To buy the perfect set of binoculars you must first consider exactly what you plan to use them for. Whether you are birdwatching, boating, hiking, hunting, golfing, or viewing the stars, there is a device for you. Every set of binoculars specializes in a few elements, with trade-offs as necessary, so it is absolutely worthwhile to invest in the set that best fits your needs. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the details unless you get a basic understanding of what each feature does. Use our guide to consider everything from magnification to lens coatings, materials used, and eye reliefs available.
With the overwhelming options, features, and price points available, it can be downright scary to buy your first set of binoculars. While it is certainly worthwhile to do deep, investigative research, advice from the pros who have been there and done that can be much more valuable.
Hunting binoculars offer an added edge while you are out tracking game and putting food on the table. You...
Astronomy binoculars allow you to view the Heavens by maximizing light, offering plenty of magnification, and making fine focus...
Night vision is possible through some interesting techniques. In short, night vision devices work by increasing either the spectral...
Birdwatching requires binoculars that are not only powerful but also comfortable to use for extended periods. While higher magnifications...
Outdoor enthusiasts demand rugged, durable binoculars that won’t fall to pieces with real use in the field. Learn about...
Binoculars aren’t just for watching the flora and fauna there is a myriad of other possible uses that extended...
Compact binoculars need to be powerful enough for what you need despite their portability and slim size. Some sets...
Giant binoculars are often the best option for astronomy or viewing in low-light situations such as dawn or dusk....
Telescopic binoculars are yet another excellent result of combining binocular features with telescope features to optimize image viewing. These...
In the military, nobody has time for flimsy binoculars or shoddy equipment. Binoculars need to be rugged, strong, and...
Marine binoculars for boating or fishing can make all the difference on that trip. Not only do you want...
Image stabilizing (IS) binoculars are rare yet can be a strong advantage for your viewing experience. There are so...
Most “research” has been offered by companies who want you to buy their binoculars, and you need good advice that isn’t biased. Well, fear not, I have the tips you need to make a good purchasing decision, so you can avoid getting scammed and end up with a decent set of binoculars for your needs.
You may wish to consider contacting friends and local groups that use binoculars. Ask your hunter friend about his scope or binoculars, look in the phone book for birdwatching groups, or see if there’s an astronomy club nearby. The advice and tips you can get from others in the know is always valuable. Discussion forums and online groups are also an excellent way to learn about specific models and get reviews from those who have used them.
On your own? That’s what you need to know about:
- Objective lens sizes – The bigger they are, the more light they take in, and the better they are in low-light. But, the bigger they are, the heavier they are, and the more expensive.
- Coatings – Coatings dramatically improve image quality even compensating for other features that are lower. Fully multi-coated binoculars are treated with coatings on every air-to-glass surface, making the best quality possible.
- Prisms – Porro prism binoculars are typically larger and heavier, but perform better at lower price points. Roof prisms may be more compact, but are often more expensive. Porro prisms are often great as a first set of binoculars, while Roof prisms will be in the binoculars that last a lifetime.
- Magnifications – It would seem that higher magnifications, but in fact, this is not always so. Do not get conned into buying higher magnifications. The higher the magnification, the smaller the area you can view at once, and the more likely your image could be distorted by the slightest shaking of your hands. 8x and 10x are perfectly fine for most normal uses, and are preferred by hunters and those who use binoculars to get up close at the game.
- Glass types – The two main types of glass used in binoculars are BK-7 and BAK-4. BAK-4 is recognized as higher quality, but can be more expensive. If you want to invest in the best quality, BAK-4 is the choice. If you want to buy a first set, second set, or a set for your kids, BK-7 is fine.
- Armor and eye cups – Comfort is perhaps the least appreciated aspect of using binoculars, yet is absolutely paramount. You’re not going to use those binoculars if they hurt your eyes after a few minutes, don’t fit in your hands nicely, or are too heavy to hold up. Try those binoculars in store.
- Focusing – Both center focusing and independent eye focusing are available, and which you choose is rather subjective. You need to investigate the focusing mechanism in-store to appreciate how it works, how easy it is to use, and if you’re going to use it. If your picking up a set for casual birding, you may not be as concerned. But if you’re in the military or need to do bird counts by focusing in on moving raptors, you need to be able to quickly and easily focus.
If you do have more time to research, it is highly recommended. While high-pressure sales people can make you feel you need to buy a set of binoculars this very moment, a little extra time will offer you a much better investment. The reality is, in terms of binoculars and scopes, higher prices do reflect better quality.
While that is somewhat of a relief, ideally you want to choose a set that meet your needs perfectly. To that end, we have binocular buying tips for those who want to go birdwatching binoculars,astronomony binoculars, hunting binoculars, and recommend you check them out to ensure you get the best binoculars for you.
