Video Magnifiers, also called CCTVs, are devices designed for people who are low vision. Their main function is to magnify any text or image, literally anything that is put under their lens, to such a level of magnification that it is comfortable to see or read.
There are three main categories of CCTVs: the large, stand-alone units, the portable units that come in backpacks or suitcases, and the small portable units that are designed to be carried in a pocket or purse. The first category of CCTV is especially recommended for libraries and other places where a lot of reading is required. They come with big monitors and comfortable tables on which any book (thin or thick) can be placed.
The portable units in backpacks or suitcases are lighter and smaller, and naturally have smaller screens. Their primary advantage is that they are not as bulky as the stand-alone units and thus can be easily transported to classrooms, coffee shops, parks, airplanes, the beach, almost anywhere one needs to go. They come with batteries and can be used in places where no plugs are available.
The smallest CCTVs that have appeared recently on the market are designed to replace standard magnifiers. They are light like magnifying glasses, but they have a better, brighter light that helps to read the magnified text in places where light is scarce, i.e. reading menus in restaurants, reading train schedules at night, etc.
CCTVs, in addition to magnifying the image, have other options that help people read the magnified text. They come with black and white colors only, for people who do not like or cannot distinguish colors, or with a variety of color selections (i.e. red letters on a black background, blue letters on a yellow background) for people who rely on various color selections for a better visual contrast. It is important to allow the user the chance to select the color combination that works best for him. What often seems like a strange combination for a sighted person may be best for the low vision CCTV user.
The larger, bulky CCTVs came on the market first, then appeared the portable devices, and finally the most recent small devices, so small that they can be carried in a pocket or purse. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the coming years with this trend towards smaller and smaller devices with new and improved options.
The most popular CCTVs are manufactured by Telesensory, Tieman, PulseData, and AshTechnology.