Binoculars are essential tools for many outdoor activities. They can help you capture amazing views of nature and wildlife.
However, choosing the right pair of binoculars can be difficult. There are so many factors to consider when purchasing a pair of binoculars.
Binoculars are usually designed for specific purposes. For example, some models are meant for birdwatching, while other models are better suited for sports such as hunting. When choosing binoculars, it’s important to take into account their features, price, and quality.
Learn how to choose a binocular that meets your needs and preferences.
Understanding Binocular Specs
Consider the following factors to choose a binocular:
The magnification range refers to how many times larger an object appears in your image compared to what you see with the naked eye. A 10x binocular magnifies objects ten times their size while a 20x binocular magnifies them twenty times. Magnifications higher than 50x are considered high power binoculars.
A low magnification (10x) will allow you to get close to wildlife without being so close that you scare them away. If you plan on spending most of your time observing birds, insects, reptiles or other small animals, then a 10x binocular would be perfect.
A medium magnification (20x) allows you to observe large mammals from a distance. You may even spot a predator from afar if you know where they like to hunt.
A high magnification (50x) will enable you to view distant landscapes and buildings. It is ideal for bird watching or nature photography.
Field Of View
This refers to the area of the sky that you can see through your binoculars. Field of view varies depending on the magnification level. For example, a 10x binocular will have a field of view of about 60 degrees while a 20x binocular will cover 120 degrees.
You can use this information to determine which binocular suits your needs best.
Objective Lens Diameter
An objective lens diameter refers to the diameter of the lenses used in the binocular. Binoculars’ objective lenses determine their field of vision. The bigger the diameter, the more light-gathering power the binocular has. This means that the binocular will produce brighter images.
Larger lenses collect more light than smaller ones, resulting in brighter images.
Objective lenses are made up of glass or plastic. Glass lenses are more durable but weigh less than plastic lenses. Plastic lenses are lighter but tend to scratch easily.
An objective lens of 50mm diameter is common in binoculars.
Coating is applied to the surface of the lenses to prevent moisture and dust particles from sticking to it. Most binoculars come with anti-reflective coatings. These coatings reduce glare and improve contrast.
Anti-reflection coatings also make the lenses easier to clean. However, they do not last forever. As soon as you start noticing scratches on the lenses, it’s time to replace them.
And fully-multi-coated lenses provide superior performance over conventional lenses.
The quality of the image produced by binoculars depends on the type of lens used. High quality binoculars have very clear images. Low quality binoculars often have fuzzy edges and poor contrast.
Eye relief refers to the amount of space between the eyepiece and your eyes. The greater the eye relief, the better the viewing experience. Eye relief ranges from 0 mm to 15 mm.
Most binoculars have an eye relief of 5-8 mm. This makes them comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
Exit pupil refers to the opening at the end of the optical tube. The Exit pupils vary depending on the magnification level of the binocular. Higher magnification levels require bigger exit pupils.
If you want to look at something really close, then you should consider using a binocular with a small exit pupil. Smaller exit pupils make it easier to focus on objects closer to you.
Binoculars usually have two focusing mechanisms: manual and autofocus. Manual focusing means that you must adjust the focus yourself. Autofocus means that the binocular automatically adjusts the focus when you move closer or farther away from the subject.
Automatic focusing is convenient because you do not need to keep adjusting the focus manually. However, autofocus tends to be slower than manual focusing. Some people find it difficult to focus using autofocus.
If you prefer to control the focus yourself, then you should consider buying a binocular with a manual focusing mechanism.
Many binoculars are waterproofed so you can use them even if it rains. Waterproofing prevents the lenses from fogging up and damaging the optics. It also protects the optics from damage caused by raindrops.
Binoculars come in different weights. Lightweight binoculars weigh around 1 lb while heavy ones weigh over 2 lbs.
Lightweight binoculars are easy to carry around. They are also great for travel since they take up little room in your luggage. Heavy binoculars are good for outdoor activities such as hiking or camping.
Most binoculars are made with sturdy materials. Some binoculars are made out of plastic. Others are made out of metal. Still others are made out of glass.
When choosing a binocular, look for one that feels solid and durable.
Many manufacturers make binoculars that are weatherproof. Weatherproof binoculars protect against moisture and dust.
Waterproof binoculars are especially important if you plan to use them outdoors.
Binocular Vs Monocular
Monoculars are single-eye devices. They consist of one lens which provides both eyesight. The image appears upside down compared to normal vision.
In contrast, binoculars provide double eye sight. They consist of two lenses which allow each eye to view an inverted image. This allows you to get a wider field of view.
Binoculars tend to be heavier than monoculars. In addition, they are more expensive.
