How to Choose the Best Ones for You

How to Choose the Best Binoculars for You

Have you ever wished to be able to see farther, to capture moments or have a better experience? Although human eyes are powerful and effective, they do have limitations when it comes to accurately seeing details at a distance. This is where binoculars come into play. Binoculars are versatile observation tools that can magnify the view of distant objects. They can be used in various settings and situations, such as wildlife observation, birdwatching, photography, stargazing, sports events, hiking, and more. In this article, we will discuss the best binoculars and how to choose the right pair based on your needs.

How to Choose the Right Binoculars

Binoculars equip each eye with a magnifying lens, mounted on a unified frame, creating a sense of close and personalized viewing even for distant objects. While the overall concept and design of binoculars have existed for centuries, today’s binoculars come in different sizes and shapes, offering more powerful magnification and features than ever before. There are numerous top brands and models to choose from. You might easily feel overwhelmed by the available choices, especially if you’re a first-time buyer.

However, a good rule of thumb is to focus on these eight essential binocular specifications:

  • Magnification
  • Objective Lens Diameter
  • Binocular Size
  • Exit Pupil Size
  • Field of View
  • Lens Quality
  • Eye Relief
  • Build Quality

These eight features and specifications not only contribute to determining overall quality and performance but also impact the total price. So, let’s dive deeper into each of them.

Magnification

For binoculars, magnification is crucial as it determines how far you can see. To identify magnification, look at the first number in the binocular description – it’s always the magnification. For instance, in a 10×32 binocular, the magnification is 10 times, meaning the image is magnified tenfold.

While higher magnification is generally advantageous, there’s a trade-off. As magnification increases, the field of view decreases. Binoculars with higher magnification also tend to be pricier and can exhibit more noticeable shaking when held by hand.Therefore, if stability and a larger field of view are important to you, or if you’re on a tight budget, fixating solely on binoculars with the highest magnification might not be the best choice.

Objective Lens Diameter

The objective lens diameter is the second number in the binocular digits. For example, in a 10×32 binocular, the lens diameter is 32 millimeters.

Larger lenses allow more light to enter, resulting in brighter and clearer images. However, larger lenses also mean a heavier and bulkier binocular. This could be cumbersome to carry around all day. If portability or weight matters to you, you might want to stick with smaller objective lenses.

Binocular Size

Now that we understand objective lens diameter, let’s delve into binocular sizes, categorized based on the objective lens diameter:

  • Compact Binoculars: Objective lens diameter less than 30mm
  • Mid-size Binoculars: Objective lens diameter between 30mm and 40mm
  • Full-size Binoculars: Objective lens diameter greater than 40mm

If you prioritize the largest objective lens diameter for the brightest, clearest images, opt for full-size binoculars. If size, weight, and portability matter most, compact binoculars are a good choice. Mid-size binoculars strike a balance between these two needs.

Exit Pupil Size

The exit pupil of binoculars is another important factor determining image brightness in varying light conditions. A larger exit pupil indicates better visibility and viewing experience in low-light conditions. It also helps maintain image clarity even if your hands move or shake.

The exit pupil size is calculated by dividing the objective lens diameter by the magnification. For an 8×42 binocular, the exit pupil size would be 42 divided by 8, resulting in an exit pupil diameter of 5.25 millimeters. This size determines the amount of light reaching your pupils, ranging from 2 millimeters in bright daylight to 7 millimeters in complete darkness.

To simplify things:

  • Choose a 5mm or larger exit pupil if you plan to use binoculars in low-light conditions (dawn or dusk).
  • Exit pupil size is less critical for daytime use. In strong light, your pupils usually remain around 2mm, and most binoculars have exit pupil diameters greater than 2mm.

Field of View

Another specification to consider is the field of view, which determines how much area you can see. As mentioned earlier, the higher the magnification, the narrower the field of view, and vice versa.

Therefore, if you’re looking to purchase binoculars that capture a larger area (to get more details or track fast-moving objects), your best choice is to avoid the highest magnification binoculars.

Lens Quality

Lens quality is another crucial feature to consider. Binoculars with glass lenses generally provide better image quality compared to plastic lenses.

