Knowing how to pick up the best binoculars even though you have never used or owned any before is the key to saving money without sacrificing quality, giving you the best product for your needs and very good value for the money.
To begin with, you will have to decide what you want the binoculars for. There are many differences between the models, according to their purpose. Astronomy binoculars are usually pretty expensive but have tremendous magnification power (usually between 10 and 20 times), and large objective lenses to brighten the image. Birdwatching or hunting designs are usually more portable and offer bigger fields of view but have less power, smaller objective lenses (a common value is 7×35 or 8×40).
The latter is easier to use since they have a central focusing system and are usually much lighter than astronomy or military designs. There are many more variants apart from the aforementioned ones, so decide what you will use the devices for before starting to search the market. Once you have figured this out, things are a little bit easier.
Take your budget into consideration since this is quite an important factor. Usually, high-quality designs are quite pricey, in the $100-$200 price range, while excellent designs suitable for extremely long distance ship spotting, train spotting or stargazing will be found at higher prices.
However, thanks to the latest developments in optic technology and materials, you can find very cool products at much more affordable prices. If you do not intend to use it a lot and reliability is not something extremely important, go for the not so pricey variants.
The next thing you have to think about is the image quality. This depends on a variety of factors – the lenses are the most important part of your binocular so we will treat them first. They can be made from glass or plastic, with the plastic ones being usually cheaper but sacrificing image quality.
Plastic lenses that yield the same results as the equivalent glass lenses are more expensive but there is almost no risk of breaking or shattering them in case of impacts. Coatings also affect the outcome; apart from those without this feature, the binoculars are divided into the following categories: C (only some surfaces have been coated with a single layer), FC (all glass lens surfaces have been coated with a single layer), MC (some surfaces have been coated with multiple layers) and FMC (all surfaces have been coated multiple times).
Low light performance is increased by using larger objectives – check this if you intend to use the items in low light situations such as dark forests of dawn/dusk activities. Clarity is also something that you have to look for.
Decide on what type of focusing system you want. Central focusing (abbreviated as CF) binoculars have a central ring or knob that is used to focus the two tubes simultaneously, and, to compensate the differences in eyesight that appear between the left and right eye, one of the eyepieces has a diopter adjustment ring used for fine adjustments and to obtain the clearest image possible.
Individual focusing (abbreviated as IF) is a system that has no central knob, but two diopter adjustment rings, each mounted on one eyepiece. This system is harder to focus but it will remain focused at long distances. It is more reliable as it has less moving parts, but close targets will appear blurry. The latter is a design usually found in astronomy, naval or military devices (and basically any other optical device intended for long distance use).
The eyepieces should be as comfortable as possible, especially if you will spend a lot of time constantly looking through them. When resting at a comfortable distance from the user’s eyes, the model will not tire his or her eyes.
Glass wearers have to take this factor (called eye relief) seriously into consideration since their eyes will usually rest at 14 or more millimeters from the ocular lens. Extendable eyecups are recommended in this situation, but also those who do not wear glasses will benefit from adjustable pieces.
There are other features that need your attention, some of them more important than others. Weight is a serious thing that influences image quality and influences enjoyable use. The more powerful and big the objective and other lenses are, the heavier the product will be.
This will induce a more pronounced hand tremor, and this natural, hard to control movement will make it hard to stay focused on one single target. If you still need high magnification power, wide field of view and bright image, consider buying a support for your device. However, common hunting, hiking or birding binoculars are not that big and heavy and can be easily used by pretty much anyone.
The environment where the device is going to be used is also important since not all designs are waterproof or dustproof. For obvious reasons, ship spotting binos should be water and sand proof, but this is no necessity for items destined for astronomy. If it rains, there are clouds in the sky and it will be impossible to stargaze that night).
Easy to carry hiking or birdwatching designs should also be resistant to impact since having them tied to your neck or backpack leaves them exposed to rocks, trees or other objects that you encounter along the way. Some producers issue a lifetime warranty; others only offer limited rights to a refund or replacement, while cheaper brands offer no guarantee at all.
After taking all the aforementioned features into consideration look at any other extras that might be offered. The best way to decide on a product after comparing it with many others in online or printed catalogs is to effectively go into a store and test it yourself. Sometimes, what is advertised sounds great but will not be suitable for your needs.
