Everyone likes to get gifts, but some gifts are better than others. Sure, you pretend to like the malodorous cologne or the ugly sweater, but then they get tucked away somewhere until they eventually get thrown away. But binoculars make great gifts because everyone can use them and they can last a lifetime. Depending on one’s needs, decent binoculars can be had for less than $50 or they can cost several thousand dollars. There’s something for everyone.
Buying binoculars can be confusing because there are so many different models to choose from. And sometimes it’s hard to know what all the specifications mean. So let’s clear up the confusion and go over a bunch of binoculars that cover a wide price range.
The size and shape of a pair of binoculars is determined by the type of prism in them. The prism used to present an image right-side up and laterally correct. There are two types of prisms: roof and porro. The glass elements in a roof prism are in line with one another, making roof-prism binoculars more streamlined and easier to hold. In porro prisms the glass elements are offset from one another, providing a longer depth of field and a wider field of view, but at the expense of a bigger, heavier design.
Another feature to consider is magnification power. Everyday binoculars should be between 7x and 10x power. Theatergoers should choose 7x, while big-game hunters would need 10x or higher. Anything higher than 10x is very difficult to hold steady without a tripod. When you see binoculars specified as 7x20, the “7x” means that they make things look seven times closer than with the naked eye and the “20” means that they have an objective diameter of 20mm. The larger the objective diameter, the more light gets through.
The objective diameter also determines the exit pupil diameter, which should always be larger than the pupil of your eye. The pupil of a human eye ranges from about 1mm in bright conditions to about 7mm in the dark. A binoculars’ exit pupil diameter is determined by dividing the second number by the first. In the case of 7x20, the exit pupil diameter equals 20/7, or 2.85mm.
A binoculars’ angle of view determines how much of a scene you can see. In other words, say you were standing in the center of a pie looking out toward the crust; the angle of view would determine, in degrees, how wide a slice of the pie crust you could see. The angle of view, combined with the magnification power, determines the field of view. As an example, a field-of-view of 330 feet at 1000 yards means that you could fit into view the entire body of an airplane that’s 330 feet long when it’s 1000 yards away.
Good quality binoculars should also contain high-quality lenses with coatings that suppress glare and preserve color fidelity. The inside cavity of good binoculars should be filled with nitrogen to prevent fogging. They should also be waterproof and dustproof. Let’s take a closer look at some good-quality binoculars at various price points. We’ll cover them in price order.
LaScala Optics 7x18 LS Sparrow
If you’re looking for an inexpensive pair of binoculars that perform well for the price, then consider the LaScala Optics LS Sparrow 7x18. LaScala has expanded its successful line of opera glasses to include binoculars intended for outdoor use. The pocket-sized Sparrows are compact and lightweight, making them perfect for travel. They are also water resistant and fog proof, so they’re ideal for bringing you closer to any outdoor activity.
The LS Sparrow 7x18 binoculars offer 7x magnification with an objective lens diameter of 18mm and an exit pupil diameter of 2.6mm. The porro-prism binoculars have a 9.3-degree angle of view and a field of view of 488 feet at 1000 yards. The binoculars measure 3.3 inches wide by 1.5 inches high by 4 inches deep and they weigh 4.23 ounces. They cost $34.95.
Fujifilm Eventum 5x21
If you want a pair of binoculars that’s not too powerful for indoor use in theaters or the opera, but also want something that’s rugged enough for outdoor use, then Fujifilm’s Eventum 5x21 is an ideal choice. The 5x binoculars have an objective lens diameter of 21mm and an exit pupil diameter of 4.2mm. The porro-prism binoculars have a 9.4-degree angle of view and a field of view of 494 feet at 1000 yards.
The Eventum binoculars’ textured rubberized exterior makes for no-slip gripping, and they feature soft rubber eye cups so they’re comfortable to hold and look through. They are also fog proof and waterproof. The compact Eventum binoculars weigh 9.42 ounces and cost $59.00.
Celestron 25x100 SkyMaster
Geared toward astronomy and long-range terrestrial observation, Celestron’s 25x100 SkyMaster binoculars are super powerful. The porro-prism binoculars offer an impressive 25x magnification with an objective lens diameter of 100mm and an exit pupil diameter of 4mm. They have a 3-degree angle of view and a field of view of 157 feet at 1000 yards.
The SkyMaster binoculars are waterproof and they feature high-quality BAK-4 prisms that produce clear images and multicoated lenses to improve contrast. Each eyepiece can be focused individually. The main body is structurally reinforced for maximum stability and secure optical alignment and a super-rigid tripod mount is integrated into the body.
These huge binoculars are 10 inches wide by 4.6 inches high by 15.5 inches deep and they weigh almost 10 pounds. That’s why you will need a heavy-duty tripod to use them. Fortunately B&H carries an inexpensive but heavy-duty Celestron tripod with altitude and azimuth axis controls. The binoculars cost $254.95 and the tripod costs $79.99.
Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42
Nikon’s Monarch ATB 8x42 binoculars feature a roof prism with 8x magnification, an objective lens diameter of 42mm, and an exit pupil diameter of 5.3 mm. They have an angle of view of 6.3 degrees, which gives them a field of view of 330 feet at 1000 yards.
