A hand-held bar code reader with a two dimensional image sensor for omnidirectional bar code reading, includes variable imaging optics, and flash illumination with variable flash illumination optics. A spotter beam is provided for aiming the hand held bar code reader at a bar code symbol. The spotter beam is also used to measure the range to said bar code from said hand held bar code reader and to determine the focal length of said variable imaging optics and variable flash illumination optics. The imaging optics are adjusted automatically to provide the correct magnification and focus of a bar code regardless of range to the label. The variable focal length flash illumination optics are used to concentrate illumination energy only in the field of view of the bar code reader. The flash illumination energy is conserved by measuring the ambient light and setting the level of flash illumination energy in accordance with the measured level of ambient light. In such manner, conventional, damaged, multiple, and stacked bar codes symbols along with true two dimensional codes may be rapidly read over distances from under one foot to over several feet without having to align the bar code reader to the bar code.