Outdoors / Buying Guide

The B&H Binocular Buying Guide

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Despite their popularity, the way binoculars work, what makes one better (or different) than another, and what all the numbers mean, are still rather mysterious to many prospective buyers. Read on and find out all you need to know about the ubiquitous binocular before making your choice so you can be sure you’re choosing the right one for whatever you’re planning on viewing.

The Basics

Simply stated, binoculars use a series of lenses, elements, and prisms 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 than using a spotting scope or telescope—which requires you to keep 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. This is because the physical appearance and size of a binocular is determined by the type of prism it uses. 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 flopped. There are two principal 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. 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 less than $30 to nearly $3,000. The main reasons for such a large 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 housing material. Additionally, the prism type can be (and often is) 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, Ignazio Porro, who designed this prism system around 1850. 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 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 at which 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, resulting in thinner optical tubes that tend to be more comfortable to hold—especially during long glassing sessions. Zeiss is known for using SP prisms.

Pro Tip: Because Porro prism binoculars are typically more cost effective to produce than 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 are identified by a set of numbers, such as 10x42 and 7x20, which refer to their magnification and objective lens diameter, respectively. 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 it appears to 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, holding binoculars greater than 10x42 steady for long periods may present some difficulty, 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 how much light it can gather. In basic terms: larger objectives allow more light to pass through them than smaller lenses, which means images will appear brighter, sharper, and clearer. However, the larger objectives will also add 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 comfortably.

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 so you can adjust the magnification without changing your grip or taking the eyepieces away from your eyes. 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, this 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.

Pro Tip: Hunters, birders, and astronomers should keep the magnifications at 8x and below and boost the objectives up over 50mm to produce really wide exit pupils, such as this pair of 8x56 from Steiner. I used this specific pair in the middle of the night and they could completely cover my pupils, which boosted my ability to see, despite the dark surroundings. Boaters should also consider this type of configuration because the wide exit pupil will help to minimize the disorientation that is common when viewing through binoculars on pitching or rolling water.

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 (eyepiece). 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 fine-tune the focusing system to their eye prescriptions to use the binocular without their glasses. If your prescription is difficult, or you’re sharing the binocular with other users, the eyecups are often adjustable. Basic eyecups simply fold back to allow you to place your eyeglass lenses closer to the ocular lens. Another type is adjustable eyecups that twist in and out to set the proper distance for the individual user precisely.

Generally, you’ll find that models with longer eye relief have a smaller field of view than similarly priced models with shorter eye relief. Accomplishing superlative specifications 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 it isn’t ground and polished correctly, it could bend light oddly, causing colors to look skewed or prevent its ability to achieve tack-sharp 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 binoculars made with “Eco-glass.” This general term refers to ecologically friendly glass that doesn’t use lead or arsenic. 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 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 of slightly 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
Lens coatings are 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 and sharper. 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, multi-coated and fully multi-coated 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. Multi-coated means that multiple surfaces are coated and/or multiple layers of coatings have been applied to each surface. Fully multi-coated 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 multi-coated. These coatings are engineered to be effective across a wide spectrum of wavelengths and provide the best performance.

Prism Coatings
Complementing lens coatings are prism coatings, which 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 prism coating, only used on roof prisms, is called “phase-correcting” coating. Because of the way roof prims reflect light, after it moves through the objective lens, it gets split into two separate beams that travel through the prism system independently. The beams experience a “phase shift” as one beam strikes the eyepiece lens a fraction of a second before the second beam. When the two beams are recombined in the eyepiece lens they are slightly out of phase with each other, which can affect color balance and rendition. By applying special coatings on the prism, the faster light beam is slowed to match the slower beam, bringing them back into phase when they hit the eyepiece lens—greatly improving color, clarity, and contrast versus non-phase-corrected prism binoculars. Under normal circumstances, most users won’t notice the difference, but pro users and avid birdwatchers may require it to be able to pick out important details at a distance or in challenging light. Since Porro prisms don’t suffer from phase shift, these coatings are not used on them.

Angle of View and Field of View

Angles 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 binocular. 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 roughly 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 the 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 more than 60 degrees is considered wide-angle. Nikon engineers developed their own mathematical formula to determine AAoV (see below) more accurately and precisely, which lowers the angle on average, but most of the optics industry continues to use the first formula for consistency and simplicity.

tan ω' = Γ x tan ω

Apparent field of view: 2ω'

Real field of view: 2ω

Magnification: Γ

Pro Tip: While shopping for binoculars, if 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
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, the higher the magnification and smaller the objective, the narrower 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 1,000 yards. From there you can start calculating.

So if you have an 8x42 binocular and 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 that are far away; and for most users this 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 close minimum focus distance that can allow them to see minute detail of birds—like wing bars, beak shape, or 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 interested in a short close-focus distance, they should look at larger objectives 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 wraparound grip, but it also cuts the overall weight of the optic.

Focusing

The clear majority of binoculars use a center focus system. The main focus wheel is set on the bridge 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 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. Some users with exceptionally poor eyesight or weak eyes should probably steer clear of focus-free models because they put a lot of stress on the eye and can cause discomfort such as eye strain or headaches.

Steiner 8x56 ShadowQuest Binocular

Pro Tip: If you plan on sharing your binoculars or using them for a variety of distances, stick with center-focusing models. For astronomy or marine use, individual focus will provide the sharpest views and you won’t have to adjust the focus very often because they will be focused on “infinity” (far-away subjects) where the focus won’t change much.

