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How Close Can You See With Compact Binoculars? | Optics and Lab Equipment

How Close Can You See With Compact Binoculars?

Last Updated: 22.11.19


There are so many types of optical devices today, such as electronic binoculars, that can help you bring anything closer from the moving ball on a sports field to the stars above. However, there is one criterion that no one wants to overlook, and that’s portability. Compact binoculars are popular, but can they really offer good performance?

When you shop for a pair of binoculars, features and specs are important, but you surely want a model that you can carry in your backpack or even your pocket. As a compact size is essential for many people, the focus should be on models that, at the same time, don’t cause issues in terms of overall ability to see what you want to see through their lenses.

What kind of magnification is standard for compact binoculars?

To start with something that’s most familiar with the vast majority of those in search of a new pair of binoculars, let’s focus on magnification. Magnification represents the ability of the lenses to increase the image observed through them. It is, typically, the first number that follows after the name of a model, and, for compact binoculars, is, most commonly, 8x or 10x.

Of course, things are not set in stone, and you can always find binoculars with a lower or higher magnification. However, you should bear in mind that a higher magnification will cause the image to become unstable unless there are unique technologies to reduce the typical shakiness.

On the other hand, go too low, and your binoculars might not be of much help. Ideally, your binoculars should have a magnification of 8x or 10x, as indicated earlier, and there are plenty of compact models that offer such performance.


Are the small lenses an issue?

In case you have read a bit about binoculars and optics in general, you might be well aware of the fact that the smaller the lenses, the weaker their ability to gather light and offer a crisp image. It is often considered that this is the most significant trade-off when it comes to purchasing compact binoculars.

As their lenses are on the smaller side, you can’t expect them to provide the same picture brightness as their larger counterparts. However, this doesn’t mean that you should settle for muddy, dull image performance that would make it difficult for you to see colors and shapes distinctively.

To prevent this from becoming a problem, manufacturers have thought about improving the overall optics quality on their products, and that lead to the employment of fully multicoated lenses on compact binoculars and not only. These coatings have a precise role in ensuring superior light transmission for a brighter image.

What is field of view?

Some serious research may be needed before deciding for a pair of compact binoculars, and that’s when you will inevitably stumble upon something called field of view. This is a measurement of the image width, as you can observe it through the lenses. In case you intend to use binoculars for watching a game or wildlife, it is pretty essential to have a decent field of view so that you can see the most possible.

While you should opt for a model with as high a field of view as possible, there is another trade-off you should know about. If the magnification on your unit is high, the field of view will go low. Therefore, we need to go back to the earlier conversation about magnification and why it matters.

Bird watching enthusiasts are usually content with an 8x magnification and even 7x magnification as this is enough to guarantee a decent field of view without sacrificing anything else. When you compare different models, however, you can check to see which ones have a better field of view for the same magnification specs.


Is close focus important?

Depending on what you need to use your binoculars for, such an aspect could be more important than others. For instance, if you just plan on watching a game, and you don’t want to fiddle with the adjustments on your binoculars all the time, you can always go for a model with no focus feature.

However, if you are interested in observing details, such as when you go bird watching, for instance, you will need this feature. Closing in on a bird or an insect will be possible without getting too close physically. That’s why you will always find bird watchers debating the qualities of various binoculars by taking into consideration the close focus aspect.


Are larger binoculars truly better than compact models?

If that’s a matter of concern for you, let’s just put your mind at ease. Although larger models come equipped with bigger lenses and they appear to have better performance, some drawbacks don’t make them automatically better when compared to compact models.

For instance, let’s say that you go on a safari trip or hiking. The chances are that you will spend quite a bit of time holding your binoculars to your eyes. That means that your hands might get tired fast if the unit you have is too bulky and heavy.

Here’s an issue compact binoculars don’t have. They are built with portability in mind and, therefore, they don’t weigh as much, and they are comfortable to hold. Search for units that offer a solid grip, too, and you will be more than pleased with how comfortable they are to hold even when you want to watch wild animals or examine the surroundings for a longer time.

What’s the ideal weight for a pair of binoculars?

The good thing is that manufacturers offer a list of specs that includes the total weight of the binoculars they have in their lineup. Roughly, you should opt for a pair that weighs less than 2 pounds, but if that sounds too much for you, you will be relieved to learn that most compact binoculars on the market weigh well under this mark.


Special features you should look at

When you shop for a pair of binoculars, more often than not, you will notice that some unique features are advertised along with the other specs, such as those we have mentioned up to this point, like magnification and field of view. These are all for convincing you why you should buy them instead of others.

For instance, if a pair of binoculars is advertised as waterproof, it is wise to check and see just how well they fare when in contact with water. There is a unique rating commonly used for giving you an idea about this issue, and that’s what you should check. Some models won’t suffer any damage even if you drop them in water.

Others, however, will only resist moisture if used in damp environments and are inferior to the truly waterproof models. Check for specifications such as nitrogen-purged construction and O-ring sealed body, as they can tell you a bit more about how well proofed the binoculars are against water and fog.

Usually, binoculars that are adequately sealed perform well in other environments, too, such as arid climates, and places where there’s a lot of dust. In case you intend to use your binoculars during safari trips, this is yet another thing to bear in mind when you go shopping for a pair.

Accessories that you shouldn’t live without

Lastly, let’s talk a little about the accessories included with your purchase. A case should be on your list of must-haves, as even the models with the highest resistance to moisture, debris, and heat could still get damaged. That’s also a safe way for you to store the binoculars when you don’t use them.

Another thing you shouldn’t overlook is a neck strap; as you might not always hold the binoculars to your eyes, you will want to have them readily available, and that would be strapped around your neck.



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