How to use your binoculars
If you have just bought new binoculars or received them as a gift, you might perhaps be wondering which some of the coolest and best ways to use them are and also how to properly adjust and focus them. Understanding which these adjustments are and how to make the best of them will prove helpful.
Since eyesight differs greatly from person to person while binoculars are pretty much meant for universal use, it goes without saying that they are adjustable. The first thing that has to be set according to preferences is the eyecup. For eyeglass wearers, eye cups should be retracted, while for those who do not need glasses, they should be extended.
Eye relief is a distance measured from the surface of the eyepiece lens to the eye point. By looking through scopes from the eye point the field of view is at its maximum without any vignette. Adjustments are adapted by each user according to his or her preference.
The next thing to be set up is interpupillary distance – this is the distance measured from the eyepiece to your eyes. This varies from individual to individual and it must be adjusted according to the user’s own measure.
To do this, the binocular must be firmly held, usually with both hands. After finding a distant object, the viewer will carefully move the two scopes downward or upward until the alignment is correct and a perfect circle is obtained, with a single image of the object.
Now, imagine that you have just unboxed new binoculars for concert viewing, made all the aforementioned adjustments but, when you look through the eyepiece, the image you get is still blurry. Do not worry; this happens because the lens might be dirty or because they have not been adjusted for your diopter.
Carefully wipe them with the special cloth that is usually provided in the package; if the view is still unclear, then you will have to focus the device. Two types of models exist, and they are with central focus or with individual focus. To begin with, we will discuss the central focusing ones – these have a single knob that can be turned, changing the distance between lenses (usually this is found in wildlife, bird watching and also in some great hiking binoculars).
The diopter must be adjusted before properly focusing. First, the user has to close their right eye and focus only with the left eye. The viewer will look through the left eyepiece at an object and turn the knob until its view becomes sharp and the quality is the highest.
After that, to focus with their right eye, the user will have to look through the right eyepiece and turn the diopter adjustment ring, located between the rubber eyecups and the main body, until this image becomes sharp as well. If the diopter adjustment ring is located on the left, the procedure is the same but in reverse. Once the diopter has been adjusted, the focusing ring will be turned whenever the view is changed and refocusing is needed.
Using individual focusing products is a little bit more difficult but the principle is almost the same. Individual focusing binos (this is how some astronomical and military gadgets are made) have an individual ring for each eyepiece.
The viewer will look through either eyepiece while closing the other eye, and turn the diopter adjustment ring until the image becomes sharp. The procedure is repeated to adjust the other scope, again, by turning the focusing ring until the image is clear. It is known that finer adjustments will be needed since it is pretty difficult to get perfect results from the first try with this kind of product.
Cleaning is something that could be easily omitted, but this is quite an important procedure that extends the lifetime of these optical devices. Regardless of the brand, type or selling price, wrong cleaning procedures can render them useless or significantly reduce the performance.
When doing this, follow the steps further described: first, use a soft cloth or compressed air (there are many canisters with compressed gas available for as low as $3-$4 in any computer parts store) to remove all particles such as dust, dirt or crumbs.
Once this has been done, dip a lens cloth in cleaning solution made for coated lenses, available at all optic stores, and wipe the lenses with the wet cloth, afterward, dry them with another cloth. This is the best way to clean and maintain your item in proper condition.
Another way to extend the lifetime of your product is by protecting them against water (even those that are waterproofed should be spared from contact with liquids, especially if we are talking about a long time spent in humid environments) direct sunlight and accidental drops.
A special neoprene wetsuit for binoculars, called BinoBib, has been recently developed. This coating is designed to offer total protection against water and it completely encapsulates your optical device. Protection against direct sunlight and heat is offered by adequate storage, and by avoiding constant exposure to either natural factors.
When heated, the metal components of a good binocular expand and a constant change in temperatures is not recommended. Most decent binos have a layer of elastic and impact resistant rubber on their exterior, increasing resistance in case of drops, but this does not mean that you should constantly expose them to impacts. Use a neck strap while carrying and using the device, to prevent accidental falling.
By following the steps described above, you will make the best out of your device and open up the environment around you that once was inaccessible to the naked eye.
How to get the right binoculars for astronomy
Since the beginning of time, people have been fascinated by the starlit skies and the world that lies beyond the horizon, observing it as best as they could with the naked eye. The enthusiasm is still there, only that now it is much easier to stargaze, thanks to the many optical magnification devices that have become widely available for civilian use. Astronomy binoculars are very popular amongst stargazers; read the following lines to know how to pick the right ones.