Weather Resistant, Waterproof, Fog Proof

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, because moisture can get inside them. When water gets into the optical tubes, it can condense on the inside of the lens (called “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 type of seal—an O-ring or gasket—to keep moisture, such as from general humidity or a light mist, from getting into the optical tubes. You can take a weather-resistant binocular out in moist conditions without causing damage. The air inside the optical tube will probably be just ambient air from the factory where they were assembled, and due to air conditioning and other factors, will usually have an extremely low moisture content. What this means is that under most normal conditions, a binocular right out of the box shouldn’t have fogging issues, even if it is O-ring or gasket sealed.

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 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 gases 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 constant question I am asked is, “What’s the difference between nitrogen and argon?” A quick Google search will return many links to forums where people have very strong opinions on the matter and will get into any number of online arguments over the subject. The short answer is that, performance-wise, there really isn’t much of a difference between the two for the clear majority of people. Both gases will keep moisture out and prevent internal fogging. If you do a deep-dive into the chemistry and look at a diagram of each molecule, you will see that argon molecules are larger than nitrogen molecules. Because of this, some manufacturers feel the larger argon 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 period of time. From a practical standpoint, as long as you have an optic with either of these inert dry gases versus having none, you’re ahead of the game.

Pro Tip: Remember… all fog-proof binoculars are waterproof, but NOT all waterproof binoculars are fog-proof.

Chassis Materials

The chassis is the frame of the binocular around which the whole optic is built.

Aluminum
By and large, the most popular material on the market is aluminum—or more specifically, an aluminum alloy. Aluminum is light and strong, inexpensive, and easy to work with, and the fact that it is naturally corrosion resistant is a bonus, as well.

Magnesium
Another metal alloy, magnesium, is used because of its high strength-to-weight ratio. All things being equal on two identical binoculars, except that one has an aluminum chassis and the other magnesium, the magnesium will be several ounces lighter. Why does this matter? If you’re planning on holding them up to your eyes for long periods of time, a lighter optic will cause less fatigue. Magnesium is very strong so it will hold up to abuse, and has the benefit of being corrosion-resistant.

Polycarbonate
Polycarbonate is a polymer resin that comes in many formulas with many different properties. In general, they all share similar characteristics, such as being easy to work with and inexpensive, corrosion proof, and strong. The principal advantage of using polycarbonate is that it is temperature resistant. If you’re using the optic in extreme conditions (especially cold) the chassis will remain at a neutral temperature—unlike metals, which can (and will) get cold, given enough time. More importantly, metal expands and contracts with temperature fluctuations, so over the years that constant movement can pull the optics out of columniation, which will prevent the optic from being able to achieve tack-sharp focus. Since polycarbonates won’t expand and contract, they are not subject to this possibility.

Pro Tip: Don’t be fooled by catchphrases like “aerospace-grade” or “aircraft-grade”—these don’t tell you anything about the quality of the alloy. Ask yourself: What part of the aircraft are they referring to? The bracket that supports the landing gear, or the bracket that supports your snack tray? Technically, they are both “aircraft-grade” because they’re used on an aircraft. Unless the manufacturer calls out a specific alloy—like 6061-T6, which has verifiable specifications—all you need to know is that aluminum is light and strong and leave it at that… and don’t pay for fancy terms that don’t mean anything.

Specialty Binoculars

Rangefinders
Rangefinder binoculars have an integrated infrared (IR) 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, help hunters to measure the distance to their subject, or aid golfers to calculate their swing to the green. 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 can 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, and often have an internal computer running proprietary software and using special algorithms geared for golf or hunting can take the distance and angle (and even your cartridge and grain load), and calculate an adjusted distance for you to judge your shot, or show the click adjustment required on your scope.

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 gyroscope 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
Marine binoculars will often have polycarbonate housings that are corrosion- and temperature resistant for use in saltwater environments, and might even be buoyant, so if they get dropped overboard, they can be retrieved easily; others still will feature bright colors to make them easier to spot.

Some binoculars can have 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.

Digital Camera Binoculars
It seems like today manufacturers are putting cameras in or on just about anything – and binoculars are no exception. This growing class of binoculars feature integrated cameras, up to 13MP, with color display screen and a memory card slot. A simple user interface allows you to capture HD video or still images and either use the memory card to upload them to a computer or plug a cable into the two and transfer that way. For many people, if there isn’t a picture then it didn’t happen, so with this kind of binocular when you see that rare bird during the Spring Migration you can now quickly grab video of it and prove that you saw it.

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 two stock eyepiece caps with a one-piece cap 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. 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 the 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, either binocular, phone-specific or (growing in popularity) universal fit, 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.

Pro Tip: Digiscoping adapters are inexpensive and very easy to use. If you want to get some great shots of birds, squirrels, the Moon, or your kids playing soccer or baseball, this method is much easier and cheaper to use than carrying around a DSLR and long lens.

Final Thoughts on the Long View

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.

Did I leave something out? Have a question that I didn’t answer? Drop a comment below and we’ll discuss. Happy Glassing.

186 Comments

Hello. I've narrowed my search down to either the Zeiss 8x42 Terra ED or the Nikon Monarch 8x42. Any thoughts on which would be better suited for a newbie bird watcher?

Hi Jeff - 

Both glasses are excellent choices with the edge going to Zeiss on this one.  It has a much closer minimum focusing distance and a wider field of view. The Zeiss are on a terrific promotion right now so their price is only a bit higher than the Nikon's.

I am shopping for African safari binoculars for a 10 and a 12 year old (about $100-150) and for the parents (a little more $$!) Any recomendations would be great!! I have the Bushnell 10x42 Trophy in my cart for the kids and Nikon Pro Staff 3S for the adults, but the choices are a bit overwhelming!! Thanks!

Hi Janet - 

Both  binoculars are fine choices.

