If this is your first time buying a pair of binoculars, you came to the right place. Welcome to our in-depth guide to buying binoculars, an article with over 10 thousand words covering everything you need to know before buying your first binoculars. But just before we start, I want to shortly include the basics of what you may have to look into when you are buying binoculars.
When you buy your first pair of binoculars, you have to look into the following: magnification, objective lens diameter, size & weight, the field of view, body construction and if the binoculars are waterproof, weatherproof or fog-proof. Those are just a few key factors to look into when you buy your first pair of binoculars.
In this post, we will try to cover everything possible you may be able to look into when you buy your binoculars for your specific need, therefore, we will split this topic into a few different categories. Feel free to use the table of contents to explore the topic or to jump to the required section:
- Binoculars buying guide – Buying binoculars for the first time
- Understanding binocular specifications
- Binoculars magnification
- Fixed magnification or zoom binoculars – what to buy?
- Binoculars objective lens diameter
- The exit pupils of binoculars
- Field of view in binoculars
- Weight and portability
- Nitrogen-gas filled binoculars
- Buying binoculars for specific observations
- Binoculars buying guide – know what to look for
- The binoculars performance and quality
- ED elements and glass quality?
- The binoculars prisms
- The image stabilisation binoculars
- Binocular straps and accessories
- A tripod or monopod for the binoculars?
- Other types of binoculars to buy
- Binoculars buying guide – an alternative to binoculars?
- Choosing monoculars or spotting scope instead of binoculars?
- Should I look into buying a telescope?
- Binoculars Buying Guide – Related Questions:
- The binoculars buying guide – Conclusion
Binoculars buying guide – Buying binoculars for the first time
If you are buying your binoculars for the first time, you may want to read our guide. Do not go and spend your money on the first binoculars you see at Wallmart or Argos or any other shops around the corner – You may not know what you are buying.
I am not saying that every binocular sold on the street shops are going to be a disaster, I am just saying that in general they are selling what can be sold and profitable for their businesses, and often are looking to sell relatively cheap binoculars rather than expensive ones which may rarely or never sell.
The regular person interested in buying a pair of binoculars from a local shop is normally looking for something “good under $100”. If that person is pleased with the purchase, no problem, but for the same price or in general even a bit more, you may be missing a lot of features which makes a pair of binoculars to jump from “good to use” to “an excellent piece of equipment”
Understanding binocular specifications
It is obvious in general that the first thing you look into when you buy your (first) pair of binoculars is the specifications – What magnification does it have? Is it portable? waterproof? Is it anything else to keep in mind? Those are too big! and those are too small!. These ones look nice, they have camouflaged rubber body.
People often tend to look at the design a lot and portability. Portability is a key factor in special if you choose your binoculars for camping & hiking. You do not want to have heavy binoculars with you, do you?
But let’s take those specifications one by one and let’s see what could be best for you when you choose your binoculars.
In principle, the magnification is the ability of binoculars to magnify an object or a scene as many times as the binoculars allow it – as an instance if your binoculars have an 8x magnification, this means that you are able to see an object through binoculars about 8 times bigger than you see with your own eyes. It can be easily recognised as being the first number in binoculars specification (e.g. 8×40 = 8x – magnifies 8 times as what you see with your own eyes).
Magnification is the absolute one key factor nearly everyone is looking when buying the first pair of binoculars. How much those binoculars can zoom, how far can I see?
Although many people are interested in high magnification binoculars and to see as far as possible, I would definitely not recommend that. Not only that watching through high magnification binoculars, the image may look darker due to small exit pupils but it would be either hard or impossible to carry any types of observations handheld.
Therefore, first, think about what do you need your binoculars for? Do you want to buy a pair of binoculars for birdwatching, nature & landscape? or maybe for sports and events, stadium sports or stargazing? Have a quick read on our other post “what’s the best magnification for binoculars“
In general, the majority of the binoculars are doing just fine with a magnification of 8x to 10x and you may not need more nor less. Those are known as the standard binoculars. Let’s see the summary table for more information.
|Type of observation||Magnification|
|General observations||8x to 10x|
|Nature & landscape||8x to 12x|
|Wildlife & birdwatching||8x to 10x|
|Stargazing||7x to 10x handheld; 15-25x with large aperture on a tripod.|
|Moon & planetary observations||10x+, 25x recommended|
|Sports & events||8x|
|Indoor theatre||6x to 8x|
|Ships on the sea||15x+|
Therefore, use the above table as a guideline with the recommended magnifications for the type of observation you may want to use your new binoculars. This is just the first step to choose your binoculars based on magnification.
I want to explore a bit more the magnification topic, therefore, here are our explained opinions of magnification per type of observation.
General observation or general usage of the binoculars – normally you do not need high magnification binoculars – for any general usage you need portability and to be able to carry those observations handheld in the first place. To do that you may need to buy a pair of binoculars under 10x magnification, and there are most of the binoculars with a magnification of 8 to 10x.
Nature and Landscaping – In general for nature observations even landscapes you may need binoculars with a magnification of 8x for a wider field of view and to be able as well to carry on those observations handheld. However, in some situations you may want to focus on distant landscapes, mountains or valleys, you may find useful binoculars with a 10x magnification or even a 12x. Just ensure that your hand is not too shaky to be able to carry those 12x observations handheld.
Wildlife and birdwatching – I recently wrote a full guide about how to choose your binoculars for birdwatching you may want to read to fully cover this topic. Wildlife easily can be associated with birdwatching as a type of observations and mostly what you need for birdwatching works just fine with wildlife observations in general.
