Grading System for Binoculars

This is the standard Raffi-system of grading binoculars (I am Raffi) - I stopped dealing in binoculars in 2021 but this is still the standard system - and if you have something really interesting that I really must buy for my own collection, please email me.


The Basics
The size and weight
The external condition
The condition of the optics
Final evaluation

The Basics

The power (magnification) and physical size of each item e.g. 10X50. The first figure is the magnification, the second figure is the diameter of the big lens (objective lens) in millimeters. So 10X50 would mean 10X magnification (objects will appear 10X bigger, as if you have moved 10X closer) with 50mm diameter objective lens.

The field of view is the area you can see left-to-right / top-to-bottom whilst holding the binoculars steady. Low power binoculars have a wide field of view, high power binoculars have a narrow field of view, irrespective of the size of the objective lenses. The field of view can be given in degrees (eg "Field of View 8.5") or in feet and yards (eg "262 feet at 1000 yards").

The size and weight

Please think about this before buying. Is it pocket-size? Can it be comfortably held in the hand or will it need a tripod? Many customers don't read read (or notice) the size and weight, e.g. they want something that fits neatly into a bag , they get something that is too large to fit into the boot of a car!

The external condition

I don't list the external condition where there is a good photograph, but please do look at the photograph to see the condition, if it is visible in the photograph, I shan't take time to describing it in writing. High-value items will have several photographs, low-value items will only have two.

If the external condition needs a special mention, I describe it as follows:

As new

If you put it back on the shelf in a shop and no customer would doubt that it was new - then it is 'as new', no matter how old it is!

If it was 'only used once' but now the display box is slightly torn, the instruction manual has been thumbed and the strap has been removed from its cellophane - then condition is not 'as new', no matter how 'new' you think it is!

Almost as new (or very nearly 'As new")

Although it is, really, like new - if you were to look closely through a magnifier you could say, quite rightly, that it had some minor scuff marks as if it has been on display; or that the outer box is tatty and / or the instructions are missing and / or the case shows signs of use.


Obviously not new but the amount of wear is minimal, fabric / leather covering is in good condition, surface paint is at least 90% intact, appearance quite respectable.


Leather / fabric covering scuffed and scratched but mostly intact, surface paint is coming off. This is typical 'second-hand' condition, most of the items that you will ever see are in this condition, many say, "Excellent condition considering the age". I say, "Fair".


Leather / fabric covering torn or peeling, surface paint has largely come off, maybe also small dents, worn eyecups, wobbly knobs. Many say, "in perfect working order" but I say "tatty"...even if it IS in perfect working order.

The condition of the optics


No dust inside, no haze, no scratches, scuffs, chips, crazing, or signs of damp or mould. This does not mean 100% perfect, unless described as "as new" - because if you look at the lenses with a good jewellers loupe or a microscope, you will see imperfections.


This is a very fine, and often imperceptible, layer dust on the prisms, as you might see in window glass when the sun catches it at the right angle. Never visible in use but can lessen performance if bad.

- SLIGHT HAZE: a perfectionist might give this a Clean & Overhaul, most wouldn't bother

- HAZE: will lessen performance, would benefit from Clean & Overhaul.


Most old binoculars contain some dust, even if only a couple of tiny specs. Some enthusiast-perfectionists tell me that even brand new binoculars have some microscopic signs of dust (though a good make shouldn't have any!)

I use the same term ("dust") when it's not really dust but fine white marks, possibly left over from cleaning or from damp that has dried out (not to be confused with damp or mould which I always describe)...and this is how I describe 'dust' -

- VERY SLIGHT DUST: just a few specs, often in the form of very small black 'pinpricks.'

- SLIGHT DUST: a perfectionist might give this a Clean & Overhaul, most wouldn't bother.

- DUSTY: rarely visible in use but will lessen performance, would benefit from Clean & Overhaul.

- GRUBBY: thick dust, grime, bits of dead insect etc, the image will be appear dim or speckled, in need of a Clean & Overhaul.


If it's bad enough to give a double image (for three or four seconds until your eyes compensate) I say: OUT OF ALIGNMENT.

If it's so bad that the binoculars is unusable I say BADLY OUT OF ALIGNMENT.

This is how to check the alignment:

Firstly, look into it from the wrong end. Do not try to look through the binoculars, look into them, as if looking into a box. If you can't see anything at all, it must be 'clean'' since all the lenses and prisms should be perfectly transparent.

More likely, you will see specs of dust, grubby marks, perhaps a crack or chip on a prism in the middle; or you might not see any bad marks but a fine 'haze' of dust. It's unlikely that, in old binoculars, they will be completely clean. Tell me what you see.

Secondly, check to see if it is in alignment. Hold it very still and look at a distant point (e.g. a chimney, tree or pylon), so that the point is in the very centre of one side (shut one eye). Then, open that eye and shut the other. Keep swapping eyes, holding the binoculars absolutely steady. Does the image appear to 'jump'? If so, the binocular is out of alignment, each side is pointing in a slightly different direction.

Final evaluation

When describing an item you have for sale, please be very critical about the condition. There is no such description as 'in excellent condition for its age and considering its history'. An item that is in 'as new' is 'as new' quite irrespective of its history; an item that is externally tatty and optically grubby does not become 'in excellent condition' simply because it has served in two world wars.

I suggest that (if you have an item for sale), having gone through everything above, you put the item on a table, shut your eyes tightly, slowly turn round 360 degrees, open your eyes - does the item in front of you still match your description? Be super-critical!