They work like an extension of your eyesight, without altering the natural way an image is perceived by your brain, apparently bringing the object closer to you. With a high-quality design, you will be able to see even 50 times more stars than without any optical device; the Moon will be also a lot easier to observe, as will the Sun.
Even though telescopes are more powerful and appreciated by amateur astronomers, they are heavier, bulkier and less versatile, as they cannot be used for many other things except looking at stars and constellations. Astronomy models can be used in many other scenarios, they have a wider field of view (since they have two separate eyepieces), are far more portable and might be cheaper, depending on the brand.
Quality binoculars for stargazing vary in price and design, but they usually have a magnification power between 15 and 25 times and an objective with a diameter of at least 50 millimeters. In order to decide what is best for you, you will need to look at more individual specifications than the common power by objective diameter characteristic.
To begin with, you have to decide how powerful you want the device to be. The first specification that you will read (usually found in the product title, immediately after the producer and model) is the power and objective size, the two numbers being separated by a multiplication sign (for example, 15×70 or 20×100).
The first one or two numerals show how much will the product multiply (in the given examples, 15 or 20 times); the following number indicates objective size (in our example, 70 millimeters or 100 millimeters).
The field of view is next in terms of importance when speaking about stargazing designs. This indicator describes how wide the perspective offered is. It depends on the way the product was designed, and in astronomy, the wider the field of view is, the better.
Having a large perspective allows the user to scan a bigger portion of the sky and also to find patterns and clusters in the multitude of stars shining above us. Usually, it is described as the maximum width perceived at a certain distance, which is given in 1000 feet or 1000 meters. As an example, the next values are what you might commonly see engraved on the body of astronomy binoculars: 357 ft at 1000 yards, 298 feet at 1000 feet. Go for the higher values if you want to have a wide perspective.
Keep in mind that handheld astronomy items are heavier than almost all the other types commonly found on the market. If you are not sure that you will enjoy carrying or holding a big, long and expensive optical device, it might be better not to buy a dedicated product.
Instead, acquiring a powerful hunting or hiking design might be recommended; you can use a pair of excellent Wingspan binoculars for birdwatching and obtain good results when stargazing. However, if you have decided that size is no problem, keep in mind that exit pupils have to be suitable for your eyes, organs that change with age.
The dark-adapted eyes of an adult will open to a pupil with a smaller diameter than you would see in a child. Make sure that their shape is perfectly round – to do this, simply look at the eyepieces, where the exit pupils are mounted.
Another reason why magnification power is important is that not always more is better. This only depends on your preferences and on what you want to explore in the night skies. Some people prefer greater magnification to allow them to explore far away clusters and galaxies, while others desire a wider field of view and an immersive experience that cannot be obtained with an extremely powerful design.
If you want your binoculars to be versatile and fit for other observation situations, such as ship spotting, hunting or hiking, do not go for the large ones as they are less portable and might be too powerful. Many long-range designs feature an individual focusing system (each eyepiece has a diopter adjustment ring, so you have to focus for each eye) that requires no further modifications when the target is changed, but close objects will not be properly focused.
There are astronomy devices that have a central focusing system, which has to be refocused when significantly changing the viewing distances but can acquire close objects.
Check if the desired product has a tripod adapter, especially if they are heavier than 2 or 3 pounds. Even though sometimes a bundle that includes a support and the product can be offered, usually the tripod has to be bought separately. If the design you went for has no adapter, it will be hard to improvise a mechanism to mount it on a steady support, and this will make for less enjoyable use and a decrease in accuracy.
Apart from the aforementioned features, look for all the extras that are offered, such as warranty, waterproofing and how resistant the main body is. Also, try to find a Porro-Prism design, as it is cheaper and better than their equivalent (in terms of price) roof prisms. Solar binoculars are specially coated items that filter the harmful sunlight and allow you to freely observe an eclipse or the dark spots on the surface; unless certified as suitable for this task, do not try to look at the Sun with your binos as this is extremely harmful to your health. Many extras are featured on some products, so keep your eyes open to all the details described by the producer.
Reasons to get a pair of binoculars
Whether you enjoy camping in the great outdoors, watching a ballgame at the stadium, or admiring the stars in the night sky, getting a quality pair of binoculars can greatly improve your experience. With these amazing optical devices, you can admire the world up close and get to see a lot more details than you could with the naked eye.
