Which Binoculars to Buy: Complete Guide

Binoculars: Complete Buyer's Guide

There are now many comparative guides on how to choose a good pair of binoculars. However, when choosing binoculars from the internet, a series of technical characteristics must be taken into consideration. These features obscure you to approach the vast world of optical equipment for the first time.

Do you want to buy new binoculars? You have come to the right place. In the following guides, we’ll not say anything new for those who are already a fan, but for newbies, this guide provides everything about binoculars and interesting indications to help them move in the jungle of technical information.

Hopefully, after reading this guide, it will be easier to get an idea of which binoculars to choose!

What are binoculars for?

The fundamental question is precisely this: what do you need binoculars for? The answer will determine which combination of magnification and lens diameter is right for you.

When looking for binoculars, the first thing you happen to find is a combination of numbers such as 10 × 50, or 10 × 25, 8 × 42 and so on.

The first of these two digits indicate the number of magnifications offered by the binoculars: 10x, 8x, etc. It means that objects observed from a distance will appear to you ten or eight (or other numbers) times enlarged. The second digit, the one after the “x”, indicates the diameter of the objective lenses (those furthest from the eye, so to speak) expressed in millimeters.

These are two important factors combined together. They can give you an idea at a glance of ​​how bright the image returned by the binoculars will be, how the field of view is wide, and how heavy and bulky the instrument will be.

Different uses correspond to different magnification / objective combinations.

Let’s try to summarize most of them in a table:

Where to be usedMagnificationLens Diameter
Versatile1050
Pocket-sized8-1020-25
Bird watching and hunting842
Excursions7-830-42
Astronomy10 and above50 and over
Maritime750

We will focus on brightness, field of view and other details shortly.

Materials and Treatments

Another fundamental characteristic to determine the good quality of the image returned by the binoculars are the materials of the optical groups (lenses and prisms, as we’ll explain shortly) and any treatments to which the surfaces have been subjected.

Prisms

But let’s go in order: the optical system of a binocular is not limited to the objective lenses and eyepiece (the smaller lenses and closer to the eye). Inside the binoculars, there are in fact glass prisms. They serve to overturn the image through a series of refractions so that it reaches the eye of the observer straight and not upside down.

Another relevant categorization for binoculars is precisely the type of prisms it mounts. Essentially two types: Porro prisms (from the name of the engineer who invented them) and roof prisms (so-called for their shape).

The two types of prisms differ in shape and the number of refractions they perform. Porro prisms perform less refractions but are bulkier. You can be sure that any binoculars with objective and non-aligned eyepieces mount Porro prisms. While roof prisms do some more refraction but are more compact (you can find them in all binoculars with aligned objective and eyepiece).

One of the fundamental problems for an optical instrument is the phenomenon of the dispersion of light. Every time it passes through a surface, even if transparent like glass, a percentage is reflected. The images therefore lose their brightness with each refraction. To overcome this problem, there are construction materials and special treatments.

Glass

From the point of view of materials, of course, the prisms are made of glass. But it is important to know exactly what glass is. There are basically two types that may interest you:

  • BAK-7: borosilicate glass, better known by its trade name (Pyrex), also used in optics for its excellent qualities of transparency and strength
  • BAK-4: Crown-barium glass, with a better refractive index and dispersion

Both are glasses of high optical quality. However, they have different price ranges that weigh in favor of the BaK-7 less expensive. The differences are in terms of refraction.

In binoculars, the use of BaK-4 glass for the prisms helps to almost completely cancel the loss of brightness, a phenomenon that the BaK-7 cannot counter as well.

Treatments

Binoculars Lens

But glass isn’t the only factor when it comes to minimizing light loss. There are anti-reflective treatments that can be applied to all optical surfaces of binoculars, both lenses and prisms.

The effectiveness of these treatments increases with the number of layers that are applied. And the more surfaces are treated, the greater the effect. This is also a feature that allows you to identify the construction quality of binoculars.

The words to pay attention to are the following:

  • Coated: only one anti-reflective layer has been applied, usually only to the lenses
  • Fully coated: all surfaces have been treated with an anti-reflective layer
  • Multi-coated: some of the surfaces, usually the lenses, have been treated with multiple anti-reflective layers
  • Fully multi-coated: all surfaces have been treated with multiple anti-reflective layers

A separate word must be spent regarding roof prisms. Complex constructive binoculars involve a loss of image resolution. Also in this case there is a treatment, called phase correction which is applied to the surfaces of the prisms to eliminate the effect and restore the resolution.

Other technical features

What we have shown you so far are the most macroscopic technical characteristics, which if alone are enough to guide you at least on which type of binoculars to choose.

However, they are not enough to tell you everything about the quality of the binoculars you are considering to buy. Without claiming to be 100% exhaustive, we also want to talk to you about other technical data that may be worth taking into consideration.

Exit pupil

Also called the brightness index, the exit pupil is a measurement expressed in millimeters. It is the result of the ratio between the diameter of the objective and the number of Outgoing pupil binoculars magnifications. The exit pupil also represents the diameter of the light beam exiting the binoculars.

Exit pupil can be observed by looking at the binoculars from a certain distance from the side of the eyepieces: it is possible to see two luminous dots exiting from the eyepieces themselves.

These two dots are the exit pupil and from its observation. You can deduce how high the light transmission is inside the binoculars. The larger the diameter of the exit pupil, the more light passes through the binoculars.

A high luminous index means that the binoculars are capable of returning very bright images and transmitting light even in poor lighting situations, such as at dawn or dusk.

