Are you looking to buy your first-ever pair of binoculars? Or are you planning to replace an old one? Regardless of your reasons, buying binoculars is not as easy as some people think.
Before the pandemic, experts projected the binoculars market to surge. This growth is further buoyed by the popularity of different outdoor recreational activities.
And with more people buying binoculars, it is easy for some to acquire one that doesn’t suit their needs.
Not all binoculars are equal. And there are many uses for binoculars.
Thus, you need to ask the right questions before buying one. But what are these essentials that you need to know?
Continue reading below as we discuss 10 of the most important questions to ask, in no particular order, when purchasing binoculars.
1. What’s with All the Numbers?
One of the most important questions to ask when buying binoculars is what’s with all the numbers that you see? To be clear, these numbers are 8×42, 10×42, 10×32, 10×26, 10×50, and 12×56.
Let’s take “8×42” as an example. The number and letter “8x” pertains to the magnification of the binoculars. On the other hand, the “42” indicates the size or diameter of the objective lens in millimeters.
In this case, the binoculars feature 8 times magnification with a 42mm lens. Hence, you can have a pair of binoculars with 8x or 10x magnification with a 42mm lens.
2. What Type of Magnification Do I Need?
Going deeper into the aspect of magnification, you need to ask which type suits you best. Generally, the answer varies depending on your purpose of usage.
Let’s use the “8x” again as an example. If you get a pair of binoculars with 8x magnification, it means it will make the subject you are looking at look eight times larger or closer compared to what your naked eye can see.
But how do you choose the right kind of magnification? This can be tricky, though there are certain standards people use as a guide. If you want something you can use during concerts or sporting events, binoculars with at least 8x magnification should be enough.
If you are planning to get a pair of binoculars long-distance viewing of the wildlife, go for a pair that has 10x magnification. The same thing goes if you are going to use the binoculars for long-range hunting. In case you want something you can use at night for stargazing, get something with 20x magnification.
Take note, however, that if you go beyond 12x magnification, you may need to invest in a good tripod. Using a tripod ensures the stability of your binoculars especially if you need to move your view from one direction to another.
3. Does Size Matter?
Another question people often ask about binoculars is “does size matter?” The answer is “yes,” and in more ways than one. But let us clarify that the size we are discussing here is the size of the binoculars’ lens.
As we mentioned earlier, the lens size is the numbers that you see after the “8x”, “10x”, and “12x”. Also, we measure the lens size or diameter in millimeters. As for the significance of lens size, it is one of the key factors that determine the size of the binoculars.
Essentially, the larger your lens size is, the bigger the overall size of the binoculars will be. But the question is does having a larger lens benefit you?
This is the rule of thumb: the larger the surface area of your lens, the more amount of light it will capture. In turn, you will enjoy better views even under low light.
Then again, buying a pair of binoculars with an objective lens that is as wide as 50mm may not suit you if comfort is one of your considerations. The bigger the lens, the heavier the binoculars will be.
4. How About Glass Coating?
This is another question you need to ask. What type of glass coating do your binoculars come with?
Glass coating adds protection to the lens. It also reduces glare and reflections that may affect your views. Furthermore, it improves light transmission and contrast.
Though almost all binoculars feature lens coating, some come with a cheap coating that does not perform well. Generally, manufacturers of cheap and sub-par binoculars attract consumers by applying a colorful coating to the exterior lenses.
You may see these coatings in a yellow, orange, green, or red tint. Yes, they do look cool but most of the time, their only value is on the aesthetic side. But keep in mind that there are high-quality binoculars that feature greenish coating.
Going back to the light transmission, uncoated lenses can only provide limited transmission at best. On the flip side, lenses with quality coatings can give you better transmission.
Also, there are three coating categories you need to familiarize yourself with: coated, fully-coated, and multi-coated. Coated lenses come with at least a coating on one of their major optical elements.
Meanwhile, fully-coated treatment means all glass surfaces and lenses feature a coating layer. As for the multi-coated type, it means at least one of its major optical elements comes with many coatings.
5. What is the Field of View?
Another thing to inquire about is the size of the field of view. To simplify things, the field of view is the diameter of the area that you see through the glasses. Moreover, you measure this diameter in degrees.
A wide field of view increases the area that you can see. This helps you find a moving target like an animal without having to move your binoculars. A wild field of view makes it easier for you to observe wildlife.
It is also what you want if you’re watching a sporting event from a high and distant position. And if you find your target animal, you can get a much closer look at it with a narrow field of view.
Keep in mind that the lens design can affect the field of view. This means higher power does not necessarily equate to a narrower field of view.
6. Does Design Also Count?
And if you’re wondering if design counts, the answer is a big “yes.” There are two main design categories that binoculars may fall into. First is the roof prism design and the other, the Porro prism.
Roof-prism binoculars come with straight-through body shape. They are also a simpler type. Nevertheless, they are pricier than their Porro prism counterparts.
They offer better optical and mechanical tolerances. This translates into better overall performance, which caters to the higher-end market.
Meanwhile, Porro prism binoculars are cheaper. They are also more compact and more complicated. But in terms of performance, they offer a sharp and bright field of view covering high and low magnifications.
7. What are the External Features?
You also need to ask about the external features of the binoculars offered. These features affect both the durability and usability of the binoculars. Moreover, they give you a hint on the potential view quality and level of optics.
One of the key external features to look for is the chassis material. This is the shell that you find under the rubber coating of most binoculars. High-end binoculars use magnesium for the chassis.
Low to mid-tier binoculars use aluminum or polycarbonate plastic.
Another key feature is waterproofing. This is a vital feature especially if you plan to use your binoculars outdoors. Waterproofing comes in the form of the O-rings.
These rings seal the binoculars and protect it from rain and moisture. They also keep dust from entering the spaces of your binoculars.
8. How About Eye Relief?
You also want to check if it has features for eye-relief. This pertains to the ideal distance between your eyes and the eyepiece.
To achieve this distance, some binoculars feature eye-cups. These cups help maintain the proper distance between your eyes and the ocular lenses. In turn, it helps you achieve a full image.
You may find affordable binoculars with rubber eye-cups. Generally, you can fold these cups depending on your eye-relief requirements.
And if you are going to use your binoculars for bird-watching, then eye relief is crucial.
9. Does It Come with Video Capabilities?
If you are looking to invest in a good set of binoculars for hunting, you may want to go for something with a digital camera. This special feature allows you to take still and video shots of your views.
You will see this feature in high-end binoculars. However, do not scrimp on your choices. There are cheaper binoculars with video abilities that yield low-quality videos and images.
10. How Much Does It Cost?
Last but not least, ask how much the binoculars cost. Pricing is relative to the buyer. Some binoculars with a steep price tag may be affordable to others.
Thus, always consider your budget alongside your purpose. Strike a balance between the two to find a pair that will give you the best value possible.
Always buy from reputable sources. It is also wise to go online and check different reviews. Make sure to read the comprehensive ones like this Atomic Beam review.
Start Buying Binoculars Worth Your Time and Money!
Now that you know the important questions to ask when buying binoculars, you can streamline your options faster. You can also avoid overspending and get the best value for your money. And if you wish to complement your binoculars with other outdoor items, you need to expand your knowledge through research.
Check out our other articles where we discuss items for various outdoor adventures. We give tips that will help you find the best products worth buying.