Binoculars are one of the most versatile optical instruments. They can be used for bird-watching, hunting, enjoying a panning view of a scenery or astronomy or watching the action at concerts or sporting events.
But there are so many options out there and so, choosing the perfect binocular for your specific need can be a challenge.
This guide will help you to understand binoculars better. Not only that, but the following points will also help you to find a perfect pair of binoculars considering your optic need.
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Binoculars are usually of four types – full, compact, mid & giant.
Depending on your need, you need to pick a type of binocular.
Most binoculars are described like this, for example, 8x42. That first number indicates the magnification and the second number indicates the size of the objective lens in mm. The size of the binoculars depends mostly on the objective lens' size.
Larger the objective lenses, more it allows light to enter the binoculars and creates a brighter image. 42mm objective lens is considered the full size and provides bright images even on gloomy days. They are also small enough, hence more portable.
So, they are more common size used by wildlife viewers and bird watchers.
That first number of the former example indicates their magnification i.e. an 8x42 pair can make things look eight times larger. Hand shakiness is often more noticeable at higher magnifications since you get a narrower field of view.
Usually, wildlife watchers tend to go for 8x magnification in the forest.
For watching soaring birds or to use it in the beach or plain land, people go for 10x or even 12x magnification.
There is an ideal distance for your eye to be away from the eyepiece in a binocular. This distance is termed as the eye relief.
If your eye is farther away exceeding the built-in eye relief distance, then you will lose the picture's outer edge. You will see only a smaller portion of the image.
So, if you wear glasses, you will need a binocular whose eyepieces are designed with longer eye relief about 16mm (the minimum) or more than 16mm.
Need for image stabilization and adapting to tripod Image-stabilized binoculars have a mechanism that decreases the apparent motion of the view due to hand movement. They minimize shaking of the image in hand-held binoculars.
Also, you can use a tripod to reduce the effect of shaky hands.
A tripod can also be used to look up over a scenic area. So, you may need binoculars, especially which can adapt to a tripod.
If you need to use your binoculars on a boat/canoe or during any rainy day, you should consider getting a waterproof (weather resistant) binocular.
These binoculars typically use O-rings. O-ring creates a seal that prevents moisture from getting inside. They also prevent dirt and dust from entering.
Weather-resistant binoculars may not mean they are completely waterproof. They will protect against light rain but not full submersion into the water.
You should consider a coated lens. They prevent the fogging of your lens, especially in winter and cool weather.
Aluminum is a popular material used for the chassis (the body) of the binoculars. They are light, inexpensive and rust resisting. So, go for one built with aluminum. You can also consider buying one with rubber coatings as they provide comfort for handheld moments. They also protect from shock in case there is sudden dropping of the binoculars.
You will notice some binoculars look streamlined and some look chunkier. This is because the physical appearance of a binocular depends on the type of prism used.
Prisms correct the orientation of the horizontal and vertical view. The image would look upside down without a prism in a binocular.
2 principal types of prisms are available: Porro and Roof.
You should consider the manufacturer's reputation on how they handle their clients. Note whether the manufacturer provides a warranty for the models.
Having a warranty from the manufacturer would make it easier to get the binoculars replaced if they are damaged.
You may also consider monocular instead of a binocular if you are solely interested in birdwatching.
The main difference between a monocular & binocular is that a monocular has a single barrel while binoculars have two. So, it means they are also more convenient for carrying and can be used with only one hand.
The advantage of a monocular compared to an equivalent size binocular, you will get a larger objective lens. This larger lens will ensure brightness and a better image quality, which is helpful in low light.
Reading the above guideline by now, you have a pretty good idea of what to look for. Just keep in mind to select the right combination of features considering where, when and how often you would use the binoculars to get the one that is perfect for your needs.