You can also look in on the gray blotches on the moon called maria, named when early astronomers thought these lunar features were seas. The maria are not seas, of course, and instead they’re now thought to have formed 3.5 billion years ago when asteroid-sized rocks hit the moon so hard that lava percolated up through cracks in the lunar crust and flooded the impact basins. These lava plains cooled and eventually formed the gray seas we see today.
One of the greatest advantages of binoculars comes from their very design. Unlike with a telescope, with binoculars you get to view space with two eyes. This is very important to give your brain the full visual experience. Not only does single-eye viewing severely hamper your depth perception, it also decreases your signal-to-noise ratio, which is not a good thing. When you have a high signal-to-noise ratio, your brain filters out much of the unwanted random impulses from each eye, leaving you with a better view of whatever objects you are looking at. In fact, many astronomers claim that color perception and contrast is improved by as much as 40 percent when using binoculars over a telescope.
Here again Swarovski comes out on top with a close focus of 4.9 feet. I stand at 5'8", so functionally that means anything in front of my feet, be it a butterfly or another interesting insect, will be in focus. The Zeiss and Leica models are no slouches, both with a close focus of 6.2 feet, but the difference is very noticeable if you like to look at little critters.
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.
Binoculars come in two basic configurations: Porro prism or roof prism. The Porro prism gives that type of binoculars the traditional binocular shape. The roof prism binocular features a narrower and compact, straight design. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but, in general, the Porro prism design is less expensive to manufacture and, therefore, gives you more bang for your buck as far as optical quality and features. The relative compact size of roof prism binoculars makes them generally more popular for birders, as optically similar Porros will be larger.
Wider field of view. You spot a bird high up in a tree and quickly raise your binoculars to your eyes. The wider the field of view, the more likely that your aim will be correct and that the bird will instantly be in the field of view, without having to search about for it. This is especially true for smaller, fast moving birds that don't stay put. Lower magnification in binoculars means a wider field of view, so many birders prefer 8x to 10x.
In a hunting situation, the Fusion’s ranging capabilities will be enough for all but the longest range hunters. One area some may be disappointed in is glass quality. I’d say glass is about on par with a pair of Vortex Viper HD’s. Definitely good enough for most but will leave some wanting more if spending a lot of time glassing. Another thing to note is the Fusions have a distinguishable blue tint to their glass. It is fairly minor but there is no doubt that it is there.
There are multiple advantages of binoculars for birders over the other optical options. Binoculars are much more portable and lighter than spotting scopes and large telephoto camera lenses. Also, binoculars afford you a more natural “3D view” of the bird, since you are looking through two optical tubes and, therefore, viewing the birds with both eyes. Human vision is stereoscopic and sighting through two optical devices gives a birder the most natural view. Last, many spotting scopes and telephoto lenses require the use of a tripod or alternative support to ensure a steady view. This requires the birder to carry more gear into the field on expeditions.
High-performance features include: fully multi-coated optics and BAK-4 prisms, and custom adjustment with center and right diopter focus knobs. They have an extra-large field of view with crystal clarity from edge to edge; Ultra-smooth center focus that's easy to operate, allowing you to pinpoint your subject, Right diopter adjustment so you can fine-tune your viewing.
Fusion 1-Mile uses the latest technology especially when it comes to the glass and lens. It uses the all-new XTR technology to provide the ultimate transmission of light. This, in turn, delivers great clarity and resolution. It has a waterproof coating which protects it from harsh conditions. The multi-coated casing also gives it protection from falls and other impacts. The quality of lenses and the sturdy construction makes it easy for you to carry it into the woods without worrying about damaging the device.
The Pentax Papilio II 8.5 x 21 and the Nikon ProStaff 8 x 25 ATB are both “chunky” compacts with offset eye-pieces (as opposed to the more common roof prism design), and may be more comfortable for some users because these pairs can be easier to grip. Unfortunately, the Papilio took far too long to focus (though on the plus side, it’s marked “extremely-close focusing,” and it is), and though the Nikons were satisfactory, I found myself getting slight eyestrain when focusing on distant objects, like ducks floating on a lake.
On the packaging of any set of binoculars, there is one piece of information more prominent than anything else. It’s a set of two numbers with an “x” between them (8×32, for example). The first stands for the magnification level of the lenses. So, for instance, if you’re looking at a pair of binoculars with 10 as the first number, you know that their magnification is 10x larger than the normal eye. The second number is an indicator of the objective lenses’ (the lenses on the front of the binoculars) diameter.