For the kids:

Bushnell's RealTree Xtreme camouflage 10x42 Trophy Binocular (B&H # BU10X42R) utilize BAK4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics to create a versatile and capable optic that produces bright and clear images with accurate color rendition. Coupled with the optical features are 42mm diameter objectives which give the binocular very competent low-light performance, while setting the magnification at 10x allows you to resolve fine details at distances while maintaining a wide field of view. This combination of magnification, optics, objectives, plus a wide viewing angle make the Trophy ideally suited for most outdoor activities from hunting, to birding, to boating, and sporting events.

For the grown-up kids:

Nikon's black 10x42 ProStaff 3S Binocular (B&H # NIPS3S10X42) features silver-alloy coated roof prisms and anti-reflection multi-coated optics that produces bright and clear high-contrast images with true color rendition across its entire field of view. To help offset visible hand-shake often associated with 10x power and higher optics, Nikon built this binocular with a wide 63° apparent angle of view to limit disorientation and improve the observational experience in most lighting conditions, and even in the most extreme weather. Whether you're hunting or birding, boating or watching your favorite team, this ProStaff will quickly become indispensable for all you're outdoor activities.

Thank you!!

I am shopping for a pair of binoculars for my husband and I to use on an expedition to Antarctica next year. Then, the following year, I would like to use the same binoculars for a safari, possibly buying a second pair by then. I'm having analysis paralysis trying to decide betwenn 8x and 10x and also 32 or 42. Several seem like good choices: Zeiss, 8x32 Terre ED, Hawke Sport Optics 8x42, Vortex Diamondback 10x42 and Nikon 10x42 ProStaff 3S. My husband will probably use them more than I will since I will be the one behind the camera but I definitely want to be able to share them. You can tell my price range from the models listed. Advice is appreicated. Thank you.

Hi Marty - 

Our current prices are posted on our website.  Just enter the B&H model numbers below into our search bar located near the top of the page.

My favorite for the money:  

Vortex Diamondback 10x42 Binocular B&H # VODB10X42

                  ------------------------- 

Zeiss 8x32 Terra ED Binocular B&H # ZE8X32TBEUAE

Hawke Sport Optics 8x42 Endurance ED Binocular (Black) B&H # HA8X42EBB 

Nikon 10x42 ProStaff 3S Binocular (Black) B&H # NIPS3S10X4

Thank you!

I too am shopping for a pair of binoculars for my husband for Christmas. We live in a condominium building overlooking Lake Superior and he likes to look at the cargo ships coming in and out and the different boats on the water. I am thinking something 10x or 10-30x. We would probably just keep it mounted on a tripod if I bought a heavier set, but would prefer something lighter. 

Hi Karin - 

Built for power, performance, and versatility, the 10-30x50 Level Zoom Binocular from Barska (B&H # BA1030X50B) integrates a thumb lever that allows you to take in a large field of view at a low magnification, and with a quick slide of the lever, increase the magnification to make detailed observations at a distance. Utilizing large objectives, anti-reflection fully multi-coated optics, and a traditional Porro prism optical path, you are provided with a rich depth of field and high-contrast images that are bright and clear with color rendition. Its protective rubber armoring is textured to provide a slip-resistant grip, and if you're planning on glassing for extended periods the Level Zoom can be mounted on a tripod using an optional adapter.

Combining excellent optical performance with ruggedness, portability, and comfort, the 10x50 Diamondback Binocular from Vortex Optics (B&H # VODB10X50) 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 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 50mm objectives, which are ideal for low-light conditions and even star-gazing, offers you a generous 6° angle of view that gives you complete images of targets.

I am shopping for a pair of good binoculars for my husband for Christmas.  We attend all of the UGA games, so this pair would be used for viewing sporting events.  Our daughter is in the marching band there, so we will also use them to follow her on the field.  I have read about the image stabilization of the Canon produts, but I am not sure if we need it?  Do you have a great pair that you would recommend for my gift?  Also, my husband wear glasses

Hi Polly - 

Consider the Razor HD 8x42 Binocular from Vortex  (B&H # VOR8X42HD ), it is smaller, lighter, brighter and stronger than ever before. It is a versatile optic that is ideal for multiple applications from close to long-distance observation. Its lightweight construction and high optical performance make it an extremely desirable viewing instrument.

Please suggest the kind of magnification and other specs recommended for Binoculars that would be used for viewing frescoes on high ceilings and viewing large paintings in museums. 

Hi Jai - 

Vixen OpticsAtrek II 8x32 DCF Binocular gives you a compact optic that fits comfortably your hand while having the benefits of a nearly full-sized binocular. A combination of features work together to produce bright and clear images with increased contrast and true color rendition. These features include BAK4 roof prisms for improved color and contrast, anti-reflection fully multi-coated optics which limit light loss for brighter images, and field flattener lenses which virtually eliminate distortion at the edges for clear images across the entire generous field of view. The Atrek is offered here in a 8x power which provides a nice general purpose magnification with a wide 60° apparent angle of view.

The lightweight housing is nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed, enabling it to withstand use in wet and snowy weather without fogging when going from extreme temperature changes, and the rubberized armor offers protection from impacts while providing a slip-resistant grip. The Atrek's single-hinge closed-bridge design facilitates easy one-handed use, while the center focus wheel enables fast focusing. Twist-up eyecups makes it comfortable to use with or without eyewear.

Since you're not looking at really far distance, I don't think you need anything more than 6x or 7x...this lower power will bring the subject in close while maintaining a wide field of view. If you need  more power, I wouldn't go any higher than 8x. Also, depending on the objective lens diameter you go with, keeping the power to the 6-7x range you'll also benefit from a wide exit pupil and (generally) longer eye relief.

