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How To Choose Binoculars (Key Factors to Consider)

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on May 6th, 2024
How To Choose Binoculars

Binoculars are versatile tools that can be used for birdwatching, stargazing, hunting, outdoor activities, sports events, and more. They come in different sizes, magnifications, and features, which can make choosing suitable binoculars a daunting task. However, finding the perfect binoculars for your needs can enhance your outdoor experiences and make them more enjoyable.

This article will discuss the factors to consider when choosing binoculars and provide recommendations for selecting the right one. Whether a seasoned professional or a beginner, this guide will help you make an informed decision when purchasing binoculars.

If you are an avid bird watcher or ornithologist, a reliable binocular is necessary to observe birds up close. I recommend reading the following article regarding Best Birding Binoculars to make a well-informed decision.

1. Magnification And Objective Lens Diameter

Magnification refers to the degree to which an object appears closer through the binoculars. The magnification of binoculars is denoted by two numbers separated by an "x," such as 8x42. The magnitude of magnification is indicated by the first number, creating an effect where objects look eight times nearer than their actual proximity without optics.

How To Choose Binoculars?

When using binoculars, the second number in their description pertains to the objective lens diameter - which is positioned farthest away from your eyes. The objective lens diameter determines the amount of light the binoculars can gather.

How To Choose The Right Magnification And Objective Lens Diameter?

The right magnification and objective lens diameter depend on the intended use of the binoculars. For general use, a magnification of 7x to 10x is ideal, while a higher magnification can cause image instability and shake. A larger objective lens diameter allows more light and better image quality, but it also makes the binoculars heavier and bulkier. The ideal objective lens diameter for general use is 30mm to 42mm.

For specific uses, such as birdwatching or astronomy, the right magnification and objective lens diameter may differ. For birdwatching, a magnification of 8x to 10x and an objective lens diameter of 32mm to 42mm is suitable, while for astronomy, a magnification of 10x to 15x and an objective lens diameter of 50mm to 70mm is recommended.

2. Field Of View

With binoculars, the field of view (FOV) is the breadth of what you can observe in a single glance. Accuracy is typically measured in feet at a distance of 1,000 yards or meters when standing 1,000 meters away. If a wider field of view is employed, it becomes easier to trace and monitor items that are moving in the frame. Conversely, if a narrower FOV is used instead, then one gets to witness greater clarity when surveying stationary objects.

How To Choose The Appropriate Field Of View?

The appropriate FOV depends on the intended use of the binoculars. For birdwatching and sports events, a wider FOV is more important for following fast-moving subjects, while for stargazing or nature observation, a narrower FOV may be acceptable for a more detailed view. A FOV of 300 to 400 feet at 1,000 yards is ideal for general use, while a FOV of 400 to 500 feet at 1,000 yards is recommended for birdwatching or sports events.

3. Prism Type

Binoculars use prisms to correct the orientation of the image and reduce the length of the binoculars. Binoculars are equipped with either roof prisms or Porro prisms, both of which have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Roof prisms feature a streamlined design, making them not only more compact but also considerably tougher. Porro prisms have a zigzag design and offer better image quality and brightness.

How To Choose The Appropriate Prism Type?

The appropriate prism type depends on your intended use and personal preferences. For general use, roof prisms are more practical due to their compactness and durability.

However, for specific uses such as birdwatching or stargazing, Porro prisms offer better image quality and brightness. Additionally, Porro prism binoculars may be more comfortable to use for extended periods due to their wider spacing of the objective lenses.

4. Lens Coatings

Lens coatings are applied to the glass surfaces of binoculars to improve the image quality, brightness, and clarity of the image. There are several types of coatings, including anti-reflective coatings, phase correction coatings, and dielectric coatings.

How To Choose Binoculars

Anti-reflective coatings reduce the amount of light that is reflected off the lens surfaces, resulting in a brighter and clearer image. Phase correction coatings are used in roof prism binoculars to correct the phase shift of light passing through the prisms, resulting in a sharper and more detailed image.

Dielectric coatings are also used in roof prism binoculars to increase light transmission and improve the contrast of the image.

How To Choose The Appropriate Lens Coatings?

The appropriate lens coatings depend on your intended use and personal preferences. For general use, binoculars with anti-reflective coatings are usually sufficient. However, for specific uses such as birdwatching or stargazing, binoculars with phase correction and dielectric coatings offer better image quality and brightness.

5. Eye Relief

Eye relief is the distance between the eyepiece lens and your eyes when the entire field of view is visible. It is an important consideration for people who wear glasses, as they need more eye relief to see the entire field of view.

Also, make sure to check out the article in which I elaborated on the concept of Eye Relief In Binoculars, its significance, techniques for measuring it, and the characteristics that define exceptional eye relief.

How To Choose The Appropriate Eye Relief?

The appropriate eye relief depends on whether you wear glasses or not. If you wear glasses, you should look for binoculars with a long eye relief of at least 15mm to ensure that you can see the entire field of view. If you don't wear glasses, you can choose binoculars with shorter eye relief.

6. Weight And Size

The weight and size of binoculars are important considerations, particularly for those who plan to carry them around for extended periods. Heavier binoculars may be more stable and offer better image quality, but they can also be more difficult to carry and use for extended periods. Similarly, larger binoculars may offer a wider field of view and better image quality, but they can also be more difficult to handle and transport.

How To Choose The Appropriate Weight And Size?

The appropriate weight and size of binoculars depend on your intended use and personal preferences. For general use, binoculars that are lightweight and compact may be the most practical choice. However, for specific uses such as birdwatching or stargazing, binoculars that are larger and heavier may offer better image quality and stability.

7. Budget

The above technical specifications are crucial to understand when choosing a pair of binoculars. However, you should also take into account your budget and how much you can or want to spend.

I've already found the best binoculars for each of the following budgets:

Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the right binoculars depends on several factors, including magnification and objective lens diameter, the field of view, prism type, lens coatings, eye relief, weight, and size. Each of these factors affects the performance and functionality of the binoculars and should be carefully considered before making a purchase.

By understanding the different features and their impacts on your intended use, you can select binoculars that meet your needs and preferences. Whether you are a nature enthusiast, hunter, or stargazer, the right binoculars can enhance your experience and help you get the most out of your outdoor activities.

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