Outdoors / Buying Guide

The B&H Binocular Buying Guide

         

Binoculars use a series of lenses, elements, and prisms to magnify a view to produce a magnified view of distant people, places, or things. Using two parallel optical tubes allows you to observe with both eyes open, which is more comfortable and natural when compared to using a spotting scope or telescope—which requires you to have one eye closed. Additionally, having both eyes open maintains your depth of field and provides you with a rich and immersive experience where the scene takes on a more lifelike, 3-D appearance.

If you’ve been shopping for binoculars, you will have noticed that some look very streamlined while others look chunkier and heavier. That’s because the physical appearance and size of a binocular is determined by the type of prism it uses. There are two types of prisms: roof and Porro. Prisms are used to correct the orientation of the view horizontally and vertically so the scene looks natural; without a prism, binoculars would make things look upside down and backward. The glass elements in a roof prism are in line with one another, making roof-prism binoculars more streamlined and easier to hold. Porro prisms have the glass elements offset from one another, and can provide greater depth of field and a wider field of view compared to similar roof prism models. This is accomplished by folding the light path, which shortens the length, spreading the objectives farther apart.

There can be a huge range in price between apparently similar pairs of binoculars. For example, B&H sells 10x42 binoculars ranging in price from $30 to $3200. The main reasons for such a huge price range are the quality of the optics, the types of coatings applied to the lenses, and other features that might be added, such as the material that comprises the housing. Additionally, the prism type can be a factor in determining price. Because of the physics involved in designing and manufacturing the compact roof prism form factor, you can have a pair of roof and Porro binoculars that seem identical as far as quality and performance, but the roof prism version will often be more expensive. The good news is that if the form factor isn’t an issue, many people find that they can upgrade the quality of their binocular by choosing a Porro-prism without reëvaluating their budget.

Technically, the type of prism utilized in binoculars is a double-Porro prism, but is always shortened to just Porro. It is also always capitalized because it is the last name of the inventor. This most basic of prism configurations is defined by the folded light path which displaces the point where the light enters and exits the prism, which results in the familiar and ubiquitous look of a “traditional” or “old-school” binocular.

The term “roof prism” was originally applied to the Abbe-Koenig (AK) prism design that corrected an image horizontally and vertically while maintaining a straight line from the point the light enters the prism and exits it. While the AK prism configuration is the most common, there are others that are variations on the original AK design, such as the Amici and Schmidt-Pechan (SP). While they accomplish the same basic function, the optical paths take different routes to correct the image orientation. The main advantage of the SP design is that it is more compact than both the Amici and AK prisms.

The takeaway: Because Porro prism binoculars are typically more cost effective to produce versus roof prisms, you will often be able to get a higher-quality and/or larger objective Porro model for about the same price as a comparable roof prism one. 

Binocular Terms: What you need to know

Magnification and Objective

All binoculars have numbers, such as 10x42 and 7x20, which refer to their magnification and objective lens diameter. Using 10x42 as an example, the 10x means that the binoculars have 10x magnification power, making the view through them appear 10 times closer than they do with the naked eye. For most situations, users should look for binoculars from 7x to 10x power. Theatergoers should choose something in the range of 3-5x, depending on your seats, sports fans will be happy with a 7x model, while big-game hunters would need 10x or higher for long-range observations. Keep in mind that for many users, binoculars greater than 10x42 may present difficulty holding them steady or for long periods, so a tripod should be considered if you are looking at models with higher magnifications or larger objectives.


The higher the magnification, the smaller the field of view
 

The “42” in our 10x42 binocular refers to the diameter of the objective (front) lens in millimeters. Since the objectives will often be the largest portion of the optic, it will affect the overall size and weight of the binocular, and also how much light it is able to gather. In basic terms: larger objectives allow more light to pass through them versus smaller lenses, which means images will appear brighter and clearer. However, the larger objectives will also add considerable bulk and weight, and that is where certain tradeoffs and compromises need to be considered when deciding if certain models will be convenient to carry, pack, hold, and use.

Zoom binoculars offer variable magnification and are shown as 10-30x60. In this example, 10x magnification is at the low end and 30x magnification at the high end. On most models, there will be a thumb lever or wheel placed conveniently within reach while holding the binocular so you can adjust the magnification without changing your grip or taking your eyes away from the eyepieces. While zooms offer greater versatility, there may be a discernible degradation in image brightness and sharpness somewhere along the zoom range, since the optical path and physics of prisms will have been optimized at a single power and as you move away from that magnification, the image quality might suffer.

Exit Pupil

The exit pupil is the size of the focused light that hits the eye. To see the exit pupil, hold the binocular eight to ten inches away from your face and notice the small dots of light in the center of the eyepieces. Exit pupil diameter, which should always be larger than the pupil of your eye, is directly affected by the objective diameter and the magnification. The pupil of a human eye ranges from about 1.5mm in bright conditions to about 8mm in the dark. If your binoculars’ exit pupil diameter is smaller than the pupil of your eye, it’s going to seem like you’re looking through a peep hole. Bear in mind that as eyes age, they tend to dilate less, so exit pupil becomes more important as the user ages.

Binoculars’ exit pupil diameter is determined by dividing the objective by the magnification: so a 10x42 binocular has a 4.2mm exit pupil diameter. That’s a generous size, and larger than the pupil of the eye most of the time. But a 10x25 pair of binoculars has an exit pupil of just 2.5mm, which is smaller than the average pupil dilation and will be harder to see through clearly.