Stargazing & Moon/planetary observations – Many people may think for stargazing you need a high power binocular to be able to “zoom” as much as possible but this is not true. You actually need a wider field of view to be able to observe part of the night sky but the main focus here should be the objective lens diameter. In the case of the moon or planetary observations, you DO need indeed high power binoculars to be able to spot details. At 25x as an instance, you can watch the crates from the moon and spot some details, you can see the Jupiter with 4 satellites, and even spot the Saturn and its ring. For a full guide, I would recommend you to check our full guide “How to choose binoculars for stargazing“
Sports & Events – Generalizing the sports & events such as horse riding, racing and different concerts, you do not need high magnification binoculars as you may be relatively close to the action compared to stadium sports. An 8x binoculars for stability and a wider field of view will do just fine.
Stadium sports – Yes, you have noticed that I categorised the stadium sports different than the sports and events for binoculars observation, this is due to the fact that often in a stadium, your place may be up-high or far from the action. A stadium is enormous in size, therefore, well-powered binoculars will do better than any other. I usually recommend for magnifications above 10x but beware as this will become harder to carry any handheld observations due to the shake induced, and higher the magnification – more shake is induced, therefore, I strongly recommend a high power binocular with image stabilisation in this case, as the Canon 18×50 IS (Amazon Affiliate Link), but beware, they are very expensive.
Indoor theatre – An indoor theatre is not as big as a stadium, in reality, they are relatively small. In this case, high power binoculars are useless, therefore, you need lower power binoculars with a larger objective lens diameter for better low light observations (knowing that it may be a bit darker indoors) but not always. If the lighting is appropriate (which I guess it is), even a smaller objective lens diameter will do just fine.
Ships on the sea – Some people may love to observe ships on the sea, like me sometimes. Living on the seaside you may see all types of ships passing by (as I live near the blue channel) from Ferries, cargo ships, cruises or even aircraft carriers. You definitely need high magnification binoculars as they may be far to be observed by the regular ones. This does not mean that you are not able to observe them at 10x, what you want in reality is to see details, as many as possible, therefore, something above 15x will come handy. But beware, as mentioned before, you may need a tripod for stabilisation.
Plane spotting – same as spotting the ships on the sea, you need high magnification binoculars, something as 15x or more, mounted on a stable tripod easy and smooth to follow around and have the plane in the frame at all times. Do not confuse the plane spotting with the aircraft shows – plane spotting is spotting regular planes on the sky.
Airshows – in the case of airshows you don’t need high magnification, actually what you need is a binoculars with about 8x magnification and a wider field of view, you need something easy to follow the airshow – keep in mind that the action will be relatively close to you and the aircrafts will fly quite fast and close.
Now I hope you understand in general the principle of choosing the right magnification for your binoculars – this does not underline the fact that if you need just one pair of binoculars for all-types-of-observations, you can buy one and still use them in any the above scenarios, but if you need binoculars for something specific, you have to consider our guidelines.
Fixed magnification or zoom binoculars – what to buy?
You may somehow think – why I should not buy a pair of zoom binoculars? the zoom covers most of the observations and I will be able to use only one pair of binoculars for almost everything.
In reality, this sounds good but there are two main reasons behind why I do NOT recommend to buy zoom binoculars.
- The first one is that to be able to perform the zoom function, the binoculars are holding more glass inside. More glass = less light is coming through. The images will always look darker and contrastless comparing to fixed magnification binoculars. Not to mention that more you zoom – smaller exit pupils – your image, again, will look darker, difficult to focus your eyes through and you may not be able to carry observations for a long period of time
- And the second reason is that, related to the first one, to be able to manufacture a zoom binocular, you definitely need more glass. More glass = price increased, therefore, if you have to compare two binoculars within the same price range, one having fixed magnification while the other with zoom, you can expect that the zoom binoculars have cheaper quality glass inside as more was needed for the production line.
Therefore, unless you are about to invest a fortune into a good binocular and you are really looking for some specific good zoom binoculars, I will recommend you not to buy any. You need to understand the exit pupils, as well, as this will play an important role when choosing zoom binoculars, not to mention the scenarios where the high zoom/magnification binoculars will probably require a tripod for stability.
Binoculars objective lens diameter
The objective lens diameter or often mentioned in our blog, the aperture, is the front lens element size and is recognised as being the second number in the specification of binoculars (such as 8×40 – 8x = magnification, where 40= 40mm objective lens diameter)
This is crucial when we carry low-light, indoors or night observations – we need binoculars with an objective lens diameter large enough to be able to capture enough light to carry those observations.
The binoculars with a lower aperture will always look darker than binoculars with higher aperture under the same difficult lighting conditions. Well, this does not mean that if you have binoculars with an extra-large aperture you may able to see everything during the night – the optics have their own limits as capturing light, but in astronomy, the light is there, we just don’t see it.
Yes, in astronomy, larger the aperture of binoculars = more details you see on the night sky. But now, let’s adapt the above table to the aperture of binoculars and see what I would recommend.
|Type of observation||Aperture|
|General observations||ANY sunny, 42mm+ overcast|
|Nature & landscape||42mm+|
|Wildlife & birdwatching||42mm+|
|Stargazing||50mm+, 70mm+ recommended|
|Planetary observations||50mm+ (you may be able with less)|
|Sports & Events||42mm+|
|Indoor theatre||50mm+ (you may be able with less)|
|Ships on the sea||ANY|
Please keep in mind that the above table is just a basic guideline and you MAY BE ABLE to carry the specific observations even with a smaller aperture, and sometimes the image is not even noticeable darker, but I prefer to rise the recommended values flag to the point where there should not be any problems at all when carrying those observations.
