Surprised woman with binoculars
Last updated: 03/03/2020

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Binoculars are the perfect companion for all of your outings, be it to the opera, a sports game, the park or the closest beach. They can even serve as your best ally for any surveillance tasks you might have in mind.

Today, manufacturers have developed a range of binocular models tailored to various needs, so picking out the right binoculars for yourself can be quite challenging. To make things easier, you should familiarize yourself with a handful of technical aspects related to the field of optics.

Key Facts

  • Binoculars are optical devices meant to enlarge distant objects for easy viewing.
  • There are basically two kinds of binoculars: Roof prism and Porro prism.
  • Binoculars are primarily used for navigation, surveillance and nature observation, especially birdwatching.

Our Selection: The Best Binoculars on the U.S. Market

In this section, we’ve pick out the very best binoculars available on the American market. We’ve sorted them into several categories, but all offer great value for price. We hope you’ll find just the one you’re looking for!

The Best Mid-Range Binoculars

Japanese company Nikon is worldwide leader in optics and imaging products, so it’s no surprise that their Prostaff 7S 42mm Binocular is a bestseller and Amazon’s Choice. These binoculars provide high-resolution images with superb colors, thanks in part to Phase-Correction Coated Roof Prisms. The body is lightweight, ergonomic and non-slip, so it’s easy to hold onto for long periods of time, even if you’re standing in the rain.

The eyecups on the Prostaff 7S are adjustable for custom fitting, and they provide a full field of view. These binoculars are also waterproof and fogproof, for use in a range of conditions on whatever adventure you choose next. Pick from a sleek black color or the slightly more expensive Truetimber Camo option, which will help you blend in as you observe the world’s most beautiful animals and other wildlife.

The Best Binoculars for Beginners on a Budget

If you’re looking to try out binoculars but aren’t yet ready to spent an arm and a leg to get the best pair around, check out these affordable, high powered binoculars from Aurosports. For just under $25, you can get a lightweight pair of binoculars that’s great for bird watching, hiking, hunting, sailing and much more. Use them during the day or at night, and enjoy the large field of view as well as the stunning details.

With these binoculars, get 10x magnification with a 25 mm objective lens. They’re also waterproof and foldable for easy storage and transport. Take them anywhere, as these easy-to-focus binoculars are made with ABS plastic and nonslip rubber that can withstand even the toughest weather conditions.

The Best Overall Quality Binoculars

If you can afford to spend the money, then the Nikon Monarch 7 8×42 Binocular is about as good as it gets. You’ll get super high quality, contrasty images with beautiful colors, since the lenses and prisms are applied with Dielectric High-Reflective Multilayer Prism Coatings. The extra-low dispersion glass also boosts brightness and color fidelity, while roof prisms with phase-correction maintain the best clarity and superb detail.

These binoculars are also extremely comfortable to hold, thanks to durable rubber armored coating. And of course you can bring them with you regardless of the weather, since they have water-proof housing. When not in use, store them in the stylish carrying/storage case.

The Best Night Vision Binoculars

Nightfox is known for manufacturing quality, affordable devices for seeing at night. Their 100V Infrared Binocular with Zoom 3×20 allows you to see over 110 yards at night, with 3x fixed magnification and 2x digital zoom. Using this product is a breeze, since it features instant operation using three simple buttons and the focus wheel.

Seven levels of infrared will bring you unparalleled viewing of wildlife by night, via the innovative widescreen display for both eyes. The binoculars use eight AA batteries that will last for six hours of continued use. This product also comes with an 18-month warranty and Nightfox’s great product support.

Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Should Know About Binoculars

There are several important factors that you should keep in mind when purchasing your very own binoculars. Remember that each model presents unique features and characteristics. That’s why we’ll now go through the most common questions from buyers like you.

Young child using a pair of binoculars

Binoculars greatly enhance your field of vision.
(Source: Mikhaylov: 29346415/ 123rf.com)

What exactly are binoculars?

Binoculars are an optical device made to enlarge the image of distant objects. They consist of a pair of cylindrical tubes inside of which lie a set of lenses and a prism that enlarge the scene in view for both eyes, resulting in a phenomenon known as stereoscopy.

What are the different parts of binoculars?

