You may be interested to buy a pair of binoculars but you are not entirely sure what magnification to use for binoculars, therefore, you may not know what to actually buy.
What is the best magnification for binoculars? For the general usage, 8x or 10x magnification is the right one for you due to the possibility to use those binoculars handheld without the need of a tripod. Anything more than 10x you need a tripod due to shakiness.
Some people can use binoculars with a magnification even of 15x but you need to have a very steady hand. I do not recommend for general usage anything above 10x without a tripod to stabilise.
When you hold your binoculars on your eyes, only your hands are the actual support. More the magnification (or zoom), more shake to the image is induced.
The best magnification for binoculars, in detail.
The above-recommended options are for general usage of a pair of binoculars, of course, without to dive into a specific niche. This does not mean that you cannot niche it down with a 10x pair of binoculars, as for instance, birdwatching could never benefit more from this magnification.
If you don’t mind a pair of binoculars and a tripod to carry around with you, any magnification will do. But now, let’s focus a bit on what can you actually see with a pair of binoculars handheld and what can you actually see through a pair of binoculars mounted on a tripod.
The best magnification to watch through a pair of binoculars handheld.
As above mentioned, if you want to watch through binoculars handheld I do not recommend you to go anything over 10x magnification. But even a 10x should be more than enough to enjoy the beauty of this world without the need of a tripod.
As an instance, if you love to watch nature or birdwatching and wildlife, this could be the right one for you. In this case, all you need is a small and portable pair of binoculars and nothing more.
Even at 10x magnification, the image can be a bit (or a bit more) shaky. Know your hand steadiness before investing in this. If you know that you may not be perfectly steady, I would recommend going for an 8x magnification. There is only a small difference you can actually see between 8x and 10x.
The best magnification to watch through a pair of binoculars on a tripod.
When is about mounting our binoculars on a tripod, there is no much-recommended option, more like, what would you like to see through them?
Are you passionate about planet and moon watching or ships on the sea? Or maybe you like airplane spotting or distant wildlife observation.
In those above cases, a 20x or 25x magnification can do absolutely amazing. Think about the fact that the telescopes can have even 100x or more magnification and they are mounted on a tripod. You can observe even 500x through a telescope.
But in the case of astronomical observation such as planetary or moon observing, a 25x+ will do just fine when we are thinking about that you can mount this on a tripod and there may not be any induced shakes.
Remember also in case of planetary or moon observation, more you magnify, faster the moon or planets would go out of your frame due to earth rotation.
Understanding binoculars and magnification.
You may have often seen the numbers such as 10×42, 15×50, 10×50, 20×80 etc. What do those numbers mean?
Let’s split this into two groups:
- 10X = Magnification – You can see the objects 10 times larger than they are in reality;
- 42 = 42mm – The diameter of the front glass (known as objective lens diameter)
The basics behind are really simple. But what you have to keep also in mind is the exit pupil (the light beam diameter which goes out through your binocular’s oculars and falls into your eye’s retina)
This is calculated by dividing diameter / magnification (e.g. 42mm / 10x = 4.2mm exit pupil). Larger the exit pupil, better the low light performance of your binoculars. Check this external article for more information about the exit pupil.
The reason I have had to mention this is that if you are looking to know what is the best magnification for a pair of binoculars and you may want to buy one, have a plan for what you may actually need to use those ones for.
As an instance, the best magnification for binoculars may be different if your aim is to make astronomical observations than nature observations (as mentioned above)
The best magnification of binoculars with image stabilisation.
What is image stabilisation on binoculars? This is an optical and electronic system which helps the internal glass to stabilise from hand shakiness, therefore, you can clearly watch through 15x or even 20x magnification handheld without the need of a tripod.
Keep in mind that binoculars with image stabilisation are really expensive. If you want to buy one pair, you need deep pockets. (expect on prices to bounce around $1000 for a good pair).
But levelling this, the best magnification on binoculars with image stabilisation I would say to be around 15x (minimum shakes, amazing magnification, better quality, more to frame into your scene)
Should you buy binoculars with image stabilisation?
If you don’t really need them, no. Unless you are a burning torch as me when is about binoculars, you may not really need to buy. As mentioned above, the prices are really high, therefore, for the newest people who want to own a pair of binoculars, I would recommend going no more than 10x on magnification for the best general experience.
Related questions to the best magnification for binoculars:
What is the best magnification for a telescope?
When we look into telescopes, we have two options: terrestrial telescopes and astronomical telescopes. In the case of terrestrial ones, If you want to observe distant subjects and scenes, a 50x would be an amazing magnification to go for (binoculars with 50x are hard to find and not amazing quality though).
But if you look into telescopes for astronomical observations, I would recommend you to take into consideration first the diameter of the main lens, as this is more important for capturing the light than the zoom itself (unless you do planetary or lunar observations only)
What is the best magnification for a monocular
For monoculars and scopes, I would recommend the same magnification as for the binoculars, 8x to 10x, as you may watch through them handheld.
What should I focus on: Magnification or objective lens diameter?
This may be a trick question and totally depends on your designated usage for your binoculars.
- As an instance, for daylight observations such as birdwatching or wildlife, nature, landscapes, events, airshows etc. I would recommend getting the right magnification for your binoculars, and this to be your main focus (still, do not ignore the objective lens diameter and quality)
- For low light observations, astronomical and night observations, I would recommend for you to focus on lens diameter rather than zoom. It does no matter your zoom if you cannot see much due to poor low light performances of your binoculars.
But in the end, is only up to you what is going to be your main focus and usage of the binoculars and what magnification you may need. As following the standard guidelines of handheld observations, as mentioned in this post, an 8x, maximum of a 10x would be more than enough.
It is crucial also to focus on the quality of your binoculars before buying, so you may have a good experience in using them.
Let me have a quick recommendation though (affiliate link).
I own the Nikon Prostaff 7s 10×42 (link to our review) and they are absolutely stunning when is about general observation. The quality and the resolution are high due to the nitrogen gas, making this also waterproof and to be used even in extreme weather conditions.
Therefore, you may want to look at something different than magnification when buying your first pair of binoculars.
Thank you for reading this post. Stay around for more useful information about binoculars, scopes and telescopes. Have a great day!