Zooming binoculars might have a perfectly acceptable exit pupil diameter under low magnification but one that’s somewhat small under high magnification. For example, a 10-30x60 binocular has 10x magnification at the low end and 30x magnification at the high end. At 10x, the exit pupil diameter is a respectable 6mm, but at 30x it’s only 2mm.


The Exit Pupil will ideally be larger than the dilation of your pupil
 

Eye Relief

Eye relief is the optimal distance from the eyepiece to your eye, or the focal point where the light passes through the ocular lens. Manufacturers install eyecups on the eyepieces to place the user’s eyes at the proper distance from the eyepieces to make using them easy. If you wear glasses, the lenses will position the eyepieces past the eye relief distance, affecting the image quality and your ability to achieve sharp focus. Many binoculars offer dioptric adjustments on one of the eyepieces so that most users can finely tune the focusing system to their eye prescriptions so they can use the binocular without their glasses. If your prescription is difficult, or you’re sharing them with other users, the eyecups are often adjustable. Basic eyecups simply fold back to allow you to place your eye glass lenses closer to the ocular lens. Another type is adjustable eyecups that twist in and out to precisely set the proper distance for the individual user.

You’ll generally find that models with longer eye relief have a smaller field of view than similarly priced models with shorter eye relief. Accomplishing superlative statistics in both categories is an expensive process of optical engineering. It is always good to have a broad viewing area, so decide how much eye relief is necessary for you and buy the binoculars that otherwise give the widest field of view. Field of view is discussed in greater detail below.

Glass, Prisms, and Coatings

Glass

The type and quality of the glass used for the lenses and prisms matter. Generic optical glass may have imperfections, and if they aren’t ground and polished correctly they could bend light oddly, causing colors to look off or prevent fine focusing, or you may notice distortion at the edges. Specialized glass, such as low dispersion or extra low dispersion, is engineered to have virtually no distortion and transmit light better without bending it. The resulting images are generally clearer, sharper, with true color rendition and higher contrast.

You may also see some with “Eco-glass.” This general term refers to ecologically friendly glass that doesn’t use lead or arsenic while it’s being made. While this may or may not affect the image quality, if your lenses break or you need to dispose of your binocular, you can feel confident that you’re not adding to chemical pollution.

BAK4, BK7, and SK15 Prisms

The discussion in the opening paragraphs dealt with the two main types of prism configurations, but beyond that, the materials that the prisms are made of greatly impact image quality. BAK4, or Barium Crown glass, is considered the best type of prism material. It has a high refractive index and lower critical angle than other materials, which means it transmits light better with less peripheral light being lost due to internal reflection—such as from internal bubbles trapped during the manufacturing process.

BK7 glass is arguably the most widely used material for binoculars. While it may be considered to be of lower quality than BAK4, it is still optical glass, which means it has excellent light-transmission properties and a limited number of internal imperfections.

The easiest way to tell if your binocular employs BAK4 or BK7 is to turn it around, hold it 6 to 8" away from you and look down the objective and observe the exit pupil. If you can see a squared-off side to the general roundness of the image, the binoculars have BK7 prisms. BAK4 prisms show a truer round exit pupil, which translates to better light transmission and edge-to-edge sharpness.

SK15 glass is an atypical material that strikes a middle ground between the previous two. It has a higher refractive index than both, yet has a dispersion (measured on the Abbe scale) that falls between BAK4 and BK7. Images that are seen through SK15 prisms are very clear, with high contrast.

Coatings

Lens coatings are sheer films applied to lens surfaces to reduce glare and reflections, increase light transmission and contrast, and help make colors look more vivid. Any light reflected is light that never reaches the viewer’s eyes, so by eliminating reflections, the image ends up being brighter. Coatings, in general, are good, provided that the coatings do something. It’s easy to put a cheap coating on a lens to give it a cool-looking orange tint, but the coating might not do anything to improve image quality. If you aren’t able to test a pair of binoculars before buying, the best you can do is research the brand, look for user reviews and ask questions before you buy.

Terms such as coated, multicoated and fully multicoated refer to the location and type of coating processes used. Coated lenses are the most basic and denote that at least one lens surface has at least one layer of coating on it. Multicoated means that multiple surfaces are coated and/or multiple layers of coatings have been applied to each surface. Fully multicoated means that all surfaces—inner and outer—of the lenses have multiple layers applied to them. This treatment offers the highest level of light transmission, clarity, contrast, and color rendition. At the pinnacle is broadband fully multicoated. These coatings are engineered to be effective across a wide spectrum of wavelengths and provide the best performance.

Complementing lens coatings are prism coatings. These increase light reflection and improve image brightness and contrast. While many manufacturers may use standard reflective coatings, the upper echelon of prism coatings is called dielectric coatings, which allow almost 100% of the light through the prism, resulting in brighter high-contrast images. Another type of coating “phase-corrects” the light. When light passes through the prisms, the different wavelengths move at different speeds through the prisms, affecting the color and contrast. Phase-corrected prisms correct this and ensure the light comes through at a uniform speed, which greatly impacts the colors and contrast of the image.