A digital binocular is a type of binocular that has a built-in camera. Digital binoculars are used for taking pictures and videos. You can use these binoculars to capture images of wildlife, scenery, and other subjects.
Digital binoculars are available in various styles and designs. There are several brands of digital binoculars. Each brand offers a unique set of features.
The best digital binoculars offer high quality optics, large viewing fields, and comfortable grips. They also include accessories like carrying cases, tripod adapters, and eyepieces.
Image Stabilized Binocular
An image stabilized binocular uses gyroscopes to stabilize the image. An image stabilized binocular will not shake when you move. This makes it easier to see details in low light conditions.
Some image stabilized binoculars have a flip up feature. When you flip this feature up, it turns off the stabilization system. This allows you to use the binoculars without stabilizing the image.
Some image stabilized binoculars also have a zoom function. These binoculars let you adjust the magnification of the image.
Image Stabilization Technology (IS)
Image stabilization technology (IS) works by using gyroscopes. Gyroscopes measure how the earth spins on its axis. If you hold still, there is no movement. However, if you turn your head, the earth moves around you.
This motion causes the image of the object to shift. IS compensates for this shifting by moving the optical elements inside the binocular.
IS binoculars are typically larger and heavier than non-stabilized binoculars. Some models come with a tripod adapter or a monopod adapter.
Image Stabilizer (IS) vs Electronic Image Stabilizer (EIS)
Many people confuse IS and EIS. Both technologies work similarly. However, they differ in how they accomplish their goal.
IS binocular lenses are fixed in place. A motor rotates the entire lens assembly. This does not change the focal length of the lens. It only changes the orientation of the lens.
On the other hand, EIS binocular lenses are adjustable. The motor adjusts the focus of the lens. The adjustment happens automatically as you move from one position to another.
The main difference between IS and EIS is the price. EIS binoculars cost more than IS binoculars.
There are three types of binocular lenses:
1) Single Lens Reflex (SLR)
2) Folding Prism
3) Fixed Prism
Single Lens Reflex (SLR)
In single lens reflex binoculars, the objective lens is mounted at the front of the binocular. The eyepiece is mounted behind the objective lens.
When you look through the eyepiece, you see an inverted view of what is happening at the back of the binocular.
You can manually rotate the prism to change the angle of reflection. This lets you switch between two different views.
You can also adjust the diopter setting. This controls the amount of power needed to get a clear image.
Folding prisms are similar to SLRs. However, instead of having a rotating prism, folding prisms have a prism that folds into the body of the binocular. This allows the user to fold the binocular down to be smaller.
Fixed prisms are used in some very expensive binoculars. Most of these binoculars are designed for military applications.
They do not have any moving parts. Instead, they use refractive lenses. Refractive lenses bend light rays. This bends the path of the light coming out of the eyepieces.
Night Vision Binoculars
Night vision binoculars are extremely useful when observing wildlife during the night.
These binoculars allow you to see better in low light conditions. They also provide you with infrared illumination so you can observe animals better.
Most night vision binoculars are equipped with IR illuminators. These illuminators emit a beam of light. The light bounces off objects and returns to the eye.
Most night vision binoculars have a variable magnification feature. You can adjust the zoom settings to make it easier to find small details.
Some night vision binoculars include a laser rangefinder. This helps you determine distances to objects.
Night vision binocular features vary depending on the manufacturer. Check the specifications before buying.
Polarizing filters are often included in night vision binoculars. This makes it easier to distinguish between the sky and the foreground.
Night vision binos are usually sold in pairs. One pair will come with a red filter. This provides you with the ability to see polarized light.
This is helpful when viewing stars or moonlight. The red filter blocks all blue light. This makes it easier for your eyes to detect polarization.
Another type of filter is called a green filter. It works the same way as the red filter.
However, this filter only blocks the green color. Polarized light still passes through the filter.
Night Vision Features
A lot of manufacturers offer additional features to their night vision binoculars such as thermal imaging. This gives you the ability to see heat signatures.
Many night vision binoculars also come with a digital compass. This feature shows you which direction north is.
Digital compasses work by using magnetism. A magnetic field surrounds Earth. When you point the binocular towards the North Pole, the display moves in the opposite direction.
Understanding Binocular Magnification
How much Magnification do I need for watching bird?
It all depends on what you want to watch. If you want to see small birds like sparrows, then you will require magnification of 10x. For bigger birds like hawks, you will need 20x magnification.
For general observation, you may only require 8x magnification.
How much Magnification do I need for hiking?
This depends on how far you plan to hike. You will probably require more magnification if you intend to hike long distances.
10x magnification is enough for short hikes. If you intend to hike longer distances, then you should consider purchasing higher magnification binoculars.