Okay, now that I have said that, let’s get into details for every specific observation and to consider why I have chosen those values for the guidelines (other than the years of experience, testing, observing and owning a dozen of binoculars 🙂 )
In general, observations which are performed during day time, the aperture does not matter too much if there is enough light such as a sunny environment. In reality, every binocular should work fine, although the small aperture ones will see a slightly darker difference but barely noticeable. If the weather becomes overcast, cloudly, maybe raining, we probably gonna need some extra objective lens diameter to be able to perform lower light observations. Normally, you are able to perform with any binoculars but the image may slightly become darker than it should be on low aperture binoculars.
For nature and landscape, you may noticed that I did not include under general observations, not only because you need the extra aperture to carry those observations, which you may be able to do with any, still, but landscaping and nature will look indeed colourless if the image is darker, in special that we include these under all-weather conditions and dawn/dusk situations where the lighting may be a bit difficult. Don’t push yourself backwards to buy a pair of binoculars good only for sunny landscape or open nature. Think about all the scenarios where the extra objective lens diameter would help.
Wildlife & birdwatching I want to include under the same category because there is no major difference in binoculars settings. If you are interested in this, I have written a full article covering the birdwatching and how to choose binoculars for birdwatching. This applies well to wildlife observations.
Stargazing. If you want to buy binoculars for stargazing you really came to the right place. Before all, if you want to read, I wrote an in-depth article about how to choose the right binoculars for stargazing. But trying to cover the basics in this topic, when you stargaze and you need binoculars (even telescopes) for astronomy, in special for deep-space observations, the objective lens diameter will matter more than anything. You need as large as possible, and larger it is, more light it can gather (more stars you will see). A 42mm is a basic to observe night sky under dark skies, to spot Andromeda galaxy, the Pleiades and few other star fields. You are able to see details but not too much. 50mm things start to improve and spot details you couldn’t see before. 70mm is my recommended guidelines for the astrobinoculars aperture. Now you definitely need a tripod because, at 70mm, your binoculars are heavy already. You can spot much more details than before. But if you are passionate about astronomy, why not to go for a 25x100mm binoculars as I have the Celestron Skymaster 25×100? It is gold in astronomy and stargazing.
Moon observations and planetary observations are where you actually need to focus on magnification rather than the objective lens diameter. Moon is very bright. You need magnification, not light. Indeed, when we are aiming to observe planets (venus, Jupiter with satellites, maybe even Saturn’s rings) you may need some aperture as the celestial bodies will look faint otherwise, but not for moon observations. The above-mentioned article should cover the right binoculars for the moon and planetary observations.
Sports & events. Stadium sports. The majority of sports watchers are performing this task usually during day time. It can be a horse riding as an example, where the weather may be nice enough not to need any specific minimum objective lens diameter for the image to be clear and good. But generalizing this, some sports as most of the events may be followed during evenings, indoors, where you need your binoculars to perform well under these lighting conditions. With stadium sports is a bit different as MOST of the games are held in a stadium during the evening. The lighting there is usually amazing, but the difference of colour temperature may have a negative impact on obtaining crystal clear bright images in binoculars with a very small aperture. The value of 42mm+ or 50mm for stadium sports is just a guideline to ensure you get the best experience and not a minimum value.
An indoor theatre is a common place where binoculars may be used, and as normal you don’t need much magnification, you may need just a bit of extra aperture for the darker lighting. Keep in mind that also this is a guideline and even under 50mm objective lens diameter observations can be made without any issues, only if the binoculars have a lower magnification for the extra exit pupils diameter and light-gathering.
Ships on the sea? Plane spotting? Airshows? Those are categories falling under general observations performed during day time where lighting condition MAY be appropriate to observe with binoculars with ANY objective lens diameters, but I rather follow the “general observations guidelines” to ensure you get the best experience.
Just a reminder that the above values are just guidelines and a direct impact is having the magnification. A short example is that a pair of binoculars 10×42 see a bit darker than 8×42, even if we have the same objective lens diameter. The extra magnification darkner the images and creates a smaller exit pupils value, which also have an impact on how bright or how dark is the image.
The exit pupils of binoculars
If you followed my blog you may often meet the term of “the exit pupils” and giving a quick explanation, but now to cover our binoculars buying guide, what is exit pupils?
The exit pupil is the diameter of the light beam going out of your ocular lens directly into your eyes pupils and is calculated in mm’s.
According to some researches I’ve done, the human eye has the pupils open about 2-3mm wide during day time and daylight, where during the night this can open up to 7mm. The more pupils are open, the better your eyes can see in the dark and are sensitive to light. Did you ever woke up in the morning and when you look through the window, everything is soooo bright that it may be impossible to keep your eyes open until they adjust? That’s your pupils adapted to the dark (night, closed eyes, sleep) and suddenly your eyes capture too much light.
The same works with the exit pupils of the binoculars. Larger the exit pupil (a.k.a. the light beam going out through your ocular lens), more light and information it contains, therefore, better low-light performances. If this is too narrow, only a small amount of light is going to your eyes pupils.
Of course, this have a direct impact on how much light can you see through your binoculars, therefore, as an example of binoculars with the exit pupils of 3mm will underperform if the light rays are falling on your eyes pupils where is opened about 7mm (nighttime). Here, a 5mm exit pupils binoculars will definitely perform better in low-light scenarios than a 3mm.
The exit pupil is wider as we have a larger objective while the magnification is smaller.
But how is calculated the exit pupils?
This is calculated by a simple formula. Let’s take a 8×40 binoculars, where 8x=magnification and 40mm= objective lens diameter. Divide 40/8 and we have an exit pupil of 5mm.
Giving some short examples, a 10×25 binoculars will have an exit pupil of 2.5mm which is very bad for low-light observations, where a 7×55 have an exit pupil of 7.8mm. But beware, the exit pupils now are larger than the human eye pupils even in dark conditions, therefore, some light from the aperture is also lost. Maybe let’s give as an example the 8×50 where the exit pupils are 6.25mm which are perfectly amazing for low-light and astronomical observations.
