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Finding the Right Compact Opera Glasses

A night at the theater can be a frustrating experience if you are sat too far away to see much. Opera glasses give you an easy way to get closer to the action without the size and weight of most outdoor binoculars.

What Are Opera Glasses?

  • Opera glasses are small binoculars designed to help people see the stage properly while at the opera or theater, even from the cheaper seats. They are usually designed to be easy to carry and offer relatively low levels of magnification. They have been produced for centuries, and vintage examples are often made in elaborate designs from exotic materials.
  • Unlike most binoculars from manufacturers like Tasco, which use Porro or roof prisms to flip the image the right way up, opera glasses often use simpler Galilean optics. They consist of a convex objective lens and a concave eyepiece lens. This ensures that the image is displayed properly, but it can't provide much magnifying power. However, some modern Tasco binoculars use more complex optics despite being designed for the theater.
  • Unlike regular binoculars, which might have magnification of 8x or 10x, the less advanced optics of opera glasses tend to magnify images by around 3x or 5x. This lower power is well-suited to the size of a typical theater, giving you enough range to see all the action on stage. It also provides a wider viewing angle so you can see everything at once.

Which Features Should I Look for in Compact Opera Glasses?

  • Binoculars and opera glasses with bigger objective lenses take in more light, giving you a brighter image in a dimly lit theater. However, increasing the size of the optical elements also makes the opera glasses bigger and heavier, so you are very unlikely to find a pair of 50 mm opera glasses. Opera glasses typically have an objective of under 30 mm.
  • Opera glasses often have a fixed focus, so when you look through them, everything is in focus. Center focus models allow you to focus manually. This takes a bit more work, but it lets you get a sharper picture of the things you want to see.
  • Sometimes opera glasses come with a built-in handle, often called a lorgnette. This may be a fold-down design that tucks up against the body for easier storage, and some designs can also be adjusted to different lengths. Whether yours adjusts or not, it provides a secure and comfortable grip. Other opera glasses are designed to hang from a chain that you can wear around your neck.
  • Opera glasses let you see the stage more easily, but what if you want to look at your program? Some opera glasses come with a low-powered light attached, so you can check the order of events without disturbing the people sitting next to you.

Content provided for informational purposes only. eBay is not affiliated with or endorsed by Tasco.

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