So you are a hunter, birdwatcher or just a nature observer? Chances are you need a pair of binoculars. Sadly, it’s quite difficult to choose the right pair. Whether you’re a beginner or professional, the choices can still be confusing.
We think everybody deserves the perfect pair. That’s why we decided to put together this binoculars buying guide for you. Take a look below and perhaps your selection process becomes a bit simpler. Here are our tips and suggestions:
Let’s start off with the technical aspects of binoculars. Most sales listings talk about lens coatings, lens size, magnification levels etc. It’s important to know what these mean to choose the right pair for your needs. Here’s a quick rundown of the main features of binoculars.
This might be the most confusing feature we cover in this binoculars buying guide. Lens coatings have very specific terminology but let’s try to simplify. Simply put, lens coating will give you a clearer image. The better the coating, the less glare you get and the less light loss there is. And that’s a good thing!
There are 3 kinds of anti-reflective coatings. These are presented as coated lenses, multi-coated lenses and fully-coated lenses. Coated lenses usually have a thin coating on one of the lens surfaces.
Multi-coated lenses on the other hand have the coating on multiple surfaces like the name says. This will usually provide a clear enough image. High-end binoculars might have fully-coated lenses. This means that all surfaces are coated and the best possible anti-reflection is provided. Only go for the last option if you are a true professional as it will usually enlarge your budget quite a bit.
This one is simple but very important. Choose the magnification level based on what you are going to do with the binoculars. If you plan to observe from great distances, go for a larger number. Binocular models are usually presented as 10×42 for example, 10 being the zoom level. Usual mid-range choices include 8x and 10x zoom. Hunters should make the selection based on their game while birdwatchers might always prefer a higher level of magnification.
As stated before, the usual presentation of models is something like 10×42. The 42 would mean that the lenses are 42mm in diameter. Lens size comes to play when you use your binoculars in low-light situations. The more surface the lens has, the more light it can catch. Hunting often happens in dusk or dawn so as a hunter you might want to consider getting big lenses. However, 42mm is pretty much the standard in the lower-mid and middle price ranges.
Fog-proof and water-resistant
Another important one to consider. While most modern binoculars have these features, be sure to keep an eye on it. Going outdoor has always been a battle with the weather and this is something you need to win. Rain comes out of nowhere and fog is pretty much expected when going out early in the morning or late at night. This is a feature we suggest not saving money on as it’s really useful. The lack of this feature will render your gear useless 50% of the time.
Other significant factors
Other significant factors include things like size, weight and accessories. All important factors if you are taking your binoculars on an outdoor venture. You might have the best optics in the world but if your eyes hurt after five minutes, what’s the point?
Eye reliefs are something to keep an eye on (no pun intended) when looking at binoculars and reviews. Uncomfortable eye reliefs kill usability and cause a lot of grief. Other comfort features include different straps for carrying, a nice case and lens covers. While not imperative, these are certainly something to look at. Try to find the best combination according to your budget.
Size and weight come to play on longer hikes and trips. While great for viewing, binoculars with high zoom and large lenses are usually bulky and heavy. However, this is a question of compromise. You have to find the best of each world according to your needs.
Next up in our binoculars buyer guide are some tips. These are not rules but rather general guidelines we suggest to follow. In the end it’s you who’s buying but a little help never hurt anyone.
1. Don’t make it too difficult
While searching for your first pair of binoculars you might be making it too difficult for yourself. While things like this binoculars buying guide here are helpful, you shouldn’t focus too much on every detail. The truth is that as a first time user you might not know what it is that you need. Even if you need it for hunting, your game might be usually spotted from different distances etc. All becomes more clear after you get your first pair and try them out. You should get as close to perfection as possible but remember that you can’t know everything for sure.
2. Know more
Try to find out everything you need to know without using this information to make your choice too difficult. Sounds complicated, right? Well actually it’s not that bad. Knowing basic terminology is what we mean by this. Reading the first half of this binoculars buying guide should pretty much do the trick already. Don’t get caught up in the big words, know what they really mean. Multi-coating sounds confusing on it’s own but if you know what it is, it’s relatively simple.
3. Decide your price and stick with it
Don’t overspend on your first pair. You had a budget but then got lost in all the features and reviews? Happens to the best of us. While moving up or down a little bit in your budget to fit important things is fine, don’t jump a whole price range just because you read something. Price doesn’t always equal quality and chances are that the most expensive model is more than you need. Even worse, it could be less. Buying an expensive 8x pair might be a lot worse than a cheaper 10x. Remember, it’s all about how you want to use it.
4. Consider all-purpose options
Depending on what you plan to do, you might have an important question to ask yourself. Something that this binoculars buying guide didn’t really touch – multi-purpose binoculars. Hunters often need a rangefinder in addition to binoculars. Some models offer a combined solution for this. If a rangefinder is something you need then this is ideal for you. Instead of carrying around two optics devices you can get away with only one. It’s only worth the investment if you are sure you need it but if you do, we strongly recommend to invest in this solution. It saves money in the long run.
Conclusion of our binoculars buying guide
In the end it’s you who makes the choice. Be sure to learn all that you can but remain from over-complicating your choice. Remember that the most expensive item is not always the best for you. Take a look at the key features brought out in our binoculars buying guide and really think about what you need. Buying binoculars is quite a task – make sure you get a good pair!
To make things easier for you, we have compiled two lists of our top choices. Be sure to check out our list of the top 5 best binoculars and for budget shoppers there’s our list of the best cheap binoculars.