Shortly to cover the exit pupils and general usage, I will give some example and our guidelines for better experience and observations:
- General sunny observations 2mm+
- General overcast 3mm+
- Indoors, theatre & concert 3-4mm+
- Inside a forest 3-4mm+
- Dusk/dawn 4mm+
- Astronomy 4-7mm
The above guideline examples are generalizing the possible impact of the exit pupils to the brightness/light under these specific lighting conditions and not the field of view.
Field of view in binoculars
To explain the field of view (or FOV) is the width of your image seen through your binoculars. The advantage of a wider field of view is that you can “see more” per same magnification as if the FOV is narrower.
It is a characteristic some people are looking at when they buy their first pair of binoculars but it may be confusing to know and understand FOV per 1000ft / 1000m, angles of view etc.
The simple terminology you should look for as well when you buy your first pair of binoculars if you are interested in the field of view should be a description such as “wide field of view” or “wide-angle binoculars”
If you are more interested in the technical settings I would recommend you reading this external article from bestbinocularsreviews
But beware that the wide field of view eyepieces usually have shorter eye relief which has a negative impact for glass wearers and the eye relief is shorter than it is on the narrower field of view binoculars.
But in general, you may be able to watch through binoculars without glasses. Have a read on our other article “do you need to wear glasses with binoculars” to get some in-depth info about it.
Weight and portability
The weight and portability are the main factors you should take into consideration when you are buying your binoculars. Is it portability going to be a problem? go for a small pair of binoculars (lightweight, portable). Is it not going to be a problem and your type of observations required big bulky binoculars such as my stargazing binoculars “Celestron Skymaster 25×100”? Then look no further at weight and portability.
In general when you are travelling it is kinda important to know that weight and portability matters. In fact, this would be obvious, but to underline this sentence, if you want a pair of binoculars for camping/hiking/travelling, you should definitely focus on lightweight ones.
In terms of portability and weight of binoculars, the biggest impact is having the objective lens (main glass). Larger this is, heavier the binoculars become because is not only about the weight of the glass but the whole binocular structure changes when you have bigger front glass elements. The binoculars become heavier, bulkier and in general, harder to carry handheld observations even if the magnification may allow you to do that.
For sports observers or concert/events/theatre where you need to watch through binoculars for a longer period of time, it is crucial that they are lightweight and portable (unless the circumstances allow you to set them on a tripod, which I doubt).
What else does impact the weight of the binoculars? The body composition. Whilst some models can be hard plastic or carbon to decrease the weight, some other models may be metallic or have a different structure which is not that much of portability friendly.
The zoom binoculars are in general heavier because of the more glass elements inside of the binoculars which are performing the zoom function.
Nitrogen-gas filled binoculars
This is probably one of the most important characteristics of binoculars in special if their main usage is outdoors/birdwatching, nature and wildlife and shortly you are often using them under different weather conditions.
Most of the binoculars within their mid-price range and up, are purged with nitrogen gas and sealed with an O-ring in order to remove all the impurities and the moisture in the best possible way and to ever prevent moisture to be formed inside the binoculars. This can only have a positive impact on the binoculars life expectancy as no fungus or mould is going to be formed inside.
Moreover, in general, the nitrogen-gas filled binoculars are waterproof, weatherproof and definitely fog-proof, and you can use them under any extreme weather conditions.
If you want a pair of binoculars to use more than for theatre or indoor observations, I definitely recommend as much as possible for you to look into binoculars with nitrogen-gas purged. Have a look into our other article “why are binoculars filled with nitrogen-gas” to get as much information as possible if you are interested.
Buying binoculars for specific observations
If your main area of observation is not “general” you should read this section as I am trying to cover as much as possible all the information about buying binoculars for specific observations.
In the case you want to buy your binoculars for your specific observations, you really need to keep in mind all the above settings we spoke about when we are going to choose a pair of binoculars but to match for your needs. Do not go and randomly buy a pair of binoculars from Wallmart or Argos just to realize that you may have picked the wrong ones for your needs.
You may probably need something specific. Let’s get into this topic, shall we?
Choosing the right binoculars for astronomy
When we are choosing the right binoculars for astronomy we have to think about two possible scenarios: It is our main area of observation deep-sky objects or moon and planetary observations?
I am asking this because, under those two scenarios, we need totally different types of binoculars.
In general, for deep-sky object observations, we need to have binoculars with an aperture as large as possible. As we talked before, the aperture or objective lens diameter has a big impact on how much light it can capture, and therefore, for better deep-sky objects observations, you need to have large aperture binoculars to capture more light.
For the moon or planetary observations, we definitely need magnification. Moon is bright, therefore, aperture won’t matter too much. But magnification does because more you can zoom, more details you can see on the moon surface. There goes in the crazy 100x or more telescopes where you can in-depth see crates details on the moon and planets. In the case of binoculars, let’s have a look into a 25x binoculars, where you can actually not only observe and identify craters on the moon but Jupiter & moons are gonna be visible and even the Saturn and the rings.
Don’t think that the aperture won’t play a role in observing planets. In the case of moon observations, as mentioned, you won’t need much, but when you focus on planetary observations, you may need a bit of aperture because the planets are faint in brightness as well as the deep-sky objects.
Below, I have copied two tables from our other post “how to choose binoculars for stargazing“. If you are interested in more information, I strongly recommend you to check that post.
|Aperture on a 10x magnification factor||<42mm||50mm||70mm>|
|Deep sky observations||Unsuitable||Average||Recommended|
|Moon observations||No issues||No issues||A bit bright, but OK.|
|Weight||Lightweight||Average||A bit heavy|
|Exit pupil||4.2mm (OK)||5mm (Good)||7mm (Perfect)|
|Deep sky||7x to 10x handheld. 15-25x large aperture on a tripod.||42mm+, 70+ recommended||5mm+, 7mm recommended|
|Moon||10x or more||Does not matter||Anything above 3mm|
However, those are just our guidelines to characterize the best usage of binoculars for the type of observations and you may need to look into binoculars which are covering at least the similarity of our guidelines but it may be difficult.
