December 8, 2010

Binoculars (II/V) – magnification

There are four important numbers associated with a pair of binoculars: magnification, diameter, field of view, and price.

One misconception about binoculars is that bigger is better. This is not always true. Binoculars are defined by two numbers (e.g. 7 x 50). The first number (7x) is the magnification, or the number of times larger than life an object will appear. Most popular binoculars are between 6 and 12x (any larger than 12x the image is too shaky to view). While a more powerful magnification such as 10x will bring birds closer to you and reveal more detail, it will also be a darker, shakier image making these bigger binoculars less effective. Larger magnification also equates to heavier binoculars and a smaller Field of View (see IV/V). Most people find that a 6 x or 8 x are well suited for bird watching. The most important thing is to simply look through a bunch of binoculars and find a pair that just feels right and if you are buying off the web remember that bigger is not always better.

For more on selecting binoculars please visit these links:



10 x


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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact:

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