What magnification is best for travel binoculars?
Generally speaking, 8x magnification is good enough for most purposes. Higher magnifications provide better detail but they make it harder to hold the binocular steady.
How much Magnification do I need for hunting?
The answer depends on the species of animals you are hunting. If you are hunting deer, then you will require higher magnifications. On the contrary, if you are hunting smaller game like rabbits, then you will require lower magnifications.
Basically, hunting requires high magnification. Most hunters prefer 12x magnification.
12x magnification is sufficient for observing game at close range.
25x magnification allows you to observe animals at greater distances.
How big should my field of view be?
Field of View refers to the area of sky visible through the binoculars. Field of View is measured in degrees.
For hunting purposes, a wide field of view is ideal. It gives you a larger area to scan over.
For general observation, a narrower field of view is preferred. You can get away with a wider field of view if you plan to make frequent stops or take breaks.
What type of glass is best for hunting?
Hunters prefer to use glass with low dispersion. Low Dispersion Glasses reduce chromatic aberration. Chromatic Aberration makes colors appear out of focus.
Low Dispersion Glasses are also called High Refractive Index Glasses. They are often referred to as “High-Refractive” because they have higher indices of refraction than ordinary glass.
What is the best way to hold a binocular?
Holding a binocular correctly is important. Holding a binocular incorrectly can cause eye strain and headaches.
Hold the binocular properly by placing one hand under each side of the binocular. Place your elbows on top of the binoculars. Your forearms should rest on the sides of the binoculars, just below the eyepieces.
Place both hands on the bottom part of the binoculars near the rubber feet. Hold the binoculars firmly but gently. Do not grip the binoculars too tightly.
You should always wear glasses when using binoculars. This will prevent you from straining your eyes.
Do I need a tripod for my binoculars?
A tripod is recommended for long distance observations. A tripod keeps your binoculars steady during prolonged viewing sessions.
Tripod is also helpful for keeping your binoculars stable when you are moving.
Can I use binoculars under water?
Most binoculars are made to withstand submersion in water. However, some models are not suitable for underwater use.
I would recommend these binoculars: Steiner Commander, Steiner Navigator Pro, USCAMEL 10×50 and Hooway 7×50.
This model has an excellent reputation and known as the best marine binoculars.
Which binoculars are better: optical vs electronic?
Optical binoculars are made with glass lenses. Glass is very durable. Optical binoculars are less prone to breakage than electronic binoculars.
However, they have lower resolution than their electronic counterparts. For example, most optical binoculars cannot resolve details smaller than 0.25 inches (0.63 cm). Electronic binoculars on the other hand can resolve much finer details.
Electronic binoculars are usually lighter than optical binoculars. They are also cheaper than optical binoculars because there is no glass involved.
Electronic binoculars are not suitable for all purposes. If you want to see fine details, then opt for optical binoculars.
If you are looking for portability, then opt for electronic binoculars. They can easily fit inside a pocket or purse.
How many lenses do I need for a pair of binocular?
There are two main lens groups in binoculars. One group focuses light onto the retina of the observer’s eyes while the other group refracts the image back into the eye. Each lens group consists of several individual lenses.
There are three types of lenses – spherical, aspherical and catadioptric (also known as hybrid). Spherical lenses focus light rays parallel to their optical axis. Aspherical lenses bend light rays perpendicular to their optical axis. Catadioptric lenses combine the properties of both spherical and aspherical lenses. Most binoculars use spherical lenses.
Binoculars with multiple lenses usually have more complex optics than binoculars with fewer lenses.
Here’s how to test out binoculars.
Before buying any new equipment, test out your binoculars first. Hold the binoculars up to your face and line up the center of the crosshairs with your nose. Look into the eyepieces and adjust the focus until the crosshairs appear as one continuous line.
If you find that the crosshairs do not appear as one continuous line, then you need to adjust the focus.
To adjust the focus:
1. Place the binoculars on a flat surface.
2. Adjust the focus ring until the crosshairs form a straight line.
3. Once the crosshairs are aligned, hold the binoculars steady.
4. Slowly move the binoculars away from your face.
5. If the crosshairs start to go out of alignment again, repeat steps 2-5.
6. When the crosshairs remain perfectly aligned all the way back to infinity, the binoculars are properly focused.
7. To check whether the binoculars are correctly focused, look through the eyepieces. You should be able to clearly see the horizon.
There is no single best binocular. The type of activity you intend to perform determines which model of binocular is right for you.
In case you have any questions about this guide, please comment below. We would love to hear from you!
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Michael has been a traveler and blogger since he was 17 years old. Now his passion is hiking, traveling, camping, and revealing his outdoor secrets. Stay connect with us for outdoor events and camping trips together.