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What Does 10×42 Mean in Binoculars? Tips, Facts, & FAQ

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binoculars on a tree trunk

If you’re searching for a new binocular, you’ve probably seen numbers like 10×42 or 8×32 on them. At first, these binocular numbers may seem hard to decipher, but understanding them is crucial for buying the right pair.

Don’t be confused if you’ve come across a pair of 10×42 binoculars. Keep reading to find out what that number means and how far you can see with such a pair. Then, you can determine whether they’re the right fit for you. When you see “10×42” on binoculars, know that this is a binocular number that details the pair’s binocular magnification and objective lens size.

magnifying glass 2 divider What Does 10×42 Mean in Binoculars?

This means the binoculars have an objective diameter of 42 millimeters (mm) and 10x magnification. These binoculars will allow you to zoom onto your subject ten times more than the naked eye image.

Typically, 10×42 binoculars are used for birdwatching, concerts, hunting, and sporting events. This is because these are overall better quality than other binoculars. In addition, 10×42 binoculars provide good light quality and higher magnification and are easier to hold steady.

In comparison, 12x binoculars are more unstable while providing more magnification. Finally, 10×50 are stable with adequate magnification but somewhat heavy, while 8x binoculars have lower magnification, light, and quality. Therefore, 10×42 is the perfect middle ground in all these binoculars, which is why most users prefer it.

night vision binoculars used in the military
Photo Credit: Arturs Budkevics, Shutterstock

How Far Can You See With 10×42 Binoculars?

All 10×42 binoculars have 10x magnification, which means you can see ten times closer than your normal vision. The “x” entails how many times the pair of binoculars can magnify your view. In this case, it’s 10 times.

These binoculars are the standard pick for most people as they typically don’t need to magnify their vision more than ten times. So, for example, if you’re using 10×42 binoculars to look at a deer, it will appear 10 times bigger than your naked eye can see it.

This way, you’ll be able to observe big game from afar without disturbing them or endangering yourself. In addition, such a pair can allow you to note important details such as the antler’s size, body, or any injuries.

Here’s another example that will help you understand how far you can see with 10×42 binoculars. If you’re standing 100 yards away from your target, the binoculars will make your target appear only 10 yards out. These binoculars would transport you 90 yards closer to your subject.

How to Read Binocular Numbers

The numbers on binoculars may seem confusing initially, but understanding them is vital if you want to buy the ideal pair for your task. The first thing to understand is there are two parts to a binocular number: the binocular magnification and the objective lens size.

In the case of a 10×42 pair, “10x” is how many times the binoculars will magnify your view and “42” is the objective diameter of the lens in millimeters.

binoculars on a wooden table
Photo Credit: Erik Mclean, Unsplash

How to Choose the Right Binoculars

It’s worth noting that binocular numbers aren’t the only way to determine if the pair is the right fit for you. The most important thing to consider is that these numbers don’t guarantee the amount of light captured by the lens.

The lens’s material quality significantly impacts this factor, and other aspects in the light path also influence the light loss. Some other elements to note are the pair’s eye relief and minimum focal distance. Most importantly, you must consider your primary use.

Here’s how you can find suitable binoculars based on what you’ll use them for:

Backpacking and Hiking

Here, it’s essential to consider factors such as size and weight. This is why it’s best to opt for compact binoculars with 8x or 10x magnification. In addition, the objective lens diameter must be no more than 28.

This means you should opt for 8×25, 8×28, 10×25, or 10×28 binoculars. It would also help to ensure that the pair is waterproof and rubber-coated.

a black binoculars on a table beside a bird book
Photo Credit: stevepb, Pixabay

Whale Watching

If you’re using binoculars for whale watching, safaris, or wildlife viewing, you’ll probably be far away from the magnification. So, look for binoculars with higher magnification. Of course, the 10×42 is the ideal pick, but you may also explore 8×32, 10×32, or 8×42.

These models are standard-sized, easy to carry, and effective when you’re in a moving vehicle. However, it’s best to opt for a waterproof model if you’re watching from a boat.


Smaller or mid-sized models, such as 8×32 and 8×42 binoculars, are ideal for birdwatching. If you only focus on viewing smaller birds, opt for 10x magnification. However, if you need a wider field of view to detect birds, buy 8x binoculars instead. Opting for a waterproof model will ensure your lens doesn’t fog up in cooler temperatures.

Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay


Considering how far away stars are, magnification should be your primary focus while buying a pair of binoculars for stargazing. Of course, 10x binoculars such as 10×42 or 10×50 are ideal options.

If you want something with a higher power, such as 12x or more, you may need a tripod to use the binoculars. In addition, you could also opt for adjustable binoculars with a range of magnification, such as 30-160x.


Using binoculars on a kayak, boat, or canoe can be unstable due to the waves. It would help to opt for a lower magnification, such as 8x or less. Anything higher will make your view even more stable and inefficient.

Of course, you’ll need a waterproof pair, and 8×32 is the most popular paddling model.

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Final Thoughts

Binoculars are easy to use, but finding the right one can be tricky. The numbers written on binoculars may seem like the equipment’s dimensions, but their meaning is much more important to understand.

Reading the binocular numbers correctly helps you determine the pair’s magnification and lens size. Now, you can find the perfect fit for your use and ensure stability and portability on the field.

Featured Image Credit: Pat_Photographies, Pixabay

About the Author Jeff Weishaupt

Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.