What to Look for and What to Avoid
Meta: There are a lot of great binoculars to choose from out there. Here is a look at some binocular features to consider when choosing your next pair of binoculars.
Whether you hunt, birdwatch, or you are just a nature enthusiast chasing a great view, a quality pair of binoculars can prove to be invaluable. There are so many products out there that choosing the right pair can be a daunting task. To help you choose the best pair of binoculars, we will look at some of the uses for binoculars, features to look for, and a few things to avoid. First, though, let’s talk about how you are planning to use your binoculars.
Binoculars for Hunting:
Let’s imagine you are on your big annual hunting trip. You are carrying your gear and looking to set up camp or get settled in the tree stand. If you are like me, you rely heavily on landmarks and need a little help in the vision department. A pair of binoculars can be your best friend when you need to survey the landscape and spot key landmarks
Field of view
If you need your binoculars to help spot landmarks from far away, the feature to look for is a wide field of view. This will allow you to see more of the landscape in the image, at a given distance than a pair with a narrow field of view. Most manufacturers will state the field of view by listing the number of feet visible (width of the image) by the distance in yards at which the viewer is standing. For example, 100ft at 1000yds. The most common distance is 1000 yards.
The SkyGenius 10×50 binoculars are an example of binoculars with a great field of view. They have a magnification power of 10x, a 50mm objective lens, and a field of view of 367ft at 1000yds.
Now that you have found your tree stand and you are waiting patiently to see any sign of movement from your long-awaited target, you’ll want to make sure you can see what’s coming. You are going to need the ability to zoom in and take a serious look at any movement that might be a sign of a target coming your way. This is where magnification and zoom come in.
Magnification abilities are a key factor in picking your binoculars. Yes, it is really cool to be able to zoom in with high magnification power. The caveat is that if you choose binoculars with high magnification, your field of view might be diminished. Another thing to consider is the difficulty of maintaining a still image at high magnification. Most would consider the optimum magnification to have a maximum between 8x and 10x. The Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars offer several ranges of magnification, including a 10x model. These binoculars are easy to use, rugged, and made by a company trusted by many hunters.
If you have a long walk ahead, you should definitely make sure that your binoculars are lightweight and durable. After a long hike, gear that felt light in the beginning can begin to feel like a bag of bricks. Weight is also important when you consider the length of time that you will spend holding the binoculars to your face. The Nikon 8252 ACULON A211 10-22×50 Zoom Binoculars are built with ergonomics, ease-of-carry, and durability in mind. They are built to be lightweight, easy to hold, and durable in adverse or precarious situations.
Binoculars for Birdwatching
Whether you are an avid birdwatcher with a journaled list of birds to see, or you are just a general enthusiast with a taste for pretty, winged friends, a good set of binoculars can help to bring the beautiful animals closer to your eyes so that you can enjoy their beauty at its full potential. The first feature to consider when purchasing binoculars for birdwatching is the magnification.
While a magnification of 8x might be great for spotting big game or surveying the landscape, you will probably want something a little bit stronger for getting a close-up view of the next bird on your list. The 12×42 Binoculars for Adults by Adasion offer a magnification of up to 12x. Another great feature of these binoculars is that they come with a cell phone mounting option. This allows the user to take pictures of the field of view as it is seen through the binoculars.
Ease of Operation
Okay, so this might seem like a no-brainer, but it is very important that your binoculars are easy to use and adjust, especially while you are viewing wildlife. It is frustrating to spot a bird, and have it fly away just as you get your focus dialed in for a clear image. The Gosky 10×42 Roof Prism Binoculars for Adults have a large focus knob that is easily accessed and simple to use. They also have a mount that can house a cell phone for taking photographs, just as the previously listed product.
Other Important Features to Consider
Let’s dig a little deeper into some key features to look for in a quality pair of binoculars for a variety of outdoor activities. There are a lot of things to consider, no matter the application that your binoculars will endure. We will start with the lens quality.
Lens quality should be a huge deciding factor when you are looking to purchase new binoculars. How different can binocular lenses be? The answer might surprise you. A lot of factors come into play when it comes to lens quality. The first of these is lens size.
- The size of the objective lenses determines how much light is allowed to reach the inside of your binoculars. The larger the lenses, the more light can pass through them. For example, if your binoculars have 50mm objective lenses, they will allow more light to enter them than a pair of binoculars with 33mm objective lenses. The more light that enters the binoculars, the brighter, clearer, and higher contrast the image will be.
