So, I took what was normally meant as a child's educational toy, and repurposed it as a piece of lab equipment.
I was initially going to hobble together an old webcam and a jeweller's loupe for this, but then I found out that these devices can be had for $19 including shipping. If you put it on a better stand, it becomes a very professional piece of hardware!
Certainly much more affordable than other devices used in the industry!
These "digital microscopes" work well, and have a great manual focus that will usually work from a couple distances.
Further away allows for the soldering iron to get in there, and closer up to inspect your work.
Yes, I actually look at the screen while soldering rather than the board itself. It can take a little getting used to but it's much easier once you do. It's easier too if you take off the light diffuser (clear plastic ring at the front over the LEDs - already removed in main photo) too as it gives you more room to get the iron in there.
Oh ya, did I mention it has an adjustable brightness LED light ring built into it? Ya, six bucks well spent!
Find an old generally useless-for-today's-apps laptop running XP or better - maybe grab one off ebay with a bad charging circuit / dead battery or other defect that won't hamper the actual use of a single app. Mine was just OLD.
Install the drivers for the digital microscope.
You can use their application, but I prefer AMCAP 9.00 from Microsoft, which is a free application for capturing video. Just use the live function - but it's nice that you can use the button on the camera to take a snapshot for documentation purposes at any time.
You now can use the laptop screen as a magnified view of your working area for those hard to see solder joints.
Above is my setup while repairing a 1181 Macbook.
On the old IBM Thinkpad in the background which has been dedicated to this purpose now because of it's age and (lack of) speed, you can see the circuit I am soldering and inspecting. This is the "further away" sort of view I was talking about.
some other photos are closeup inspections of a suspected damaged component. Of course up close, sometimes there's no doubt it's toast!