As an instance, You may be able to find 10×50 for handheld observations but rarely the 10×70, and in special to keep in mind the exit pupils if we go above those settings. Powering up the magnification and the need of a tripod may be required, therefore, for larger aperture binoculars you want to focus on additional magnification and tripod observations.
My absolute recommended binoculars for this would be the Celestron Skymaster 25×100 (Amazon Affiliate link). Those binoculars power up a 25x magnification and a giant objective lens of 100mm diameter. They are extremely heavy but does worth every single penny in stargazing, both for deep-sky observations and moon/planetary.
Once more, I recommend you to take a look at our other post “how to choose binoculars for stargazing” if you need an in-depth reading about this topic.
Buying binoculars for birdwatching
According to my endless researches in the binoculars field where people are buying binoculars for birdwatching, this falls into the top 3 main reasons why people are buying binoculars in general.
With endless information on the internet about birdwatching with binoculars over a dozen other blogs and forums, I still decided to put everything head to head and include our recommended guidelines of what binoculars you should buy for birdwatching.
As a birdwatcher when you are buying binoculars for birdwatching, you are looking for some very key points, as follows: Portability, quality, magnification, all-proof and the possibility to carry handheld observations.
Let’s dive a bit into it, shall we?
Portability – You need to be able to carry those binoculars around attached to your neck all day long through nature, mountains, swamps and so on. You need those binoculars to be as portable as possible, to avoid back or neck pain and for the birdwatching process to be as pleasant as possible.
Quality – Here comes the possibility of getting the best observations through the high-quality glass and in special ED elements where the quality, clarity, resolution, contrast, the lack of chromatic aberration and distortions can bring the best experience ever in birdwatching. But this would probably come back as a price to invest.
Magnification – As we talked on another post and earlier on this one, the optimum magnification for birdwatching is 8 to 10x. With 8x you have a wider field of view where you can observe flack of birds where at 10x you can see more details and closer image.
All-proof – Really, a term I just invented right now to cover the binoculars ability to be waterproof, weatherproof and fog-proof, for those to be resisting even under most harass weather conditions. Definitely the binoculars should be nitrogen-gas purged to reach those qualities and performances.
Handheld observations – Well, if you take into consideration our magnification and portability guidelines, it won’t be a problem at all to birdwatch with the binoculars handheld all day long.
But hey, again, I have a full topic where I covered in-depth “how to choose binoculars for birdwatching” if you want to have an extra reading.
But before to go, I want to recommend you the Nikon Monarch 10×42 ED. (Amazon Affiliate Link). You cannot go wrong with these binoculars on birdwatching under any extreme weather conditions.
Buying binoculars for concert & events
As mentioned a bit earlier, I want to categorize concert & events as being two types of observations where lighting may be difficult at times. In terms of magnification, 8x would be brilliant, good field of view to observe the action and still not hard to follow around, where an aperture of 42mm+ could do wonders in terms of low-light situations.
This would make some of the most regular binoculars sold on the market to fit just right for the purpose and not a huge investment to be made.
However, I do recommend as well binoculars with ED elements. In fact, my top recommendation for concert&events would be the Nikon Monarch 8×42 ED (Amazon Affiliate Link) where you cannot go wrong at all with those binoculars.
You don’t need a tripod, nor high magnification or objective lens diameters binoculars. You can find cheaper alternatives on the internet for sure, but in terms of quality, our recommendation would be the best.
Landscape & Nature binoculars
The binoculars you are going to use in landscape and nature observations is somehow similar to the birdwatching & wildlife one. Although in landscape observations you may want to be looking for some extra magnification, in general, this would work well with the same magnification as you use on birdwatching.
ED element binoculars are making a huge difference in this situation. As an instance, in nature, we have a difference of dynamic range between shades, sunrays, tree leaves and sky etc. All those ones just feed the chromatic aberration.
And another key point you want to take into consideration is the portability. Do not buy big & bulky binoculars for nature and landscape observations. In fact, I would recommend the same product as for the birdwatching for a great experience.
Moreover, in nature and for landscaping, we have a lot of colours. Not only that ED elements will make a difference in those observations but think about the exit pupils, as larger they are, not only more light it captures but the colours will look more vivid and detailed. Therefore, it will be a good practice to have larger exit pupils, rather more than I actually recommend for the best experience.
Choosing binoculars for camping & hiking
For camping and hiking, you need to be as lightweight as possible. Maybe not that much for camping, but in general for hiking, you do not need that you carry lots of weights around, this includes the binoculars.
Also, make sure that the binoculars are water&weatherproof and they have some extra layer of protection to dropping and damaging such as rubber armour.
In fact, what I would recommend here is slightly different from what I recommend in general. Go for the Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 (amazon affiliate link). Do not worry in general too much about the objective lens diameter as you have to worry about portability and resistance. This Nikon model does not only have rubber armour, waterproof & weatherproof, nitrogen-purged but it does weight around 0.61 pounds (under 300 grams) and the binoculars are on a very accessible price for anyone.
Buying binoculars for safari.
In the case of buying binoculars for safari trips, there is a whole lot of topic to discuss. But for now, I want to cover just the essential key points to look for when buying binoculars for safari.
In safari, you will probably be going to be away from the wildlife. And far. Higher magnification binoculars are most recommended, in fact about 10x would be the best to reflect the portability, handheld observations and magnification.