I know that some museums, like the Louvre or Musee d'Orsay, are well lit - while some parts of Versailles, cathedrals and churches like the Sistine Chapel - are a bit dim (almost dark)...so if you can handle a bino larger than a compact (up to 25mm objective lens diameter) you may want to think about upping the size to a 30-40mm to help make the view brighter if you know the rooms will have challenging lighting.

I hope this helped with your decision. If you want to discuss options after digesting this new info, feel free to click into our live chat or call our phone sales and the great people over there can assist you further.

-c

Greetings:

I am a fairly new birder and purchased Nikon Monarch M511 8x42 6.3 waterproof binoculars about 2 years ago from B&H. While I was in Equador this spring the side hinge where I attached my Nikon harness broke on the left side. I have no means of atttaching them now to the harness. I have enjoyed these as effective "starter" binoculars. With the loss of the capacity to wear my harness, I am considering upgrading. I would appreciate a suggestion for a new pair, as the broken part seems to be an integral part of the frame and not something that can be repaired. I would like to be able to see subtle colors, wing bars and eye ring color at the same or greater distance than I can with the Monarchs. Waterproof, as light a weight as possible.

Thaks you for your consideration,

Bonnie S.

Good afternoon Bonnie! Sad news about your Nikons - they seem to have given you some good service over the years.

First, before you relegate them to a shelf, I would suggest reaching out to the Nikon service department...it's worth a call or email and they may surprise you.

Second, if you feel like you're ready to upgrade there are any number of questions that need to be answered before offering solid recommendations including (but not limited to): Budget, Primary use, and Preference of Roof or Porro. You may want to head over to the B&H website and either call our excellent phone sales, or click on the live chat.

That being said, I feel like I can give you some places to start looking. If you want to see that level of detail, and you're looking at roof prisms, make sure the prisms are phase corrected. This will improve contrast, clarity, and resolution. Also, consider non-standard magnification like 8.5x that will boost the image size without drastically limiting the field of view or exit pupil like a 10x might.

Nikon's Monarch 7 is similar to your old pair and will feel very familar..ED glass, phase corrected, and water/fogproof. You can't go wrong. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/880214-REG/Nikon_7548_8x42_Monarch_7_Binocular.html

Personally, I'm a fan of Vortex, and the Diamondback is a good choice. Phase corrected and water/fogproof as the Nikons, but with a wide apparent angle of view. The lack of ED glass drops the price point considerable versus the Monarch 7 https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1200176-REG/vortex_db_205_8x32_diamondback_binocular_green_black.html.

An ED Vortex model would be the Viper HD and has a lot of the features of the Diamonback, but with the improved glass plus highly-reflective dielectric prism coatings that boost light transmission, contrast and clarity https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/750738-USA/Vortex_VPR_4208_HD_Viper_HD_8x42_Roof.html

Of course, you can NEVER go wrong with Zeiss...the Terra ED has ED glass (obviously), phase corrected, a short close focus, a decent AoV, but with a long eye relief. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1303867-REG/zeiss_524203_9901_8x42_terra_ed_binocular.html

Again, if none of these strike your fancy, give us a call or click the chat button and our great sales team will be happy to assist you further.

Happy glassing!

-chris

Hello,

Thanks for writing this guide. It was really helpful for me. Do you have any suggestions for a good high end, ($800-1200) binocular? I prefer 42mm and don’t have any preferences for brand.

Any help would be appreciated, thanks.

Hi Daniel - 

The Razor HD 10x42 Binocular from Vortex is smaller, lighter, brighter and stronger than ever before. It is a versatile optic that is ideal for multiple applications from close to long-distance observation. Its lightweight construction and high optical performance make it an extremely desirable viewing instrument.

The binocular renders views in high contrast with accurate color through the use of high-definition (HD) extra-low dispersion (ED) glass, an apochromatic lens configuration, XR-Plus lens coatings, and dielectric and phase-correcting prism coatings, which raise the level of optical excellence for this roof prism binocular. The benefits include excellence in color sharpness, coating durability, overall performance, increased resolution, color fidelity, clarity, brightness, and greater light transmission. Additional lens protection from scratches, oil and dust is provided by the ArmorTek exterior lens coating.

The Razor HD is argon-filled and sealed with O-rings to ensure reliable and durable protection against dust, debris, fog and water. It is rubber armored for non-slip and durable protection, and is equipped with a large focusing knob that is easy to use even while wearing gloves. Naturally contoured to perfectly fit your hands, promoting comfort and eliminating user-fatigue Vortex has once again created a winning combination of features.

Good afternoon,

I agree that the Razor is a great choice - Vortex is one of my favorite brands. I can also offer my two-cents (and a few suggestions) in addition to Mark's.

A new company that we just brought into stock is GPO USA. Offered in 8x and 10x they are packed with the performance features you want: ED glass, Phase-corrected BAK4 prisms, Nitrogen-filled, Magnesium chassis, all the bells and whistles. I got a chance to try out the 8.5x50 version and they were incredible during the day, at dusk, and at night. The 42mm and 50mm both fall into your price range.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1359522-REG/gpo_usa_b600_8x42_passion_hd_binocular.html

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1359532-REG/gpo_usa_b640_8_5x50_passion_hd_binocular.html

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't point you to the Leica Trinovids: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1210364-REG/leica_40319_10x42_trinovid_hd_binocular.html

All the great stuff you expect from Leica, plus they have an impressive close-focus distance, and the 10x has a wide apparent angle of view which is nice to help minimize the appearance of visible hand-shake that can be distracting.

