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Video Magnifier for my visually impaired daughter Answered

I am in desperate need of the plans or any help in building a video magnifier for my daughter. The video magnifiers for sale are way outside my budget. They start around $1800. It would need to be able to be used through a tv or computer. Any help in this would be greatly appreciated.


I've found this thread while googl'ing for DIY video magnifiers. I tried using document cameras as well as one of the USB "microscopes" with a PC. Both produced disappointing results, and I'm looking for a higher quality CCTV solution.

The USB "microscope" had a real-time viewing application for use with Windows. The downside to this setup compared to a purpose-build video magnifier is that it requires the user to be PC literate, which isn't the case for my elderly mother. Another problem with the USB cameras/microscopes is that their lens design is very poor for close-up/macro work. Depth of field is so narrow with a USB microscope that when reading a newspaper article, the center of a column of text would be in focus, but the left and right edges of the column would be out of focus. This required the user to constantly twiddle with a manual focusing ring on the lens while reading every line of text, which made the device cumbersome and difficult to use.

A real high resolution CCTV camera with a C-mount zoom lens sounds like a much better option. I've been looking around for suitable gear and I've had lots of difficulty finding suitable equipment. Today it seems that the only CCTV cameras that people are interested in selling are the low quality surveillance cameras that are designed to identify people-sized objects in a parking garage or hallway. None of them have lenses that are removable, or are capable of being replaced with a high quality zoom optic or macro optic that's capable of sufficient resolution to clearly magnify text. It would seem that today, the best option would be to find a camera with an HDTV/HDMI output. But I haven't had any luck finding those types of devices either. If anyone could provide a link to suitable gear, I'd be most grateful. Thanks.

I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to mod. I just have no idea what is inside them.

Here's the camera. It's a standard surveillance type B&W; camera. It's auto-exposure. The lens only focuses to about 15 inches, and has a variable aperture (manual.) But it's a standard type (C-mount, maybe?), and somewhere I have an C-mount adapter for Canon FD lenses, too. You could try to fashion an extension tube for the existing lens, also. But a C-mount zoom would be better. The second photos shows that it works with a TV, if you have a videogame input. Or in this case, an RF modulator ($10-15.) So you would also need a copystand type mount to hold the camera (or an old enlarger base) some lights, TV, etc.


@ The1pdub: It's yours, if you think you can use it. When you respond, use the REPLY link at the end of this response (or just go with a PM.) Keeps everything in an easy-to-follow sequence.

Thank you very much. I appreciate your generosity. It’s not very common these days to see such kindness. Your camera would work great. My daughters’ school work is often referencing colors. I wouldn’t want to accept your camera and then not use it. Thank you again. gmoon you have a kind heart. THANK YOU.

You're very welcome. Yes, I see it wouldn't be as effective as a color camera. If you change your mind, let me know (I'm not using it.)

I think some of the better webcams ($100?,search on newegg.com) that hook up to a PC with USB cables may offer a macro-closeup mode or be good enough to focus well on a book. The software though may only have a small window on your PC screen. The same may be true if you tried to get a surveillance camera to hook up to a PC TV card/adapter installed on your PC. The camera should output directy to a TV input but resolution may not be good full screen. You can velcro or permanently mount the camera to some sort of overhead projector type arm. Look at www.myvu.com. or search for others that make a wearable eyeglasses type monitor($300?). The screen would appear bigger so the webcam idea may work. At office supply places you can find a full-page size magnifying lens (plastic fresnel lens) that might help.

Well if you had a mac (which I'm going to assume that you don't), you can hold the ctrl key and use the scroll wheel on the mouse and it zooms as much as you want, works pretty good to span a movie across a couple screens.

BTW: increasing the font size on a pc is done the same way, ctrl / mouse wheel. ;-)

Font, not the entire systemwide screen. Like it acutally zooms in and follows the mouse, it doesn't just make the font bigger.

Well, the result is screen wide, unless you use the onboard magnifier I mentioned (you could copy it from the accessibility folder to the shortcut bar or to the startup bar so it is on when one signs in), that magnifies a wide area where-ever the pointer is at.

that thing makes me sick to look at. i get dizzy watching my screen move around with my mouse.

Yeah, I tried it out a bit.....I will stick with getting thicker glasses for now. :-)

On a PC, click on start, All programs, Accessories, Accessibility, and there is a viewer magnifier built in there. Magnification, etc can all be adjusted to suit your pc needs.


10 years ago

Does anyone mod-up these devices on the cheap from the pieces/parts ? I've got an older (mid 80's) B&W; CCTV camera I'd be happy to donate. No zoom, but a decent fixed-focal length lens.

Bump. Tryin' to give something away, here...

. If you are talking about the ones for reading books, &c;, it should be fairly easy to do, even for a beginner. . You will need a decent camera, one that will be able to magnify the subject without distortion/pixelation. Nowadays, that's all but the cheapest ones. It will need to have a good zoom. . Then there's a stand to hold the camera steady above the subject. If you're handy with tools, you should be able to make your own. For pre-built, try checking camera/photography places. . Some lighting. Improvise. . If you buy a camera with the right output, the only other thing you need is a TV or monitor.

. Goodhart's link does a much better job of 'splaining things than I did. Check his link. . Way to go, Goodhart!

I had to look into some of these things before I need binoculars to read the 17" monitor in front of me ;-)

I appreciate everyone's feedback. Thank you very much!

A lot of cheap digital video cameras can send their image to a TV or computer screen by a simple cable connection. We have a flexible-necked camera at school that we can connect to a screen to show fiddly demonstrations to large groups. I'll try and remember to find out its name on Monday, but I recall that it cost well under $100.

Are you in the States, or elsewhere. If in the USA, the American Foundation for the Blind might be able to help: AFB