Angle of View and Field of View

The terms “angle of view” and “field of view” are complementary. Both terms describe the amount of scenery, measured horizontally, that is visible when looking through a particular binocular. Angle of view (AoV) is expressed in degrees. Imagine standing in the middle of a giant pizza pie; binoculars with a 6.3-degree angle of view would show the viewer a 6.3-degree “slice” of the 360-degree pie, looking outward.

Another way to express the viewing angle is the Apparent Angle of View (AAoV). This is calculated by taking the AoV and multiplying it by the magnification. So if that 10x42 binocular from the earlier example has a 6.3-degree AoV, its apparent angle of view is 63-degrees. The AAoV is the angle of the magnified field when you look through binoculars; so larger the apparent field of view is, the wider the field of view you can see even at high magnifications. Generally speaking, an AAoV of over 60-65-degrees is considered Wide-Angle. 

If, while shopping for binoculars, you see a degree specification without a label, just remember that if it’s a low number like 6.3 or 7.8, this will be the actual angle of view since it’s referring to the angle at the objective lens. If it’s a large number like 55 or 68 it is referring to the apparent angle of view.

Field of view is expressed in feet at a distance of 1,000 yards or meters at 1,000 meters, and is the width of the visible area that can be seen without moving the binoculars. Generally speaking, the higher the magnification and smaller the objective, the shorter the field of view.

With a little knowledge, you can usually figure out all these ways to express how much you can see if you know a little math:

The first thing to know is that 1-degree = 52.5 feet at 1000 yards. From there you can start calculating.

So if you have an 8x42 binocular and that the FoV is 360', you can calculate that the AoV is 6.9-degrees (360 ÷ 52.5) and that the AAoV is 55.2-degrees (6.9 x 8). By flipping these basic formulas, you can extrapolate any of the other values.

Just to show the relationship between magnification and FoV, if that binocular above was a 10x instead and the FoV was the same, the angle of view would remain 6.9-degrees, but the apparent angle would be pumped up to 69-degrees.

Minimum Focus Distance

This might seem like an odd thing to consider, since the whole idea of a binocular is to look at things from afar; and for most users that is absolutely true. However, there are a fair number of enthusiasts who use their binocular for bird watching or insect observation. Many bird watchers like to have a fairly close minimum focus distance that can allow them to see minute detail of birds—wing bars or beak shape, crown markings—while birds are feeding. A close focus of less than 6' for a full-size binocular is noteworthy. Typically, as magnification is increased, the minimum focus distance also increases. For users looking for a short close-focus distance, emphasize objective size and keep the magnification at around 8x.

Housing Styles

This is sort of a catch-all category to discuss some design features that speak to the form and function of the optic, rather than the performance.

Open bridge Closed bridge

Open or Closed bridge refers to the center portion that connects the two optical tubes on roof prism binoculars. Typically, the center hinge and focusing mechanism will be enclosed in the housing. While this strengthens the hinge and mechanism, the closed bridge prevents your hands from wrapping all the way around. An open bridge will usually have the focus mechanism close to the eyepieces and another stabilizing section toward the objectives, with the middle section left open. This not only enables a full wrap-around grip, but it also cuts the overall weight of the optic.

Focusing

The vast majority of binoculars use a center focus system. The main focus wheel is set between the two oculars and moves them symmetrically. With center focusing, many manufacturers will have a dioptric adjustment dial on one of the eyepieces to fine-tune the focus to match individual optical prescriptions. The dioptric correction amount is decided by each manufacturer, usually by model, and can be on the left or right eye, or both. Certain models have the dioptric correction integrated into the center focusing mechanism.

There are two other focusing types that need to be addressed: individual and focus-free. The individual focus models eliminate the center-focusing mechanism to give each eyepiece the ability to focus independently. While this allows for extremely fine and precise focusing, they are often frustrating to use when sharing and should really only be considered if there will only be one primary user. Many marine and astronomical models feature this system. Focus-free binoculars don’t have any focusing mechanisms. They rely on your eyes to focus the image, allowing you to concentrate on the scenery and enjoy the views. 

Weather-Resistant, Waterproof, Fogproof

Many binoculars have no weatherproofing, while some are waterproof and others are waterproof and fog proof. The rating will determine under what conditions the optic should or can be used.

No rating  Binoculars that have no weatherproofing should not be used in the rain or at sea, as moisture can get inside them. When water gets into the optical tubes, it can cause fogging, which interferes with your view, and eventually leads to internal rust and corrosion.

Weather resistant  Often, but not always, the optic will employ some kind of seal—an O-ring or gasket—to keep moisture, such as from a light mist, from getting into the optical tubes. With a weather-resistant binocular, you can take it out in moist conditions without causing damage.

Waterproof  These binoculars are sealed with O-rings to prevent moisture from getting inside; but they can still fog up on you. Depending on the construction and the seals, some waterproof binoculars are also submersible to certain depths for various amounts of time. Certain manufacturers rate their binoculars for limited depths for limited amounts of time; others will adhere to military standard specifications and rate them for much greater depths.

Fog proof  Fogging occurs when the air inside the optical tubes contains moisture. If you go from a warm cabin to frigid conditions outside, the moisture can condense on the inside of lenses, causing them to fog. Fog-proof binoculars are filled with inert gasses such as nitrogen or argon, or a combination of the two, to prevent fogging. The inert gas is dry and is pumped into the optical tubes under pressure, keeping the gaskets and O-rings firmly in place.

