I'd like some good binoculars for bird-watching. Can you recommend a few features to look for?
—Bill Levell, Torrington, Connecticut
George: There are a few simple tips that will help you select perfect binoculars. The magnification and sharpness of the images are the most important considerations. Binoculars have two numbers that describe these capabilities. The first number is the power of magnification. For example, a bird viewed through 7 x 35 binoculars is magnified seven times. The second number is the diameter, in millimeters, of the object lens (the front lens). Larger lenses gather more light, making the image you see clearer and brighter.
Bigger binoculars aren't necessarily better, however. Greater magnification and clarity require more glass, which makes binoculars heavier. And higher magnification can make it difficult to quickly spot a bird because the image is so close. Therefore, 7 x 35 or 8 x 40 binoculars are the best choices for most birders.