Definitive Guide to Choosing the Right Pair of Binoculars

February 17, 2019 2 Comments

 

choose-binoculars

 

People can be divided in two groups. One group loves binoculars while the other group doesn’t like it at all.

When you tell them you’ve purchased a great pair of binoculars they simply don’t understand why you paid $100-$300 or sometimes even $1000 for a pair of binoculars.

It’s like non smokers will never understand smokers or vice versa.

If you are reading this post it means you like me love binoculars and you know why you need it and why you want to buy a great pair of binoculars.

And I’me here to help you. From my personal experience I can tell you that choosing the right pair of binoculars is not easy at all.

 

How to make the right choice?

There are so many binoculars available on the market that you simply get confused with a such a wide choice.

There are good binoculars and there are bad ones.

No one wants to buy one that he or she will not use after 2,3 times of using it. I know it firsthand.

A good pair of binoculars will addict you while the bad one will disappoint you for the rest of your life and you will never want to buy binoculars once again.

Because there is a huge difference when it comes to optics. Quality matters a lot especially in this question. Not everyone can afford to buy quality optics.

Of course, if you can’t afford it’s not a big problem. You can always buy a cheap one manufactured in China. Many of them are useless but some are not bad.

I know it firsthand. I have a pair of binoculars from China and I’m very happy with my purchase.

Very few manufacturers from China deliver good quality optics. You have to know which is worth your money.

In my opinion, it’s better to invest $200 in a good pair of binoculars that will be of high quality in all respects instead of paying $40 for a decent pair of binoculars from China.

 

binoculars

 

Where to buy and how much does it cost?

For me personally a good pair of binoculars are a long-term investment and that’s why it’s better to buy one that you will always want to use instead of one that you will put aside and forget.

If you are on a tight budget then you better pay less and buy a decent pair of binoculars. I can recommend a few models at a reasonable price.

If you can afford to pay $100 or more then you better buy from quality branded manufactures.

The binoculars that cost $200 will deliver more quality image than a binocular for $40 and the pricey one will serve you for years.

Modern technology allows to manufacture the type of optics that can deliver a super high quality crystal clear and bright image to you.

 

The budget

So, before you decide what type of binoculars to choose you need to decide on the part of your budget you plan to allocate for your purchase.

If you want to buy a good pair that delivers high quality image then prepare at least $100-$250.

Again, you can buy a good pair even for $40 but it will never beat the quality of the one that belongs to another price tag, such as $100-$250.

 

my binoculars

 

 

The purpose of your buy

Second thing you need to take into account is the purpose of using the binoculars. Ask yourself why you want to buy binoculars.

For birds viewing, for stars and moon viewing, for viewing distant objects when traveling or from your home window, for hunting or when fishing, spectacular binoculars for watching sporting events at a stadium.

There are many reasons. What is good for one purpose may not be goof another purpose.

For example, for viewing stars or moon you need 15 or 20 magnification for comfortable viewing.

This type of binoculars is not a good fit for hunting or traveling purposes. The more is the magnification the heavier is the binoculars.

 

pentax 20x60

 

You have to keep this in mind when choosing binoculars. For traveling purposes you better choose something not too heavy that will be easy to hod in hands and for comfortable viewing.

I believe magnification 8x or 10x is ideal for traveling purposes or birds viewing. It’s a good choice even for viewing distant objects.

Magnification 8x or 10x is very powerful and will be more than enough for viewing even distant objects.

If you love high-power binoculars, such as 12x, 15x and still not too heavy there are such binoculars but their price starts from $110 and up to $2.000.

The higher the price the more crystal clear and bright the image is. So, it depends on your budget.

Also, remember that the higher the magnification means a narrower field of view, more hand-shaking, harder to find objects when looking through a binoculars because field of view becomes narrow.

Image also becomes a little darker and not so crystal clear and sharp.

But again this type of problems appear only when you want binoculars with magnification over 12x.

But again, if you buy a good pair for $300 -$800 or even higher then the image quality will be good even in high-magnification binoculars.

Things like darker image, image distortion, blurred image will be taken to the minimum and overall image quality will be very good.

You will feel the difference when comparing to binoculars for $40 or $100. Keep this mind when choosing binoculars. High price means better quality in all respects.

Think well before you choose a pair of binoculars that fit you perfectly.

You have take into account a few things, such as ease of use, magnification power, weight, shape of your face, size of your hands.

 

eye-cups

 

 

Ease of use (eye relief)

Ease of use ( eye relief) – Try to choose binoculars with eyecups that you can twist to adjust them and make viewing comfortable for your eyes.

Especially it is important for eyeglass wearers so you can view objects without black rings around the image.

Eyecups will remove those black rings and you will get a crystal clear image.

