A great pair of binoculars will help you see great distances and bring images close. For bird watchers, this means being able to identify a particular species and seeing the finer details that you would not be able to with the naked eye.
Getting a good pair of binoculars should be viewed as a long-term investment as you will not need to buy one every few years. This is why it’s important to take your time, look at different models, and make sure you choose binoculars that offer you the best value for your money.
While the best binoculars will not come cheap, they will last you a long time. So, do not be afraid to stretch your budget as often higher priced models come with some of the best features.
When choosing binoculars, you need to observe the specifications such as magnification, size of the objective lens as well as the exit pupil.
Size of the Binoculars
Binoculars come in 3 main sizes and the right one for you will depend on your requirements. There are full-size, mid-size, and compact binoculars. Note that the larger the binoculars the larger the objective lens.
Full-size binoculars are ideal for viewing wildlife from greater distances. They capture more light and provide better quality images in low light conditions. The field of view is also wide and the resulting images are steady.
The downside is that full-size binoculars are not the best choice for backpackers as they can be quite bulky and cumbersome.
Mid-size binoculars may not absorb as much light as their full-size counterparts but they offer a perfect balance between size and light transmission. They can be used for backpacking and are a good choice for birdwatching and observing wildlife.
Compact binoculars are the smallest size. While they are easy to carry and use, they can get a bit uncomfortable after being used for extended periods.
To understand the magnification power of binoculars, there are two numbers that you will need to look for. If you see 8x 42, this means that the binoculars can magnify the image up to 8 times. The number 42 is the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters.
The larger the magnification, however, the more likely it is that your view will be affected by shaking. The trick is to find the right balance between the magnification and the quality of the image.
The diameter of the Objective Lens
When buying binoculars, you should check the size of the objective lens. We saw that full-sized binoculars come with a larger objective lens than both the mid-sized and compact varieties.
The reason why the objective lens is so important is that it plays a huge role in the binocular’s ability to provide you with clear and bright images in low light conditions. The larger the objective lens the more the light can be gathered thus the brighter the image.
For example, a 7×42 pair of binoculars will provide brighter images than a 7x 35 binocular.
The Binoculars Chassis
The chassis is the frame that holds all the optics. There are 3 main types of materials used to construct binoculars. These are aluminum, magnesium, and polycarbonate.
An aluminum chassis is rust-resistant, lightweight, and is relatively strong. It is also inexpensive which makes binoculars made from aluminum more affordable.
Magnesium is even lighter than aluminum and is also very strong. One of the main advantages of a lighter chassis is that you can hold the binoculars up to your eyes without feeling fatigued. Magnesium is durable as well as being rust-resistant.
Then there is a polycarbonate material. It has the benefit of being corrosion-proof, inexpensive, is simple to work with, and is very strong. Another major advantage of polycarbonate is that since it is not a metal, it is also temperature resistant. This could come in handy when using the binoculars in extremely cold weather.
Metals may get too cold for comfort but polycarbonate maintains a relatively stable temperate. Also, as metals will expand and contract with changes in temperate, over many years, the lenses may come out of alignment and columniation which will interfere with the focusing.
The Exit Pupil
Yet another number to take note of when choosing the best binoculars for you is the exit pupil. It tells you the level of brightness of the image in low light. The higher the number, the brighter the image will be.
To get the exit pupil, you take the diameter of the objective lens and divide this by the magnification. If you have 8×42 binoculars, the exit pupil will be 6mm. The pupils in the human eye widen during low light situations to allow in more light.
The total diameter that the pupil can widen is 7mm. If your binoculars have an exit pupil of less than 7mm, as is with our example above, this means that the light getting to your eyes will be limited. If the exit pupil is larger than 7mm then the images from the binoculars will be brighter and clearer.
During the daytime, our pupils will shrink to about 2mm. Most binoculars will offer exit pupils that are larger than this which means the size of the exit pupil is less important during the day.
The Relative Brightness
The relative brightness is a measure of the brightness of an object and how it will appear to your eyes. Similar to the exit pupil, the larger the number the brighter the object will be.
To get the relative brightness, you will take the exit pupil number and square it. In our earlier example, we saw that the exit pupil was 6. In this case, the relative brightness is 6×6 which is 36.
The Binocular Prism
Prisms have a very important role in your binoculars. When light hits the lenses, it is inverted and the images would appear upside down if it wasn’t for prisms. They help convert the images upright again. There are different types of prisms found in the binoculars.
