Binoculars aren’t just for watching the flora and fauna there is a myriad of other possible uses that extended beyond the obvious. Here we take a look at some practical real-world uses for binoculars and highlight the best types of binocular for each application. Find out if there’s a set of binoculars that fits your need.
After spending the past fifteen years professionally, and literally surrounded by binoculars, I have developed a knack for applying them to activities that may not seem to require binoculars. Putting aside the pursuits for which binoculars are an absolute necessity—bird watching, hunting, and spying on the neighbors (kidding of course; some hunters prefer spotting scopes)—there are many other popular activities for which they are not a necessity, but to which they can add substantial value and enjoyment.
Whether it’s a professional basketball game in a major arena, auto racing at a sprawling outdoor track, or little Jenny’s soccer match, catching the details of the action in any spectator sport requires getting the best look possible at what’s happening on the field. Unless you have really top notch seats (which, for professional events, come at a top notch price) you need binoculars to get the best view of the event.
There are two approaches to choosing what binoculars to use for watching a sporting event. The first is to take along as small a model as you can, a compact model, in order not to be weighed down or have it get in the way while also trying to balance a hot dog and a drink. The challenge here is that for the best performance, you need to keep the magnification level fairly low to compensate for the smaller objective diameters common in compact models.
The second approach is to go for one of the “big dogs,” something like a 10x50mm or even a 12x50mm model, to be able to see all the action even from the nosebleed seats. The problem with this goes back to that weighing down and snack-balancing challenge. Fortunately, there is a compromise that solves the dilemma—Pentax 9x28mm DCF LV binoculars. At 9x, they have the magnification to catch all the action, while the 28mm objective lenses allow sufficient light to pass through the optical system for a clear image even in indoor stadiums or night baseball games.
Hiking and camping
One of the joys of hiking along wilderness trails is the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent scenery. From mountain peaks in the distance, to wildflowers blooming just down the hillside, scenes like these are so prized by hikers and campers that few of them would think of going on such a trip without a camera, yet many fail to take along binoculars. This is really a shame as most pocket cameras, while great for recording your adventures, cannot give the detail necessary to really enjoy watching a mountain goat on a hillside, or an eagle soaring over a canyon.
While weight is always a factor with hikers, there are many good binoculars that weigh very little yet have the potential to add enjoyment to the trip. For example, either the nine-ounce Nikon9x25mm Travelite V binocular, or the even lighter and palm-sized Minox Miniscope 8x25mm (even though it’s a monocular rather than a binocular), would provide a handy optic that can be carried in a cargo pocket or a belt pack with minimal encumbrance.
Growing up the son of a commercial fishing family, there were two things taken for granted about everyone I knew: their family had a boat, and binoculars were always kept on that boat. Binoculars were not an optional piece of equipment on these boats, they were an absolute necessity. Whether for checking net lines, identifying other boats in the distance, or locating navigational buoys in the fog, leaving the dock without binoculars was simply not done. But recreational boaters don’t always carry binoculars with them on their own vessels, which is unfortunate as binoculars can add much to any amount of time spent on the water, whether for navigation, or simply enjoying the scenery.
To help compensate for the pitch and roll of the boat, most skippers opt for lower magnification binoculars with large objective lenses, something like the Steiner 7x50mm Marine, or the Bushnell7x50mm Marine. The combination of low magnification and large objective lens diameter provides a very large exit pupil that’s easy to keep in front of the eyes while in motion. It also allows viewing in foggy or rainy conditions. Higher magnification in poor viewing conditions more often hinders rather than helps.
While photographers have long used polarizers to reduce the reflection shown on the surface of water in photographs, fishing enthusiasts have only recently taken this technique to heart. Once they did so, they did so in earnest. Stop into any fishing supply shop or browse the web for fishing gear, and you will find a remarkable variety of fishing sunglasses fitted with polarized lenses. Naturally, some forward-thinking sports optics companies quickly determined that polarized binoculars could be particularly useful tools for locating fish at greater distances in open water, or those that were hiding in the shadows of mountain streams. While still not particularly common, there are a few binocular models available that feature polarized lenses, like the Celestron10X50mm OptiView LPR, or that at least offer polarizing filters as accessories, as does the Fujinon10x50mm FMT-SX Polaris.
Book and antique shopping
Taking along binoculars on a book or antique shopping trip can save considerable time and effort. In the case of bookstores, especially used bookstores where the aisles can often be narrow, the shelves high, and the lighting poor, binoculars can make checking out those volumes above your reach quick and easy. No need to find the one stepladder the store has hidden somewhere along the aisles. A quick look through your binoculars will help you confirm the book you think you’ve found on the top shelf is really the one you want.