 

magnifications

 

Magnification

Magnification – try to choose binoculars with magnification up to 12x. If you buy branded binoculars such as

  • Levenhuk
  • Nikon
  • Bresser
  • Wingspan
  • Bushnell
  • Vanguard
  • Pentax
  • Zeiss
  • Maven
  • Vortex
  • Leupold
  • Carson
  • Swarovski
  • Celestron
  • Gosky

with magnification up to 12x and the price is around $100-$200 then the quality of the binoculars will be very good.

You will get an excellent image quality. If you choose anything more powerful than 12x magnification then the image quality will not be as perfect as you get it with 4x, 6x, 8x, 10x or 12x binoculars.

For sporting events, theatre magnification 2x or 4x or 6x will be great. If you are hunting then 10x, 12x will be a good choice.

For traveling or bird watching magnification 8x or 10x is the ideal choice in my opinion.

For astronomical purposes magnification 16x, 20x, 25x is the ideal choice.

Lenses should be at least 60mm. For example, 15×60, 20×60, 20×80, 25×70, 25×80 is the ideal for astronomical purposes.

 

Weight

Weight – depending on your needs and preferences choose the right pair of binoculars. Normally roof prism binoculars are lighter than porro prism binoculars.

Try to choose magnification 8x,10x. This type of binoculars are powerful and light.

Especially choose ones that have front lenses 30mm – 42mm. Such binoculars are light and deliver high quality bright and sharp images with true colors.

 

Shape of your face

Shape of your face – People are different, some with wide faces, others with narrow face. The distance between eyes is different too. Make sure to choose binoculars that fit your eyes when you adjust binocular barrels. If you have a wide face then don’t choose small binoculars. If you choose a small one that doesn’t fit perfectly your eyes’ distance then you won’t be able to adjust the focus to get a crystal clear image.

 

true color

 

True color, crystal clear image

True color, crystal clear image – When we buy binoculars we do it because we want to look through it and view objects in true colors and in the best clarity possible. If you want to get such an image then don’t buy cheap binoculars from unknown manufacturers. It’s always better to pay extra $50 and buy binoculars from a famous brand. They always have budget binoculars.

 

Fogproof and waterproof binoculars

Fogproof and waterproof binoculars – If you are a hunter or traveller you better choose fogproof and waterproof pair to protect your binoculars from any kind of damage or temperature affects on the lenses. Especially choose nitrogen filled binoculars. They are a little pricey but it’s worth it.

 

field of view

 

Field of view

Field of view – If you want binoculars for sporting events, theatre, then you need a compact one with a wide filed of view.

They are light and compact and don’t cause hand shaking. This means you should focus on binoculars with magnification up to 10x if you want wider angle of view.

Because the bigger the magnification the narrower will be field of view of the binoculars.

 

  • 1.Vanguard Endeavor ED 10×42 – $209 field of view: 340 ft./1000 yards
  • 2.OBOSOE 10X42 Binoculars for Adults – $79 Viewing range: 367ft/1000yds
  • 3.Eyeskey 10×42 High Power Waterproof Binoculars – $179 341 ft/1,000Yds
  • 4.Eyeskey 10X42 Travel Binoculars – $69.99 Field of view: 283Ft/1000Yds

 

Let’s take a look at 4 binoculars. Vanguard is a popular brand and that’s why it’s more expensive than OBOSOE though Vanguard’s field of view is smaller.

Plus Vanguard offers ED glass optics and delivers high quality image when looking through the binoculars.

Two other binoculars from the same brand have different prices too. Third one has smaller field of view but it’s waterproof and that’s why it’s expensive.

The last one has wider field of view but not waterproof.

So, it’s up to you which one to choose. Two same binoculars with the same parameters may have different field of view.

If you travel a lot then you better choose binoculars with smaller field of view but waterproof and fogproof.

Also, some manufacturers in the description of their binoculars show angle of view instead of field of view.

All you need to do is multiply the angle by 52.5. If the angle of view is 7 then field of view would be 367ft.

If you still don’t understand these numbers don’t worry about them much. Just buy a pair of binoculars and that’s it.

Most of the time field of view in the binoculars even those manufactured in China is more than acceptable for general use.

If you buy from companies like Nikon, Zeiss, Bresser, Levenhuk, Wingspan, Bushnell, Celestron, Leupold, Vortex, Carson, Swarovski, Pentax you shouldn’t worry about field of view at all. They manufacture high quality binoculars.

General recommendation for choosing binoculars is to always use tripod for binoculars with magnification 12x – 15x.

Because such binoculars cause your hands shaking. For comfortable experience always use tripod on which you can mount your binoculars.

 

binoculars-magnification

Binoculars numbers

Binoculars numbers – when choosing binoculars don’t overcomplicate things. Two numbers that you need to pay attention to are magnification and objective diameter. For example, binoculars with the following parameters 10×50 means this: 10 is the magnification, 50mm is the diameter of the objective lense (front lense or aperture).

