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What to Look for When Buying Binoculars

A good pair of binocs can enhance your outdoor exploring experience to the max. But, it’s hard to tell which pair actually live up to what they promise. With new brands entering the market and newer types of binocs being promoted every day, it can get overwhelming to step into the world of exploring as a newbie.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to look for when buying binoculars, don’t worry, you’re one of the many. In this article, we’ve compiled all the factors you need to assess to buy the best binocs on the market.

We’ll go through the most important features, types of binoculars, and a small guide to help you choose binoculars best suited for your intended purpose.

6 Factors to Consider Before Buying Binoculars

Binoculars are an investment. Before taking the big step of splurging on a good pair of binoculars, you need to consider a few factors regarding quality. Waterproofing, durability, and portability are important, but there are more features to consider if you want great binocs that will last long with unfaltering quality.

The following points should be carefully examined while browsing through different binocular brands and types:

Magnification

The most common magnification popular binoculars have either 8x or 10x. Before knowing the difference, it’s important to know what the magnification of a binocular is in the first place.

The magnification of a binocular is the measure of how close the image of an object will be to you; the maximum magnification a binocular can have is 12x, at which you get the best high-resolution images from a long distance.

It will be difficult to get clear images of very far-off objects with an 8x magnification. Whereas, with the 10x magnification, you can get a more detailed view of an object 10 times larger from a 90-yard close distance.

 

Objective Lens Diameter

The inside diameter of the optical lens frame of a binocular is called the objective lens diameter. How bright the image produced by a binocular will be, especially under low-light conditions, is indicated by this diameter.

The greater the effective diameter of an objective lens, the more light it can capture. If your binocular lens can trap more light, you get vivid and blur-free images.

However, most binoculars with large effective diameter lenses measuring more than 50mm or higher tend to be heavier. Consequently, carrying it around everywhere will become daunting.

It’s wise to go for binoculars with a medium objective lens diameter between 28mm to 50mm. They are cost-efficient, relatively lightweight, and produce good image quality.

 

Lens Quality and Coating

Most binoculars have a single thin layer or multi-layered chemical coatings on the lens surfaces. This is done to reduce the loss of reflected light and improve light transmission. If the lens quality is not up to the mark, it can lose up to 5% of the light that passes through.

Image quality can also be enhanced by lens coatings. To maximize the transmission of all the basic hues in the light spectrum, many binocular manufacturers apply multiple thin coatings of up to 80 layers.

With technological advancements, water-repellent coatings are also getting popular. These coatings on the outer side of objective lenses prevent water from sheeting. Instead, the water forms beads, making the clean-up process easier.

 

Field of View and Exit Pupil

This refers to the amount of view expressed in feet that you will be able to see from a distance of 1000 yards without moving the binocs. A wider field of view will help you to see, follow, and decipher between moving objects better.

The higher the magnification power is, the narrower the field of view will be; the apparent field of view mentioned on your binocs simply refers to the real field of view times the magnification.

Exit pupil is the measurement of the diameter of the image formed on the eyepiece of your pupil. Dividing lens diameter by magnification can give you the exit pupil.

Light rays pass through the exit pupil, through the system, and then are finally delivered to your eyes and form a clear picture. The larger the exit pupil diameter is, the more light is trapped within the binoculars and reflected onto your eyes. This greatly impacts the quality of the image and your viewing experience.

 

Weight and Eye Strain 

An important factor to consider before choosing a pair of binocs is the weight. Before buying, test out the binoculars to check if they’re easy on your hands and wrists. Carrying heavy set binoculars to and fro can cause muscle strain or fatigue, so assess them carefully before making your purchase.

Try to look for binoculars with an eye relief feature to reduce the chance of damage to your vision. The binoculars that tend to be the most taxing on your eyes are the cheap ones found at local stores.

High-end binoculars will go easy on both your eyes and hands and are definitely worth the investment. Don’t let the hefty price tag force you into settling for binocs that will tire you out.

 

Waterproofing

Binoculars are susceptible to moisture damage, especially if they are used in humid areas. Little moisture or water appears as fog on your lenses, restricting light from passing through. Looking through such blurry images can be damaging to the eyes as well.

Waterproofed binocs won’t only keep your lenses safe on a rainy day but will also protect them from unwanted air, dust, pollutants, etc. Water-resistant lenses also prevent water from contaminating the internal components of your binoculars.

If you plan to travel to humid areas, make sure your eyepiece is adequately waterproofed. Regular binocs generally come with a layer of waterproofing as a shield to provide moderate protection against damage.

Which Binoculars Should You Get? 

Now that you know what to look for in a good set of binoculars, you also need to know which pair is best for your intended activity. Not all binoculars are built for all outdoor occasions, which is why they come in a number of different builds.

