Last updated: August 31, 2021

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Time passes but binoculars never seem to go out of fashion. Whether for a day out in the countryside or an evening at the opera, they can be the perfect companion. They can even become your best ally for your surveillance tasks.

Today, manufacturers are developing many models tailored to everyone's needs, and choosing the right binoculars for you is certainly no easy task. That being said, it is important for you to be familiar with certain technical aspects related to the field of optics.




Summary

  • Binoculars are optical devices designed to enlarge distant objects.
  • There are essentially two types of binoculars: Roof prism and Porro prism binoculars.
  • Binoculars are mainly used for surveillance, navigation and nature observation, and more particularly birdwatching.

The Best Binoculars: Our picks

Here is our ranking of the best binoculars available on the market today. We have chosen each one for standing out in some particular aspect, and all offer great value for money. You'll therefore be able to choose the one that best suits your specific needs.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about binoculars

There are a number of important aspects that you should consider upon buying your very own binoculars. Remember that each of the many models available comes with specific characteristics. This is why we will now address the most common questions asked by buyers.

Binoculars give you the opportunity to improve your field of vision. (Source: Mikhaylov: 29346415/ 123rf.com)

What are binoculars exactly?

Binoculars are an optical device designed to enlarge images of distant objects. They consist of a pair of cylindrical tubes inside of which a set of lenses and a prism enlarge the image for each eye, therefore producing a phenomenon known as stereoscopy.

What are the different parts of binoculars?

The internal mechanism of binoculars is comprised of the following elements: a pair of ocular lenses or eyepieces, through which the images are observed, a pair of objective lenses located at the front of the device, and a prism, which is located between the two pairs of lenses mentioned above.

Binoculars also feature a wheel with which the image can be focused. Allowing you to set a different dioptre in each eyepiece, the dioptre adjustment is another part commonly found in binoculars. Certain binoculars also come with a universal thread to attach a tripod to the device.

Binoculars are ideal to take on all your adventures. (Source: Belchonock: 25010698/ 123rf.com)

What are the main uses for binoculars?

Binoculars can be used in many different areas, mainly in surveillance, navigation and observation of nature. Nature lovers use them often for birdwatching. Binoculars with shorter ranges are often useful in theatres or circuses to feel closer to the action.

Binoculars are also very valuable for astronomical observations. In fact, many experts recommend using binoculars to make your first observations, rather than starting immediately with a telescope. You can even use them during sporting events such as horse racing.

Did you know that the first binoculars on record date back to 1854? They were developed by Italian inventor Ignazio Porro, who created a prototype of a double-lens telescope.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of binoculars?

Binoculars present a number of advantages that make them irreplaceable for certain tasks. These lightweight and easily transportable devices offer a wide field of vision and can be used in a variety of different activities. Their main downside is that they are limited by their low zooming capacity.

Advantages
  • Easy to carry
  • Wide field of view
  • Numerous uses
Disadvantages
  • Limited zooming capacity

How should I use my binoculars?

To start using your binoculars, align your eyes with the exit pupils and properly adjust the eye cups. These can be loosened or tightened to encompass most of the eye, giving you a wider field of vision.

When using your binoculars, it is important to properly focus on the object you wish.

In order to do so, close your right eye and adjust the focus with the centre wheel until you see the image clearly. Then close your left eye and adjust the dioptre wheel with your right eye open.

For whom are binoculars tailored?

Having binoculars may interest you if you often go to the countryside and want to observe birds more closely, or if you navigate and need to see far across the waters. Binoculars are also helpful during surveillance tasks in open ground, or even to for leisure activities such as theatre or opera.

What types of binoculars are available out there?

Two types of binoculars can be identified based on their prism system. As mentioned above, these are Roof prism and Porro prism. The choice you'll make will be decisive in the performance of your binoculars. The following table introduces you to the most important characteristics of each of these prisms.

Roof prism Porro prism
Prism Their prism is not aligned linearly. The lenses and prism are aligned.
Size and weight  Smaller and lighter, they are easier to handle. They are heavier and larger.
Clarity The images are sharper and offer a greater contrast. Less sharpness and contrast.
Price Their price is usually higher. They tend to be more affordable.

How are magnifications and diameter measured?

A series of numbers are used to express the magnifications and diameter of the binoculars with the following format: 10x50. The first figure represents the magnification – how much the target observed is enlarged. A greater value therefore means a more magnified image.

On the other hand, the second value expresses the diameter of the objective lenses in millimetres (mm). This value defines the amount of light the lenses let through. A larger lens therefore means brighter images with higher quality. Zoom binoculars with varying degrees of magnification are also available, with values written as follows: 10 - 30x40.

Leica, Nikon and Swarovski are three of the most prestigious binocular brands, all offering an interesting range of professional equipment. (Source: Bizón: 18182502/ 123rf.com)

What treatments are applied to optical lenses and prisms?

When entering through the binoculars' objectives, the light passes through elements and changes its medium. This causes unwanted reflections to appear, subtracting luminosity and distorting colours. To avoid this, the lenses and prism of binoculars are coated with magnesium fluoride.

The different coatings used are the following: coated when the layer does not cover the entire surface; fully coated when the layer covers the entire surface; multi-coated when at least one of the surfaces has several treatment layers; or fully multi-coated when all surfaces are treated with multiple layers.

What care do binoculars require?