A consistent question I get asked is, “What’s the difference between Nitrogen and Argon?” A quick Google search will return many links to forums where many people are asking the same question. The short answer is that there really isn’t much of a difference. If you delve into the question and look at a diagram of each molecule, you will see that argon molecules are larger than nitrogen. The theory behind using argon is that the larger molecules will have a harder time leaking out from the seals, keeping the inert gas inside longer and thus maintaining their water/fog-proof properties over a longer amount of time. From a practical standpoint, as long as you have an optic with either of these inert dry gases, you’re ahead of the game, versus having none.

Remember: Not all waterproof binoculars are fog proof, but all fog-proof binoculars are waterproof.

Specialty Binoculars

Rangefinders

Rangefinder binoculars have an integrated laser that is used to measure distance from the binocular to an object. They can be used at sea to measure the distance to another ship or possibly someone who needs rescuing, or by hunters to measure the distance to their prey. They can help golfers calculate their swing from the sand trap to the next hole. Rangefinder binoculars typically display the distance to the target in either feet or meters, with the readout visible in the eyepieces.

Technological innovations have made the rangefinders more precise, and some have the ability to do a single spot measurement, or a constantly updated measurement so you can follow a moving subject and get virtually real-time distance. The latest versions incorporate an inclinometer that measures the uphill or downhill angle from you to the subject. An internal computer running proprietary software and using special algorithms geared for golf or hunting can take the distance and angle, and calculate an adjusted distance for you to judge your shot. In the future, you can expect to see GPS tracking or location logging being further integrated into these types of binoculars.

Image-Stabilized

In the same way that digital cameras can have image stabilization, so too, can binoculars. Image stabilization compensates for operator movement, the swaying of a boat, or the vibration inside an aircraft, that normally prevent the viewer from having a steady image. Stabilized binoculars usually contain a gyro that requires power to provide stabilization, or a pendulum-type device that provides stabilization without being powered. Most often, this type of binocular is used by boaters to reduce the disorientation common with high-power optics, or while using them in choppy seas. They are also popular with aviators and search-and-rescue professionals.

Marine/Outdoor

This category of binoculars has features and functions that are made specifically for certain jobs or environments. Marine binoculars will often have polycarbonate housings that are corrosion and temperature resistant for use in salt-water environments, and often will be buoyant, so if they get dropped overboard, they can be easily retrieved; others still will feature bright colors to make them easier to spot.

Some binoculars can contain integrated digital and analog compasses. They will often have the direction displayed in the field of view for easier use and bearing reading. Digital compasses are battery powered and illuminated for use in most light conditions. Analog models can use batteries or might have an opaque window on the top of the housing to channel and focus ambient light to illuminate the compass. Many marine, image-stabilized, and rangefinder models offer versions with or without compasses.

Accessories

Basic accessories serve to replace lost or broken stock items or can simply make carrying or using your binocular a bit easier. These easy upgrades can include the following items.

Tethered caps  These have a ring that loops over the objective end of the housing so when you need to take the caps off you just flip them down and you don’t have to worry about losing them.

Rain Guards  Replace your stock eyepiece caps with a one-piece rain guard that prevents the eyecups from flooding. It will often attach to the neck strap to keep it safe and handy for flash showers.

Straps  Not satisfied with the thin nylon strap that came with your binocular? Get a new one that’s longer, adjustable, padded, ergonomic, buoyant, colored, or outfitted in your favorite camo pattern.

Cleaning kits/supplies  Solutions, pens, cloths, cleaners, kits—everything and anything you need to clean and maintain your optic properly.

Tripod Adapters  As mentioned before, binoculars with magnifications of 10x and higher are hard to hold steady, especially if they have large objectives—usually 50mm and bigger. Large binoculars sometimes have a built-in tripod mount that makes it easy to mount them on a tripod. Sometimes a tripod adapter is required. Typically, full-sized binoculars have a plug that unscrews from the front of center hinge. The adapter screws into its place and mounts on most quick-release plates or tripods. Some tripod mounts are simply a small platform on which to lay the binocular and hold it in place with an adjustable strap.

Harnesses  For most of us, the neck strap that comes with most binoculars is fine. For those who require more, there are numerous options for you. Some are designed to redistribute the weight of the binocular from the neck to the back and shoulders. Others provide a stabilizing function to allow you to hold the optic in your hand while virtually eliminating hand shake or other movements. For those who do activities and want to keep their optic at the ready, some harnesses hold the binocular close to the body and greatly reduce swinging or swaying while running, climbing, or skiing.

Eyecups  As we discussed earlier, the eyecups hold the eye at the proper distance from ocular lens. Some manufacturers offer eyecup upgrades for certain models. The most popular are replacing standard flat eyecups with winged (contoured) eyecups. The “wing” wraps around your eye socket and blocks your peripheral vision, which eliminates light leakage for improved image brightness and a clearer view.

Digiscoping  The use of digiscoping adapters has seen an increase in recent years, since just about every phone in everyone’s pocket is equipped with a camera. These adapters, often binocular and phone-specific, allow you to mount your phone on one of the eyepieces and take photos of the magnified view. Depending on the manufacturer, these adapters can be made of plastic or metal with varying degrees of usability options. The good news is that as the hobby grows, more and more options are made available so you can spend as much or as little you want.