Finally, there's the perennial favorite: Nikon. The Monarch HG has got it all, plus a slightly lower price-point...and the tethered objective lens caps are super-convenient if you're going to be using them out in the field a lot.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1314384-REG/nikon_16027_8x42_monarch_hg_binocular.html

Happy glassing, and if you need more help, don't hesitate to drop another comment, call our phone sales, or hit up our great chat people

I read your article and was interested in finding out more about the Digiscoping.  When I clicked on the link, which took me to see what products B&H was selling, I became very confused as to what I would actually need, since it showed "adapter rings", "holders", "SnapZoom adapters", etc.  We will soon be leaving for a South African (photo) Safari.  I have an Iphone 6 & my husband has an Iphone 7.  We also have some older binoculars (but I spent several hours researching the best options for possibly purchasing a new pair).  Since this is a one time trip, I do not want to invest a fortune (maybe $150 - $300), but I want to be able to get good views of the animals and possibly take some decent pictures of them, as well.  Can you please make some appropriate suggestions.  Also, are these new gadgits user friendly and will any of them work with older binoculars (Bushnell Citation, 7x35 or Bushnell Imageview 11-1025,10x25)? (The Bushnell Imageview 11-1025 has a built in camera, but drivers are no longers availble to download the pictures from it).  Any & all information would be greatly appreciated.

Good afternoon...let's unpack this and see what we can come up with...

First, let's discuss a new pair of binos for you. You can get some really good stuff while staying within your budget. I would suggest staying at 8x or 10x - this will give you a wide field of view and minimize the affects of bumps and jostles (especially if you're in a vehicle on dirt/non-existant roads) when you're hand-holding the optic.

These Vortex are really nice, with phase-corrected prisms to keep images sharp and colors accurate, and wide angles of view. They're water and fogproof also, so they'll stand up to inclement weather great. I also like the mid-sized 42mm objectives which will give them good low-light capabilities when a lot of game . https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1200179-REG/vortex_db_204_8x42_diamondback_binocular_green_black.html

If you're concerned about size, you can drop down to a pair of Zeiss (top of the line brand) 32mm Terra ED's. This one is on sale, so supplies are limited...but they're one of the best out there. ED glass, fully multi-coated, wide angle of view, water and fogproof, and an extremely short close focus distance. I highly recommend these if you can get them while they last. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1116044-REG/zeiss_523206_9906_000_terra_binocular_10x32_edition_under.html

Two other recommendations are the Celestron TrailSeeker (I have these) and the Nikon Monarch 3's. Take a look, compare and grab the ones you like. You won't be disappointed with any of these.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/917639-REG/celestron_71404_8x42_trailseeker_binocular.html

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/822346-REG/Nikon_7540_Monarch_3_All_Terrain.html

Now...onto digiscoping. I can totally understand where your confustion comes from. I'll try to give you some easy options.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1223147-REG/snapzoom_sz_1_5_snapzoom_universal_digiscoping_adapter.html

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1295901-REG/meade_608007_smartphone_adapter.html

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/924995-REG/carson_ib_542_hookupz_iphone_5_adapter_for.html

I hope this was helpful, and I hope you have a great trip (I'm pretty jealous)

I am in to birding & wild life & I always felt like, more the magnification better it is. What I see been recommended in here is mostly 8 x  -10 x magnification. Would like to get the correct idea as I am going for a new one. Also what do you think about Bushnell 60 x 60 ?

Good afternoon Janaka...

While I'm not familiar with a 60x60 binocular, I can extrapolate some issues you would have with it. First, your exit pupil will be just 1mm, which is prohibitively small - especially if you're observing in challening light like dawn or dusk, or trying to see into heavy brush. For reference, an average person's pupil is dilated to about 2-4mm in bright light, and 4-8mm in the dark. Additionally, your field of view will be quite narrow, so finding and tracking birds and wildlife will be tricky. Finally you will need a rock-solid support system as there is virtually no way to hold something of that magnification and size steady enough to enjoy the view.

An 8x or 10x will give you a comfortable magnification, with average to wide exit pupil, plus you'll get much better fields of view. Holding these magnifications steady will be easier, so you'll be much more mobile. The most popular size is 8x/10x42 as a good balance between aperture and magnification, but you could also do great with a 50mm to boost the low-light performance and exit pupil.

I hope this helps, and if you do decide to go with the 60x60, I'd be interested in knowing how they perform!

-c

Hi Mark, I found the 60 x 60 binoculars for about $50-80. They look pretty poorly built. I also found a pair of 60 x 90’s for just over $110 and they don’t look much better either. I think anything larger than 12 x 50 is hard to handhold and anything over 15 x 70 is impossible. Not sure why people wanting that much magnification don’t go for a spotting scope? 

I have been searching, how and low, for quality glasses with a 4-5 power, for sports events (or concerts if I went!).  I find 8x too powerful.

There are only a few models with 4x power available, but these are clearly not high quality, even though they may be acceptable for their advertised purpose.  I also see many opera glasses, which use Galilean optics that don't have the necessary field of view for sports.

Can you offer your recommendations, thanks.

Hi Barry - 

This super compact and convenient HF5x17DCF BINOCULAR from Vixen Optics is small and practical. With BAK4 roof prisms and multicoated lenses, these pocket sized binoculars deliver clear sharp views. They are slim and flat and the perfect companion for any event where a small sized binocular is a major consideration.

Only 2.8 cm thick; small enough to fit in a shirt pocket or a pocketbook

Durable yet lightweight construction - weight: 6.2 oz / 175 g

Multicoated lenses for optimized viewing

If you move up to a 6x then you might consider:

The Leupold Shadow Gray 6x30 BX-1 Yosemite Binocular features a compact form-factor outfitted with traditional BAK4 Porro prisms and a fully multi-coated optical path to display more depth of field than similar roof prism designs. The resulting images transmitted by the Yosemite binocular have lifelike depth and are crisp and clear with high-contrast and accurate colors across the field of view.

