How to buy binoculars
A binocular buying guide
Binoculars are used for a variety of indoor and outdoor activities - from bird watching, to ball games, to rock concerts. The main purpose of binoculars is to improve the view of distant objects, bringing faraway objects in close for our consideration. But in order to know how to buy binoculars you must first know what types of binoculars are available, and what binocular uses are most suitable for your individual needs.
>> How do you intend to use your binoculars?
When determining how to buy binoculars, you first need to decide what types of activities you intend to use them for. Different activities often need different types of binoculars with different binocular features, such as magnification, size of the objective lens and field of view. Below is a chart that shows which binoculars to buy based on intended binocular uses and optimal magnification.
Optimal magnification and size of objective lens
|Indoor events ||6 x 30 |
|Hiking, nature walking, bike touring ||7 x 25 |
|Outdoor sporting events, concerts, wildlife observation, boating, general purpose use ||7 x 35 |
|Hunting, bird watching, stargazing, general purpose use ||7 x 50 |
|Stargazing, long distance bird watching ||8 x 40 |
Binoculars are typically rated by two numbers. The first is the magnification and the second is the lens size. Some binoculars have an adjustable magnification, and these will be listed with three numbers, such as 10 x 30 x 60. The first two numbers show that the magnification can be adjusted from 10 to 30 power.
When considering binocular uses, magnification is more important for some things, and field of view is more important for others. For example, if you are going to be watching single objects such as a lone bird in flight, magnification is more important. But if you plan on watching several objects at the same time, field of view is much more important.
>> Determine where you will use your binoculars
The next consideration when figuring out how to buy binoculars should be where you plan to use your binoculars. It is important to choose binocular features that will work well for specific situations. Some binoculars are made with a rubber coating to protect against shock damage. This is a good choice for outdoor use or in situations where they may be easily dropped. Waterproof binoculars are also an ideal choice for outdoor use.
When determining how to buy binoculars, lighting is also something that should be taken into consideration. If you choose to use binoculars in low-light conditions, such as sunrise or sunset, then binocular features such as exit pupil, light transmission and objective lens diameter are important. For nighttime use, night-vision binoculars can be helpful.
>> Choose a binocular type
When considering how to buy binoculars, you also have to choose a binocular type. There are many different types of binoculars to choose from, including wide angle, zoom, focus free and waterproof. The following is a chart that lists the main types of binoculars, and their descriptions.
|Full-Size or Standard ||Typically large binoculars with either a 35 mm diameter or larger objective lens. |
|Compact or Foldable ||Modern, compact and often foldable binoculars with a 32 mm or smaller objective lens. These will usually fit in the palm of a hand. |
|Wide Angle ||Similar to full-size binoculars, however they allow users to view wide angles, typically from 400 feet up to 900 feet field of view at 1000 yards. |
|Zoom ||A good choice when more power is needed, zoom binoculars allow viewers to enjoy a wide range of magnification choices. |
|Waterproof ||Waterproof, and usually fog proof, these binoculars are a good choice for outdoor use. |
|Focus Free ||These binoculars are designed to focus automatically, and are a good option for viewing moving objects. |
|Binocam ||Binoculars that are built with a digital camera sensor, a binocam can be used either as binoculars or as a digital camera. |
>> Consider binocular sizes
Size and weight are also important factors to consider when researching how to buy binoculars.
Full-size binoculars are popular for boating use and for wildlife viewing. Because they are larger, they often provide a wider field of view and steadier images. Their size allows them to capture more light, and they usually perform well in low-light situations. Full-size binoculars can be quite large and heavy and may not fit conveniently into a backpack.
Mid-size binoculars are a good all-purpose binocular choice and typically have above-average light transmission. They can be used for wildlife watching, sports usage, boating and hiking. They can be a little heavy for long distance backpacking.
Compact binoculars are the lightest and smallest option, and are a great choice to slip into a backpack. They work well for daytime, outdoor or indoor use. Compact binoculars may not be comfortable for extended use.
Monoculars are the single scope version of the binocular telescope. They are the smallest, and often lightest, type of telescope on the market and are a good choice to slip into a backpack or pocket. Monoculars use single-eye viewing, which is often best for short-term use.
>> Consider terminology/specs of binoculars
When determining how to buy binoculars, it helps to understand a little of the terminology and specifications. This section of the binocular buying guide will help you understand the terminology and what different terms mean, which in turn will help you decide which is the best binocular to buy.
Magnification Power: All binoculars are rated by two numbers. The first one is the magnification power, and the second is the diameter of the lenses. For example, binoculars rated as 7 x 35 have a magnification power of 7. Meaning that an object will appear to be seven times nearer than it would without the binoculars
Objective Lens Diameter: This is the second number used to rate binoculars, and refers to the size of the lenses in diameter. For example, 7 x 35 binoculars have objective lenses that are 35 mm in size.
Exit Pupil: A number that indicates how bright objects viewed in low-light conditions will appear. A higher exit pupil number means a brighter image.
Relative Brightness: This number is determined by squaring the exit pupil number. A high relative brightness number means that the object will appear brighter when viewed through binoculars.
Field of View: This number tells you the width of the area, typically in feet, that can be viewed through the binoculars 1,000 yards from your position.
>> Do you wear glasses?
For those who plan to to wear eyeglasses or sunglasses while using binoculars, eye relief is something that should be taken into consideration. Eye relief is the amount of space between the user's eye and the lens. Some binoculars offer eye relief that can be adjusted with eye cups that are collapsible. Users who wear sunglasses or glasses should choose a pair of binoculars with an eye relief setting of at least 15mm.
Now that you have reviewed the information in this binocular buying guide, you should be able to determine which binoculars to buy that will best fit your spectating needs.