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How to Use Binoculars (6 Helpful Tips in the Field)

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While it might seem like binoculars are among the easier optics to use in the field, if you’re not using them the right way, then you’re not making full use of their potential. You might find that you’re getting headaches, having trouble focusing, or simply can’t find your target.

The truth is that the problem likely doesn’t lie with your binoculars; it’s probably how you’re using them. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about how to use your binoculars and how to take care of them so they’ll last a lifetime.binoculars divider

Before You Start

While it’s crucial you use your binoculars the right way – it’s just as essential to make sure that you pick the right pair from the start. We’ll give you a brief rundown of what to look for when you’re picking out binoculars here, but if you’re looking for a more comprehensive breakdown, check out the full guide here.

Credit: sweetlouise, Pixabay

Picking the Right Binoculars

While there are tons of factors that should go into your decision while picking our binoculars, some matter more than others. Take the time to determine how much magnification you need and get a high-quality pair the first time.

More importantly, make sure that you get the right type of binoculars. If you’re looking for a pair of binoculars for bird watching, they make them entirely different than if you’re looking for a pair to use while stargazing. Finding the right pair makes everything a little bit easier.

Eye Relief Is Key

When you’re looking for a pair of binoculars, the most important thing that you can look for is eye relief. It doesn’t matter how much magnification your binoculars provide if the eye relief is out of whack.

When you’re shopping for binoculars, look for an eye relief around 15 to 16 millimeters. This will mean that you have to get close to the binoculars, but you won’t have to actually have them pressed up against your forehead for a clear picture.binoculars 2 divider

Tips on How to Use Your Binoculars

Binoculars diagram

Once you’ve picked out the perfect pair of binoculars, you can move onto how to use them properly. The good news is that even if you have a lower-end pair, you can get a lot of functionality out of them by using them the right way.

1. Practice Makes Perfect

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Everything you do gets easier with practice. When you’re looking for an elusive target like a bird, you might find that it’s hard to find the target even if it’s stationary.

That’s because you haven’t taken the time to calibrate your binoculars to your unaided vision. While there aren’t any special adjustments for this, just a little bit of practice can go a long way. Start at home. Find a few different objects in your backyard or neighborhood and find them with the binoculars.

Once you’ve found the object put the binoculars down and start again with the same object. Once you’ve calibrated your hand-eye coordination to that object, move onto something different. Try different objects at different distances until you can find them with ease.

The next time you go to spot a difficult object, you’ll surprise yourself with how much easier you can find it now that you have a basic understanding of how to line your binoculars up and a little practice doing it.

2. Set the Width Before You Head Out

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If you’ve invested in a good pair of binoculars, you should be able to adjust the width of each of the eyepieces to fit you better. Take care of this adjustment before you head out to the field.

It’s one less thing that you’ll need to take care of, and even if it gets bumped a little out of alignment, you’ll have a better idea of what right feels like. Whenever you’re spotting objects, start by setting each eyepiece’s width before moving onto anything else.

3. Set the Eyecups Correctly

Credit: Khaligo, Pixabay

Most binoculars have eyecups that you can adjust to two positions – up and down. If you don’t wear eyeglasses, put them in the UP position. However, if you wear eyeglasses, put them in the DOWN position.

This simple adjustment will help you get the best possible eye relief when you’re using your binoculars. It’s what the adjustment is there for; make sure you use it.

4. Always Wear Your Glasses

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You might think it’s easier to ditch your glasses and hope for the best. Don’t. A decent pair of binoculars will have adequate eye relief for you, even if you’re wearing glasses. If it doesn’t, get a better pair of binoculars.

You need your glasses to see properly, and by ditching your glasses, you’re settling for a lower quality image. That’s the exact opposite of what you want and what you spend so much money on gear trying to avoid!

Tips to Protect Your Binoculars

Just as important as mastering how to use your binoculars is mastering how to take care of them. We’ll go over two of the most important tips you can follow here so your binoculars can deliver high-quality magnifications for a lifetime.

5. Clean Them Properly

Credit moritz320, Pixabay

While it can be tempting to just wipe off some dirt or grime with a sleeve, what you’re asking for is scratches on the lenses. You’re slowly ruining your binoculars, which is why you should always take the time to clean them properly.

With these five quick and easy steps to clean your binoculars, there’s no reason to settle for anything less and ruin your optics.

6. Always Use the Neck Strap

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A good pair of binoculars will come with either a neck strap or a binocular harness – and this is precisely what you should use whenever you have your binoculars. If you’re carrying them by hand, you’re asking for damage.

All it takes is one slip or fall, and your binoculars are going to have damage. Meanwhile, if you’re wearing the neck strap or binocular harness, it’s one less thing to worry about.

You invested the money in getting a high-quality pair of binoculars, don’t take the risk of ruining them by skipping such a simple precaution.binoculars 3 divider


Breaking out a high-quality pair of binoculars is an exciting time. But even with the best binoculars on the planet, you’re going to find yourself getting frustrated if you don’t know how to use them.

We hope this guide helped you understand the fundamentals of using your binoculars a little bit better and walked you through everything you need to know to keep them in pristine condition.

Most importantly, we hope that you have a blast the next time you head out into the field to use them!

Featured image credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

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.