Enhancing lens quality involves factors like glass type and coatings. The highest-quality lenses are made from Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass, offering the brightest, clearest images while minimizing lens flare and chromatic aberration.

Coated lenses also improve lens quality, performance, and durability. There are four lens coating codes:

  • C: Single-layer coating on some surfaces
  • FC: Single-layer coating on all glass surfaces
  • MC: Multi-layer coating on some surfaces
  • FMC: Multi-layer coating on all glass surfaces

Multi-layer coatings generally outperform single-layer coatings but can increase the cost of the binoculars.

Eye Relief

Choosing the wrong binoculars can lead to eye strain. This can negatively impact your viewing experience and cause headaches and discomfort.Eye strain occurs when your eyes work to form a single, clear image from the binocular lenses. This can happen when your binoculars aren’t properly aligned or when the exit pupil distance of the binoculars you’re using isn’t correct.

Exit pupil distance refers to the distance between the eyepiece and your eyes when the entire field of view is visible without any vignetting or discomfort. This is a crucial specification to understand, especially if you wear glasses or have sensitive eyes.As a rule of thumb, choose binoculars with an exit pupil distance of 11mm or more if you wear glasses. If you have sensitive eyes, look for binoculars with adjustable eyecups for a more comfortable viewing experience.

Build Quality

Binoculars are often used in outdoor settings. Whether it’s harsh weather or accidental drops, you need binoculars that can withstand the toughest conditions.

When buying durable binoculars, pay attention to these three features:

  • Waterproofing: Waterproof binoculars differ from weather-resistant ones, as they use O-ring seals to keep out water, moisture, sand, dirt, and dust. They provide the highest level of protection for outdoor use.
  • Rubber Coating: Rubber-coated binoculars offer protection and shock absorption against accidental drops and impacts.
  • Fogproofing: Unfortunately, the internal lens surfaces of binoculars can fog up in extremely cold, hot, or humid weather conditions. This is not only annoying but can also damage your binoculars. To address this issue, manufacturers of fogproof binoculars replace the air inside the binoculars with nitrogen, which is moisture-free and prevents condensation.

The Best Binoculars

Now that we’ve introduced and defined the eight most crucial features and specifications for choosing the right binoculars, here are some top options for various purposes.

Best Birdwatching/Nature Binoculars

What to consider for birdwatching/nature?

  • Wider field of view
  • 8x magnification: Too much magnification can limit your field of view and increase shaking.
  • Compact and portable size for all-day viewing
  • Adjustable eyecups and/or larger exit pupil distance for comfortable all-day viewing
  • Coated lenses for improved color, contrast, and viewing performance
  • Sturdy and durable for outdoor use, harsh weather, and accidental drops

Best Astronomy Binoculars

What to consider for astronomy?

  • Large objective lens diameter for maximum light gathering at night
  • 15x or higher magnification
  • Coated lenses for improved color, contrast, and viewing performance
  • Integrated tripod mount for stable observation at higher magnifications

Best Binoculars for Sports Enthusiasts

What to consider for sports viewing?

  • Large objective lens diameter for bright field of view
  • 10x or higher magnification
  • Coated lenses for improved color, contrast, and viewing performance
  • Compact and portable size for all-day viewing
  • Adjustable eyecups and/or larger exit pupil distance for comfortable all-day viewing
  • Sturdy and durable for indoor and outdoor use

Best Binoculars for Photographers

What should photographers look for in binoculars?

  • 8x or higher magnification
  • Wider field of view
  • Coated lenses for improved color, contrast, and viewing performance
  • Compact and portable size for all-day viewing
  • Adjustable eyecups and/or larger exit pupil distance for comfortable all-day viewing
  • Sturdy and durable for outdoor use
  • Image stabilization for shake-free viewing at higher magnifications

Binocular Terminology You Should Know

When selecting binoculars for astronomy, birdwatching, nature, or general use, there are some important features and terms you should be aware of.

Apparent Field of View

The apparent field of view simply calculates the angle of the binoculars’ magnification. For example, with 10x magnification and a 5-degree angle, the apparent field of view would be 50 degrees.

BaK-4 Glass

This is a high-quality, high-density barium crown glass used in prisms to minimize internal light scattering, resulting in clearer images. Premium binoculars often use BaK-4 glass instead of the lower-quality BaK-7.