 

lens

 

For general use magnification 8x to 10x is the ideal choice and lens diameter should be at least 30.

This combination gives you a wide field of view and sharp and clear image. I personally prefer binoculars with magnification 8x to 10x and lenses diameter 40 or 50.

This configuration gives you a good field of view and powerful magnification and bright image.

Remember, the bigger is the diameter of the objective lenses (aperture) the wider will be field of view, clearer, sharper and brigther will be the image.

So, for general use pick one of this configuration: 8×30, 8×40, 10×40, 10×50, 12×50.

 

bak4 bk7

 

Quality optics

Quality optics – There are several types of optics used in the binoculars: BK7 prism, Bak4 prism, and ED glass.

Binoculars with BK7 prism normally are the cheapest ones because of the quality of the image they produce.

Bak4 prism delivers high quality image which is normally used in most binoculars for general purposes.

ED glass (Extra-low Dispersion) binoculars produce an image of the highest quality and start from $100 and up to $2.500 per binoculars.

 

ED glass

 

I personally never buy BK7 prism binoculars. Only Bak4 or ED glass. Remember, if you see two binoculars that have same parameters but huge difference in price it means one simple thing: The one that is more pricey is fog proof, waterproof, light and delivers super high quality image. It’s up to you to decide which one to choose.

 

fully multi coated

 

Full Multiple-layer coatings

Full Multiple-layer coatings – When choosing a pair of binoculars always pay attention to description of the optics. Make sure it has full multiple-layer coatings (FMC). This means image will be of high quality.

Eye relief – this means eyepieces of the binoculars – the distance between binocular pupils and your eyes. Normally it’s 5 to 22 mm.

If you ware glasses then you need to choose binoculars with eyecups that you can turn to adjust the distance between eyepieces of the binoculars and your eyes.

This will allow you to get quality image without any black rings when looking through the binoculars.

 

 

central focus

 

Focus function

Focus function – most binoculars that I know existing on the market have two methods of adjusting the focus.

First method: adjusting the focus for each eye individually by turning the eyepiece cups separately.

Second method: binoculars with a central focusing wheel for adjusting focus for both eyes at the same time and diopter for adjusting focus for your right eye.

Choose one of these only. The diopter adjuster is designed to eliminate the difference in your eyes, so you can get the clearest image possible when looking through your binoculars.

 

Chromatic aberration

 

When adjusting the image must be clear and sharp without chromatic aberration ( In optics, also called chromatic distortion is a failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same point).

See an example below. If you choose binoculars from a reliable and well known manufacture then there is no reason to worry about issues such as chromatic aberration.

 

porro-roof prism

 

Porro prism or Roof prism

Porro prism or Roof prism – There are mainly two types: Porro prism and Roof prism binoculars.

Porro prism binoculars are normally larger and heavier than roof prism binoculars.

But porro prism binoculars produce more interesting images. They are cheaper than roof prism binoculars because of their weight and size.

Roof prism binoculars can also deliver high quality image equal to porro prism binoculars but they start from at least $100 – $150.

There are cheaper ones too but their image quality is not as good as in porro prism binoculars.

Generally speaking porro prism binoculars’ image is a little better than in roof prism binoculars.

In porro prism binoculars image is more 3D scopic than in roof prism binoculars. 

 

Define your purpose

Define your purpose – Before choosing binoculars define your purpose first. Do you want to have a general view like on the stadium or do you want to view distant objects?

For a general view choose magnification up to 8x. For viewing distant objects choose magnification 10x to 20x.

Remember one thing: field of view in the binoculars will decrease as the magnification increases.

 

lifetime warranty

 

Warranty

Warranty – Not all binoculars come with warranty from the manufacturer. Even if you want to choose cheap binoculars make sure to ask from the seller or manufacturer if they provide warranty. If they don’t then you better choose another pair of binoculars and pay $70 that includes warranty instead of paying $30 that comes without warranty.

 

waterproof

 

Armoring

Armoring – It’s highly recommended to buy binoculars that are not only waterproof and fogproof, but also well protected from any damage, bangs and bumps.

In cheap models prism inside binoculars fixed with a glue which is not so good in terms of durability.

That’s why it’s better to choose binoculars from reliable manufacturers and pay extra $50 to get quality pair of optics in all respects.

Binoculars are made of aluminum, magnesium or polycarbonate.

Most used is the aluminum because it’s light and strong. Binoculars made of magnesium are even lighter than those made of aluminum.

Polycarbonate binoculars are temperature resistant and will serve you even longer and better than binoculars made of aluminum or magnesium.

Rubber coated binoculars are comfortable to use during lengthy viewing sessions

 

binoculars exit pupil

Exit pupil

Exit pupil is the eyepiece lens of the binoculars where you place your eye to view the object when looking through the binoculars.

