If you’re a sucker for bird watching, hunting, or any activity that involves sightseeing, you’ll agree that good binoculars are a must-have for better clarity and the ultimate experience.
There are hundreds of manufacturers out there with different products.
Just how can you choose the best one you need? Worry no more; because, in this guide, we’ve uncovered all of the critical things you’ll need to know on how to choose binoculars you’ll genuinely love. Now, shall we?
Binocular Buying Guide
Birding with a binocular is fantastic. Choosing the ideal one is not easy.
If you’re new to buying binoculars and will need one for bird watching, whale watching, paddling, hunting, hiking, backpacking, or whatever reasons, all of the different factors we highlighted below will help you make the best buying decision.
1. Choose a price range
The most crucial deciding factor on how to choose binoculars will be your budget. There are binoculars in the market in different price ranges. You can find some under $50, some over a hundred, and brand-name products that cost over a thousand dollars or two.
The good thing is you can find decent binoculars even with low budgets.
While most expensive binoculars may guarantee high-quality and pristine image quality, the world of binocular manufacturing has seen huge advancements in technology in recent years, so you can still expect decent performances from those on the lower end of the price spectrum.
2. Decide on the magnification power
Different binoculars have different magnification powers.
The magnification factor simply determines how large the image you see through the binocular will appear. This is usually denoted by a number followed by ‘x.’ So, a binocular with 8x magnification will show a virtual image that appears eight times larger than the subject.
Should you go for 8x or 10x? Well, it depends!
While 8x will show a smaller image that’s brighter, 10x is preferable if you’re buying binoculars for bird watching or long-range hunting. The higher the magnification of your binoculars, though, the dimmer the image will be.
3. Features and warranties
Binoculars have become a lot better than they used to be.
Nowadays, they come with different features, some of which may be quite useful depending on what you plan to do. Some of these may include features that have to do with close focus and field of view, and waterproofing, among others. While we’ll discuss some of these features in the section below, be sure your binocular also comes with a good warranty, as well.
What should I look for when buying binoculars?
Once you’ve chosen a price range and decided on magnification power, the next thing you’ll want to do is start searching and shopping online for binoculars that meet your expectations. Here are some of the things you may want to look out for;
1. Image quality
You should go for binoculars that guarantee crispness, brightness, and true color.
This will hugely impact your experience with the binocular, so you don’t want to flunk everything at this point. So, you want to go for binoculars that resolve images properly with great detail. While this may be hard to ascertain if you’re shopping online, going through detailed binocular reviews can help you find out more about the binocular of your interest.
2. Focusing ability
You should be able to focus on subjects so you can easily and quickly get a clear image.
This will be critical if your intended use of the binoculars will often require spotting tiny details from afar. In this case, you’ll need a binocular with excellent focusing ability.
Most binoculars focus using a center-post mechanism and a diopter corrector that can be quite useful if one of your eyes is stronger or weaker than the other. Most waterproof binoculars, however, often have individual focusing for lenses on each of the two barrels. And again, some binoculars don’t have focusing capability at all.
3. Water-proof/water resistant
Waterproof binoculars offer the best protection against water and splashes.
This is something you might want to consider if you’ll often be using your binoculars for paddling, onboard a boat, in the rain or moist environments.
But there’s a difference between waterproofing and water resistance.
While a water-resistant or weather-resistant binocular may offer moisture resistance to a reasonable extent, they do not provide complete protection from water, unlike waterproof binoculars that use O-rings to seal out water penetration.
4. Lens type (glass or plastic)
Remember we said you should go for binoculars with superb optical quality.
One of the things that could impact that quality is the lens type. Binoculars with the best objective lenses often have glass lenses. Those made from Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass guarantee the best image quality, although they are also some of the most expensive.
Another thing I always emphasize when asked questions like ‘what should I look for when buying binoculars?’ is lens coating. Your lens will be one of a;
- C coating, meaning that some surfaces have been coated with a single-layer coating
- FC coating, indicating that all glass lens surfaces have been coated.
- MC coating, meaning some surfaces have been coated with multiple layers. And
- FMC coating indicating that all surfaces have been coated with multiple layers.
Multiple layer coatings are the most preferable, although they’ll also add to the cost of your binoculars. Most plastic lenses are far less inexpensive and much more durable. But those with thesame image quality as glass lenses tend to cost more.
5. Prism type
Prism type and design can also impact your binocular’s image quality.
In our guide on how binoculars work, we discussed how prisms help with image reinversion from the objective lens to the eyepiece or ocular lens. Binoculars either use two porro prisms that are set horizontally side by side or two roof prisms that are set straight in line.
Porro prisms take more space, so the binocular will be larger and bulkier.
Their main advantage, however, is that they help make images appear more three-dimensional. Roof prisms, on the other hand, helps make binoculars more compact. While they may not boast the image quality of porro-prism-type binoculars, they may be made to offer similar image quality of porro-type binoculars at a higher cost.
Finally, you may also see labels such as BK-7 or BAK-4 prisms.
While BAK-4 prisms often add more to the cost of your binoculars since they are more expensive to produce, they offer better, sharper, and rounded images, as they, however, are able to deliver more light.
6. Binocular weight and size
You should care about the weight and size of your binoculars.
Someone who needs a binocular to watch football at the Superbowl will need one that’s compact and lightweight to fit in their pockets since they won’t be allowed to come in with any bag. The same goes for someone who wants to strap their binocular around their neck as they go hiking.
Mid-size model binoculars offer you the best of both worlds. They guarantee decent image quality, and they can be held comfortably for extended periods. Larger models, however, despite their often better image quality, may be inconvenient to carry for more extended periods.
7. Eye relief
Finally, we’ll talk about eye relief.
If you’re the type that’s always with their eyeglasses, this is something you’ll seriously consider. You’ll want to go for a binocular with an eyecup that easily retracts to accommodate your eyeglass. Ensure you go for one with an adjustable eyecup level where you won’t be seeing black rings around your images.
The world is more beautiful when you see it through a binocular.
Choosing the ideal one for your activities should not be rocket science if you know what to look for. For this, you’ll need your binocular shopping experience to tick the boxes at the right places, especially with regards to the points we outlined here. That way, you’ll be setting yourself up for a great viewing experience with your new optical instrument.