I should start off my saying that I am visually impaired; I have a condition that effects both eyes making my sight extremely poor (especially distance) which glasses do not correct. I have always been in and out of hospital being given lots of different magnifying glasses and computer software and the lot to help me live a normal life. The Optelec FarView was one of the more recent things I have been given and it was to assist me at university, and I have to tell you it is one of the most advanced site aids I have ever used and has helped me in so many ways!
--- What is it? ---
Taken from the Optelec website: "Designed for the benefit of active visually impaired people, the FarView is an intelligent video magnifier offering close-up and distance viewing capabilities, in a stylish and ultra-compact design."
In other words, it is basically an electronic version of the traditional magnifying gadgets that the elderly and the visually impaired use. Not only does it work for close up material such as reading books, but it can also be used for distance, such as seeing a whiteboard from the back of a lecture theatre. Another benefit compared to traditional magnifiers is it's ability to take pictures so you don't have to hold the gadget in place the whole time, nor have to worry about a shakey hand as you can then use the buttons to scroll rather than manually moving the gadget or object you're looking at.
--- Features ---
The FarView can do so much and unlike most products where features are usually gimmicky, I have personally used all of the features and can say that everything is helpful and so much thought and technology has been put into it.
Some of the things it can do I have listed below:
- Enlarge close ups such as a book.
- View distances such as flight times in an airport or whiteboards in a lecture.
- Large screen (Not touchscreen) to display whatever it's looking at or saved images.
- Change the contrast / background colour - change colour of what you are trying to see to make certain things stand out easier.
- Take pictures / store pictures for later use.
- Digital zoom of stored pictures, so you can zoom in even after you have left the object you were looking at.
- Bright LEDs to make close up viewing easier.
- Connects to the computer if you want to further zoom in on a picture you have taken.
- Can connect to an external display (VGA) if the screen isn't large enough for you.
- Extremely easy / simple to use with large buttons.
--- Specifications ---
Taken from the Optelec website:
-- Continuous zoom magnification:
Live View: up to 24 times
Playback View: enlarge captured images up to 14 times
-- 4.3-inch full colour TFT widescreen display
-- Multiple viewing options:
Black text on a white background (positive)
White text on a black background (negative)
Blue text on a yellow background
Yellow text on a black background
Yellow text on a blue background
Blue text on a yellow background
-- Anti-reflective reading mode
-- Use for reading and writing
-- Camera is centrally positioned for intuitive reading
-- Document and distance view capture - store, enlarge and review images
-- Integrated memory for storing up to 100 images
-- Rechargeable battery offering:
Live View: up to 2.5 hours of continuous use
Playback View: up to 4 hours of continuous use
-- USB & VGA connections
-- Weighs only 0.64 pounds.
-- Measures 6.3" x 3.2" x 1.3".'
--- My Use of it ---
I have been using it for 3 years now and I have to say how much it has helped me. From the specifications it doesn't really sound like much, but it is so much more advanced than you'd think! One test I did with it as soon as it arrived was see how good it was at viewing distance as this is something that not many gadgets out there are good at; I stood a book up with a page open against my bedroom wall, walked to the other side of the room (about 6 meters) and took a picture of the book using the FarView. The image was crystal clear, you could zoom in on it and read the entire page with ease, considering I am someone that struggles to read it from 10cm away, reading it from the other side of the room was magnificent!
In the 3 years I have used it a lot at university, sitting at the back of a lecture and having this in my hands showing a live feed of what is happening on the whiteboard at the front, something that even the people I'm sitting next to with good eyesight are struggling to see. And then to top it off the fact that it's also a camera means you don't have to write down as many notes, just take a picture of it and store it for later revision,
The FarView has 2 dials on it to change the brightness and contrast but I haven't really had a need for this, but if you're reading something where the colours are clashing such as black writing on a red background, then it can change it to something clearer such as white on black such that it is more readable even for those without sight problems.
The battery lasts a good amount of time when you are using it regularly; it will easily last me a days use however if I don't use it for a few days then it will lose its charge on its own meaning you'll still need to charge it regularly even when not using it.
The screen is a great size and easy to see under all conditions. I haven't really had a need to connect it to an external display. I have copied the pictures across to my computer a few times; unfortunately it doesn't work the other way around, you can't copy things to it nor can you delete the photos already on it using the computer, you can only manage what you have on it via the menu.
In the 3 years I have used it a lot in all environments, including the science lab where it has helped me see the colours of resistors and electrical component values and it hasn't got any visible marks or scratches. The case protects it well although the corners are still vulnerable plus it isn't waterproof so I'd advice getting extra protection for it.
--- Cost ---
...now this is the part that everyone stops reading; I got this through Student Finance as part of the disabled thing, so luckily I didn't have to pay. If you did want to buy yourself one though, it would set you back... £1500... but honestly, it's worth it! I think you can get it a bit cheaper now, but it's still over £1000.
Saying the price, does that really matter? Can you really put a price on someones ability to see? It has helped me so much at university and everyday life, being able to read the newspaper, seeing the food menus above the counter in Mcdonalds etc etc. Yes it is a lot of money but it is well worth it.
--- Overall ---
I think I've said everything you need to know. It is a great aid for the visually impaired and elderly, along with being a fantastic camera. It is expensive but definitely worth what you pay.
For more information see the Optelec website, which also has videos linked to it showing what it can actually do.
(Please note, I have also published this review on Ciao under the same username).