The mechanism found within binoculars is made up of the following elements: a pair of ocular lenses or eyepieces through which the enlarged images are viewed; a pair of objective lenses found at the front of the binoculars and a prism, which is found between the two pairs of lenses.

Binoculars also have a wheel used to focus the image. Another part often found in binoculars is a diopter adjustment, which allows you to select a different focus in each eyepiece. Some binoculars also have a universal thread for attaching them to a tripod.

Binoculars on a table

Binoculars are a great companion for all of your adventures.
(Source: Belchonock: 25010698/ 123rf.com)

What are the primary uses for binoculars?

Binoculars are used for a wide variety of tasks, primarily in the fields of surveillance, navigation and nature observation. Nature lovers are known to use them for watching birds and other animals. Binoculars with shorter ranges are particularly common in theaters or circuses so that attendees can feel closer to the action.

Binoculars are also used frequently for astronomical observation. You may be surprised to learn that many astronomical experts advise using binoculars for amateur star gazing, rather than going straight to a telescope. You can even use binoculars for sporting events like horse racing or baseball.

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Were you aware that the first binoculars on record date back to 1854? They were created by Italian inventor Ignazio Porro, who designed a prototype of a double-lens telescope.

What are the pros and cons of binoculars?

Binoculars offer many advantages that make them irreplaceable for a number of tasks. These lightweight devices offer a very wide field of vision and are super easy to transport. Their only real downside is that they can be limited by a low zooming capacity.

Advantages
  • Easy to carry
  • Wide field of view
  • Numerous uses
Disadvantages
  • Limited zooming capacity

How should I use my binoculars?

To use your binoculars, just align your eyes with the exit pupils and adjust the eye cups to suit your vision.

When using your binoculars, always focus on the object you wish to englarge.

In order to focus properly, close your right eye and adjust the focus with the center wheel until you can see the image clearly. Then shut your left eye and adjust the diopter wheel with your right eye open.

What kinds of binoculars are available?

As we mentioned earlier, there are two primary types of binoculars, the roof prism and Porro prism models. The following table outlines the most important characteristics of each kind of prism.

Roof prism Porro prism
Prism The prism is not aligned linearly. The lenses and prism are aligned.
Size and weight Lighter and smaller, easier to handle. Heavier and larger.
Clarity The images are sharper and have higher contrast. Less sharpness and contrast.
Price Usually more expensive. Often relatively affordable.

How are magnifications and diameter measured?

A series of numbers are used to indicate the magnifications and diameter of a pair of binoculars. The numbers appear in the following format: 10×50. The first number signifies the magnification—or how much the subject in view will be enlarged. A higher value indicates a more magnified image.

The second value reflects the diameter of the objective lenses in millimeters (mm). This value determines the amount of light allowed through the lenses. A larger lens provides brighter images with higher quality. Zoom binoculars that have varying degrees of magnification are also available, and their values appear as follows: 10 – 30×40.

Girl looking through to binoculars

Leica, Nikon and Swarovski are three of the most well-known binocular brands.
(Source: Bizón: 18182502/ 123rf.com)

What treatments are applied to optical lenses and prisms?

As light enters the binoculars’ objectives, it passes through elements and changes its medium. This results in unwanted reflections, subtracting luminosity and distorting colors. To prevent this from happening, the lenses and prism of binoculars are coated with magnesium fluoride.

How do I care for binoculars?

Our most important recommendation is to buy waterproof binoculars. If you don’t, you will need to take special care to avoid water or dust getting inside them.

Shopping Criteria

Let’s take a look at several important shopping criteria that you should keep in mind when picking out a new pari of binoculars. Some of these factors are relevant to any purchase, while others are specific to binoculars.

Personal Use

Firstly, you should think about how you plan to use your binoculars. Binoculars designed for viewing an opera are very different from those meant for ornithological excursions or astronomical observations. Each model offers certain functions that may or may not suit you depending on your interests.

Binoculars designed for birdwatching usually feature magnifications between 7x and 10x. For opera, theater or any other kind of performance, 3×10 lenses are usually chosen. 7×50 and 10×50 binoculars are best for simple astronomical observations, while binoculars up to 20×50 are preferred for surveillance work.

