discomfort creeping in.
Easy to adjust lens positions
But the biggest win of the Rightwell unit over others I’ve tried is the thought that’s gone into the lens element.
Many other head magnifiers have their lens built into the plastic of the main assembly.
A problem this creates is that not only do they interfere with your glasses if you have them, but they’re also fixed in one position. If you want to look further afield or at an object without magnification, even if only briefly, the whole unit needs lifting to rest on your forehead or taken off completely. This becomes tiring very quickly.
With these, however, the lenses sit in a cradle that’s held on a hinge sitting slightly ahead of the main assembly. They sit over my glasses without a problem and when I want a momentary break — to pick up a cup of tea while a weathering coat dries, for example — it’s just a case of pushing the lens upwards out of the line of vision and pulling it back down later.
Built-in directional lighting
And if you work late at night, as I do when my wife is asleep, and need extra lighting they win here too.
And not because they have a light built-in. Many magnifiers have this.
On these, however, the bright LED (not normal bulbs) are positioned directly above the lens and can be angled so the light falls precisely where you need it as opposed to just shining somewhere forward.
I don’t know about you but my workbench is already cluttered enough and the built-in light in these has meant I put my main lights to one side and use them just for photography.
Finally, the lenses are crystal sharp.
The five different lenses included provide a range of magnification levels of 1.0X, 1.5X, 2.0X, 2.5X and 3.5X and all are clear and sharp.
This is, sadly, not the case with many other magnifiers, especially at the cheaper end of the market where the lenses are often low quality and blurred.
While not a downside specifically there are some improvements that could be made.
It would be great if multiple lenses could be used at once to give greater magnification. Even better would be a flip to then extra lens for those times when you very need brief increased levels of magnification.
It would also be nice to have a greater range of magnification. There are several competitors that offer 6x, 8x, 10x and even 25 times viewing. It would be useful if Rightwell offered an additional box of lenses with higher magnification levels. I’d certainly buy it.
Being able to fit the strap or even a cord and arms at the same time would also be helpful. There are times when I’m using it with the arms in place and take a break and it would be helpful to have them hanging around my neck rather than taking them off completely.
While there are plenty of other head magnifiers available, and while some have individual features that are better than the equivalent on these (especially in terms of magnification levels) for me the Rightwell head magnifier has the best combination of build quality, comfort, practicality and design I’ve come across. They’re ideal for close-up work or seeing tiny details when painting Warhammer minis and making model vehicles, rolling stock, buildings and scale models.
They are now rarely far from my workbench and I’m even considering buying a second pair for those times when my eyesight lets me down completely and I can’t see where I put the first pair 🙂
Are you struggling to see the small details of your models and trains? What do you use to help? If you have any other suggestions or preferred tools, I’d love to hear about them, let me know in a comment below.
Note: The original review was of the Fancii version of these, these are no longer sold. Thanks to the mysteries of global manufacturing, however, the identical unit is available from Rightwell discussed here. There are also cheaper versions of this head visor being sold but reports indicate that these break easily. I’ve been using the Rightwell unit reviewed here for over a year now and it’s still in one piece and continues to work perfectly.
Full disclosure: The reviews I share here come from hands-on experience establised over many decades of making and building models and model railways. I personally test each product, often for weeks or months, before writing about it. For this review, I purchased the product myself at the regular price, and the seller had no idea it would end up featured here. No special treatment or behind-the-scenes deals – just honest feedback on my experiences of using this product.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.