How to Choose the Right Binoculars

How to Choose the Right Binoculars:Ultimate Guide

The best way to evaluate the optical performance and ease of use for a pair of binoculars is to go to a store and look through several before you make a final choice. That said, here are a few key things we can help you understand when choosing the best binoculars for you.

With such a huge amount and variety of brands, sizes, and prices it can get more than a little overwhelming when trying to make a shortlist, nevermind actually choose your binoculars and this is made even the more difficult with all the marketing jargon and the fact that each manufacturer will highlight what they think their products best features are (often using deliberately confusing or ambiguous terms) and try and keep you from discovering their worst!

Getting started with a pair of binoculars can be daunting. There are loads of different options and a massive price range, and it’s hard to know where to start. This post will give you the tools you need to choose a pair of binoculars that fits your needs. Specifically, I connect types of binoculars to the activities for which they work best, whether you’re going on safari on watching your birdfeeder.


The first thing to check when using binoculars for watching a concert is “brightness”. Concert halls are often very dark. If you want to see clearly and brightly, choose binoculars with a high “brightness” value.

Brightness is determined by the basic magnification and the diameter of the objective lens.

In other words, if the magnification is the same, the binoculars with a larger effective diameter of the objective lens are brighter. Also, with the same effective diameter of the objective lens, binoculars with a lower magnification would be brighter. However, since the visibility also depends on the lens material, coating, etc., it is advisable to actually compare them in stores.


Binoculars and monoculars use a lot of optical elements, so the light that reflects between the lenses and prisms can lose its intensity. This reflected light darkens the field of view and reduces image contrast. In binoculars and monoculars, optical lenses and prisms are coated in order to reduce the amount of reflection, improve brightness, and obtain a sharp image.


The next thing to check is the “magnification”. Magnification is written in catalogs and binoculars as follows.

Are you choosing binoculars with high magnification only because you want to see an object larger? The important thing is the distance to the object. It is better to know the size of the concert hall and choose the appropriate magnification.

If you divide “distance to the object” by “magnification”, you can obtain the distance the object can be seen from.

Knowing all this, you may be thinking that a higher magnification is better because you can see closer. However, this is not necessarily true, as higher magnification narrows the field of view and makes it easier to get a shaking picture. If you are looking for a high magnification, you should choose a tripod-mountable type and use it fixed to a tripod.


Real field of view is an actual area you can see without moving the binoculars expressed in an angle value. The wider the field of view, the wider area you can see, thus the easier to find an object.

In general, the higher the magnification, the narrower the field of view.

For example, in the case of 8x binoculars, it is recommended to choose the binoculars with a field of view of 6.5 degrees or more!

How to choose binoculars

What magnification do I need?

Generally speaking, the lower the magnification:

  • the brighter the image
  • the closer the nearest focus point
  • the greater the depth of field
  • the wider the field of view
  • the easier the binoculars are to hold.

Generally speaking, the higher the magnification:

  • the less bright the image
  • the narrower the depth of field, requiring more frequent focusing
  • the heavier the binoculars are likely to be
  • the harder they are to hold still.
  • For general birdwatching, lower magnifications such as 7x or 8x are recommended, especially if you also use a telescope.

Higher magnifications (10x) are more suitable for use in hides or for viewing estuaries, reservoirs or other large, expansive areas. If you do not use a telescope and weight is not a problem, the higher 10x magnification can be a good compromise.

Zoom binoculars with variable magnification are not recommended. They rarely give as good an image across their range as single magnification binoculars and have more chance of developing faults.

What do the figures mean?

All binoculars have a set of two figures indicating their specification (for instance 8×32), sometimes followed by a letter code such as B or GA.The first figure refers to the magnification. This is usually between 7x and 10x, although binoculars with lower or higher magnification are available. The second figure refers to the diameter of the larger lens, the objective lens, in millimetres.

Generally speaking, the larger the lens, the greater amount of light will be gathered and, therefore, the brighter the image.The size of the binocular is governed by this second figure, not by the magnification.

B after the figure means that the binocular has rubber or push-down eye-cups, so spectacle wearers can use them with little noticeable loss of field of view (the width of the image).GA or RA shows that the binocular is rubber-covered, offering some protection against knocks and wear.

The field of view may be quoted in degrees or figures (such as 6.5° or 140 m at 1,000 m). Roughly, 1°=17 m at distance of 1,000 m.Do not consider the figures in isolation. An inferior 8×32 using poor glass and inadequate lens coatings may have an image less bright and sharp than a better-quality 8×32.

Understanding the Optics of Binoculars

Lens Materials and Coatings

This is where advanced technologies (and a dizzying array of terms to describe them) come into play. The makeup of the glass and the coatings on the lenses that reduce reflection all add up to determine the clarity and brightness of your image. This is when test viewing is key. That will tell you what advancements your eyes can detect, and in turn, how much more you should consider paying for the image quality you want.

Prism Type

The prisms are the optical elements that direct the light from the image through the binoculars to your eyes. Older “porro prism” binoculars feature wide barrels in front that aren’t aligned with the eyepieces. Newer “roof prism” models have eyepieces and objective lenses aligned. The difference in appearance doesn’t tell you anything about the optical quality, but having roof prisms allows binoculars to be smaller and lighter.

How to Focus Your Binoculars

Most binoculars have a central control that focuses both barrels at the same time. They also include a “diopter” adjustment ring to focus one barrel independently, allowing you to compensate for differences in vision between your eyes.

If you’re wearing glasses, start by rolling the eyecups all the way down—or twisting them all the way down—before you begin.

To focus your binoculars, do the following:

  • Cover the right* lens with a cap and sharply focus the center control on a distant object.
  • Switch the cap to the left* lens and sharply focus the diopter control on that same object.
  • You’re done; leave the diopter as is and use the center control for all focusing.

*If your binoculars have the diopter on the left lens, reverse where you place the lens cap.

Frequently Asked Questions

What magnification is best for binoculars?

8 to 10x magnification

Generally, binoculars with a magnification of 6 to 10x are easier to use, but for birdwatching, tracking moving objects, and keeping shaking to a minimum, 8 to 10x magnification is best. For theatergoing, a somewhat lower magnification is easier to use, and portability is an important factor.

Which is better 12×50 or 10×42 binoculars?

In addition, 12×50 binoculars have a narrower field of view than 10×42 binoculars. However, 12×50 binoculars provide a brighter image and more detail than 10×42 binoculars. For those interested in birdwatching or other forms of nature observation, 10×42 binoculars are generally considered the better option.

Which is better 10×42 or 20×50 binoculars?

If you are looking for a pair of binoculars for general use, then the 10×42 binoculars are a great choice. The 10×50 binoculars are the next step up in terms of quality and versatility. The wider lenses provide a brighter image in comparison and will perform better in low-light conditions.

What are 20x binoculars good for?

20x Binoculars are a good, affordable choice for viewing the moon, near planets and basic astronomy. More magnification means that you will be able to see further, and in more detail.

How far can 12×50 binoculars see?

A typical 10×42 will offer about 330 feet of FOV at 1000 yards, while the average 12×50 is just under 300′; 15x binoculars are generally under 250′. So, while you may see a larger image at 15x, you can see more area at 12x, and even larger at 10x.

About De Hua

Lindsay Boyers is a former New Yorker who now lives at the beach. She received a double B.A. in International Relations and Marketing from The College of William & Mary and an M.A. in Interactive Journalism from American University. Lindsay Boyers has been published in The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among others.How We Tested and Reviewed

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