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Michael and Diane's favorite binoculars

Diane PorterMichael PorterThese are the binoculars that we think are the top bargains in binoculars today. They range from the cheapest decent binoculars you can get away with to the sublime height of optical perfection.

What they have in common is that they offer high value for the money. We have personally tested and used and all of these binoculars.

Celestron Noble 8x32Moderately priced, mid-sized binocular for glasses wearer. When our team of birders tried out dozens of 8x32 and 10x32 binoculars for our review in the January, 2005, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest, we found very few of the smaller binoculars that worked well with glasses.

One that did so, and splendidly, was the Celestron Noble 8x32. This roof prism binocular is a spectacularly good buy. Optically it's very high quality. Andbecause it has exceptional eye relief of 20mm, even while wearing glasses you can see the whole image. A rare quality in a smaller binocular. Highly recommended!

Celestron Noble price

Eagle Optics RangerThis high quality, moderately-priced binocular scored high in our 2004 trials. The Eagle Optics Ranger is compact, lightweight (under 23 oz.), and it focuses as close as 5.2 feet, making it wonderful for watching butterflies.

The engineering quality is excellent, way better than what we expected in something so economical. This is a good buy in a full-sized binocular (8x42 or 10x42). It's also available in a mid-sized 8x32 and 10x42.

Nikon Premier price   Nikon Premier price

Swarovski ELSwarovski showed its grasp of what birders want when it came out with the Swarovski EL in 1999. Swarovski has eliminated the bridge, to make a full-sized binocular that is splendid to hold in the hand. And no other binocular has finer optical qualities.

In 1004, Swarovski improved on what we originally thought was perfection by retooling the EL so that it focuses faster. That took care of the only complaint we ever heard about the ELs.

The Swarovski EL is light in weight, thanks to that hollow in the middle. It focuses as close as 8 feet. And Swarovski is famous for prompt and generously provided warranty service (in the unlikely event that your sturdy Swarovskis should become damaged).

Now available in mid-sized 10x32 and 8x42, as well as the original, venerable 8.5x42 and 10x42.

Nikon Premier price   Nikon Premier price

Nikon Premier LXWith the glasses that Michael needs to use any time he wants to see, he finds that the Nikon Premier LX, with its extremely long eye relief, gives the most perfectly complete field of view of any 10X42 binoculars. The optics are impeccable, whether you use glasses or not. For the pleasure of owning sublimely wonderful binoculars, we heartily recommend these. Available in 10x42 and 8x42.

Nikon Premier price   Nikon Premier price

There are many other excellent binoculars on the market. See our complete binocular listing with links to reviews by Michael and Diane Porter.

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What does 8x42 mean?

You will find a formula like this engraved on every binocular. It's pronounced "eight by forty-two."

The first number (8) is the power of the binoculars. It tells you how many times as big the image will appear.

Note that the magnifying power of a binocular is not related to its size, but to its eyepiece design.

The second number (42) is the diameter of the objective lenses (the front lenses), in millimeters. It tells you the light-gathering ability of the binoculars.

The bigger this second number, the larger and heavier the binoculars, and the better they may work in dim light.

A 10x25 binocular magnifies objects 10-fold and has a small objective lens of only 25mm.

A 10x50 binocular has a very large, 50mm objective lens. Such binoculars are seldom chosen by experienced birders, because those big lenses make the binocular very heavy.

Most birders use 7, 8, or 10 power binoculars with objective lenses from 20mm to 42mm.

Binoculars are usually identified by their brand name, model name, and this formula, as in "Eagle Optics Triumph 8x25" or "Swarovski EL 10x42."