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The woods in your local park or the grass in the African savanna hold visual treasures you’ll miss when just peering with your eyeballs. Instead, after you spot that goldfinch or lion, raise a pair of ­binoculars to ­reveal the details of their feathers or fur. Picking the right zoom ­ensures you’ll get the best view of all the creatures in the distance.


The wide angle provided by the Vortex Viper HD 8×42 allows you to spy a hummingbird in your backyard, but will make the blur of its wings appear eight times closer. To prevent fogging, ­engineers filled the two ­optical barrels with argon gas, then sealed them with rubber gaskets.


You’ll want a bit more power when checking out soaring hawks from a summit. The components on Bushnell’s 10×42 ­Nitro have a protective layer that improves clarity, repels fingerprints, and resists scratches. They’re waterproof too, so don’t worry about that accidental puddle dunk.


Cheap lenses refract light unevenly, shrouding everything in a purple halo. Nikon’s Monarch 5 20×56 sports dense optics with a coating designed to correct color, so striped zebras won’t look washed out. Adjustable eye cups let you catch the sights ­without removing your glasses.

This story originally published in the Out There issue of Popular Science.