Moreover, in safari, you need your image to be contrasty and sharp and the binoculars to be able to perform under the dim light condition. What I would recommend (as generally recommended by most safari tour guides according to some researches I’ve done) is to go for a 10x50mm good quality binoculars.
Binoculars buying guide – know what to look for
Now we may understand the technical stuff to look when buying a pair of binoculars and we covered a few specific observations with our recommended list, but how else do we know what to look for? How do we recognise that a pair of binoculars are going to be good quality and what else should be looking for? Well, I will try my best to cover this part of the topic.
The binoculars performance and quality
There is no doubt that everyone is looking for a good pair of binoculars on an accessible price, as many of us we do not have too much money to invest. Of course, we can save for some Zeiss, Swarovski or any other top models, but does worth the price?
Is like we are trying to compare a Casio watch with Rolex? Bad comparison, but well, in the end, both of the watches are showing us the time. Why not pick something in between? Same goes with the binoculars. (do not get me wrong, I like Casio watches)
ED elements and glass quality?
I may have mentioned several times in the post about ED elements or ED glass. What is it?
ED or known as Extra-Low-Dispersion is special treated high-quality glass which helps to reduce the chromatic aberration and increase the clarity, contrast and the resolution of the image seen through the binoculars.
A while back, ED glass was found only on top binoculars due to manufacturing price, but nowadays can be easily found on most of the mid-range binoculars.
Although there is no much I can say about ED elements, the fact that the binoculars are going to offer you a great experience observing is true. If you can afford, you may want to focus on binoculars with ED glass, in special when you are birdwatching.
But in my personal opinion, ED glass, in general, have a more positive impact on camera lenses than the binoculars. My Nikon Prostaff 7s 10×42 does not have any ED elements and works just fine.
Now you have to ask yourself: can you afford ED glass binoculars? If yes, definitely go for it, no doubt. If not and you can save or wait a bit longer, still recommend the ED glass binoculars. But not if you really cannot afford them and you may find some other types of binoculars with smaller objective lens diameter which cannot fit your observation purposes but because the aperture is smaller, may have ED glass (lower manufacturing price).
The binoculars prisms
There are mainly two types of prisms found in binoculars: the Porro prisms and the roof prisms.
The Porro is standard to be found in binoculars with higher objective lens diameter as the light have to be diverted due to the body structure, where the main objective of the roof prism is to flip the image to be seen as in reality.
In terms of prisms for binoculars, you will often find either BAK-4 prism or BK-7.
BAK 4 is a high-density glass with better optical performance than BK-7. The BAK-4 shows a truer round with better light transmission and edge-to-edge sharpness, where the BK-7 is found in lower-quality binoculars and is square-off with no circular exit pupils.
In terms of what to look for when buying your binoculars, look for BAK-4 as they will always outperform the BK-7. I will say avoid the BK-7 binoculars at all cost.
Check our other post of binoculars prisms if you are interested and for more information.
The image stabilisation binoculars
This time we are going to take the binoculars a bit further and talk about the image stabilisation binoculars. What are they? Does it worth the price?
The image stabilisation binoculars are normal binoculars with optical-electronic parts which helps the image to be stabilized in special at higher magnification when the shake induced is very noticeable to carry handheld observation
Therefore, you may be able to break the barrier and carry observations even at 20x handheld if the binoculars are having an image stabilisation system.
But beware of three things which I mainly want to talk about:
- The IS binoculars are running on batteries. Get prepared to have and carry plenty of batteries around with you as they are not going to last long, mostly a couple of hours top.
- We may have some extra elements and electronics which can negatively affect the performance and quality of a binocular. In general, the IS are found on more expensive mid-range binoculars where higher-quality glass is already in place to provide the best quality during the observations
- Price. yes, I just mentioned above that the IS binoculars are expensive, and they are.
In general, I would not recommend all the time for anyone to buy IS binoculars, but there may be a few exceptions where this will outperform any other binoculars such as stadium sports.
Let’s mention the same example again, that in a stadium you may have a back seat. This would probably be very far from the field, where even a pair of 10x binoculars may not be enough. And to aim for more and expect great performance while doing handheld observations? Not so much. But 15x+ IS binoculars would perform amazingly and help you to follow all the action on the field close-up. Therefore, if you are looking for a pair of binoculars for stadium sports, I strongly recommend binoculars with image stabilisation.
Binocular straps and accessories
Not a long time ago I created a post covering the Top 10 accessories to use with binoculars but now I want to cover just the binocular straps in general.
Every binoculars you buy should come with straps. That’s a fact. But some of the straps they are not as good as we are expecting them to be, in special when we are going to carry the binoculars around the neck for a very long period of time. The binoculars can be heavy as well, which does not help at all.
What I do recommend in general is to go and buy some good straps for binoculars. In general, most of the binocular models are matching the same straps used in DSLR camera (in the worst case with a little twitch) but there are as well special straps for binoculars.
The binoculars straps are going to release a part of the weight pressure in special if they go over one shoulder. But generalizing this, you need to go and get some new straps for your binoculars if you are going to use them quite often and you feel the pressure from the actual ones.
Other than that, there are plenty of accessories which can be useful for your binoculars. Not mandatory to have them but it does not hurt to have a look of what’s available for you (check our above post for more info).
A tripod or monopod for the binoculars?
Not all the binoculars can be attached to a tripod or a monopod. Some of them may come with a tripod slot for the quick release plate while some others may need a 3rd party accessory to be able to attach them to a tripod.
In general, you may need a tripod whenever the magnification is a bit high (above 10x) when too much shake is induced to be able to carry handheld observations, or when the binoculars are too heavy. Or both.