Here are just a few reasons why you should definitely get some binoculars this year.
Improve your outdoor adventures
If you love camping and hiking, then a pair of binoculars can vastly improve your outdoor experiences. You can see the natural world in better detail and admire wildlife from afar. Animals are hard to spot with the naked eye, and getting close will either scare them or pose a great danger if we’re talking about big predators such as bears, wolves, or big cats.
You can either choose binoculars with a higher magnifying power to see fine details on animals and plants, or choose a model with a wider field of view to admire landscapes, natural landmarks, and other scenery and enjoy your trips a lot more.
Benefit from more urban sightseeing experiences
While binoculars are great for mountain treks and trips in the wilderness, you don’t actually have to leave town to benefit from a pair of binoculars. You can study your hometown in finer detail or get a bird’s eye view of the entire landscape atop a tall building.
Binoculars can unravel a world different than the one you can see with just your eyes. You can watch people as they go on with their day to day activities, or study architectural details on historic buildings.
With a pair of binoculars, you also get to see more of the cities you visit, and you could even orient yourself better by being able to read distant posts and signs, or spot that fancy restaurant you’ve been searching for.
Go stargazing at night
You’d be surprised to learn that binoculars aren’t just meant for terrestrial observations, but celestial observations, as well. In fact, many astronomers actually advise beginners to get a quality pair of binoculars first and only think about purchasing a telescope after they’ve mastered the basics of stargazing.
Not only will these provide you with an easier way to get accustomed to finding different objects using coordinates, but will also learn important lessons about magnification, field of view, as well as comet tracking and other things that would be much harder to learn on a complex telescope.
Lastly, many experts believe that you can be better off getting some excellent astronomy binoculars rather than a cheap telescope that comes with poor optics and controls. Binoculars would be easier to use while also being smaller in size, not to mention lighter.
You can slip a pair of binoculars into your pocket or wear them around your neck and take them anywhere so you never miss an opportunity, a thing you can’t really say about a 30-pound telescope that requires a truck and a few buddies to transport and set up. Binoculars will also be less expensive than telescopes so that you can enjoy your passion without breaking the bank.
Watch sports in high detail
Whether you’re a football fan or enjoy watching a baseball game at the stadium every now and then, you can surely use a pair of binoculars with camera to improve your experience. You can watch the grimaced faces of football players as they tackle each other, wonder at the amazing efforts of your team’s favorite to score a touchdown or get to see that foul that even the head referee missed.
You could see players and actions in finer detail and higher resolution than even spectators in the best seats. Not only will you get a closer view of the stadium and never miss an action, but you’ll also save money since you won’t have to buy that expensive front row ticket anymore.
Never miss a rare bird sighting
Regardless if you’re an accomplished ornithologist or an amateur bird watcher, getting some binoculars with good magnification and high resolution is a necessity. Birds are easily spooked so you can be certain that you won’t be able to get close enough to one to get a good look at it.
With binoculars, you can see birds from afar, and the best thing about it is that you could see even fine details such as feathers and intricate color patterns that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. You can experience the world of birds in amazing high resolution as well as study their behavior, mating rituals, nesting habits or even spot that rare bird everyone’s been looking for.
Spot game easier when hunting
If you enjoy hunting, then you really need to consider getting some binoculars. In fact, few hunters venture outdoors without them. These would allow you to spot the game in advance so that you have enough time to plan your strategies. Not only that, but you could ensure that you slowly move towards your prey without scaring it first.
Binoculars would also help you avoid dangers, as you could prevent bumping into a bear or cougar and getting caught off guard. Depending on your hunting style, preferred game, weapons, specific terrains, and other factors, it is recommended that you check out some binoculars comparison reviews first so that you choose the right mode for your needs.
See performers up close at concerts
Binoculars have been used for ages at the theater, opera, or concerts. With these effective optical devices, you can see your favorite musicians, or admire a play at the theater in high resolution so that you could even see the expressions on the faces of characters, vastly improving your experience.
The good thing is that you won’t need to wear a pair of tiny binoculars on a stick just like aristocrats in the past, as you can get a modern unit that looks great while also giving you a close up of the characters in stunning details and colors.
So whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a bird watcher, a beginner astronomer, or a sports fan, you should definitely check out some popular models and get the binoculars that suit your preferences, needs, and budget.