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How We Tested Binoculars

By Max Mutter ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Tuesday July 5, 2022

Where We Tested

During our testing period, these binoculars ran the gamut in everything from birding at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, aiding a guide at WanderLust Tours in Bend, Oregon, enhancing many a nature hike in the Eastern Sierra, to accompanying our main tester on a 1200-mile bicycle tour along the Pacific Coast. From this experience, we were able to try each pair of binoculars in real-world settings and also get a lot of feedback from various users so that we would be armed with the info necessary to choose the best pair.

Chart Test

We also performed a more standardized test to more closely compare the clarity between each pair. This was tested by using an ISO 12233 chart. By viewing the same set thing through each pair, we were able to more closely evaluate the differences, and similarities, between each pair.

binoculars - this is an example of the iso 12233 chart that we used to test the...
This is an example of the ISO 12233 chart that we used to test the clarity between all 12 pairs in our test group. This chart is a standard for measuring resolution of electronic still imaging cameras, but we downloaded and printed a copy to use to compare our view through each pair of binoculars.
Credit: imaging resource

We then viewed the chart through each pair of binoculars at a specified distance and noted how well we could read the different zones of the chart. The best and clearest pairs allowed us to see 10 zone clear and crisp and we could make out the lines. With other pairs, we started to notice blurriness and purple fringing and color aberrations around the edges.

binoculars - our testing photo rig.
Our testing photo rig.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

We also repeated this test using a real-world scenario. For this, we purchased two model birds (that we affectionately named Garry the goldfinch and Barry the bluebird) and placed them in a tree. We then observed the birds through each pair of binoculars. We also mounted the binoculars on a tripod for this test to ensure each pair was in the exact same position. We also took photos through each pair of binoculars so we could more easily make side-by-side comparisons.

binoculars - garry the goldfinch and barry the bluebird getting cozy with one of...
Garry the goldfinch and Barry the bluebird getting cozy with one of our testers.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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