Nikon uses Eco-Glass, a proprietary lead- and arsenic-free optical glass formula, for all lenses and prisms in these binoculars. All air-to-glass surfaces are multicoated to ensure maximum light transmission, sharpness and contrast. The roof prisms are finished with a dielectric coating to enhance efficiency. They are nitrogen filled and o-ring sealed to make them waterproof and fog proof. The centered focus knob is fast and accurate and the click-stop eyecups can easily be set in a comfortable position. Rubber armoring protects the binoculars from damage and a rubberized exterior provides a secure grip. The Monarch ATB 8x42 binoculars are 5 inches wide by 2.4 inches high by 5.7 inches deep and they weigh 21.5 ounces. They cost $279.95.
Zeiss 8x20B Conquest
Perfect for use outdoors or when traveling, Zeiss’ Conquest series 8x20 binoculars are lightweight and compact. Advanced Schmidt-Pechan prisms with phase correction coatings provide a high level of detail with edge-to-edge sharpness in high resolution. You’ll have a high-contrast view in most lighting conditions. A unique Z-fold hinge keeps folded dimensions to a minimum for easy transport, and the rubber eyecups work with or without eyeglasses. A rubber-coated exterior makes for a comfortable, secure grip.
The Conquest 8x20 roof-prism binoculars offer 8x magnification, an objective lens diameter of 20mm, an exit pupil diameter of 2.5mm, an angle of view of 5 degrees and a field of view of 330 feet at 1000 yards. The binoculars measure 3.6 inches wide by 1.4 inches high by 3.6 inches deep and they weigh 6.5 ounces. They cost $354.99.
Canon 10x30 IS
You’ve probably heard of image stabilization being used in camcorders to eliminate the effects of hand shake. Canon has taken its expertise in image stabilization and placed it at the heart of its 10x30 IS image stabilized binoculars. The image stabilized binoculars are great for watching sporting events where you’re constantly moving in order to follow the action. They’re also ideal for someone with shaky hands, perhaps an older person that still loves the great outdoors. The image stabilizer counteracts hand tremors for 1-degree of movement in any direction. Two AA batteries are required.
The Canon 10x30 IS binoculars contain lenses with super spectra multi-coatings for superior contrast. A textured rubber coating provides a sure grip and some protection from the elements and the center-mounted controls are easily accessible with either hand. The 10x binoculars have an objective lens diameter of 30mm, an exit pupil diameter of 3mm, an angle of view of 6 degrees and a field of view of 315 feet at 1000 yards. They measure 5 inches wide by 2.8 inches high by 5.9 inches deep and they weigh 22.22 ounces. They cost $364.95.
Zeiss Victory Compact 8x20 T*
The Zeiss Victory Compact 8x20 T* are high-end compact binoculars that fit in a jacket pocket and deliver breathtaking views. The optical path contains phase-corrected Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms with dielectric mirror coatings to maximize acuity and light throughput while eliminating aberrations and distortion. An anti-reflective multicoating increases light transmission while suppressing flare and glare. A protective coating on external lens surfaces repels dirt and liquids for a clear view in any weather conditions.
The Victory's housing is reinforced with glass fibers and covered with anti-slip rubber armor. Nitrogen-filled interiors ensure fog-free viewing and the sealed system is waterproof. Twist-up rubber eyecups provide a comfortable fit and an offset hinge allows the binoculars to fold flatter. The 8x Victory binoculars have an objective lens diameter of 20mm, an exit pupil diameter of 2.5 mm, an angle of view of 6.7 degrees and a field of view of 354 feet at 1000 yards. They measure 3.82 inches wide by 1.73 inches high by 3.62 inches deep and they weigh 7.94 ounces. They cost $579.00.
Swarovski 10x42 WB SLC
The Swarovski 10x42 WB SLC roof-prism binoculars are expensive but awesome. The 10x roof-prism binoculars have an objective lens diameter of 42mm, an exit pupil diameter of 4.2mm, an angle of view of 6.2 degrees and a field of view of 330 feet at 1000 yards. The waterproof, dustproof binoculars are housed in durable aluminum with full rubber armoring. They’ll never fog up because the inside cavity is filled with pressurized nitrogen. Proprietary prism and lens coatings preserve color fidelity across the entire light spectrum.
Everything appears bright, crystal clear and razor sharp when looking through the Swarovski binoculars. The central focusing wheel features integrated ±5 dioptric correction and individually adjustable twist-in eyecups allow a full field of view even for eyeglass wearers. The 10x42 WB SLC binoculars measure 4.8 inches wide by 2.8 inches high by 5.79 inches deep and they weigh 30.69 ounces. They cost $1,459.00.
Swarovski EL 10x42 SwaroVision
It’s hard to believe that Swarovski could make a pair of binoculars that are even better than the SLC series, but they do; Swarovski’s EL binoculars are the top of the line. The EL 10x42 SwaroVision binoculars have a roof-prism design with 10x magnification, 42mm objective lens diameter, 6.4-degree angle of view, and 336-foot field of view at 1000 yards.
The SwaroVision binoculars have phase-coated BAK4 roof prisms, anti-reflective multicoatings, scratch-resistant coatings and non-stick coatings to prevent dirt buildup. Field flattener lenses ensure edge-to-edge sharpness and distortion-free clarity. The housing has a rubberized coating that provides grip and shock resistance. The rugged magnesium housing is sealed and nitrogen-purged for a waterproof, fog-proof system. The SwaroVision binoculars measure 6.3 inches wide by 2.4 inches high by 4.8 inches deep and they weigh 28.2 ounces. They cost $2,479.00.
For a comprehensive list of binoculars at B&H, beginning with the top-rated ones, click here.