Smart-Review | Binoculars Buying Guide 2015-2016 | Comparison
Buying Binoculars can be confusing as there are many choices and types of binoculars. This guide will attempt to explain the main factors that you should look for in buying binoculars and how to buy and which type would be best suited for your needs.
Cheap and Expensive Binoculars When buying binoculars, the term “you get what you pay for” certainly applies, as it does to camera lenses. Cheap binoculars will not perform nearly as well as the more expensive optics in high end binoculars. That is why some binoculars can cost as high as $2,000 (similar to high end SLR lenses). As with camera lenses, cheaper binoculars will have what is called chromatic abberations, which is a distortion of the image you see.
What does 7×50 mean? – Binoculars are quoted with two numbers, the first in the 7×50 example is 7. This tells you the magnification of the binoculars. These binoculars will bring objects 7 times closer than normal vision. The second number (50) will tell you the size of the objective lens in mm. The larger the objective lens, the brighter the image you will see (better light gathering). Binoculars come in many sizes like 10×50, 8×42, etc.
What size Objective Lens to get? – As explained above the second number in the example 7×50 is the size of the objective lens in mm. The larger the objective lens size, the more light sensitive the binoculars which can help in low light conditions, or where you have a very high magnification. (Higher magnification reduces the available light). One downside of a large objective lens is that the binoculars will be larger and bulkier. The largest objective lens binoculars are used for astronomy since they will need the most light gathering.
What magnification should I get? – This depends on what you are viewing. Popular sizes are 7x and 8x for general use. Keep in mind that the higher the magnification, the less light will reach your eyes. The higher you go, your field of vision will narrow as well. What this means is that you will be looking at a smaller part of your view, but closer in. The higher the magnification, the harder it will be to keep the image steady, and you must hold the binoculars very steady. The latest Image Stabilized binoculars will alleviate this problem as they compensate for any shaking you may do (Or shaking by where you are standing, such as a boat, car, or airplane).
Image Stabilized Binoculars – Utilizing the same principle used for camera lenses, an image stabilized pair of binoculars can keep the image rock steady even if using a high power magnification. It works by counteracting any vibration or movement that occurs. That is why its hard to get a clear image from high magnification binoculars. If you don’t have image stabilized binoculars you may have to use a tripod to get a similar image. On a boat, even a tripod may not help since the boat is moving, and not just you. The same would be true from a car, bus, truck, etc.
See our Image Stabilized Binoculars Comparison.
Zoom Binoculars – Zoom binoculars allow you to change the magnification factor from low to high. For example, 8-24×50 signifies that these binoculars can go from 8 to 24 times magnification, with an objective lens of 50mm.
Compact Binoculars – Compact binoculars have an objective lens of 30mm or less. The 25mm size is very common for compact binoculars. Because the objective lens is smaller (with lower light gathering), these type of binoculars are best suited for daytime use. Compact binoculars are much smaller and lighter than traditional binoculars.
Prism Types in Binoculars – In general there are two types of prisms used for binculars. One is called a Roof Prism and the other is called a Porro prism. Roof prism can give you binoculars that have a straight profile, with the eyepiece situated directly behind the front lens.
This allows for a more compact design. Porro prisms are the traditional binocular type where the binoculars are bulkier and the lens and eyepiece are offset. Without prisms, the binoculars would always produce upside-down, reversed images.
What does Field of View mean? – This is the area that is visible through your binoculars. With normal vision you can see about 180 degrees (out of 360 degrees). When using binoculars you have a narrower field of view. This view decreases as you increase the power of magnification. However higher magnification will bring you in closer to your subject, so it is a tradeoff which you must decide. Larger field of view or higher magnification.
Waterproof Binoculars – These binoculars are sealed so that you can take them out in bad weather, or when near water, or boating. Many use a rubber O-ring and nitrogen gas seals. Most waterproof binoculars are also Fog proof, to help prevent condensation from forming on the lenses. Our most popular and top-rated waterproof binoculars are the Nikon Monarch Waterproof Series, reviewed on this site.
Related Article: Best Rated Waterproof Binoculars – Comparison & Reviews
Lens Coatings – Most binoculars have special coatings. These help remove glare (such as from the sun hitting water), and help to allow the maximum amount of light reach through the binocular’s lenses. The more expensive binoculars have multiple coatings on their lenses.
Birding Binoculars – A very popular use for binoculars is spotting birds. Birding binoculars are loosely defined as ones that are light enough to carry all day, but that show colors and details with great accuracy of the birds that you are observing. They should focus quickly and be usable in low light conditions. The binoculars should be weatherproof at a minimum and waterproof should you be in wet conditions.
(Clicking on shop buttons will open a new window)