Conclusion

The world of binoculars is vast and constantly evolving. No matter what you’re using them for—from a night at the opera to hunting on the tundra to comet watching—there is something for everyone at every price. This article has offered a basic introduction to the terms and technologies that will affect your buying decision and the overall performance of the optic. After making your selection, don’t forget about the accessories that can enhance your viewing experience and turn a good view into a great view.

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Hi,

I've been thinking about finally getting a decent pair of binoculars. My budget reaches up to around 1000usd (depending on the bang per buck I can get for the higher end lenses etc.

Up to nw the Zeiss Consquest HD series seems to be the best allround outthere...

2 questions:

A: Do you agree with my choice for the Zeiss or are there quite similar binoculars for significantly less money? (I just do not want to buy a second pair 2 years later because I want better quality).

B: I cannot seem to make my mind up between 8x42 or 10x42. I haven't got the steadiest hands but even after reading all the pro's and cons I still have that splinter in the mind for the 10x42 (eventho I seem to read everyone advises a 8x42). The FOV on the Zeiss 10x42 should be a good compensation for the smaller FOV's on cheaper models...correct? I own a cheap 7x50 Gambit I use around the house now.

I live in Holland where everything is flat, so I will use my binoculars around my home in the village or around a farm area with open polders and lakes upto 1 hactare. 

Kindest regards,

Guido

     I whole-heartedly support your decision regarding Zeiss. If you are unsure regarding your ability to hold the 10 x42 model steady, consider a tripod or monopod (if you will be mobile):

     The Conquest 10x42 HD Binocular from Zeiss has a higher magnification that allows concentrating on a more focused subject for greater detail. The golden-mean objective size provides sufficient light gathering ability for the twilight zones of dust and dawn without the added bulk of an oversized objective. Watersports and rainy days won't leave this item in the car or backpack. It is waterproof to 13' and nitrogen filled to provide fogproofing and inhibit any condensation build-up.

Hi,  

My wife and I will be visiting and hiking national parks this coming October.   We are looking for a good set of binoculars for this trip.  $300 or so budget.  Recommendations.   Thanks. 

John

Hi John -

Love these::

     Combining excellent optical performance with ruggedness, portability, and comfort, the 10x42 Diamondback Binocular from Vortex Optics is ideal to take along on your hiking trips, camping, traveling, or just in case. The specially designed optics feature improved transmission, contrast, and true color using fully multi-coated lenses and phase-corrected roof prisms. With the improved close focus of 6.7' you will get plenty of focusing range and a sharp focus on faraway scenery as well as close-ups of nearby street signs, monuments' details, or wildlife. The combination of 10x magnification and the 42mm objectives offers you a generous 6.3° angle of view that gives you complete images of targets.

The lightweight aluminum housing is purged with argon gas and sealed with o-rings to offer enhanced fogproof and waterproof performance. The short-hinge bridge is reduced in size, compared to previous generations of Diamondbacks, to cut overall weight and to expose more of tubes' surface for easy holding. To ensure that you have a non-slip grip and tuning, the body, oversized focusing ring, diopter ring, and twist-up soft tapered eyecups have rubberized coverings. The focusing knob and the diopter ring are textured for easy use even with gloves on. Also included with the binocular are a carry case, neck strap, rainguard, and tethered objective caps.

What is the difference between NIkon monarch 5 and 7 serie?

Good question, Tony.

If you grabbed both the Monarch 5 and Monarch 7 in the B&H Superstore, you would be hard pressed to notice a difference, until you looked through them and saw a wider field of view in the 7's (6.3 degrees vs. 8.0 degrees). That is the biggest difference between the 2 pairs. There may be slight differences in construction and ergonomics as well, but those things are not available readily in the specs.

Having looked through them, I can tell you that they are both very very good binoculars and represent an excellent value.

Please let us know if you have any more questions. Thanks for reading!

Looking for a fog proof 10X pair, roof prism, for Elk Hunting in the Colorado mountains this October.  I'm 63 and wear glasses.  Weight and cost (under $250) are considerations.  What are your recomendations?  Thanks,  Steve from Hawaii

Hi Steven -

I like these so very much:

Combining excellent optical performance with ruggedness, portability, and comfort, the 10x42 Diamondback Binocular from Vortex Optics is ideal to take along on your hiking trips, camping, traveling, or just in case. The specially designed optics feature improved transmission, contrast, and true color using fully multi-coated lenses and phase-corrected roof prisms. With the improved close focus of 6.7' you will get plenty of focusing range and a sharp focus on faraway scenery as well as close-ups of nearby street signs, monuments' details, or wildlife. The combination of 10x magnification and the 42mm objectives offers you a generous 6.3° angle of view that gives you complete images of targets.

The lightweight aluminum housing is purged with argon gas and sealed with o-rings to offer enhanced fogproof and waterproof performance. The short-hinge bridge is reduced in size, compared to previous generations of Diamondbacks, to cut overall weight and to expose more of tubes' surface for easy holding. To ensure that you have a non-slip grip and tuning, the body, oversized focusing ring, diopter ring, and twist-up soft tapered eyecups have rubberized coverings. The focusing knob and the diopter ring are textured for easy use even with gloves on. Also included with the binocular are a carry case, neck strap, rainguard, and tethered objective caps.

What is the best image stabilized binocular----12 power. How is the canon 12x36 IS III??  Prism, exit pupil, weatherproof and fog proof???