More advanced features are often available too; for example, night vision technology is prized for surveillance, and giant binoculars with their extra wide lenses are great for observation during the day. Some prefer to use telescope binoculars since they allow for interchangeable eyepieces and can be more comfortable for astronomy, whereas some prefer the ultra-compact and low magnification available in monoculars.
While these added features may incur a higher cost, they are inevitably worth the extra investment, as long as they meet your needs. Therefore a little added time considering your options can go a long way when buying binoculars.
Looking for Deals on Discount Binoculars?
When choosing a first set of binoculars or an extra pair to keep on hand, you might consider selecting lower-priced options at a discount. You can buy binoculars online for your young adventurer without breaking the bank, but you don’t want to end up with a piece of junk. How can you find a set that won’t cost an arm and a leg yet won’t sacrifice power or comfort? Consider floor models, wholesale sets, or military surplus options. We offer even more ideas and guidance to make discount binoculars a possibility for you.
The best way to choose binoculars without breaking the bank is by educating yourself on what elements are important to your needs. While you don’t want to sacrifice quality nor comfort, you do want to try out binoculars and yet not spend a fortune.
First, visit our articles on choosing binoculars for astronomy, birdwatching, hunting, marine, and military use, to see which features are the most important for your needs. For example, if you want to hike, having a strong, rugged, waterproof shell is important, but you can forego high magnifications, large objective lenses, zooming, digital camera binoculars, and large, heavy binoculars. If you want to see distant stars, bigger lenses are important, but waterproofing may not be.
Second, consider binoculars made for your kids if you are just introducing your child to birdwatching, hiking, and general use. There are also kids’ telescopes that are made for smaller faces and hands at a lower price then top-end models. Do not feel you must spend a fortune as your child or you first start using binoculars.
Even as you use them, you may find a lower priced model is good to start with so you can use them until you know exactly what parts you want to invest in later. For example, you might eventually realize you love astronomy and buy a more impressive set later. Many serious binocular users upgrade their sets later on as they come to find what features they like most and which they can do without.
Third, forego the newest features that, while fun, aren’t absolutely necessary. This is the time to avoid zooming binoculars, night vision,rangefinders, built-in compasses, giant lenses, image stabilization, and waterproofing. Consider pen-sized monoculars that are cheap enough to be stocking stuffers as gifts or when you only need magnification of about 2x to 5x in the lecture hall. Also take a look at compact binoculars which are often less expensive since they’re smaller.
Finally, consider alternative buying options, such as the following:
- Buy floor models. As long as you don’t mind choosing binoculars that may not be brand new, you can ask your local hobby shop or check an electronics store for discount models that were used for demonstration. These are often still in great quality, but will have a discount up to 30% off since they’ve come out of the box. Leave your name and number at the hobby shop for when they need to move a demo model off the shelf, and you might get a great deal.
- See if your local birdwatching or astronomy club members also want binoculars, and whether you can get several at a wholesale price. If you’ve already joined a group and want to upgrade your current set of binoculars, you might find this is a good way to share a deal. Talk to the group leader or simply ask if others in your group are interested.
- Military surplus is sometimes available, particularly online. These binoculars may be in excellent condition, and although they may be in camo print, you’re not likely to mind at all. This may be a neat way to check out the highest end features such as new zooming and range-finding technologies without making a huge investment.
- Buying online may be the easiest way to get inexpensive optical devices. Since retailers are online, they don’t have to worry about store overhead. Therefore they can pass the lower price down to you, particularly if their web presence is the major face of their warehouse. Sales staff and other middlemen are avoided, and your binoculars are shipped right to your door.
Choose retailers that are very well-known and proven. You can often find great, online only deals from major chains when you buy from a website, so definitely consider it. Often retailers offer huge discounts on the same products when they’re sold from the website rather than in store.
You might also go second-hand this way. If you’re buying through eBay, check out the seller’s reputation and comments people have made in their previous sales. Be sure to investigate condition, shipping costs, and find a seller you can trust.
Also some retailers operate through eBay, and again you can get the advantage of no overhead, no sales staff, and shipment straight to your door. It’s a good and easy way to take advantage of floor models too, regardless of what store they were demonstrated in.
How Binoculars Work & FAQ
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the features, functions, and options available when considering binoculars and other devices such as monoculars and scopes. With so many tools out there, how do you choose the one that is best for your use? How do binoculars work, and why do they range so much in price? What are all those numbers on the box, and what does FOV stand for again? Don’t get lost in sales speak about eye relief and coated lenses – we’ve got all the explanations here for you.Read FAQ