Binocular Buying Guide
When searching for the best binoculars to buy there are a few things that must be kept in mind. Who they are for, what they will be used for and the price range are all considerations when finding the most suitable set. There are many different types of binoculars with varying features. This buying guide is designed to help shoppers know what to look for when shopping for a new set of binoculars.
What Are Binoculars?
Binoculars are a set of telescopes that are placed side by side in one handy unit that is designed to be hand held and compact enough to carry practically anywhere. They magnify objects which are a distance away, helping the user to see more clearly and with greater detail. Binoculars provide an image that is three dimensional and is viewed through the lenses. A quality set of binoculars allows a person to feel as though they have closed the distance between the object being viewed and themselves.
Types of Binoculars
Binoculars come in a variety of different styles, shapes and sizes to meet the needs of the person using them. Some are larger and provide maximum enlargement of distant objects. Others are small and more compact, making them easier to conceal or carry.
What to Look For When Choosing Binoculars
Determining what you will use the binoculars for is the first consideration. This will help to identify the specific product features that the most suitable set must have, and to narrow down your search. There are three sizes available. Full sized, mid-sized and compact. There are pros and cons with each selection.
Full and Mid-Sized Models
Full size and mid-size are usually heavy and more difficult to carry around, however; they tend to be easier to use for viewing distant objects. The eyepiece is larger which provides for more stability and less interference when there is movement of the binoculars due to wind or other conditions. The images are usually clearer and sharper which make them superior choices for hunters, bird watchers or nature lovers who enjoy viewing animals in their natural habitat.
The average weights of full to mid-sized models are between 30 to 35 ounces. Some of the larger models which are best choices for astronomy and night viewing can be heavier, but can also be mounted atop a tripod for stability and greater convenience.
Compact models of binoculars are more lightweight and portable for convenience and easier carrying. They are popular because being lightweight; they can easily be hung around the neck without the burden of larger models. The downside is that the exit pupil providing for the line of sight viewing is more difficult to keep in alignment and the slightest movement can cause loss of the image. They can also be more difficult to bring into focus than the mid or full sized models.
Who Would Use This Product?
Binoculars are useful for anyone who has a need or desire to see objects in the distance up closer and in more detail. Hunters benefit from larger models that provide greater stability and detail for viewing their prey. Bird watchers and nature lovers can view wildlife from a distance in greater detail. Army personnel, security guards, homeowners and fishermen benefit from the use of binoculars to see what is ahead in the distance. They are also useful for tourists who are visiting memorable sites and want to get a better view.
Features of Binoculars
When shopping for binoculars in addition to the size and function, it is important to consider which features are needed. Magnification, zoom, aperture and any specialized functions you may require or things to keep in mind.
Magnification – Determines how close the object will look from a distance. For general use, anywhere between 7X and 12X are commonly used. The number represents the times that the image is enlarged. For example, 12X strength means the object will appear 12 times larger than its actual size. Magnification specs over 12X will require the use of a tripod to hold the binoculars steady enough to be effective for viewing.
Zoom – Is the feature that controls the binoculars’ range of magnification. This allows the user to zoom in and out of a particular object to either see it magnified slightly or to make it larger for seeing more fine details.
Aperture – Involves the diameter of the objective lens found in the front of the binoculars. Millimeters are used to describe this measurement. The Aperture controls the amount of light that is used to see an image and utilizes two numbers. The first represents the amount of magnification and the second, the aperture. For example, 5X30 in a pair of binoculars means that the image is magnified by five and there is a 30 millimeter opening. Most people who use binoculars for recreational use prefer an aperture between 20 to 60 millimeters. Stargazers need a larger aperture of around 70-80 millimeters.
Focus – Refers to the adjustment of each side of the binocular lenses at the same time to bring it into sharper or clearer focus. There are two types that include independent focus which allows for adjusting one side at a time, and central focus which adjusts both sides at the same time. Individual focus is most often used for professionals doing field work.
Field of View – Is the size of an area that is viewed through the binoculars. Narrower field of view is used for slow or non moving objects and wider field of view is intended for objects that are fast moving or are highly animated. Bird watchers require a wider field of view to more effectively view birds in flight.
Coatings – Are used to help cut down on the glare that can be caused by reflective light when viewing. The lenses are coated at varying degrees. The amount required depends upon the type of viewing that will be done. Stargazers may require fully coated lenses that significantly reduce the amounts of reflective light from the stars and planets they observe. Image stabilizers are features in some of the newer models that help to reduce the effects of movement including shakiness and wind, on the image that is being viewed.
In addition to standard models of binoculars, several manufacturers offer binoculars that are created for specific activities. These include night vision binoculars for night viewing, digital camera binoculars which include a built in digital camera for storing images on an internal memory card, and water and moisture proof binoculars for those who use them in outdoor situations that involve exposure to misting, rain and snow.
Larger Binocular Pros and Cons
- Larger binoculars such as full and mid-size, generally provide the most stable, clear and sharp images which are easy to focus upon and view
- The drawbacks are that they are heavy to carry and are not easily worn around the neck for long periods of time.
Compact Binocular Pros and Cons
- Compact binoculars are lightweight and easy to carry or wear around the neck. Some weigh a mere 9 ounces compared to up to 35 ounces for the some of the full sized models.
- The cons associated with compacts are that they are more difficult to focus and do not usually provide the quality of image, nor the stability and they are more difficult to use in general.
Binoculars are used for a variety of different situations which require seeing distant objects more closely. The type and size required depends upon the intended use and the required features should be based upon this element. Other important considerations are the amount of magnification, zoom, aperture and any specialized features that may be needed to make the pair of binoculars selected the best choice for the intended activities.