I will give you a real example, my Skymaster 25×100. 25x magnification and about 5kg in weight? For sure not something you want to carry around your neck and use them like that 🙂
A tripod may become necessary in this situation. But beware that not any tripods are going to be good, in special if the binoculars are heavy. In this case, a lot of pressure is put to the neck of the tripod with the risk of this to break and your binoculars to … I just don’t want to mention that painful word :-<
Alternatively, there is an option to use a counterbalance to stabilize the weight of the binoculars even on the tripod but this is just another weighted accessory you don’t want to carry around. Shortly? Have a look at strong tripods which supports a lot of weight (if this is the case), or for astronomy, an equatorial mount.
Normally, not many binoculars are that heavy. In general, yours may be light enough to be placed on any tripod (have to make sure of that first).
What about a monopod? well, a monopod is easy to carry around, can offer a lot of stability and you can perform observations even at 15x handheld (monopod-held) without any issues. This may come in handy sometimes.
But not always binoculars can be used with a tripod if they are high magnification or very heavy. As an instance, if you are stargazing even with a 10×42 or mostly any other, you may want to use a tripod if possible. To get a good experience in stargazing, you need stability as well (trust me, I know)
Other types of binoculars to buy
Moving on from the “standard binoculars” to buy, and these exclude the image stabilisation ones which we already talked about, there may be some other types of binoculars you can buy for some very specific usages such as the following sub-categories.
Night vision binoculars
Although it is more standard to find night vision monoculars rather than binoculars, you may be able to find them and for sure does worth buying if your main field of observations is during the night.
The night vision binoculars will function on batteries, that’s for sure. The IR LED’s are illuminating a specific zone where the sensor is reading the IR light, offering you the “night vision view”.
One most important factor when you are looking into night vision binoculars is the range of the IR. This will differ from each binoculars and should be defined on their specifications.
No, the night vision binoculars are not only meant for spying. They can have a lot of usages in special of observing the night wildlife (or ghosthunting?). Does, in the end, the night vision binoculars worth their price? definitely yes.
This is something I may have talked about on one another topic, but I want to cover on this binocular buying guide – the macro binoculars. What are they and how they function?
The macro binoculars are a mostly normal type of binoculars but with the focus distance very close (usually even under half a meter / a few feet) which makes it perfect for close-up observations.
The experience you get by having and observing through macro binoculars is definitely unique. There is no other optical device existant for observing insects/bees/small animals up-close and study them in their natural habitat. How are you not going to enjoy seeing through both of your eyes some bees buzzing a flower, as an instance?
Although this following link is an Amazon Affiliate Link, I want to share one of the very few macro binoculars, from Pentax, the 8.5×21 U-series Papilio II which describes as the whole sub-section is about: the macro binoculars.
Binoculars with camera
You often will see on the online market different binoculars with camera, thriving with some excellent examples of how beautiful photos it may take or record, but in general, 90% of those are a big scam. I am pretty much against any binoculars with camera, as there are one million factors which can make those impractical for general usages, such as:
- Plenty of optics and electronics behind which decrease the image quality
- The camera sensor is too small to take any good images or footages
- Due to high magnification, it will be a difficult situation to take any stable footage or clear images with no motion.
- The price for practical binoculars with camera should be high due to all the extra optics and electronics behind, therefore, at a regular price compared to standard binoculars, those ones will fail.
Have a read on our other article “Should I buy binoculars with camera” for more in-depth information
Binoculars buying guide – an alternative to binoculars?
Although there may not be many alternatives to binoculars, there are in fact a few which could be considered such as monoculars/spotting scopes, telescopes or camcorders with optical zoom. But for the camcorders, I am not going to include them as there is a lot more to talk about, but we are going to talk a bit about monoculars, spotting scopes and telescopes.
Choosing monoculars or spotting scope instead of binoculars?
The difference between monoculars and spotting scopes are that monoculars are made and considered to be the optical devices to cover a wider area of view, less magnification and more portable, where the spotting scopes are more like high-magnification monoculars with some specific usage (wildlife and birdwatching)
Compared to the monoculars, in general, the spotting scopes may have a Porro prism and the eyepiece may have an inclination of around 45 degrees (more or less), where the monoculars may be powered by a roof prism and there is no inclination of the eyepiece.
Monoculars buying guide – A quick summary
The monoculars are the half-side of binoculars, to say for short. They are portable, small enough to fit them in the pocket (most of the cases) and carry them anywhere to be used for any general observations.
There are a few key points which make the monocular to be a bit more impractical than the binoculars, such as smaller objective lens diameter, small exit pupils, poor low-light performance.
But although of the disadvantages over the binoculars, a monocular can be very practical in many situations.
In general, I do recommend monoculars as an alternative to binoculars for portability, but let’s have a quick summary of what to look into when you are buying your monoculars.
The same factors and key points I’ve been covered on this topic to what to look for when you buy your first pair of binoculars applies to monoculars. There is no doubt about that. You have to look into magnification, objective lens diameter, portability (size&weight), coated-lenses, possible ED elements and to be waterproof, weatherproof and fog-proof.
Spotting scope buying guide – Another quick summary.
Although the monoculars may have their own usages for general observations, a spotting scope may be something with a specific usage such as spotting wildlife, hunting and exploring, where magnification will matter a bit more than any other factors.
The main usage of spotting scopes is to spot wildlife. They are high-powered small portable telescopes. The spotting scopes may have some of the key factors telescopes have: the ability to change the eye-piece, and here will be a major advantage over the binoculars.
Although binoculars with zoom are a bit impracticable, a spotting scope with the ability to change the ocular (eyepiece) will far exceed the performance of a binocular as multiple magnifications can be covered (depending on what eyepieces you have) and minimum glass is present to ensure the quality, resolution, contrast. But keep in mind that not all the spotting scopes have this ability, some of them they may only have fixed magnification where some of them will have a zoom function.