According to the activity of your choice, these are the types of binoculars you should look for –

Travel and Sightseeing

Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time on foot, make sure you go for a lightweight and compact pair of binocs. They should be easy to carry, preferably with a neck strap or travel case. If you’re visiting humid or rainy environments, make sure the binocs have suitable waterproofing.

Mid-range magnification and field of view should be fine for traveling purposes.

 

Bird Watching and Wildlife Viewing

To fully capture vast views in technicolor, you should opt for binoculars with a wide field of view. As birds and other animals are moving objects, they tend to come off as a fast blur with low-powered binocs. Instead, go for a pair with a magnification power between 7x to 12x.

Also, if you want to truly enjoy your experience and all the bright colors of nature, try to get binoculars with a large exit pupil. This will ensure a lot of light enters the system to form vivid imagery.

 

Regular Outdoor Use

For everyday to occasional use, binoculars with adequate waterproofing, durability, and portability are a must. They should be lightweight, strongly built with long-lasting material, and easy to carry/put away.

A magnification power between 8x to 10x is best for this type of use. If you intend to use the binocs in dimly lit settings or during late daytime, make sure they have a large objective diameter to trap in the most light.

 

Marine

Similar to wildlife viewing, you should also look for binoculars with a wide field of view for marine use. A large objective lens diameter paired with a large exit pupil will enhance the colors and sharpness of your view by trapping more light inside the binocs.

Of course, waterproofing is crucial to prevent moisture damage in this case. For vivid imagery, go for a set with a vibration reduction system to stabilize images as you view them.

 

Stargazing

Higher powered magnification binoculars are crucial for astronomy purposes as they provide a clearer picture of the dark sky. So, try to look for a magnification power of 8x or higher.

In order to see stars, you need binoculars that will allow the maximum amount of light to pass through. This means you will have to look for binocs with a large objective lens diameter as well as a large exit pupil. To brighten and sharpen the image, make sure the binocs are aberration-corrected.

 

Theatergoing 

Going to theaters or museums does not require very high magnification powers, so anywhere between 4x to 10x should be fine. These binoculars should be lightweight and easy to carry. Also, try to make sure they have an eye relief feature to prevent strain from staring into them for too long.

A focusing distance of about 2 meters with an adequate field of view should give you a great viewing experience.

 

Sports and Live Events

In large stadiums or arenas, binoculars with a wide field of view and high magnification provide the best viewing experience. They can be anywhere from 7x to 10x magnification power and are preferable with a zoom in/out feature.

Again, make sure they are lightweight and go easy on your hands and wrists. Since you’re going to be looking through them for a while, opt for a pair that has an eye relief feature.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What strength of binoculars is best?

Anywhere between 6x to 10x magnification power is easy to use for regular outdoor activities. But, for specific activities such as birdwatching or wildlife viewing, you might need a higher magnification power of 8x to 10x.

Which strength of binoculars is best depends on what your intended purpose for it is.

  • How do I know what strength binoculars I need?

You don’t need high strength if you’re using binoculars for regular outdoor use. But, for activities such as sightseeing, sporting events, and birdwatching, high magnification power is preferable. For more details, refer to our Which Binoculars Should You Get? section.

  • What makes a good pair of binoculars?

Out of all the various features a pair of binoculars can have, durability, waterproofing, and portability are the top most important factors. These determine the overall quality of your binoculars.

Aside from that, magnification, objective lens diameter, lens quality, lens coating, field of view, exit pupil, weight, and eye relief functionality also count. You can find out more about these specific features in our 6 Factors to Consider Before Buying Binoculars section.

  • How many types of binoculars are there?

There are altogether three main types of binoculars. They include monoculars, Porro prism, and roof prism. Their main differences revolve around their inner structure and the way in which light rays pass through the prisms inside them.

  • How do you differentiate binoculars?

There are model numbers printed on the body of binoculars to help you to differentiate between them in terms of magnification and size.

For instance, a pair showing “8×42” means that the magnification power is 8x and the objective lens diameter or size is 42. The size is in millimeters but is not often shown explicitly on the label.

 

Conclusion

To put it simply, the best binoculars you can buy on the market should have good waterproofing, durability, and portability. As long as these three factors are in check, you have a great pair of binocs in your hands.

In order to actually know what to look for when buying binoculars, you have to ask yourself what your intended use for the binocs is and which activities you plan on using them the most for. If you still haven’t figured this out, you can skim through our ‘Which Binoculars Should You Get?’ section for more details.

Read Also:

How Binoculars Work

How to Clean Binoculars & Their Lenses

best binoculars brands

By Nathan Moy

Hi, Nathan Moy is the founder and CEO of Birdmoy.com . Im passionate about nature and I use this site as a platform to share my experiences, learnings, mistakes, and ideas about birding and nature.

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