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Today is August 13, 2022


A boost to the eyes

By Tony Inton

A boost to the eyes

Kinton used a binocular that pushed close to the large size on all his Africa trips. Its designation was 10X42.

I shamefully admit to being sluggish about getting a good binocular. I toyed with some small and inexpensive units early on, but these were less than satisfactory. That was long ago. Things have changed now, both in my eyes and in manufacture of the binocular.

A serviceable and solid binocular is an implement that finds a great many uses. Obviously, those uses are primarily employed by outdoors types, but some magnification of vision can often be employed around the house. And with my eyes much older than I am, or so it seems, I always keep at least one binocular close.

While I will not be able to go into an extensive list of details regarding what makes up a good binocular and certainly will avoid telling anyone what to purchase, I will try to highlight some of the finer points of the binocular. These points can be somewhat complex but are worth knowing.

Nomenclature can be puzzling. Designations/descriptions are generally in “Xs” and millimeters. All must be understood. For instance, a binocular will be designated with something like 8X32. That simply means eight power (X) magnification and 32mm diameter of the objective lens, that lens out front. Or 10X50. Same concept. Magnification determines how “big” the object viewed is, and the millimeter marking suggests, as that millimeter increases, enhanced light gathering. There are other factors involved in that latter, such as quality of and coating applied to the glass, but higher millimeter numbers generally mean a brighter image.

There are three basic levels of binocular: compact, medium, and large. Compacts are generally 8X32 and are small and easy to carry. Medium span a range of designations, but 8X42 seems the standard. Large units are just that — large. They may carry a designation of 10X50 or even up to 20X50. These are often bulky and heavy around the neck if carried on a strap, but they can be purely superb. Fortunately, there are now several carry systems available to mitigate that heft, placing weight on the shoulders rather than the neck. All my trips to Africa found me with 10X42s medium sized.

And what does good glass cost? Sticker shock can enter the picture here. The best of the best, regardless of size, can be expensive — $1,000 and higher. But that doesn’t have to be. With advances in coatings and glass and stiff market competition, satisfactory binoculars can be had around the $150 mark. More is generally better, but the non-owner of a binocular must start somewhere.

Read about, study materials, and choose wisely before buying. You will then enjoy the boost to those eyes.



Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit for more information.

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