Father and son looking something on a field

Always consider your planned usage before picking a pair of binoculars.
(Source: Bizón: 42903079/ 123rf.com)

Frame

The frame’s design influences your binoculars’ resistance to various environmental factors. It will also affect the comfort of the product. The most comfortable frames are usually made of rubber. Higher quality binoculars are also waterproof and dust-tight.

Weight and Size

You will be carrying your binoculars regularly, so be sure to take weight and size into consideration. Porro prism binoculars are usually heavier and larger than Roof binoculars. Always look for a model with an ergonomic design.

Materials

Be sure to get binoculars with mineral (glass) prisms. Organic prisms are often made from low-quality plastics, so avoid those when possible. There are two types of mineral prisms currently available: BK-7 (borosilicate) and BAK-4 (barium).

BK-7 prisms are usually cheaper, but they’re also less efficient in terms of light transmission. BAK-4 prisms offer better quality, with images that have greater sharpness and contrast. Due to their higher refractive index, the images are also brighter.

Magnification

Magnification is a factor of great importance. Magnification values under eight are considered low values, while standard magnifications range from eight to ten. Values ranging between 10 and 16 are deemed high, while binoculars with magnification capacities above 16 are the most powerful.

A higher magnification value also means that the images have a higher tendency to vibrate. A tripod is therefore recommended for magnifications above 12, and is considered necessary for values that top 16. Models that come with mechanical or electronic stabilization systems are the only exception to this rule.

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Beileshi, Gosky and Emmabin are good brands for lower range binoculars.

Lens Diameter

The objective lenses are found at the front of the binoculars. These lenses have the largest diameter, as defined by the second number in binocular values. A larger diameter indicates a sharper, brighter image. This aspect is fundamental in conditions with low-luminosity or at night.

The resolution of the image is directly related to the size of the objective lenses. A common mistake to avoid is thinking that a higher value always means better binoculars. Don’t forget that other factors impact the quality of the equipment.

Angular Field of Vision

The angular field of vision is normally reflected in degrees on the outside of the binoculars. A larger field of vision signals a larger observed area. It is indirectly related to magnification as well: the greater the magnification, the smaller the field of vision.

Exit Pupil

The exit pupil is the cone of light emitted from the eyepiece. This aspect is important to keep in mind because a larger value increases the brightness of the binoculars. The exit pupil’s diameter is found by dividing the diameter of the lens by the magnification value. For example, the exit pupil for 20×50 binoculars is 2.5 mm.

The following are standard diameter values for the pupil found in the human eye: 1.5 mm in bright light, 5 mm in normal conditions and 8 mm in darker situations. If the diameter of the exit pupil is too small, you’ll experience the sensation of looking into a peephole. If it’s too large, you won’t be able to take advantage of the light captured by the objectives.

Relative Brightness

Relative brightness is defined as the binoculars’ ability to capture and transmit enough light to offer sharp, contrasty images. If the relative brightness is higher, you’ll get brighter images. This value can be calculated by squaring the diameter of the exit pupil.

Focus

Usually found in the middle of the binoculars, a wheel or cylinder will help you adjust the focus. Some binoculars even allow you to focus each eyepiece individually. Always check both the minimum and infinity focus prior to buying a specific model.

The minimum focus is defined as the minimum distance at which you can focus on an object. Five to eight meters is considered a good value, while a minimum focus of two meters is superb. Additionally, a quality infinity focus allows you to focus on a very distant rectilinear subject.

Accessories

Some of the most common accessories for binoculars include carrying straps, rain covers and tripods. The function of a tripod is to avoid image vibration.

Summary

Binoculars are optical devices that allow us to better view distant objects, making them ideal for many different activities. Still, not all binocular models are similar and their performance can vary widely. That’s why it’s so important for you to think about what you plan to use them for, as well as the specific features you’d like to have.

You won’t need the same pair of binoculars for watching opera as you will for your first astronomical observations. Pikcing the right model may be difficult, which is why you should take into account the factors mentioned above.

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful. If so, please share it via social media and leaving us a comment with your thoughts below.

(Source of Featured Image: Martnez: 43293816/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Aubrey is a flight attendant and a huge fashion lover. She likes to work long shifts because she is usually allowed to stay a little longer on the spot. Her favourite city: New York. Her adventures all over the world have inspired her so much that she now writes articles about traveling. Her favorite fashion spot? New York, for obvious reasons... and Milan!