The Canon 12x36 IS III is ok,  but the Nikon 14x40 StabilEyes VR Image Stabilized Binocular would be a better option since it features a phase coated prism and 3 degree motion compensation on each axis.

Hello, Thank you for the detailed information in the article. It was very helpful.

I am trying to pickout a great pair of binoculars for my boyfriend and we will be using them in a few different ways. We live in Stamfort Connecticut on one of the top floors of a highrise building right on Long Island Sound. So we have amazing views of the Connecticut coast line, North Shore of long island, all of downtown Stamford, Rye Playland fireworks every Friday, and a clear view of the City lights of New York. But we want to be able to see them better.

We also would be using these binoculars to go Sailing , Kayaking, Hiking, and of course  spying on the neighbors once in a while. :-)

Also, i read that you have a few binoculars with zoom optiond and build in camers and HD video.cameras.

My budget in 300.00 , can you please recomment a few options, I know that I an asking alot but I am hoping you could help.

Thank You!!

Jennifer
 

Hello, I wamt binoculars to watch birds in my yard and for general purposes such as sports games & concerts.  Yet, I am about to embark on a road trip which will take me through mountains, so I also want to get the best long distance view for such.  What would you recommend?  Thank you.

Hi Kali -

For birding, most folks recommend 8x or 10x power binoculars. If your hands are super steady, you can use 10x. If they aren't, I recommend 8x. The more powerful the binocular, the more shake can appear in the image.

After you decide on what power, you then chose the objective lens diameter. The larger the lens, the more light comes in and the brighter the image. Also, the larger the lens, the more heavy and expensive. Most birders find that an objective around 40-44mm is perfect for birding and a good compromise between light gathering and weight. If you want to stay with a lighter pair, look for objectives around 30mm. I wouldn't go smaller than 30mm, however, as the binoculars tend to not be very bright when smaller than that.

Lastly, once you decide on power and objective size, check prices and customer reviews and choose a pair!

Our best-selling 8x42 are the Celestron Nature DX. Here is the 10x version:  Celestron 10x42 Nature DX Binocular. The Nikon ProStaff 3S are very popular as well. My advice is to always get the best pair you can afford. In general, the more you spend, the better the view...and the more you will want to use the binoculars for years to come!

Hi, I have a question. By mistake I bought from you a binocular Nikon 8x32.75, probably because they were on sale.  I had intended to use them for bird-watching in Rwanda.  I was advised that they were not suitable by a friend and furthermore they were pretty heavy.  I then bought from you a lighter and stronger pair, not Nikon, which worked well.  Unfortunately, they were stolen quite a while ago.  I do quite a lot of bird photography and a decent pair of binoculars is very helpful in combination with my 300mm telephoto lens (SONY).  I am mostly retired and short on funds.  Do you have any suggestions?  I hope to go to Pt Reyes this summer and to work with the binoculars and camera to capture birds in flight.  suzanne

Hi Suzanne,

Thanks for your question. When you have time, you might want to check out this article on birding with binoculars: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/outdoors/tips-and-solutions/guide-birding-binoculars

For birding, most folks recommend 8x or 10x power binoculars. If your hands are super steady, you can use 10x. If they aren't, I recommend 8x. The more powerful the binocular, the more shake can appear in the image.

After you decide on what power, you then chose the objective lens diameter. The larger the lens, the more light comes in and the brighter the image. Also, the larger the lens, the more heavy and expensive. Most birders find that an objective around 40-44mm is perfect for birding and a good compromise between light gathering and weight. If you want to stay with a lighter pair, look for objectives around 30mm. I wouldn't go smaller than 30mm, however, as the binoculars tend to not be very bright when smaller than that.

Lastly, once you decide on power and objective size, check prices and customer reviews and choose a pair!

Our best-selling 8x42 are the Celestron Nature DX. The Nikon ProStaff 3S are very popular as well. My advice is to always get the best pair you can afford. In general, the more you spend, the better the view...and the more you will want to use the binoculars for years to come!

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

What would be your recommendation for binoculars that would be used in Alaska land/sea trip, as well as, whale watching off Victoria, BC?  Can you recommend at a couple of price levels?  I noticed one recommended below, but I was not sure if that was more a price consideration or it was the best one.

Hi Stephen -

"Best" is a very relative term.  For the activities you are describing, consider the following binocular recommendations:

Vortex 15x56 Vulture HD Binocular

Vortex 20x56 Kaibab HD Roof-Prism Binocular

Nikon's 10x42 Prostaff 7S Binocular

Vanguard Endeavor ED 8x42 Binocular

Vanguard Endeavor ED 10x42 Binocular

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hi

I am looking for a binocular that is easy for use with eyglasses, the purpose is for nature watching on an Amazon cruise.

Thank you

Hi gili,

Depending on how much weight you want to carry, I would recommend 8x40 or 8x30 binoculars...the 8x30 being lighter and more compact.

As far as eyeglass use, you can either use the binoculars with your glasses on or without.

With eyeglasses. Most binoculars have twist up/down or fold up/down eye cups that allow you to view while wearing glasses. You will want to retract the eye cups, either by twisting them down or folding them down or removing them, so that your eyeglasses can get very close to the viewing lens.

