Choosing the best binoculars
Warm weather and clear skies signal it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors. If you want to take your nature adventures to another level, a good pair of binoculars will open your eyes to the wider world. They’re great for more than birdwatching too. Sports games, skygazing and so much more, are all enjoyable with the right pair of binoculars. Which ones are best for your hobby, pastime or relaxation time?
What are binoculars?
Binoculars, also called field glasses or “binos,” have existed in some form since the invention of the telescope in the 17th century. They are a versatile tool for looking at distant objects and landscapes, made of two small telescopes fitted side-by-side for viewing with both eyes.
Binoculars consist of a series of rounded lenses and flat-sided prisms, through which light bounces, inverting and reverting the image into a larger version that appears magnified to the wearer’s eyes. A ring between the two scopes lets the user adjust the focus until the image quality is crystal-clear.
What do the numbers on binoculars mean?
Binoculars are designed differently for each of your optical needs. The two numerical parameters, magnification and objective diameter, are the most straightforward indicator to determine the right pair for your use. The two parameters are represented with the magnification number by objective diameter (10×42, for example).
The magnification number is the number of times closer the image is to the viewer, so if a pair is represented as 12×50, the images are 12-times larger to the naked eye. The objective diameter determines the amount of light gathered to display an image.
Models with higher magnification are generally used for bird watching and observing other wildlife from afar, while lower magnification models are suitable for a wide field of view. Also, objective diameter determines the optical quality and sharpness, with a higher number creating brighter images.
What are binoculars used for?
- Bird watching
- Nature views
- Hiking trails
- Live sports
- Concerts and other large events
- Tactical use in law enforcement and military
Which pair of binoculars fit my needs?
The binoculars you use should fit your hobby, pastime or profession.
- Use high magnification for hunting,
- For general use, choose a magnification power between 7x and 10x.
- Models with high magnification and objective diameter are suitable binoculars for birding. A larger objective diameter is also great for nighttime watching.
- For stargazing, the higher the objective diameter, the better. Also, smaller magnification is great for looking at star systems and other astronomical phenomena.
- Models with lower numbers on both factors are suitable for everyday use, including sports and walking through nature, since they provide a wider field of view.
Binoculars features to consider
There are several additional or specialized features that some binoculars have that could fit your needs. Zoom binoculars offer adjustable variable magnification, allowing the user to shift from closer to further and back with a twist of the lenses.
Others are either water-resistant or waterproof, which are similar but very different where it counts. If you plan on using your binos while riding the rapids in a raft or kayak, waterproof is the way to go, but it may cost a bit more for the extra protection. Other notable include night-vision, camouflage finish, infrared rangefinder, digital camera and more.
Before you start using your binoculars, you’ll need to make sure to pick up a few accessories to make your experience complete. First of all, you need either a strap or harness to keep your pair attached to your person. Generally speaking, a strap is suitable for lighter binos, while heavier models work best with a harness, distributing the weight more evenly.
For hunters, there are binocular tripod adapters that allow for hands-free viewing in the field. If you want to turn your binos into a digital camera, there are universal smartphone attachments that let you use your phone’s camera to capture your magnified and enhanced images.
Last but not least, it’s a good idea to pick up a cleaning kit specially made for binoculars.
The best binoculars
Best overall binoculars
With a magnification of 10x, these binos bring visuals close, and the objective diameter makes the visuals clear and crisp. In general, the Aculon series is strong, but this model is great for all-around use, bird watching, stargazing and trailblazing.
Best budget binoculars
Durable and rubberized yet still lightweight, these low-budget binos are high-quality in a small package. This is a solid overall choice for beginners of every hobby and activity, especially watching a live baseball game, peering through the forest or stargazing.
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Best binoculars money can buy
If you have the money to make a significant commitment to bird watching or hunting, these are one of the best all-around premium binoculars on the market. Available in several sizes, there is sure to be a pair of these HD binos that are right for your activities.
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Best binoculars for birding
These field glasses are excellent for every experience, but they make excellent binoculars for watching birds as they fly, perch and nest. They’re also easy on the wallet for the beginning birders who aren’t ready to drop too much money on a new hobby.
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Best binoculars for live events
With a little more investment, these high-quality binos are perfect for sports fanatics or live music maniacs who want to improve the view from the stands. It’s also lightweight, compact and easy-to-carry, meaning it won’t wear you out before the show is over.
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Best binoculars for hunting
Another more expensive pair, these make a fantastic investment for serious hunters. Ultra high definition provides an incredible field-of-view, edge-to-edge sharpness and exceptional light transmission. The 10×42 provides just the right balance for honing in on your prey.
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Matt Fleming writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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