Illustration: Serge Bloch

Gear Advice

How We Ranked 'Em

An explanation of our methodology.

For the Audubon Guide to Binoculars, we divided the bins into five categories, based on price. We took the following steps to try to obscure the make/model of binoculars: Each price group was color-coded and each pair of binoculars within the group was given a different letter by which it was identified (e.g., ‘Red A’ or ‘Blue D’), and we covered identifying marks on the bins with masking tape. As our goal was to assess binoculars within price groups, we asked reviewers to select at least one color group and to test all of the binoculars within it—rather than randomly selecting binoculars from multiple groups.

We asked reviewers to rate binoculars on a scale of one to five for each of 16 categories, with five being the highest score. Below are the categories, along with the weight we assigned to each when analyzing the results in parentheses. We calculated a weighted average score because we consider some factors, such as clarity and brightness, to be more important considerations than others, such as close-focus capacity and eyecup quality.


Clarity and Crispness

Clarity (1)

Brightness (1)

Edge-to-edge focus (.7)

Apparent contrast (.9)

Color rendition (.8)

Close-focus capacity (.7)


Overall Feel

Ease of focus (1)

Focus response (1)

Balance (.9)

Comfort in hands (.7)

Sturdiness (.5)

Size (.7)

Weight (.7)


Eye Comfort

Eye relief (1)

Eyecup quality (.5)

Diopter adjustment (.7)

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