Core Binocular Characteristics You Should Know Before Getting One

Core Binocular Characteristics You Should Know Before Getting One

Doing a binocular comparison is tough unless you’re actually looking through a set of different pairs at the same object. However, most of us will never get to open up a traveling salesperson’s case of gear to try it all out before making a purchase. So, what should you know before purchasing binoculars?

If you’re looking for your next set of birdwatching gear, we have an awesome collection of spotting scopes and glasses. Want to see the stars in a new way? Looking to track down birds in thick forests? We’ve got you covered.

Binoculars Information: How to Read a Product Description

If you’re shopping for binoculars in-store or online, you may run across a number of different specs that you aren’t quite sure how to interpret. Let’s walk through them:

Binocular Design

Binoculars are basically a set of two magnification tubes that transfer light through the magnification power and objective lens. Binoculars filter light from the eyecup through the objective lens at the end. A great pair of binoculars also rotates and locks around a central axis so that you can adjust the distance between eyepieces to fit your face. 

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Binocular Number

When you shop for binoculars, you’ll see a set of numbers next to the name. When you see numbers on a pair of binoculars, like 8x42, or 10x25 size, the first number references the magnification power and the second number references the diameter of the objective lens. The objective lenses, just like in a microscope, are the lenses that are the closest to the object that you’re looking at. Objective lenses are at the very end of the tubes in binoculars. This second number, therefore, basically tells you how big the binoculars are and how much light you can get.

Binocular Size

There are essentially three main sizes of binoculars. Anything with an objective lens less than 30mm is considered compact. A 10x25, for example, is a compact set of binoculars even though the lens still gives you as much magnification power as a 10x50. Anything from 30 to 40 is a standard, midsize binocular; these sizes are really popular for hiking and birdwatching. Anything above 40mm is full size; these binoculars are popular for birdwatching.

Smaller pairs of binoculars can be uncomfortable to use for a longer period of time. They tend to be a bit light and unwieldy. Full-size and midsize binoculars are a bit heavier and more comfortable to move around.

Field of Vision

Binoculars that have higher magnification power sound better, until you realize that you sacrifice field of vision to get the greater magnification. For beginners, an 8 is usually better than a 10. Even seasoned birders usually prefer the range that the 8 gives rather than the intensity that the 10 brings.

The ideal field of vision varies depending on what you’re doing. If you’re scanning a field for signs of birds, wider fields of vision can be ideal. More narrow fields of vision are often ideal for casual hiking and backpacking. 


Some binoculars will last years and years because of waterproof and weather-resistant constructions. Even if you think that you won’t be near water with your binoculars, if you use them for long enough, some water will get into the mix! After all, birding takes place outside. It might be a loose water bottle in your backpack or an unexpected rainstorm, but eventually your binoculars will take on some moisture. Waterproof binoculars use o-rings to seal moisture out of the inside. You might not need full waterproof binoculars, but water-resistant binoculars are probably a good investment.

Your binoculars should also have a rubber coating. This will help you to grip and hold them for longer periods of time, but it also prevents bumps and bangs. Eventually you’ll drop your binoculars, and rubber coating can help absorb the shock to the system.

You also may want to invest in binoculars that are fog-proof. Any binoculars that use nitrogen on the inside are fog-proof. When you move from colder environments to warmer environments, the inside of the binoculars can fog up, which can take a while to clear up. It’s annoying, and it can also damage the binoculars if the moisture remains inside. Nitrogen won’t take on moisture and will prevent the internal lenses from fogging up.

Zoom Binoculars

Zoom binoculars have an additional number, like 10-22x50. Unlike a normal 10x50, the 10-22 means that the 22x power can come for additional magnification. Most birders will tell you that zoom binoculars aren’t really necessary for most birding environments. 10x power is plenty of magnification to spot birds at a distance. Alternatively, spotting scopes can give you a lot more power with more clarity and easy focusing.

Type of Glass

Magnification and lens size are not usually the biggest predictors of how much binoculars cost. The type of glass that binoculars use affects the price and the quality of the binoculars. Binoculars that have the same amount of magnification power can result in vastly different images because of the quality of the glass. If you see crown glass or low-dispersion glass, that’s quality material. You’ll get a better, cleaner image when working with a pair of high-quality binoculars..

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What Kind of Binoculars are Right for Me?

Field Glasses vs. Spotting Scopes

Field glasses, also called binoculars, are a handheld device that focuses both of your eyes onto an object in the distance. Spotting scopes use a tripod and allow you to remain a bit more comfortable while looking into the distance. Spotting scopes are also angled to prevent your neck and body from warping in uncomfortable ways during long periods of time.

If you’re looking for a perfect birdwatching scope, the Celestron C5 SCT Spotting Scope is ideal. It has a simple, easy-to-maneuver construction with tons of magnification power to see birds at a distance. It’s just six pounds and less than a foot long, easily fitting in any pack you like to carry. Plus, it has a crisp view with a focus of about 20 feet, allowing you to track motion easily. The C5 is also adaptable for cameras, so you can easily attach your camera and take shots.

The Trailseeker 80-40 Degree Spotting Scope has a longer curve to the scope, allowing you to perch in more comfortable positions for longer lengths of time. If you’ve had problems staying in place while you look for birds, this scope might be your best solution.

Binoculars for Different Activities

When you’re backpacking and hiking, you’ll want to consider the weight of the binoculars. You should also look for something that is water resistant and has a rubber coating for durability. Backpacking binoculars should usually have an objective lens size of 25 so that they don’t take up too much space in your pack.

If you’re taking your binoculars birding, then you should find something that has large lenses. Something with a 10-power magnification and a large lens, like the SkyGenius 10x42 Binoculars for Bird Watching, is ideal. The larger lens-size allows more light in and extends your field of vision.

Wildlife-viewing binoculars are usually the same as birdwatching binoculars, except you usually want 10 magnification every time. Some birdwatchers prefer 8 magnification. But if you’re trying to view whales or animals in the forest, then a 10 magnification will be more valuable.

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