Make sure you're choosing the right pair for you with this handy & brief binoculars guide.
A good pair of binoculars is key for getting the best viewing experience. Whether you're looking at a wide open landscape or focusing on fast-moving birds, binoculars make sure you capture every little detail. We offer a huge range of Binoculars and it can sometimes be confusing to understand which pair would work best for the activity you do. Use the quick links below to find suggestions or use the Jargon Buster just below to get a better understanding about the world of binoculars. You can also find a binoculars buying guide with links to the suggested products on our site.
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The first number on the binocular is the magnification, so 8x, 10x 12x etc and then the second number is the objective lens size, that’s the bit at the opposite end to the eyepiece, so that can be anything from 21mm to 50mm etc. Now light is really important when seeing. How many of us have fallen into the wardrobe when grappling in the dark late at night? The more light you can get to the back of your eye the better, so in a perfect world we would want all binoculars to have an objective size of at least 50mm, but of course, this makes them large and heavy to carry.
Manufacturers have worked really hard to meet a demand for high quality binoculars in a compact style. Swarovski and Leica, do an amazing range in 8x20mm and Hawke and Viking have similar styled binos, which are possibly a bit more affordable, although remember, you will end up keeping them for life, so it’s always good to spend as much as you can in the initial purchase.
The first number refers to the magnification of the binoculars. An 8X40 pair has an 8x magnification; a 10X40 pair has a 10x magnification and so on.
Magnification refers to how much bigger the image will appear compared to the naked eye. If you're looking at a subject with a 10X40 pair of binoculars, then the subject will appear 10 times bigger than if you were looking at it with the naked eye.
It is always tempting to get the highest magnification in binoculars, because logically, you would think that the more magnification you have the better the image. Well according to science and possibly a very, very long formula, the more magnification you have, the less light reaches the eye. So in the day to day world of binoculars, 20x binoculars, may sound fantastic, but unless the objective lens is really big, the image will be less clear than if you have a 10x42 pair. If you want to magnify that sort of distance, then go for a spotting scope, as these are designed for long distance work.
Lens Diameter (Objective Lens)
The second number refers to the diameter of the two objective lenses (the ones furthest away from your eyes), measured in millimetres. An 8X40 pair has a 40mm lens diameter; a 10X52 pair has a 52mm lens diameter.
A bigger objective lens captures more light and produces a brighter and clearer image. In addition, the size of the lens diameter also affects the overall size of the binos; generally, the bigger the lens diameter is, the bigger the binoculars will be.
This number refers to how bright an image will appear in low-light conditions. The bigger the number, the brighter the image. It is measured in millimetres and is calculated by dividing the lens diameter by the magnification - a 10X40 pair of binoculars has an exit pupil size of 4mm (40 divided by 10 is 4).
This is an important specification to take note of especially if you will use the binoculars in low light such as dawn, dusk or night. Our pupils can widen up to 7mm in low light, so if the exit pupil is less than 7mm, the amount of light your eyes can see will be restricted. A 7X50 pair would work great in low light conditions (the exit pupil would be 7.1mm).
Eye relief is the distance between your pupils and the eye piece while the entire field of view is visible. If you wear glasses, we'd recommend an eye relief above 10mm.
Binoculars can have either "Porro" prisms or "Roof" prisms which affects the overall shape. Porro prisms are often bigger and bulkier but also less expensive as they are easier to make. Roof prisms dominate the premium end of binoculars, incurring a higher price as they are complex to manufacturer.
However, the type of prism is not an indication of the overall quality; a pair of Porro prism binoculars can be just as effective as a pair of Roof prism ones.
Binocular companies manufacture the glass with and without coatings, so if it says coated or multi-coated on the box, it means that additional coatings have been added in the glass manufacturing process, to help light gathering power, durability of the glass and stray light reflection. Some binoculars have coated surfaces on the air to glass surfaces only and then others go the whole hog and are coated front, back and inside out, which makes them fantastic for looking through but also more expensive.
The more light that reaches your eye, the clearer the image will be. Therefore coating may be applied to one or multiple surfaces of a lens to prevent light reflecting away. A fully multi-coated lens offers a coating on both the inside and outside of the lens to allow for the best level of light clarity, contrast and colour vividness.
Weatherproof & Fog Proof
Some binoculars may be waterproof and or fog proof. If they are fog-proof, it also means they are waterproof. Fog-proof involves an inert gas - usually nitrogen or argon - being pumped into the glass to prevent fogging.
Any avid birder will tell you that a pair of binoculars is a crucial tool in a birdwatcher's inventory. In general, a magnification around 8X or 10X is recommended as this is a good balance between image detail and field of view. For objective lens size, 42mm offers great image detail and exit pupil size without being too heavy.
Depending on the environment you find yourself in, it may be a good idea to choose a weather proof pair. If you're out in the sticks, we definitely recommend a pair of fog-proof binoculars to combat condensation in the lens.
Our naked eye doesn't do mother nature justice - there's so much detail our eyes miss. Viewing scenery and landscapes usually means a wide field of view and a long distance between you and the subject, so you want a powerful magnification and a bigger lens diameter - A good size would be 10x50.
However, if your scenery viewing usually entails a hefty hike over a mountain then a lighter pair of binos may be better. Scale down the lens diameter (since magnification does not affect weight) to around 40mm or below to make carrying the optics easier. Similar to bird watching, making sure the optics are fog-proof can be important if you usually hike in less than ideal conditions.
Space: The final frontier. A Telescope or a pair of binoculars is the closest the majority of us will get to space, so investing in some high-quality optics to view the stars is a great idea. More often than not, a telescope will be more powerful and offer better detail of the stars and sky. However, a telescope has limited field of view, requires set-up and has limited manoeuvrability, sometimes making a pair of binos a better choice.
If you're likely to be viewing moving subjects in the sky, such as a meteor shower or shooting star, then a smaller magnification is better as it grants a greater field of view. Go for an 8X magnification and choose a lens diameter based on preference for weight - try an 8X40 pair if the weight of the binoculars wouldn't be an issue to you. If it would be an issue, try going for an 8X30 pair.
Front row seats are pricey; get a seat further back with a pair of binoculars and enjoy the same view as those at the front. Unlike the previous activities in this post, only a low magnification like 3x and a small lens diameter such as 25mm is ideal for the opera or theatre. Go for a stylish & lightweight 3X25 pair to get the best view at the opera and theatre.
Howzat? You'll see better than the umpire with an excellent pair of binoculars. The atmosphere at a stadium always makes a better viewing experience than watching on tv. Bring along a pair of binos to get a great view of the action no matter where you're seated.
A magnification of 8X is ideal and the lens diameter size is down to preference and comfort. Consider taking an 8X42pair with you to the next match.
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