- Another feature that will directly impact the quality of the lenses is lens coating. There are many different coatings that can accomplish a lot of things. More expensive binoculars will offer fully multi-coated lenses. This means that the lenses are coated on all surfaces with multiple coatings that serve different purposes. One of the purposes of lens coating is to decrease the amount of light that is refracted off of the lenses. Anti-refraction coatings help to maximize the amount of light that enters the binoculars while minimizing the amount that is reflected away. Another purpose of the lens coating is phase-correction. Phase correction coating helps to keep the image in perfect alignment as it is refracted on the inside of the binoculars. The third type of coating has everything to do with color. Color-correcting or color-enhancing coatings can be added for the purpose of keeping color fidelity at an optimum.
Durability Despite the Elements
No matter what you are planning to do with your binoculars, you will want to make sure that they will stand the test of harsh elements and heavy use. Not only should your binoculars have good image quality, but that image quality should not diminish over time.
- The first feature to look for concerning durability is a rubber-armored exterior. Nothing keeps water out like rubber. If water were to get into your binoculars, visibility would be poor, and you might not ever be able to dry them out. Rubber also helps to protect the binoculars from spills or tumbles. Good binoculars are made to be shockproof so that they can survive a fall without breaking. Lastly, rubber helps to keep out dust and dirt.
- Another feature that you should keep an eye out for is rubber O-ring seals. These will further protect your binoculars from moisture and small particles. These seals will work more effectively if your binoculars are filled with dry nitrogen gas, or at the least argon-purged. Nitrogen gas and argon purging will help to prevent interior fogging of your binoculars. If you experience rapid temperature changes (typically outdoors at night, for example) with binoculars that are not fog proof, they will surely fog up.
- Lastly, in the area of durability, you will want to see to it that your binoculars come with a protective case. If they do not, it would be advantageous to buy one. It is also important that you have a neck strap so that they can be attached to your body while you are using them.
Some binoculars offer features that will increase glassing time or that will make the binoculars more effective in low light conditions. These features can range from certain lens coatings to the design of the prisms or lenses used in the binoculars. A lot of wildlife is on the move at dawn or dusk. It is of great importance if you plan to use your binoculars at those times, that you are prepared for low light conditions.
There are even binoculars out there that can be used at night. They feature night vision capabilities that will help you see in all kinds of lighting conditions. If you’ll be hunting at night, this could be an invaluable choice.
The last major consideration when buying a new pair of binoculars should be comfort. You should be assured that you will be able to carry and hold them for long periods. This means that weight can be a factor as well, as mentioned above.
The grip of the binoculars should keep them safe in your hands while remaining comfortable. The eyepieces should be comfortable as well and should offer eye relief that is sufficient for you.
No matter the application or intended use, be sure to do your homework and research your binoculars before you purchase them. Here is a simple checklist of features to make sure that your binoculars will do what you need them to do.
- Is the magnification sufficient?
- Are they easy and comfortable to use?
- Can they be packed or carried easily?
- Are the lenses coated to meet your needs?
- Are they waterproof?
- Are they fog proof?
- Are they shockproof?
- Are the binoculars well protected?
- Will you get ample glassing time, even at dawn or dusk?
- Do they have all of the ‘extras’ that you need for photography etc.?
The most important thing here, is to AVOID anything that you feel will not live up to your standards. If you plan on using your binoculars outside of the home, avoid purchasing a set that is not fog proof, waterproof, and well protected.
If you are planning to use them at dawn or dusk, make sure that you are purchasing binoculars that enhance usability in low light conditions.
Lastly, avoid purchasing a pair of binoculars that doesn’t have the magnification capacity that you require. If you want to be able to distinguish feathers or other details, high magnification and a quality zoom will be important for you. If, however, you need to see more at a time, a wide field of view will be the most important thing.
Although this guide may not have covered every feature your new binoculars could have, hopefully, it has helped you to understand what features to look for when choosing your new pair. There are so many choices out there that without recommendations, it could be very hard to pick the right binoculars.
Be sure to consider all of your expectations and determine a budget. Don’t get stuck in the blind or tree stand wondering, “Is that a rack? Or, is that a branch?”. Just the same, don’t get stuck trying to focus in on that beautiful bird you have been trying to spot all year, only to see it flit away as you finally get dialed in on it. You can, however, spend a lot of money on a good set of binoculars, but keep in mind that you don’t always get what you pay for. There are plenty of deals out there, but there are also plenty of overpriced binoculars. Do your homework and follow the checklist to get the right pair for you!