Reasons to Buy Binoculars: Get a Thorough Understanding of Binocular Specs

Binoculars are one of the most amazing pieces of outdoor equipment that provide clarity to your outdoor experiences. If you don’t own a pair, but are highly considering binoculars for your next outdoor adventure, things can get real confusing real quick. The best way to evaluate the ease of use and optical performance of binoculars is to go to a retail store and look through a few models before making a final choice. But if you intend on doing your shopping online, then there are a few things you should keep in mind so you can understand what model is best for you.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

The numbers represented on the specification sheet of binoculars tell the magnification power and objective lens diameter. For instance, in 8×42 models, the 8 is the magnification number and the 42 is the diameter of the objective lens in millimetres. The objective lens size represents how physically big the binocular model is and how much light it can gather. Once you get an understanding of these numbers and how they impact your viewing, you’ll know if you’re looking at binoculars that are suitable for stargazing, bird watching or hunting, for example. If you see two binoculars with similar specs, but one is significantly pricier than the other, know that there’s probably something on the inside making the difference, such as the more expensive model having advanced optics, rubber coating, fog-proof and waterproof constructions.



How Do You Choose Binoculars for a Specific Use?

  • Backpacking and hiking binoculars are usually more compact, so that they don’t take as much space in your bag and don’t weigh you down. Usually, these binoculars will have a magnification of 10 or 8, and an objective lens diameter smaller than 28mm. A model with rubber coating will ensure longevity, and waterproof or water-resistant models will help it withstand the elements.
  • Birdwatching binoculars, assuming you aren’t as concerned about weight and size, are typically sized 8×42 and 8×32. While 10 magnification models might seem helpful for watching small animals, 8 magnification models provide a wider field of view, which is preferred for locating and watching birds. A good feature to have is water- and fog-resistance.
  • Safari, wildlife viewing and whale watching binoculars are generally larger in size than birdwatching in size, with popular sizes including 10×42, 10×32, 8×42 and 8×32. If you’re more likely to be far from the animals you’re watching, go with a 10 magnification model. If you want something more compact and easier to carry around, get a model with a smaller objective lens.
  • Binoculars for stargazing is where you want to get as much as magnification and light-gathering ability as possible. 10×50 and 10×42 are two options to consider. If you go with anything more than that, you’ll need a tripod.


Understanding the Optics

The lens materials and coatings are the two primary factors that determine the brightness and clarity of what you see. This is where advanced technologies come into play. It’s best you get a test-run of the binoculars you fancy, as that will give you an idea of what advancements your eyes can see, and how much more you should consider paying for the quality of view you want. If you’re a beginner, however, you won’t notice much of a difference, so you should just go with something that’s within your budget and has decent reviews on outdoor equipment websites and forums.

Next, you should consider the prism type. The prism is responsible for directing the light from the image via the binoculars to your eyes. There are two main types of prisms – Porro prisms and roof prisms. In short, Porro prisms feature wider barrels that aren’t aligned with the eyepieces of the binoculars. Roof prisms, on the other hand, have the objective lenses and eyepieces aligned. While this won’t impact the optical quality of the binoculars, roof prisms allow for binoculars to be lighter and smaller.



How to Focus the Binoculars?

Almost all binoculars feature a central control that allows you to focus both barrels simultaneously. They also feature a diopter adjustment ring allowing you to focus barrels independently, enabling you to compensate for variations in vision between your eyes. To focus the binoculars, cover the right lens with a cap and sharply focus the center control on a faraway object, then switch the cap to the left lens and do the same. That’s it, pretty simple, isn’t it? If your binoculars have the diopter on the left lens, place the lens cap in reverse.

Testing Out Binoculars

To get an idea of how comfortable the binoculars you want feel, how easy they are to focus, and their optical brightness and clarity, it’s best you visit a retail store when you can actually try using a few models you’re considering. If the store doesn’t have a test chart to view, then try focusing on a detailed object inside the store. Pay attention to the brightness and overall sharpness of the image, and the consistency from side to side in your field of view.