As a quick summary, when you look into buying spotting scopes, take all of the above factors in consideration which we covered in this topic plus some of the following:
- Does the spotting scope have the ocular/eyepiece interchangeable?
- Is the spotting scope having fixed magnification or can perform zoom function?
- What kind of tripod do I need to have? Does this include a tripod when buying?
- Is portability going to be an issue for me?
Some of the spotting scopes may come with a small tripod but with legs not long enough to carry those observations while standing (unless you place it on something), while some others, the majority, may not have any tripods and you have to buy them separately. In any case, you need a tripod for a spotting scope (at least for most of them).
Also, often you will find spotting scopes with magnifications between 20x and 80x and an objective lens diameter of 60 to 100mm. Those are some standard spotting scopes found on the market for wildlife and birdwatching.
Yes, these spotting scopes can be very well used for birdwatching. Why did I recommend a 8-10x binoculars for birdwatching? Because those are binoculars. In terms of spotting scopes, this is totally different.
Should I look into buying a telescope?
As a final alternative to our binoculars buying guide will be a telescope. Now we are talking about the big-massive-expensive-giant-huge-heavy-impossible to carry around telescopes. Not all of them are that massive, but most of them are.
There can be a ton of different telescopes from the more portable Maksutov Cassegrain ones to the giant refractors, where, most of the time, portability is going to be an issue (you may even need an extra person to carry it around).
Of course all of the above may represent the telescopes used for astronomy, which, every person as myself would love to have, but what about the telescopes used for terrestrial spotting?
Although these may be similar to some of the spotting scope, this is not always the case. Some refractors may become impractical to be used for land observation as the image is flipped over upside down. Some of them, due to the structure may not be used other than for astronomy (difficult to line them down to the horizon line for terrestrial observations). But what about the telescopes which could actually be used for any of the terrestrial observations?
One point worth mentioning: you probably are not going to use them for sports watching or in general, most of the observations where a binocular may come handy. But there are a few exceptions.
Telescopes may come handy and will always outperform binoculars, spotting scopes, monoculars or any other optical devices, where magnification will always matter more than anything and the telescope structure will allow you to perform these kinds of observations. Some example would be such as (excluding astronomy and anything related):
- Spotting ships on the sea
- Distant landscape observations
- Distant wildlife observations
- Plane spotting
- Observing UFOs over area 51 🙂
Depending on the objective lens diameter and the telescope oculars, the magnification can be tens of times higher than those found in a binocular. Just keep in mind that you will always need a tripod and to consider the portability, which in most cases, may be an issue.
Binoculars Buying Guide – Related Questions:
Q1: What does a multi-coated lens mean in binoculars?
A1: The multicoated lens is a series of layers inside and outside of the glass elements of a binocular whose main role is to minimize lens reflection, improve the clarity of the image and protect the glass from scratching.
Q2: Are binoculars allowed in a plane?
A2: Yes, in general, the binoculars are allowed in a plane to be carried either in hand luggage or cargo luggage. I recommend that you read our other post “are binoculars allowed in a plane” for more in-depth information about the topic.
Q3: How to store the binoculars safely for the long term?
A3: If you are not going to use the binoculars for a while, I recommend storing them in a place with low humidity and in their original carrying bag (if the binoculars came with).
Q4: Can you watch through binoculars with glasses?
A4: Yes, in general, the binoculars may have a cup level adjustment to allow for glasses wearers to watch through binoculars without any problems. But you can watch through binoculars with no glasses at all. Have a read on our other post which covers this subject HERE.
Q5: Can you use the binoculars underwater?
A5: If the binoculars are waterproof, they may be used underwater as long as you respect the manufacturer specification to avoid any damage to the binoculars, but in general, you may not be able to see much underwater with binoculars.
Q6: are you able to repair binoculars by yourself
A6: Yes you are able to do it following some tutorials on the internet but I don’t recommend in special if the binoculars are nitrogen-purged.
Q7: I want to buy some binoculars for my kids. What should I look for?
A7: In general, when buying binoculars for kids, you don’t have to look specifically for “kids binoculars” but for very lightweight binoculars with lower magnification. Also make sure the binoculars are shock-proof, as you may need them to be.
Q8: If my main area is recording and not observing, should I still focus on binoculars?
A8: You can still buy binoculars and use a universal mount adapter for your cellphone to take photos or record through the binoculars, but if the main area for you is recording or taking pictures, in this case, I will recommend a high-resolution camcorder with an optical zoom and image stabilisation. This will always outperform any binoculars with accessories for recording or any camera binoculars.
Q9: Does it worth to go for second-hand binoculars?
A9: If there is a major difference of price between a second hand and new pair of binoculars, I would say to take the risk and buy them, in special if the seller offer a warranty or return policy. But if the difference is not that great, I rather go for the new ones, as you may reduce the risk of the binoculars to be de-calibrated, damaged, scratched or present any other issues.
Q10: Can I watch the sun through binoculars?
A10: Never watch the sun through binoculars directly without any special certified solar filters for your binoculars as you may damage your eyes.
The binoculars buying guide – Conclusion
Binoculars are always a great tool for observations and can come in handy many times. Just try to remember when it was the last time where you wish you had a binocular with you to an event or concert, in nature or while camping, or maybe under the beautiful and dark night sky?
To buy a pair of binoculars is easy. But to get the right one? This is something you have to explore by yourself in concordance with your general needs of using the binoculars for some specific or general observations, but I hope that our binoculars buying guide covered and helped you make a decision in the end.
I still recommend you to take a look over our recommended binoculars page where I share with you the best binoculars I had the chance to own or test and I recommend for any general or specific usage.
But furthermore, thanks for sticking it to the end and I hope this solved your query. I appreciate one share to spread the love of binoculars and to get our work recognised for anyone in need or interested in buying binoculars. You can also pin our hidden pin to Pinterest.