Without eyeglasses. If you want to view without your eyeglasses, most binoculars have diopter adjustments that allow you to set the binoculars for your uncorrected vision, so keep an eye out for that feature.

Now that you know that, you just have to choose a pair that meets your budget. Feel free to write back here or email us at askbh@bhphoto.com.

Thanks for reading!

Hey My name is bereket I'm living in ethiopia I'm studying about birds and I really get get 8×40 binocular how can I find that please

Hi bereket! Thanks for emailing us!

Try clicking on this link for all of our 8x binoculars between 40mm and 44mm objectives.

Our best-selling 8x42 binocular is the Celestron Nature DX.

The Nikon Monarchs and Prostaff 7 are very good as well. It all depends on your budget!

Good luck!

Nice article. What are some good choices for binocular to take on bicycle rides for viewing birds?

Hey Kent,

When biking, you'll want a lighter and smaller pair of binoculars, so I would look for something in the 30mm objective range. An example would be the excellent Nikon 8x30 Monarch 7 Binoculars.

Regardless of what kind of binoculars you carry, a binocular harness might be the best way to take your glasses on a bike ride. They will prevent the binoculars from swinging and keep the weight off of your neck.

Thanks for reading.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hello! I'm Pramod from India!
First of all, Sorry for my bad English!
I want to know that, suppose if I want to recognise the man, who is 1km away from me then, what magnification's binocular should I use?
I've asked the same question to many binocular sellers... but they confused me more!!

Hi Pramod -

Depending upon the level of recognition/identification required my minimum recommendation would be a binocular with 15X to 20X magnification:

Vortex 15x56 Vulture HD Binocular

Vortex 20x56 Kaibab HD Roof-Prism Binocular

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Is there ONE binocular that would cover kayaking, an Alaskan cruise, an upcoming, sightseeing trip to Yosemite and watching

my favorite baseball players at the stadium? 

Hi Cathy -

Nikon's 10x42 Prostaff 7S Binocular combines optical performance with rugged construction details to create a versatile binocular that is as at home in the stadium, as it is in the woods, or on the boat. The Prostaff's environmentally friendly lead and arsenic-free Eco-glass is fully multicoated to maximize light transmission and reduce light loss. Complementing the lenses are phase-corrected and dielectric-coated roof prisms. The combination of glass and optical coatings produces high contrast views that are bright and clear, even in low-light conditions, with true color fidelity across the entire field of view.

The 7S features a strong and lightweight fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate resin body that makes it easy to pack and carry, with less fatigue while viewing through them. To withstand the elements wherever you use them the housing is O-ring sealed allowing it to be submersible to 3.3' for up to 10 minutes, and is nitrogen filled for fogproof performance. Black rubber armoring provides protection from drops and impacts, as well as a sure non-slip grip.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Great article, but I think that there is one techinical error here:

"If your binoculars’ exit pupil diameter is smaller than the pupil of your eye, it’s going to seem like you’re looking through a peep hole. Bear in mind that as eyes age, they tend to dilate less, so exit pupil becomes more important as the user ages."

If my ageing eyes dilate less, then the pupil stays smaller, so a large exit pupil diameter is less important, not more. On the other hand, if my ageing eyes contrict less (i.e., the opposite of dilate) then, indeed, a larger exit pupil diameter is more important for older binocular users.  I am not sure which of these is correct, but think you may need to make the necessary change to your otherwise very helpful article. 

What would you recommend? I am a kayaker and enjoy watching the ospreys flying in the sky and the water birds on the shore. Would like to spend under $150. I have trouble with seeing double with binoculars. i am a woman and have a narrow face.

BTW - i kayak on a smaller lake, so shore birds are within 50 yards.

Hi Brenda -

Bushnell's 10x42 Legend E-Series Binocular lives up to the name by offering a full-feature optic designed for a rugged life on the trail. Its 42mm objectives provide competent light-gathering capabilities for use from dawn to dusk while a compact BAK4 roof prism optical path maintains a low profile without sacrificing performance. The entire optical system is anti-reflection fully multicoated with ultra-wide band coatings that create bright and clear images with true color rendition across the entire visible spectrum. Rounding out the performance is a wide-angle 65° angle of view that translates to an immersive 340' field of view at 1000 yards.

I'm a bit confused.  It seems to me that the image captions for the "closed" and "open" bridge pictures are reversed.  Am I missing something?  Very nice article, however!

Bushnell 134211 is same price here as on Amazon. Bought here due to quality of this article.

Same here. its nice to find such a helpful store! 

Hi,

What a great article !  Now I may ask, with all the choices out there, I'm looking for a good quality binocular with good range for terrestrial and sky observation, with a price in the 175-200 range.  My wife and I just moved into a Florida apartment with a wonderful view day and night.

Can you recommend anything ???

Hi Dennis -

The 20-140x80 Gladiator Zoom Binocular from Barska is designed for long distance terrestrial and astronomical viewing. The expansive variable magnification range of the binocular allows the viewer to scan a large field of view and then zoom in on the selected object for a closer and greater detailed look. A zoom thumb-lever for making quick and smooth magnifications is featured. Fold-down eyecups are incorporated into the eyepieces for comfort viewing with or without eyeglasses.

The 20-140x80 Gladiator Zoom binocular has BAK4 porro prisms and multicoated optics. Zoom magnification, large green tinted objective lenses, shock-absorbing rubber armor, and a braced-in tripod mounting post for a steady view, contribute to a binocular that's ideal for astronomical or long distance terrestrial viewing.