A nitrogen-filled housing provides a fogproof performance, while its rubber armoring and textured ridges deliver a slip-resistant grip. A broad interpupillary adjustment range allows the Yosemite to be comfortably used by those with smaller faces, such as children or young adults. Twist-up eyecups and a long 18mm eye relief help to provide a comfortable viewing distance for all users. This version of the Yosemite comes with a carrying case, neck strap, and lens cloth.

Optical Performance

  • 6x magnification
  • 30mm objective lenses
  • Traditional BAK4 Porro prisms
  • Anti-reflection fully multi-coated optics improve light transmission, color, and contrast
  • 420-foot field of view at 1000 yards
  • Long 18mm eye relief
  • Wide 5mm exit pupil

Use and Handling

  • Large, textured center focusing knob is easy to manipulate in cold or wet conditions, or when wearing gloves
  • Right-eye dioptric correction
  • 50 - 70mm interpupillary distance
  • Twist-up rubber eyecups for comfortable use with or without eyewear

Construction Details

  • Rubber armored body provides a secure slip-resistant grip
  • Nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed to be waterproof and prevents internal fogging when moving through extreme temperature changes
  • 17-ounce weight

Having recently moved to an area in Australia where whale watching is a very pleasurable pastime for both residents and tourists alike, it has now become very obvious to me I need a decent pair of binoculars. Mostly, I will be standing on a hill close to the shoreline viewing whales that can be up to a couple of kilometers out to sea. Some female whales and their calfs are much closer in.

What would be the ideal binocular to look at taking into consideration that very heavy binoclars are out of the question in my case? I already own a tripod being a photographer so I can use an adapter if necessary but I would prefer a binocular that I can hold for a reasonable amount of time. Approximatley US$1,000 would be the maximum please let me know the best to look for.

Also I love to view birds and am I asking too much to expect one pair of binoculars would suit both hobbies? 

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Hi Margaret - 

Taking its place at the top of Nikon's flagship series, the powerful 10x42 Monarch HG Binocular is engineered with complementary technologies to produce an optic that is built to perform in low-light conditions and in the harshest conditions. First is the use of lead and arsenic-free extra-low dispersion (ED) glass in the lens elements to correct chromatic and spherical aberrations. Next are phase-corrected and dielectric coated prisms which further limit internal light loss and diffraction, and improve image contrast. The optical path is fully multi-coated with anti-reflection coatings that increase light transmission, image contrast and sharpness, and provide true color rendition. Finally is the use of Nikon's field-flattener system, which eliminates the distortion common at the lens edges for crisp details along the far periphery of the wide field of view. This all translates to bright and clear high-contrast images with accurate color across the field of view - especially in low-light conditions such as dawn and dusk, and heavily overcast skies.

The chassis is built with a short bridge design which presents more gripping surface, and helps to reduce the overall weight. Made to live a life outdoors, the optical tubes are nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed to make them not only fogproof when moving between extreme temperature changes, but also waterproof. The exterior has textured, rubberized panels that protect against knocks and drops, and offers a slip-resistant grip for sure handling in cold and wet conditions. Nikon includes tethered objective lens covers and ocular rainguard to ensure they cannot be lost easily and are ready for use at a moment's notice.

Headed on an african safari and need 2-3 binoculars (will be charing wih others) for wildlife viewing and don't want to break the bank. Will also want to use them for viewing landscapes on cruises. What are some good choices for under $140, or even less $ if possible?

I am headed on a Kenyan safari and would like to get a pair of binoculars for under $400. We will be walking 8 to 10 miles a day, so weight and dust are an issue. I've been reading reviews and am considering the Nikon Monarch 5, the Zeiss Terra (but it might be too heavy) or possibly a Celestron. We will also be viewing wildlife from jeeps, so I was leaning towards an 8 rather than 10 magnification as we will be moving. I like the idea of eco-glass, but there are other more important considerations.

Hi Lisa -    

The Nikon 8x42 Monarch 5 Binocular are a fine choice. for wildlife and safari.  They have a better build quality, glass coatings and low light performance than the Celestron.  Have a great time!

I love the outdoors and birding. I wear glasses (and sometimes still have a hard time seeing) I would like a set of binoculars and don't want to spend more thatn 1500.00.  I have   saving for years and want to get the best ones I can because I will not be buying another pair.  I also like to go to Yellowstone, could I use the same binoculars to look at the wildlife or would I need another pair? Besides the brand I need to know the size, 8 x 42 10 x 42 etc.  Thank you in advance.

Hi Michelle - 

Consider these. All are built to last a lifetime of outdoor use;

    Leica puts a new spin on their perennial favorite, the 10x42 Trinovid HD Binocular with phase corrected prisms that are coated with highly reflective multi-coatings to increase reflectivity, and anti-reflection fully multi-coated optics to boost light transmission through the lenses. These optical coatings work together to produce high-contrast images with true color rendition and minimal distortion. This optical performance is coupled with a powerful 10x magnification, wide apparent angle of view and generous eye relief to produce an immersive viewing experience.

   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.

     Taking its place at the top of Nikon's flagship series, the powerful 10x42 Monarch HG Binocular is engineered with complementary technologies to produce an optic that is built to perform in low-light conditions and in the harshest conditions. First is the use of lead and arsenic-free extra-low dispersion (ED) glass in the lens elements to correct chromatic and spherical aberrations. Next are phase-corrected and dielectric coated prisms which further limit internal light loss and diffraction, and improve image contrast. The optical path is fully multi-coated with anti-reflection coatings that increase light transmission, image contrast and sharpness, and provide true color rendition. Finally is the use of Nikon's field-flattener system, which eliminates the distortion common at the lens edges for crisp details along the far periphery of the wide field of view. This all translates to bright and clear high-contrast images with accurate color across the field of view - especially in low-light conditions such as dawn and dusk, and heavily overcast skies.

