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How to Buy Binoculars

Spy out a pair of binoculars to fit your interests, whether it's birding or baseball, using these four tips.

Barska 7x50mm Waterproof Floating Binocular with Compass and Rangefinder, image
Photo caption
Think quality: Barska 7x50mm Waterproof Floating Binocular with Compass and Rangefinder is made with durable rubber.

Want to see the feathers on that eagle, the blowhole on that whale, or the scowl on that twitchy batter’s face? Binoculars get you there. But choose wisely: Good ones start at around $200.

  • Pick the size first Binoculars are graded by magnification power and lens diameter in millimeters (such as 8x32). Models with 25-millimeter lenses are small enough for your pocket.
  • Don’t overmagnify Stick with 7x or 8x for a better image. “People think they have to up the magnification as much as possible, but as you do, it lowers the amount of light in your view,” says optics specialist John Riutta. High power also exaggerates every wobble of your hand.
  • Think quality “Armored” binoculars coated in rubber are more durable than plain ones. Nitrogen-filled barrels hold no moisture and won’t fog in cold temperatures or high humidity.
  • Consider your needs For the motion of kayaking or whale-watching, choose 6x or 7x magnification. Birders often opt for medium- or full-size 8x42 models with good depth of field. For hikers, palm-size monoculars do the trick at half the heft.

Photography courtesy

This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.