AAoV of 20.6°

Green objective lenses reduce glare in excessive sunlight

Thumb-lever allows quick and smooth zoom magnification changes

Rubber armoring provides a secure and comfortable grip, as well as added shock-resistance

Fold-down eyecups furnish comfortable viewing with less eye-fatigue with or without eye or sunglasses

Braced-in tripod mounting post contributes strength and durability while providing a steady and secure integrated tripod mount adaptor

Multicoated optics on at least one lens surface reduces light loss and glare due to reflection offering a brighter, higher-contrast image

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

THANK YOU 10000X for posting this article!!!!  So incredibly helpful and illuminating!!! Very much appreciated!!!!

This articale was extremely informative and usejul. Very glad I read it before buying a pair of

finoculars for a sightseing trip.
 

I am considering binoculars instead of a telescope for long range (1/2 mile--10 miles) from the deck of my elevated home.  Interested in closer views of the valley below, traffic, wildlife, bikers, hikers, etc.

I am looking for max magnification, while portability and lightweight are less important.  What do you recommend for something on the less expesnive side, and is a tripod a necessity?

Hi Joel -

The 25-125x80 Gladiator Zoom Binocular from Barska is designed for long distance terrestrial and astronomical viewing. The expansive variable magnification range of the binocular allows the viewer to scan a large field of view and then zoom in on the selected object for a closer and greater detailed look. A zoom thumb-lever for making quick and smooth magnifications is featured. Fold-down eyecups are incorporated into the eyepieces for comfort viewing with or without eyeglasses.

The 25-125x80 Gladiator Zoom binocular has BAK4 porro prisms and multicoated optics. Zoom magnification, large green tinted objective lenses, shock-absorbing rubber armor, and a braced-in tripod mounting post for a steady view, contribute to a binocular that's ideal for astronomical or long distance terrestrial viewing.

These are the highest magnification glasses offered at B&H:

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

:

Hello - we are going on an Alaskan cruise and are looking for a good recommendation or two for wildlife viewing binoculars. We'd like waterproof/fogproof since we'll be doing viewing from both the ship and also land excursions with potential for rainfall.  We're both in our 50's and both wear glasses and are looking for a lighter weight or more compact type with a wider viewing angle.

Thank you!

The Nikon 8x25 Trailblazer ATB Binocular would be recommended. These will provide a very sharp and bright viewing experience thanks to the Nikon multi-coated glass and will have a wide viewing angle with an 8x magnification. Additionally these would be fog proof/ water proof and their compact and lightweight design makes them ideal for travel.

http://bhpho.to/1oTPpHU

Looking for a pair of binoculars that are roof prism with open bridge.  Will be using for football games but also scenic trips (eg, lake powell).  Price range under $300.00.  Any suggestions?

Hi Marcy -

The Endeavor ED 8x42 Binocular from Vanguard offers an ergonomic, open-bridge design with a large, ridged, central focusing knob for less weight and greater comfort. The fully multicoated ED glass lenses reduce color dispersion; provide high resolution color, increased light transmission, contrast and clarity. Vanguard's V-Max Silver, Anti-reflection and P2 Phase coatings provide near perfect light reflection which offers brighter, crisper images with sharper contrast.

The 56° angle of view, BAK4 roof prisms, and plethora of lens coatings make this binocular the choice for someone who values low weight and high optical quality. Nitrogen-charged and o-ring sealed, the Endeavor ED is waterproof and fogproof to take on challenging weather conditions.

As an 8x42, this Endeavor ED binocular provides a reasonable degree of magnification in a relatively compact device. The viewing angle is comfortably wide enough for distant scanning of shorebirds and unapproachable wildlife, and a very generous eye relief of 19.0 mm allows users a view of the binoculars' entire field.

ED glass lenses render the full spectrum of color

Ergonomic, open-bridge design for a comfortable and attractive form factor

BAK4 roof prisms with P2 phase-coated provide high contrast, high clarity viewing

Twist-up eyecups and a singular ocular dioptic corrector simplify sharing of the unit

56° angle of view (AAoV) allows more landscape to be contemplated with one appraisal

V-Max Silver, P2 Phase, and Anti-Reflection coatings ensure excellent contrast, brightness and clarity

Fully multicoated optics mean multiple layers on all air to glass surfaces for a brighter, higher-contrast image with less eyestrain

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I am am older women, with a bit of shakeness, visiting the National Parks this year.  So the view of scerenery will be my focus. I learned a great deal from this article and would like you to recomend a binocular that is light weigh and fog proof.  The budget is under $200.00.Thank you. K

The Bushnell 6x30 NatureView Porro Binocular would be recommended for your purposes. These would provide bright and clear viewing and the lower magnification will help reduce shake. They are both fog and waterproof and fairly lightweight at just over a pound. http://bhpho.to/1PRci8M

This is the best article I have read on how to buy binoculars.  Thank you so very much!!!

I learned a lot. thanks, but i am still a bit confused. If the only difference is the price how do you decide? I am going on safari. 

If the deciding factor is price alone, then within your budget look for the higher quality optics. I would suggest sending us an email, sportoptics@bandh.com, and let us know the budget range you are working within, we’d be happy to recommend some suitable options for you. 

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