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Since the invention of the telescope in the 17th century, soldiers, sailors, and scientists have been inspired to put two spyglasses side-by-side to enjoy binocular vision. And while several technological advancements have been made since this time, many of the same professions and hobbies call on trusty binoculars for their work.
No matter whether you’re looking for a pair of binoculars for bird-watching, concert-going, or to gaze on the stars in the night sky, equipping yourself with knowledge and information will help you choose the best pair at the best price. Follow along as we explore the design and features of binoculars, discussing which types are best for which activities and what to look for when buying binoculars.
While each pair of binoculars is usually designed for a specific application, they are all built on a similar foundation of optical parameters and physical features.
Optics may steal the show in the world of binoculars, but certain mechanical functions and accessory features can turn a good pair of binoculars into a great one. Some of the most important features are:
The focusing arrangement of a pair of binoculars changes the distance between the lenses nearest you, known as the ocular lenses, and those farthest away, the objective lenses. The focus type can be broken into three main categories:
While it’s rarely required to use a tripod for image stabilization, even an inexpensive pair of binoculars can be brought into a much clearer focus by mounting them on a tripod and reducing imperceptible shaking movements. If you’ve ever entertained the idea of using binoculars for hunting, bird watching, or astronomy purposes, a tripod can be a useful addition to your bag of tricks that extends the useful range of any pair of binoculars.
There are countless brand names and models to choose from, so it’s hard to know exactly how to buy binoculars. Newly armed with your background knowledge of binocular specifics, let’s take a closer look at which binoculars might be best for the most popular binocular-centric activities:
A broad category of potential activities and sights like hiking requires an equally versatile pair of binoculars to match. Choosing a portable, rugged pair of binoculars in the general area of 8×40 will give you the potential for scoping out new trails and observing wildlife, while a 10x magnification can let you get up close and personal with the sights from a mountaintop. But don’t forget to account for the actual weight of the binos.
Once you know how to buy binoculars for birding, the options are nearly endless. Like hiking binoculars, a perfect pair of handheld lenses for birding will need to be equal parts portable and versatile. Magnifications of 8x and 10x are most common, but 7x binoculars can allow for a wider field of vision that’s conducive to spotting more elusive birds. Because bird watching involves a lot of holding still in a single position, it’s wise to choose a pair of binoculars that’s lightweight and easy for you to handle.
Depending on what sort of game you may be hunting, magnifications from 8x to 10x will let you see your targets clearly while maintaining adequate distance for rifle setup. Given the often-stationary nature of hunting, a tripod may be your best investment to go alongside a simple pair of 8×40 binoculars.
Choosing a pair of binoculars for sporting events and concerts is a matter of balancing width and depth in your field of vision. For long-distance sporting events, we’re big fans of 8×42 binoculars, while the less common 5×35 or 7×35 models may work better for mid-range viewing.
Seafaring folks require a wide field of vision to make the best use of a pair of binoculars, making 7x the preferred magnification of most sailors. The classic size for marine binoculars is 7×50, a perfect ratio to minimize the negative effects of the inevitable shaking and movement that occur while viewing from a sailing vessel.
While telescopes will always reign supreme for serious astronomical observations, there are a surprising amount of astronomy-specific options out there for binoculars. They’ll feature massive magnification ranges, with 15×70, 20×80, or even 25×100 catering specifically to skywatchers.
Available in an exceptionally wide range of designs, magnification powers, and intended purposes, a good pair of binoculars can cost anywhere from $100 to $500. General purpose, Porro prism binoculars will make up the low end of this range, while roof prism binoculars and ultra-powerful astronomy models will carry the highest price tags.
|West Marine Coastal 200|
|Material||Plastic ||Composite Plastic|
|Weight||10 oz||23 oz||140 oz|
|Ideal Uses||General purpose||Marine||Astronomy|
Finding the right pair of binoculars for a single activity is challenging enough — and deciding on a single pair that’s perfect for your hobbies and activities is likely to require considerable testing and comparisons. When in doubt, start with the most common magnifications (such as 8×42), and test them side-by-side with less common magnifications to get a feel for your specific preferences. Once you find the pair that suits your eyes to a T, all of your time and efforts will be well worth the results.
Featured Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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