Binoculars Buying Guide
The first thing that comes to your mind when you think of binoculars is a birdwatcher or a naturalist, but when you think about it further you realize that these optical wonders can be used in many other activities and hobbies.
Not only are they handy to enjoy viewing the beauty of birds and soaking in the tranquility of nature, but they can also be used for many other activities such as:
- Sky gazing
- Whale Watching
- Theater Performances
- Horse Racing
- Sports Viewing Hunting
- And the list goes on and on…
If you are into photography a great pair of binoculars can be a great asset to your photographic shoot, as it allows you to scout the landscape and pinpoint the perfect location for the perfect viewpoint.
Even if you aren’t into photography, binoculars can greatly enhance many of your day to day experiences in life; whether you want to get up close and personal with your favorite football players at the sports stadium; or whether you are simply looking for a free spot on the beach to relax – a great pair of binoculars will go a long way!
Here at USA Binoculars we have taken the time to write a Comprehensive Binocular Buying Guide to assist you in finding the perfect binocular for your next adventure. By reading this guide you will become an expert on binoculars and will learn about Optical Design, Magnification, Object Lens Size, Field of View, Build Quality, Weatherproofing, Weight and Size, and Ergonomics.
Binocular Optical Design
In order to provide a magnified image, binoculars use a combination of glass elements to enlarge the scene and these call into two main categories: Porro prism and roof prism.
Porro Prism utilise an offset internal prism to magnify images, and the wider distance between the two object lenses results in better 3D images. This design cheaper and easier to manufacture, but is far less compact than roof prism models.
Due to advances in optical engineering with the Roof Prism design, binoculars that are far more compact and lightweight can be manufactured. Most high-end binoculars are based around the Roof Prism Design.
Binocular Magnification and Lens Size
If you are completely new to binoculars you might be wondering what the numbers following binoculars such as “8x42” mean.
- The first number is basically the magnification strength and how far you much you can zoom into an object; 8x means you can make your image 8x bigger.
- The second number is basically the size of the object lens in mm and the higher this value the more light can get into your binoculars and the brighter the image, but the downside is the heavier and bulkier your binoculars will be.
So the question you might have now is what magnification and lens size should I get? Many people would jump to the conclusion that the bigger the number the better, but the problem is if the magnification is too high you will have problems have a stable image, and even the slightest shake in hands will become evident. If your lens size is too large you will have problems carrying your binoculars with you and may get neck strain.
At USA Binoculars we recommend that you first decide on what you want to use your binoculars for and then decide on the Magnification and Lens Size afterwards. Following are some guide to achieve a balance between Magnification and Lens Size based on your hobbies and activities:
- Travel 7-10X Magnification and 20-42mm lens size
- Bird Watching 8-10X Magnification and 32-42mm Lens Size
- General Hunting 8-10x Magnification and 42mm Lens Size
- Boating 7-8X Magnification and 42-50mm Lens Size
- Sports Viewing 6-8X Magnification and 20-36mm Lens Size
- Concerts/Theatre 4-8X Magnification and 21-30mm Lens Size
Binocular Field of View
In addition to magnification and lens size you want to look at the field of view of binoculars. This is often expressed in degrees or as a length in metres from a distance of 1000m. The larger the field of view the more of the scene you can view and the easier it will be for you to locate objects in the field. For instance, if you are at sea, a wide field of view will allow you to spot a person drowning more quickly.
Binocular Lens Coating
Have you ever noticed the glare of the sun reflecting off a lake? This is what often happens if binocular lens do not have any coating. If you want bright, crisp images you want as much light to enter the binoculars, not reflect off the lens. There are four levels of coating that you can have:
- Coated: A single layer on at least one lens
- Fully-Coated: A single layer on all air to glass surfaces
- Multi-Coated: Multiple layers on at least one lens
- Fully Multi-Coated: Multiple layers on all air to glass surfaces
Binocular Build Quality and Weatherproofing
Since you will be spending a considerable amount of your hard-earned cash you want to make sure that your binoculars will be made to last, and to withstand the environments you will be using it in.
Depending on your budget you can opt for the cheaper option where the base material is made of polycarbonate resins and plastics, or the more expensive option made out of Magnesium Alloy:
- The cheaper option produces binoculars that are resistant to impact but are often heavier
- The Magnesium Alloy design produces binoculars that are strong, durable, and lightweight but expensive
In addition to the material that your binoculars are constructed from you want to ensure your binoculars have weatherproofing especially if you will be using them outdoors. You want binoculars that have an O-Ring that prevents water and moisture from getting into the binocular, and you want it to be filled with an inert gas such as nitrogen to prevent internal fogging. Although these extra features will mean your binoculars will cost more, it will be money worth every cent!
Binocular Weight and Size
The dilemma faced when choosing a binocular is do you choose a binocular that is light weight but has reduced image quality, or should you opt for a binocular that will provide clearer images but be a burden to carry?
The decision is ultimately up to you, but in this Binocular Buying Guide we have provided recommendations on the binoculars you should buy based on your hobbies and activities.
Location of Focus Wheel
The location of the focus wheel is paramount for ease of use in the field. In most binoculars this is located at the centre of the body and can easily be turned with the index finger. In some compact binoculars it may be located at the same end as the object lenses, which may require stretching the fingers causing hand strain.
Although you might not have thought about it before, Eye Cups are an essential component of a binocular. Not only do they influence how comfortable the binoculars are to use, but they also prevent stray light from entering the rear of the optical system. A great pair of binoculars will allow you to adjust the eyecups to obtain the eye relief depth that you desire, and be able to be locked firmly in place.
If you wear glasses and want to maintain a large field of view we recommend you purchase binoculars with eye relief of at least 15mm, and eye cups that can be folded, locked down or twisted.
Binocular Hinge Location
Most binoculars have a long central hinge that links the two optical pieces, and allow you to adjust the eyecups to suit your vision. Some are built with two smaller hinges, which is excellent for those with small hands as it allows a for comfortable and firmer grip.
Binocular Image Stabilisation Technology
As you are probably aware now, one of the drawbacks of higher magnification is difficulty obtaining steady images especially with magnification of 10X and above. Fortunately, this can be overcome with Image Stabilisation technology which utilizes small electromagnets to alter the position of the lens elements and protect them from external vibrations. However, inclusion of this advanced technology will mean added weight, the need to replace batteries, and a higher cost.
Binoculars Buying Guide Conclusion
In conclusion, there are many factors to take into consideration when looking for binoculars for your next adventure, such as optical design, magnification, lens size, field of view, built material, weatherproofing, weight and size, image stabilisation technology, and ergonomics such as location of focus wheel, eyecups and hinge location. At USA Binoculars we recommend you answer the following questions to assist you in your purchasing decision:
- What are you intending to use your binoculars for?
- What is your budget?
- How compact or large would you prefer your binoculars to be?
If you are still having trouble deciding on which binoculars to purchase simply forward us the answers to the above questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 307-429-2064 and one of our customer representatives will be more than happy to help!