Buying the best binoculars for your outdoor needs

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Every day people search for the best binoculars, but I think we instead need to give more thought to what we intend to use it for. There are really no best binoculars overall, but there is the most suitable for a given application. Only with this mindset will you find the right pair.

Knowing your intended use is key to choosing the best fit for you. There are various specs and designs of binoculars, but I will touch on the most important aspects required for the right selection. However, before I delve into these details, let’s come to grip with some basic terminology.

Regardless of the sporting optics, (binoculars, night vision goggles, spotting scopes) they all use the same language in describing common features. For instance, a technical specification may list a binocular as having 20×42 mm. The ”20” indicates its power of magnification, which means that object viewed down this lens will appear 20 times larger than by the naked eye. While ”42 mm” refers to the diameter of the binocular objective lens. When in use these lenses are always furthest away for your eyes. It is important to note that the size of the objective lens relates to the quantity of light allowed into the binoculars. Thus if you require binoculars for low-light applications such as hunting or Astronomy, it would need to have large objective lenses.

A useful number to look at is the field-of-view (FOV). If the FOV is say 360′, it means that the width of your sight picture is 360 feet at 1000 yards away from the object of interest. The FOV is a function of the objective lens magnifying power and the focal length of the eyepiece. Thus, the higher the magnification, the lower the FOV. This number is often times signified in degrees.

The Twilight Performance gives an indication on how well your binoculars will function in low light conditions. Although variables such as design and quality of glass contribute to this index, the greatest contributors are objective lens diameter and magnification. A rough way to calculate a binoculars Twilight performance is by multiplying the objective lens magnification by its diameter. The bigger the number, the better the binoculars performance in low light.

With these terminologies out the way, here some important tips that will help you find the right binoculars.

  • Your viewing light will most probably determine the binoculars you end up with. For low-light and night time activities such as hunting, bird watching, astronomy, theater, etc., a large objective lens is required.
  • The one size fits all cliche does not apply to binoculars. If you have different applications, you would definitely require more than one pair.
  • Most compact binoculars weight less than half a kilogramme, but you would be compromising on performance if you go for the small ones. However, if you are after performance, a full sized binocular is the way to go. A binocular over 0.7 kg gets heavier the longer you carry it. So invest in a support system that evenly distribute the weight across your shoulders, don’t just strap it around your neck.
  • Your typical distance from your viewing object will determine the suitable magnifying power of your intended binoculars. A low-powered binoculars will do for most theater, birding, or sporting activities. However, for astronomy, you will require a high-powered one.
  • The minimum focal point indicates the furthest an object can be, but still, remain in focus. This is particularly important for bird watching activities.
  • Binoculars fitted with objective lenses that have a magnifying power more than 10x are not easy to hold steady. So it should ideally have some sort of stability component such as a tripod.
  • If you are after binoculars, that will give a greater field-of-view (FOV) avoid the ones with high magnifying power. This is because the more the magnification, the lesser the FOV. You will find the larger FOV pairs useful for watching fast moving events like car races, horse races, wildlife sprints, etc.
  • Any binocular used in nature will be subjected to moisture. Waterproof binoculars will come in handy for your hunting, bird watching, and other outdoors-related activities.
  • Typically, binoculars cost in the region of $10 to $2,500 US. However, for you to get a decent pair of real value, you would need to part with at least $250 US.

I hope these tips would help contribute towards you choosing the best binoculars for your intended activity. Let the perfect pair spur you on to the Great Outdoors!


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