The first thing we encourage you to do is to buy waterproof binoculars. Otherwise, you absolutely must avoid water or dust getting inside them. It is also recommended to change the tape with which they come for a thicker one. This will offer you greater comfort and security by avoiding any unexpected fall.

Shopping Criteria

Let's analyse a series of important criteria. We believe you should take them into account before purchasing your very own pair of binoculars. Some of them are common aspects to making any purchase, while others are specific to binoculars and are often unknown to the average user.

Personal use

This is the first question you should ask yourself. You won't need the same binoculars to go to the opera or to go on ornithological excursions to the countryside on weekends, nor to make basic astronomical observations. Each model offers certain specifications that will suit you depending on your interests.

Binoculars used for birdwatching usually come with magnifications between 7x and 10x. For opera, theatre or any other type of show, 3x10 lenses are typically chosen. 7x50 and 10x50 binoculars are ideal for simple astronomical observations, while binoculars up to 20x50 are the go-to for reconnaissance.

(Source: Bizón: 42903079/ 123rf.com)

Frame

The design of the frame will greatly influence the resistance of your binoculars to different environmental factors. It will also considerably affect the comfort of the equipment of choice. The most comfortable frames are made of rubber. Higher quality binoculars are waterproof and dust-tight.

Weight and size

You shouldn't overlook this criterion as you may have to carry your binoculars regularly. Remember that weight and size depend on the type of binoculars you choose. Porro prism binoculars tend to be heavier and larger than Roof binoculars. We also recommend you to opt for a model with an ergonomic design.

Materials

It is important that you choose binoculars with mineral (glass) prisms. Organic prisms are usually made of low quality plastics, so avoid them if possible. There are currently two types of mineral prisms available: BK-7 (borosilicate) and BAK-4 (barium).

BK-7 prisms tend to be cheaper, but are less efficient in terms of light transmission. BAK-4 prisms offer a higher quality, with images presenting greater sharpness and contrast. Due to their higher refractive index, the images are also brighter.

Magnification

There is no doubt that magnification is a factor of great importance. Magnification values below eight are usually considered low values, while standard magnifications range from eight to ten. Values between 10 and 16 are considered high, while binoculars with magnification capacities above 16 are very powerful.

A higher magnification means that the images has a greater tendency to vibrate. The use of a tripod is therefore recommended for magnifications above 12, while it is considered absolutely mandatory for values above 16. Models with mechanical or electronic stabilisation systems are the only exception to this rule.

Beileshi, Gosky and Emmabin are our recommended brands for lower range binoculars.

Lens diameter

The objective lenses are located on the front of the binoculars. Defined by the second number of binocular values, these lenses have the largest diameter. A larger diameter means a sharper and brighter image. This aspect is fundamental in low-luminosity conditions or during nighttime.

The resolution of the image is also directly related to the size of your objective lenses. A very common mistake you should avoid falling into is thinking that a higher value necessarily means better binoculars. Don't forget that other factors also affect the quality of the equipment.

Angular field of vision

The angular field of vision is usually indicated in degrees on the outside of the binoculars. A larger field of vision implies a larger observed area. It is indirectly related to the magnification: the greater the magnification, the smaller the field of vision.

Exit pupil

The exit pupil is the cone of light coming out of the eyepiece. This aspect is important to consider because a higher value increases the brightness of the binoculars. The exit pupil's diameter is obtained by dividing the diameter of the lens by the magnification value. For example, the exit pupil for 20x50 binoculars is 2.5 mm.

The following diameter values are standards for the pupil of the human eye: 1.5 mm in bright light, 5 mm in normal conditions and 8 mm in dark environments. If the diameter of the exit pupil is too small, you will have the sensation of looking through a peephole. If it is too large, you won't be able to take full advantage of the light captured by the objectives.

Relative brightness

We define relative brightness as the binoculars' ability to capture and transmit enough light to provide sharp, well-contrasted images. You will obtain brighter images if the relative brightness is higher. This value is calculated by squaring the diameter of the exit pupil.

Focus

Usually located in the middle of the binoculars, a wheel or cylinder helps you adjust the focus of your binoculars. Certain binoculars can even allow individual focusing for each eyepiece. You should always check both the minimum and infinity focus before buying a specific model.

The minimum focus is defined as the minimum distance at which it is possible to focus on an object. Five to eight metres are considered good value, while a minimum focus of two metres is excellent. On the other hand, a good infinity focus allows you to focus on a very distant rectilinear object.

Accessories

Carrying straps, rain covers and tripods are amongst the most common accessories for binoculars. The strap is used to carry the binoculars while walking, while the lids are designed to protect them from the rain and other elements when not in use. As mentioned previously, the function of a tripod is to prevent image vibration.

Resume

Binoculars are optical equipment that allow us to zoom in on distant objects, making them ideal for a wide variety of uses. However, not all models are the same and their performance can greatly vary. This is why it is important for you to be clear about what particular use you need them for, as well as the specific characteristics you expect of them.

You won't need the same binoculars for Friday night opera as for your first astronomical observations. Choosing the right model may not be an easy task, and this is why you should take into account certain technical criteria with which you may not be so familiar.

We hope this guide has helped you choose just the right binoculars for your needs. If so, we would appreciate you sharing it on your social media and leaving us a positive comment!

(Source of featured image: Martnez: 43293816/ 123rf.com)

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