To know the size of it you need to divide the diameter of objective lens by the magnification (power) of the binoculars.

For example, binoculars 10×50 where 10 is the magnification and 50 is the diameter of the objective lens has eyepiece (exit pupil) 5mm. 50:10=5mm.

The larger exit pupil the better is the image when you look through the binoculars. Exit pupils are of different sizes.

Normally, it is between 4-7mm. The standard size of Homo Sapiens’s pupil is 6мм.

When you view objects in low-light situations the exit pupil must be at least 4mm. Most binoculars today have exit pupil 4mm which is more than enough for general use.

 

zoom binoculars

 

Zoom binoculars

Zoom binoculars – Zoom binoculars are like standard camera as they allow you to “zoom-in” and “zoom-out”.

With zoom binoculars you can change magnification. For example, zoom binoculars with magnification 10-30 means that you can change the magnification power from 10x to 30.

It may look as an advantage because you get an optics with multiple magnification power. But in fact, your objective lenses don’t change.

You use same lenses with different magnification powers. This means as you increase the magnification the image quality becomes very bad.

The image becomes dim that is bad for your eyes.

In general, I never recommend zoom binoculars. It’s always better to choose binoculars with fixed magnification. I had zoom binoculars and never liked them.

In my opinion, it’s useless technology. Remember, binoculars with fixed magnification provide you with a superior experience.

 

cheap pricey binoculars

 

Cheap vs pricey binoculars

Cheap vs pricey binoculars – I recommend to choose binoculars from manufactures that have been in the business of optics for years.

If you buy binoculars from unknown company that has zero experience in this field you will get low quality pair of binoculars that will not only disappoint you by delivering low quality image but will harm your eyesight.

Buying binoculars from companies like Levenhuk, Wingspan, Bresser, Leupold and the like is the guarantee of getting high quality binoculars.

It’s highly recommended to buy optics from reputable companies.

Quality binoculars today have 97% of light transmission and deliver clear and sharp images without any distortions.

When you look through quality binoculars you see all objects clear and sharp even if some objects are 20m and others 300m from you.

 

Don’t overcomplicate things

Don’t overcomplicate things – Choosing the right pair of binoculars is not that hard at all.

Most people today prefer to buy it online without leaving their home and so do I. Buying a binoculars without touching or testing it is not an easy decision.

The best would be going to a local shop. But most of us may not have free time to go the shop. Shop may betook far from your home.

In some cities there are no good binoculars shops. Finally, the binoculars of your choice may not be available in the shop.

That’s why buying it online is an optimal decision. You can choose any model at any price range to fit your budget.

That’s why I try to buy binoculars and test them out to provide the most accurate opinion I can.

If you know the purpose of buying the binoculars then it’s not hard to choose the right pair of optics. Design is one of the most important aspects.

Choose one that you like first. Then decide whether you want a light one or heavy one. Porro prism is the heavy one. Roof prism is the light one.

 

This depends on the purpose of using it. Here is my recommendation of various configurations:

 

  • For general use ( for home, travelers) : 7×35, 8×30, 8×40, 8×42, 10×50, 12×50
  • For theatre: 3×25
  • For sport events, stadium: 4×20, 4×30, 6×30,
  • For astronomical purposes: 15×60, 20×60, 20×80, 25×70, 25×80

 

If you want to choose binoculars for traveling purposes then choose mid size and weight binoculars. Waterproof binoculars are mainly for fishermen.

Fogproof for travelers. Light binoculars are for hunters. Don’t overcomplicate things.

If you still hesitate and need advice send me a message and I will help you choose the right binoculars.

 

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Comments (2)

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  1. Lynne Huysamen says:

    Thank you for this article on choosing binoculars. I’ve been looking for a pair that I can use occasionally for spotting animals and maybe for bird watching too. I really want something that is light and easy to carry as well as easy to use. 

    I don’t like those huge ones that I can barely use and the eye pieces are so far apart that I have to spend a lot of time and effort adjusting them. I also want to be able to share them with my kids – so they must be hardy and really not too expensive since I won’t be using them every day and if my kids also use them they will inevitably be dropped a few times! 

    I’m not brand focused so that plays no part for me. What would you recommend for me say in the $100 range?

    • Adam says:

      I’m glad you like my post about binoculars. I understand you very well. I own many binoculars and it firsthand how it feels when your pair is huge and heavy. I think for general use 8x, 10x magnification is the best choice. First, because this magnification is very powerful and plus such binoculars are not too heavy. I think for you it would be great to choose something that can be used both by and your children. I would recommend Wingspan binoculars, such as Wingspan Optics Spectator 8X32 Compact Binoculars. You can find it here. The quality is very good, the size is great too for you and your children. And the price is very affordable, $64.92. Or you can choose Mini Compact Lightweight 8×21 Small Binoculars which costs $9.79. These two are good ones.

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