July 18, 2012 at 12:26 PM ET
From pinstripes on a baseball uniform to feathers on a wood duck, the sights of summer come into precise relief through binoculars. This is a gadget that can help you get more out of expensive tickets and trips. While you won’t approach the clarity and durability of a $2,500 Swarovski model, you can find quality binoculars for less than $50.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable binoculars.
You’ll notice that manufacturers use two numbers to describe each model. The first is the magnification. The binoculars on this list make objects appear either seven or eight times closer than they would to your naked eye. If you spot a potential campsite about 300 yards away, for example, the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 binoculars will make it appear just over 40 yards away, so you can scope it out before you hike any farther. The second number is the objective lens width, measured in millimeters. Larger lenses let in more light but make the binoculars heavier to carry around.
If you wear glasses, be sure to factor eye relief into your decision. This is how close you must hold the binoculars to your eyes to see the whole image in focus. Experts at REI advise choosing a model with eye relief of at least 11 mm, lest you feel like you’re looking through a tube. The Bushnell Permafocus and Olympus Roamer binoculars both meet this mark. The Bushnell Powerview model comes in at 10 mm but does have fold-down eyecups designed to help.
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