Magnification

Magnification is the first number, representing the power of the binoculars’ eyepieces. For instance, in 7×35 binoculars, the number 7 indicates how much larger an object appears compared to the naked eye. Magnification ranges from 2x for opera glasses to 50x for fixed-magnification astronomical binoculars and over 120x for binoculars with zoom eyepieces.

Objective Lens

The objective lens is the second number measured in millimeters (e.g., 7×35). 35mm is the size of the front lens. Objective lens sizes range from as small as 20mm to as large as 150mm. Objectives can be made from various types of glass, but high-definition and low-dispersion glass are better, aiding in contrast and color correction.

Eyepiece

The eyepiece is the lens in the eyepiece that is usually smaller than the objective lens, except in certain roof prism binoculars.

Prisms

Binoculars use two types of prisms: Porro prisms and roof prisms.

Porro Prisms

Porro prism binoculars have the objective lenses farther apart than the eyepieces. They often provide a wider field of view and richer depth of field. Due to the offset prisms used for erecting the image, they have a classic binocular appearance, with the barrels extending wider than the eyepieces. They are said to provide better 3D viewing.

Roof Prisms

Roof prism binoculars have the objective and eyepiece lenses in line. They have a compact, streamlined appearance and are favored by birdwatchers. They are usually more compact, featuring a thinner body design as their erecting prisms are arranged. Roof prism binoculars tend to be more expensive and are said to offer superior structural rigidity.

Eye Relief

Exit pupil distance is the distance from the eyepiece surface to where the exit pupil is formed. This measurement is crucial for those who wear glasses, as they typically need sizes between 15mm and 20mm. If the exit pupil distance is too short, vignetting may occur in their field of view.

Lens Coatings

Lens coatings affect image color, resolution, and contrast. This is vital as each uncoated glass surface reflects 5% of light. Look for binoculars with fully coated or fully multi-coated marks, as they offer the best choice.

Field of View

The field of view is the diameter of the circular field seen through the binoculars. It’s usually listed on binoculars in degrees or feet at 1000 yards. 1 degree equals 1000 yards plus 52.5 feet.

Close Focus

Close focus is measured in feet. Binoculars with a focal range of 6 to 8 feet are considered good choices and are favored by many birdwatchers. On the other hand, astronomical binoculars can have close focus ranges of 25 to 75 feet, depending on the objective and magnification.

Interpupillary Distance

Interpupillary distance is the distance between the centers of your eyes’ pupils. If this isn’t adjusted properly, you may see double images or shadowing. It can be adjusted by moving the binocular barrels inward or outward. It’s usually listed as a range, for example, ID 56-72, referring to the minimum and maximum distances available in millimeters.

Exit Pupil

The point from which all light rays passing through the binoculars exit the eyepiece. To calculate the exit pupil, divide the objective lens diameter by the magnification. For example, in 8×40 binoculars, the exit pupil is 40 divided by 8, equaling 5mm. A larger exit pupil is essential for low-light observation.

Relative Brightness

Relative brightness is a number that indicates the size of the light shaft that reaches the eye. In daylight use, the brightness factor tops at 10. Numbers from 10-16 are suitable for twilight or overcast sky use, and numbers from 25-50 are for nighttime use.

Twilight Factor

This is another factor used when comparing low-light performance, calculated by multiplying the magnification by the objective lens diameter and finding the square root of the result. For instance, the twilight factor for 8×58 binoculars is 21.2, excellent for low-light viewing. However, the twilight factor for 8×30 is 15.5, not ideal for low-light use.

Conclusion

Binoculars are among the most valuable tools for observing the world up close. Whether you’re using them for watching birds or other wildlife, sports, landscapes, or stars, we hope this article has helped you understand the important features to be aware of. This way, you can make the best choice for your binocular needs while also offering some of the best options available on the market today.

About Dehua

An old Internet practitioner who likes all kinds of new things.Our team buys products with good sales and reviews online (Amazon, Walmart and other third-party professional sales platforms) and recommends them to everyone through actual comparison and evaluation.
Portions of this article were generated using automated technology and were thoroughly edited and fact-checked by editors on our editorial staff.

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