Porro prisms are large and inexpensive to make which is why binoculars that have these types of prisms are also more affordable.
Roof prisms require a bit more precision to build. These are smaller and due to the processes involved in making them are costlier than the Porro prisms.
The Eye Relief
Eye relief refers to the distance from the eyepiece to your eyes while maintaining a complete field of view. The longer the eye relief the more comfortable the binoculars are going to be while viewing. People who wear glasses will find this feature particularly useful.
A useful tip to observe if you wear glasses is to search for an eye relief of larger than 11mm.
Understanding the Field of View
The field of view is the width in feet of the area that you can see with your binoculars while standing 1000 yards away. A larger field of view allows users to spot objects much easier to form far distances. If you are searching for animals, you are more likely to spot movement with a large field of view.
However, the field of view is affected by magnification. The higher the magnification the smaller the field of view becomes.
The binoculars focus is used to make adjustments to the barrels allowing the user to zoom in or out with both barrels simultaneously. On the other hand, it is possible to adjust each barrel independently by using the diopter adjustment ring.
This is situated on either the right or left barrel and its main function is to help compensate for the differences in vision between both eyes.
Minimum Focus Distance
While the main purpose of binoculars is to view objects from afar, some people such as bird watchers will want to observe tiny details about the birds. To see the shape of the beak, the colorings at the end of the wings, or the crown markings, they will need binoculars with a close minimum focus.
As you increase the magnification, the minimum focus distance will also increase. To achieve a close focus, the binoculars should feature a large objective lens while keeping the magnification at around 8X.
The Lens Coating
When light hits a normal lens that doesn’t have any type of coating, some of it gets reflected away. Since there is less light passing through the lens the resulting image is darker. Lens coatings are designed to allow maximum light to pass through by reducing the reflection.
This results in brighter, clearer images. Some lenses have multiple layers of coating and are referred to as multicoated which allows maximum light to pass through.
Weatherproof binoculars are ideal if you plan to use them during light showers. While they will keep out the rain, they are not waterproof which means water will get in if they are submerged or fall into a river or a puddle.
Waterproof binoculars, however, will not let water seep in even while submerged. They make use of O rings to provide a tight seal at any point where water could find a way into the binoculars.
Binoculars and Fogging
Fogging can make your binoculars unusable especially if it occurs on the inside of the lens. It happens when the binoculars are moved from cold temperatures to warm temperatures causing the air to condense on the lenses.
To prevent fogging, binocular manufacturers use an inert gas inside the barrels. This gas does not have moisture which means it will not condense even during rapid temperature changes.
Try Out a Few Models
Specifications are not the only thing to look at when choosing binoculars. You also need to choose the most comfortable binoculars for you. Since people have different features such as the shape of the eyes and the size of hands, testing multiple models will help you judge how each model feels like.
Sometimes you may need to use the binoculars in a low light setting so you want to make sure that they can provide, clear, crisp images. Most stores are going to have more light than a forest setting so it’s a good idea to find a dark spot to see how the different binoculars perform.
When buying binoculars, you also need to consider the accessories that come with the package.
Straps will help you carry the binoculars much easier. Look for adjustable straps that are also padded, ergonomic, and simple to use.
Caps are necessary to keep the objective lens safe from outside elements. Look for those that have a ring that allows you to simply flip them down. This way you will not lose them.
To ensure that the binocular lenses are clean and clear of dirt and moisture, you will need cleaning equipment. These will include a cloth, kit, solution, and pens.
You can upgrade the traditional eyecups on your model to winged eyecups. These will fit snugly around the eye socket preventing light from leaking. As a result, the images appear clearer and brighter.
Advancement in technology has seen some affordable binoculars being released which will still offer some great features. However, if you want a piece of equipment that will not only last a long but comes with some of the best features, you should keep in mind that these will often come with a higher price tag.
Globo Surf Overview
Choosing great binoculars will require you to consider factors such as the magnification, objective lens, as well as the accessories that your chosen model comes with.
Since everybody is different, trying out different models will help you pick the one that feels the most comfortable for you. People with large hands will do well with full-sized binoculars while those with a smaller frame will likely prefer mid-sized binoculars.
Remember to consider why you need a pair of binoculars in the first place. Is it for birdwatching or viewing wildlife from a boat? Knowing this will help you choose binoculars with the right specifications.