Thanks for the information.  I was wondering what you think between the Vortex Razor 8 x 42 verses the Leica Hd Binocular 10 x 42?  Like I said I would be birding but also wanted something for nature and the outdoors when traveling. 

Hi Michelle - 

Love these;

The Razor HD 8x42 Binocular from Vortex is smaller, lighter, brighter and stronger than ever before. The Razor HD 8x42 binocular is a versatile glass for multiple applications. It is well suited for short or long distance observation. Its lightweight construction and high optical performance make it an extremely desirable viewing instrument.

The binocular renders significantly high contrast, color accuracy because of its numerous optical enhancements. HD extra-low dispersion glass, APO optical system, Plasma Tech, Vortex XR lens coatings, dielectric prism coatings and phase-correction raise the level of optical excellence for this roof prism binocular. The benefits include excellence in color sharpness, coating durability, overall performance, increased resolution, color fidelity, High Definition images, clarity, brightness, anti-reflectivity, and greater light transmission. Additional lens protection from scratches, oil and dust is provided by the ArmorTek exterior lens coating.

The Razor HD 8x42 is argon gas purged and sealed with o-rings to ensure reliable and durable protection against dust, debris, fog and water. It is rubber armored for non-slip and durable protection. It is also equipped with an exceptionally large focusing knob with a pull-push focus that rotates for setting and locking the proper diopter setting. Naturally contoured to perfectly fit your hands, promoting comfort and eliminating user-fatigue Vortex has once again created a winning combination of features.

The Leica is a bit more compact, a drop heavier, but offers 2x higher magnification.  Both have great glass with Vortex offering the superior warranty if you should ever need it.

we have recently bought a house in the Ace basin of South Carolina and are loving the birding there.  I am looking for a good pair of binoculars to hike with to get a good view of the bird.  My biggest problem with binoculars in the past is that my eyes are very close together and sometime I can't get them folded enough to keep both eyes open.  Any suggestions?  Thank you!

Hi Kim - 

Consider these glasses, as they offer good Interpupillary adjustment , fold together tightly, and are lightweight and compact for your hiking /birding expeditions:

Designed for the nature-enthusiast who wants to pack light without sacrificing image quality, the Pentax 8x25 A-Series AD WP Compact Binocular delivers bright clear images while weighing in at just 10.6 ounces. The BAK4 roof prisms are phase-corrected to improve image contrast and enhance color rendition. All of the optics are anti-reflection fully multicoated to maximize light transmission to produce the brightest views possible.

The 8x25 Trailblazer ATB Binocular from Nikon is a handheld optic designed for close to mid-range observations. Nikon makes the Trailblazer optical system from lead and arsenic-free Eco-Glass optics. This configuration of the Trailblazer binocular features 8x magnification and a 8 ft minimum focus distance, equipping it for a wide range of viewing tasks, including birding or sightseeing. The dual-hinge bridge configuration allows the Trailblazer to fold down for increased portability and storage in a cargo pocket of side pocket of a day pack.

I'm planning an upcoming trip to Alaska and looking for a good pair of binoculars for wildlfe viewing as well as scenery. Any insight is appreciated on models.

Thanks

Hi Bill - 

Sporting large objective lenses, extra-low dispersion glass, and phase-corrected BAK4 prisms, Leupold's black10x50 BX-3 Mojave Pro Guide HD Binocular delivers bright high-contrast images with true-to-life color and crisp clarity. The lenses are made of lead-free calcium fluoride which is more ecologically-responsible than traditional glass while also being lighter. Image quality is enhanced through the use of proprietary anti-reflection lens coatings on all optical surfaces, and the large 50mm objectives gather generous amounts of light to deliver bright images even in low-light conditions such as at dawn, dusk, or under heavily-canopied woods.

 In the Box:

Leupold 10x50 BX-3 Mojave Pro Guide HD Binocular (Black)

  • Carrying Case
  • Neck Strap
  • Golden Ring Full Lifetime Transferrable Warranty                           

ALSO:

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.

I am about to head off on a voyage to Antarctica, and I do lots of other outdoor travel as well, striving for lightness in all i carry.  Even at home, I am out in the weather either in the mountains or at the ocean.   i have long been thinking about a pair of compact binoculars to take along with me.  I have been leaning towards the Leica Trinovid 10 x 25 BCA's thanks to a friend's recomendation.  Any thoughts or suggestions from you would be appreciated.  

Hi Judy - 

Very nice glasses for general use, but not the best the choice for use over water or under harsh weather conditions, etc.  

Sporting large objective lenses, extra-low dispersion glass, and phase-corrected BAK4 prisms, Leupold's black 10x50 BX-3 Mojave Pro Guide HD Binocular delivers bright high-contrast images with true-to-life color and crisp clarity. The lenses are made of lead-free calcium fluoride which is more ecologically-responsible than traditional glass while also being lighter. Image quality is enhanced through the use of proprietary anti-reflection lens coatings on all optical surfaces, and the large 50mm objectives gather generous amounts of light to deliver bright images even in low-light conditions such as at dawn, dusk, or under heavily-canopied woods.

 In the Box:

Leupold 10x50 BX-3 Mojave Pro Guide HD Binocular (Black)

  • Carrying Case
  • Neck Strap
  • Golden Ring Full Lifetime Transferrable Warranty                           

I am searching for binoculars primarily for astronomy, secondarily for bird and animal watching. The CelestronGranite 12X50 seems quite impressive. What do you think? Which other binoculars in that price range would you recommend? What's the 'best' binocular in the $400 USD price range?