Field of view

Field of view (or visual) means the extension of the area observable through binoculars. You can find it expressed in two ways:

  • In meters: you will find the number of meters observable from a distance of one kilometer (for example: 114 meters from 1000 meters)
  • In degrees: find the viewing angle offered by the binoculars expressed in degrees (e.g.: 6.5 °)

The extension of the visual field depends on several factors, especially magnification. The magnification corresponds to a narrower field of view. In some cases, you will hear about “wide-angle binoculars”. This means that the instrument in question has a field of view of 6 ° or more (105 meters).

For those who wear glasses

Good quality binoculars do not neglect you if you need glasses. In many models, there is a specific wheel for dioptric adjustment, which allows you to customize the binoculars precisely to your diopters.

Most binoculars, whether or not they have dioptric adjustment, also have soft rubber eyepiece cups, which can be removed to adjust the distance between eye and eyepiece. This allows you to use your binoculars even when wearing glasses.

Focus

It seems trivial, but even the focus is not necessarily the same in all binoculars. There are in fact at least three different systems:

  • Fixed focus: Some binoculars don’t have focus adjustment at all
  • Central focusing: the most widespread, occurs through a wheel placed between the two tubes
  • Individual focus: provides separate focus for each of the two tubes

So don’t assume that the focus is there in the first place, and check that it is the way you want it second!

Filling

If you are a hunter, bird watcher or hiker of a certain caliber, you may also be interested in knowing what your binoculars are filled with. Yes, because not all binoculars are filled with air only!

Any binoculars are worth, at least waterproof to prevent water or dust from entering the tubes. However, the best models are also filled with gas (usually nitrogen gas) to prevent the formation of fogging on the inside of the lenses.

For fixed supports

Another not so obvious detail is the ability to install binoculars on a tripod or other fixed support, such as a car window arm. This is a feature to pay attention to, especially if you already know that your binoculars will be mainly intended for observation from a fixed point. For example, astronomical or nautical observation.

Not all binoculars are factory fitted with a tripod mount. But it is often available as an optional tool that can be purchased separately.

The great decision maker: price

But let’s get to what for many is the one and only decisive factor: the cost. Obviously, you pay for quality and great technological sophistication. We can summarize what affects the price of a binocular:

  • Prisms: Roof prisms normally cost more than Porro prisms
  • Glass: BaK-4 glass prisms usually cost more than BaK-7 glass prisms
  • Treatments: the greater the number of anti-reflective treatments, the higher the price
  • Objective diameter: all other specifications being equal, the larger the objective, the higher the cost
  • Protective casing: A good non-slip soft rubber coating, which also protects against impacts, affects the cost of the binoculars

Depending on the combination of the above features, your binoculars will be placed in one of the following price ranges:

  • Binoculars for kids: around $50
  • Very low range: under $100
  • Low range: from $100 to $300
  • Medium range: from $300.00 to $900.00
  • High range: from $900.00 to $2,000.00
  • Top of the range: $2000 and more

In conclusion, our choice of binocular models

We offer a selection of general-purpose binoculars here: these binoculars will be ideal for multiple uses and will satisfy you if you do not want to use them professionally.

Our recommendation of the top 3 best binoculars…

Nikon Sportstar EX 10 × 25: the go-anywhere pair of binoculars!

Nikon Sportstar EX 10 × 25

In the first position, we recommend the Nikon Sportstar EX 10 × 25. The advantages of this pair of binoculars are: water resistance (to a 5 min immersion underwater), a pair that is light and compact (300 grams) and a reasonable price. This model is perfect for beginners or for observing nature thanks to its 10x magnification.

Check Price on Amazon

Its advantages are:

  • A water resistance: 5 min immersion underwater.
  • Light and compact: 300 grams.
  • A reasonable price.
  • Perfect for beginners or for observing nature thanks to its 10x magnification.

2. Athlon Midas 8 x 42 ED: professional quality at an affordable price

Athlon Midas 8 x 42 ED

In the second position in our ranking, we offer you the Athlon 113004 Midas 8 x 42 ED Binoculars. This pair of binoculars arrives in the top ranking of the NYTIMES comparison. It is very robust in all weather and weather conditions, reliable and fluid in its use and is even suitable for professional use.

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Here are some of its advantages:

  • Very robust, regardless of the weather and weather conditions.
  • Reliable and fluid in its use.
  • Suitable for professional use.
  • A pair of very good quality binoculars.

3. Olympus Binocular 10 × 50 DPS-1: good mid-range compromise

Olympus Binocular 10 × 50 DPS-1

Our last choice is the Olympus Binocular 10 × 50 DPS-1 -Black. This pair of binoculars allows you a far vision with good brightness and a suitable weight (850 grams). The strong points are: the UV filter to protect your eyes during your long hours of observation and a rubber coating for a better grip.

The Olympus Binocular 10 × 50 DPS-1 has several advantages that are rarely found at this price range.

Check Price on Amazon

Some features we liked:

  • A decent price for the good quality.
  • A far vision with good light.
  • A suitable weight: 850 grams.
  • A UV filter to protect your eyes during your long hours of observation.
  • A rubber coating for a better grip.

We hope to have helped you with this guide of ours to understand what is important in binoculars and what it does most to yours! For any relevant information, ask your inquiry in the comment section below.

Liam Dean is a Professional Blogger and Outdoor Enthusiast. He completed Masters in Sports Sciences and spend all of his free time doing sports and other outdoor activities. During vacations, he goes hunting, fishing and mountaineering.

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