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Binoculars


Glenys
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8 x 42 is the “standard” birding binocular - 8x magnification, with a 42 millimeter diameter objective lens.

The larger the objective lens, the more light that is let in. So, 8 x 42 binoculars will work better in low light than 8 x 30, for example. 

Some people prefer 10 x 42 - with slightly more powerful magnification - but they are often heavier, and do not perform as well in low light conditions as a lower magnification binocular with the same objective lens diameter.

There are also 10 x 50 binoculars, which have both stronger magnification, and a larger objective lens (letting in more light, so they perform well in low light conditions), but these will be larger and heavier.

Ultimately, it is really personal preference (8x or 10x). But 8 x 42 is often considered standard.

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I'd recommend the 8x if you don't have much experience using binoculars (or anything with a long lens) as the more magnification you have the more difficult it will be to find the bird.

I personally think the standard 42mm is too heavy to carry around with all my other birding equipment, so I have bins that are half the size and I do just fine.

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I use a 10x42 Gosky pair that I got last year as a gift. The distance is good enough for me, as I usually use it to scan flocks of seagulls, ducks on the other side of the river, or small birds at the top of tall trees. Haven’t really had any complaints, does what it needs to do.
I don’t find it too heavy, but I put them in my coat pocket instead of around my neck. 

Don’t really have any experience with any other binos except the smaller cheaper ‘pocket’ ones, which I always found didn't really provide any benefit. I do have older high magnification ones, but don’t use those at all because they’re old and confusing, and much too big to even think about carrying around. They’d be much better to use when watching from a window. Yet, even then I still use my 10x42

Though, eBird for its birding challenge winners, provides an 8x42 pair. Don’t know if that’s because it’s standard, or if they’re just being cheap!

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I'll endorse the 8x42 as a good option for a first pair, and agree that 10x or x50 aren't well suited for beginners.  As others have noted, the more powerful ones have some downsides, including being more sensitive to hand and arm motions.  Develop a steady hand with 8x42 before moving on to something else (if ever).

Expect to pay $150 - $250 for a good pair of Monarchs, Nikons, or Vipers.  Don't touch anything that doesn't have a factory warranty.  If possible, visit a Bass Pro or similar sporting goods and lay your hands on several pairs.  How binos feel in your hand is very important to your long-term satisfaction.

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