Given the vast difference in viewing between astronomy and birding/animal watching you would be hard pressed to find anything that could do both. I would recommend the Nikon 8x42 Monarch 5 Binocular. These would be an ideal choice for wildlife and would have a better build quality, glass coatings and low light performance than the Celestron 12x50 Granite Binocular. The are currently a better price as well. 

Are there any binoculars that can correct for "cross eyed" people? Because of the prisms in my glasses I have to shut one eye to be able to use binoculars.

Hi Sam - 

I'm afraid not Sam.  You might want to consider a spotting scope.

The 30-90x100 WP Gladiator Spotting Scope from Barska has a large 100mm objective with a wide powerful magnification spread of 30-90x. This scope is engineered for long-range use when hunting, birdwatching, or any outdoor observation situation; even in low light. Waterproof and fogproof with a rubber armor covered housing, it's tough, rugged and ready to go the extra mile. Multicoated optics with the classical Porro prism design contributes to a sharp, bright and clear viewing experience. A quick release platform tabletop tripod, built-in extendable sunshade and soft carrying case extend the value of the 30-90x100 WP Gladiator.

AAoV of 41.1 - 60.0°

Built-in extendable sunshade contributes added protection from sun glare

Tabletop tripod with a quick release platform provides a secure and stable base for viewing

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

Straight body design allows easier target acquisition for some viewers especially when used with a car window mount

Porro prisms offer enhanced three-dimensional imaging, less light loss and generally sharper images for a smaller investment

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

Is there anything, a low magnifying binocular or a opera glass style device for instance, that would permit the close up viewing of paintings in a gallery or museim situation. For years I was able to get close to such and use a magnifying glass, but that has become more difficult with guards enforcing  regulations as to how close a viewer may get to the art work. I'd like to think that with such a device, I could stand 6 to 10 or so feet from a painting. Thank you.

Great Question!

You could go with either an opera glass or conventional compact/pocket binos. The question, though, is how detailed of a view do you want? For general art appreciation, or for larger pieces, you'll want something with a wide field of view and maybe a lower magnification - The Carson 4x10 Operaview would be exactly this (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/924912-REG/carson_ov_140_4x10mm_operaview_compact_binocular.html) and the 5' close focus fits your needs perfectly. I like these because they're slim and compact, and not as extravagantly designed as traditional opera glasses. But if you like flash, (and there's nothing wrong with that) the LaScala 3x25 Iolanta are nice...Low magnification, respectably-sized objectives, and a short close focus distance of 6' - plus they come in a choice of colors https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/483456-REG/LaScala_Optics_LSI01FL_3x25_Iolanta_Opera_Glass.html

If you go with a more conventional bino, then you'll get higher magnifications and more options. Bear in mind that even at 8x magnification, your field of view at those close distances will be extremely limited. So, if you're looking at big panel pieces like Monet's Water Lillies (which are on display at Paris' Musée de l'Oranerie and are, from personal experience, amazing), chances are one panel probably won't fit in your field of view. However, if you want to see granular detail (like Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) then this might be just what you want. Conversely, if you want to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre (which is much smaller than most people think) then this might be exactly what you might need. In either case, I’d keep the magnification at or below 8x.

For exceptional color, clarity, contrast and sharpness you’d do well with the Zeiss 8x32 Terra EDs. It has a wide field of view and a short close focus distance as well as uncompromising Zeiss engineering. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1116043-REG/zeiss_523205_9906_000_terra_binocular_8x32_edition_under.html. Barr and Stroud make the 8x25 Sahara which has a 6.5’ close focus, and a wide FoV https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/966629-REG/olivon_olbss825_us_70110_b_s_sahara_8x25_binocular.html and comes in a much lower price-point than the Zeiss; and 7x20 Falconer from Carson has an exceptionally short 5’ minimum focus distance https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1242210-REG/carson_fr_720_7x20_falconer_compact_binocular.html.

I hope I’ve given you some useful suggestions, and if you need further help feel free to give us a call at 800.606.6969 and speak to one of our great phone support people, or give our live chat a try.

My favorite binoculars for this purpose are Pentax Papilio ii 6.5x21, which focus down to about 19 inches/0.5 m, maintaining perfect stereoscopic vision without adjusting interpupillary distance.  At this distance, the view is equivalent to a headband magnifier.  Besides art galleries and museums, they are handy in botanical gardens, flower shows, and insect watching; they also focus to infinity so they are suitable for more typical binoculars applications like birding, though that is not really their main strong point.  Their ergonomics are good, they are light and compact, and work OK for eyeglass wearers.  Note that they are not waterproof; this may not matter much in galleries and museums.  My favorite travel binoculars when weather sealing is not an issue.

I am planning a safari trip and have a prescription eyeglasses that I will have to keep on for using binoculars. 

Could you recommend a pair under $500 that Ialso has the feature of taking pictures via the binoculars using the iphone?

Weatherproof is important I think.

MS

Hi Mal - 

Best we offer under $500:

Bushnell 8x30 Imageview 12MP Digital Camera Binocular (Black)                 

No camera (recommended):

The 10x42 Endeavor ED II Binocular from Vanguard Optics features Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass and phase-corrected BaK4 prisms that work together to virtually eliminate chromatic aberration, which produces images with true color fidelity across the entire field of view and enhanced contrast. Complementing the glass and prisms are anti-reflection fully multicoated optics that improves light transmission for bright and clear images, with greater low-light performance.

An open-bridge design helps to reduce weight without sacrificing strength, and provides a large surface area to hold. Pebbled rubber armoring helps to give protection from drops and impacts while helping to provide a non-slip grip. Designed for durability, the lightweight magnesium-alloy housing is nitrogen-filled and o-ring sealed for water and fogproof performance, and the 3-stage click-stop twist-up eyecups provide a custom-fit eye relief for use with or without eye-wear.

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