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Years ago someone explained to me the technicalities of binoculars -- power, etc., etc., etc.  I really don't remember anything. 

I suppose main use for me would be looking at birds.  (I would not call myself a birder though.)  Just a week ago there was a Scarlet Tanager in the tree off my balcony.  I wish I had binoculars to get a better look at it. 

What do I need to know in choosing binoculars?  Any recommendations? 
 

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You want to go to a good birding or other optics store and look through them.

Binoculars have two numbers, the magnification and the diameter of the large lens in mm. 10x42, for example is an 10 power magnification and a lens size of 42 mm. The larger lens means more light into the binoculars and also means a wider field of vision, which is important for birding because it will be easier to find the birds when you are looking for them.

I recommend at least 8x magnification.

I was also told to try to get binoculars that seem bright and true to color when I look through them, which is why it is important to actually look through ones in your price range. Look at something across the store at about the distance you think you'll be most often. Try to find something to read on the wall, and look at it with the naked eye and then through the binoculars. Does the image seem bright and clear? Is it easy to adjust the focus?

It's also important to hold them. Everyone's hands are different. What feels good in my hands might not feel good in yours.

Avoid binoculars with gimmicks, like built in cameras. Put the money into good glass.

While my first choice is to support local birding stores, after you've tried out several models and found some you're interested in, Eagle Optics online is a good shop. You could check prices there and see if anyone local will match it.

I'm sure others will have good recommendations. My current binoculars are 10x42. Vortex Vipers.

Here's a good webpage about binoculars:
http://www.birding.com/binoculars.asp

Betsy
 

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I highly recommend image stabilized binoculars, the stabilization really works!  It makes viewing through the binocs much easier and let's your eyes see more detail.  I will never even consider unstabilized binocs again.  I own a Canon 10x30 that are no longer made, and have been superseded by better tech.  I'd look at the 8x25 or the "model II" 12x36 binocs, though the 12 power ones may be more than you want in cost and weight.

I know there are other brands of stabilized binocs out there, but I have no experience with them.  On my "old" Canons, optical quality is good enough (there's some diffraction using them on bright snowy days, otherwise they are fine). The stabilization works great, even on my older model.
 

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I use binoculars often when traveling.....some of those roadside Visa turn offs are overlooking lots of fascinating activity....train-yards, dams, docks....and of course critters.
Binoculars are also really handy at large events concerts, county fairs, etc.

I have a pair of Nikon Eagleview 8-24x25 with zoom up to 24x....great viewing quality and handy size.

 

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Contrary to what I'd thought, the Canon 10x30 binocs are still available.  I've been tickled with mine for almost ten years.  They have an advantage over the 8x25 binocs of using AA batteries instead of the pricier CR123camera battery, but weigh more of course.
 

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You will find at the Eagle Optics site mentioned above that they make binoculars, and My wife and I have found a favorite that we use primarily for bird-watching, but also other activities. The ones we have are Eagle Optics Ranger, 8x42. The provide excellent quality, with a lifetime warranty in a reasonable mid-priced binocular. ($250-$300 may or may not sound reasonable for your budget, but similar binoculars at the high end can be around $2000!) We like them so much that they've become one of our favorite gifts to give, so not only both of us but our three sons and my brother-in-law are now also proud owners!

There is a birdwatchers store called Wild Birds Unlimited which has retail outlets in our area, and this is where we found, tested and have been buying them. As also mentioned previously, you really should find a place where you can compare not only the optics but how they feel in your hands and even fit your face.
 

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I have a hand-me-down pair from my grandparents-7x35 Empire with a date on the box of 1966.  For someone who doesn't use them that much, they work pretty well.

BTW, binoculars are much better for an amateur to view the moon than a telescope.  Much easier to use and plenty of magnification to identify features if you have a good pair.
 
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