What these coatings do is to assist light transmission. It is important to note how the manufacturer describes their coatings as they are not all created equal. Ideally you want to see "Fully Multi-Coated" which means that all air to glass surfaces have received multiple layers of antireflection coatings. If you just see "Fully Coated" or "Multi-Coated" it means only some surfaces have coatings or they only have a single coating and thus will not perform anywhere near as well as Fully Multi-Coated binoculars assuming everything else is equal.
As a general rule, the size of the first number relative to the second number correlates directly to how clear and crisp the image will be. As the relative size of the first number gets lower in comparison to the second number, the image quality increases. It’s a result of the fact that bigger objective lenses let more light in, making details of the image much easier for the eyes to pick up on.
Recommendation: unless you’re looking to use your binoculars for a particular specialist task choose something in the 8x to 10x range for general bird watching and wildlife observation. Try out different magnifications to see which suits you better. Generally if you’re doing a lot of long distance observation (like scanning wading birds on estuaries or lagoons, for example) you may appreciate the higher magnification of a 10x. If you do a lot of wildlife watching at close quarters, or in enclosed places like woodlands trying to track small, fast-moving subjects, then the wider field of view of an 8x may suit you better.
If you’re looking at the best possible pair of rangefinder binoculars, you’ve got them. This is hands down one of the best pairs you can get, and the value they give is also amazing. In ideal conditions, the Fusion 1-Mile ARC can give you the range on targets that are up to 1 mile out. You will find that the ranging performance can easily beat some competitors that cost even twice as much. Being somewhat of a successor to the Bushnell Fusion 1600, you will find that Bushnell actually made some significant improvements in the ranging capabilities.
Why do people even consider astronomy binoculars? When first getting interested in astronomy or searching for a gift for a young person, don't we usually ask "What kind of telescope shall I buy?" Of course, there are many different kinds of telescopes available from sources such as discount, hobby and department stores and usually each promises extraordinary celestial views.
Adjust the Binoculars for Your Eyes - This final adjustment is the most important because it will deliver the sharpest image. Your eyes are different from each other, so each of your binoculars' eyepieces can be focussed separately to be perfect for both of your eyes. They do this with a diopter setting. The eyepiece which can rotate independently of the binocular body is the one with the diopter setting. See how to do this in the section below.
They also have the added bonus in that they are far more versatile and you can use them for many other applications. If you plan to use this method, you should keep magnification below 12x in order to maintain steadiness. A good pair of binoculars with a magnification of 7x to 12x and a large objective lens will show you planets in our solar system, hundreds of star clusters, nebulae and even some galaxies.
Back in the clarity section, we talked about how alignment can affect the detail you see through a pair of binoculars. Some alignment issues can be hard to diagnose. Small alignment issues can only show up with specially calibrated equipment. One can look at the overall construction quality and hope that if they follow tight tolerances on the rest of the production, then optics should follow suit.
Sticker shock is common when looking for your first pair of bins. If you're timid about spending multiple hundreds of dollars on a new hobby, the Celestron Nature DX 8x42 is a perfect choice. The image quality of these binoculars, which list for just $140 and often sell for less, is by far the best we've seen in this price range. In fact, it rivals models that cost more than twice as much in that regard. The supple focus knobs and easy eyecup adjustments continue the beginner-friendly trend. We also enjoyed that the 6.5ft focus range let us get a good look at any nearby butterflies or other interesting insects, a big plus for days when the birds just aren't singing.
Close focusing is key when trying to see detail on things like butterflies, wildflowers, and the like. Our pick gets as near as 6.5 feet, and though a few binoculars focused closer than that, several contenders didn’t get anywhere near getting near. The Nikon Prostaff 5, for example, couldn’t bring objects any closer than 16 feet into focus. We liked the Prostaff 5 as a budget pick, but we warn that they’re not for looking at butterflies or anything that requires getting ultra-close for detail.
Any binocular over 12x that is used for astronomy really should be mounted in order to obtain a steady view. With the proper mount, there is no limit to magnification, objective size, and binocular weight. The key phrase is “proper mount”. Be aware that some of these binoculars will require a mount that costs as much or more than the binocular. Some models, such as the BT-100-45, come complete with mount. The BT Series, with their comfortable 45° viewing and inter-changeable eyepieces, are capable of very high magnification (up to 90x), and are a viable alternative to a single-eyepiece telescope. Click here for more info.
In roof prisms the light path is split in two as it passes through the prism and then recombined, but because of the way roof prisms work the two light paths are slightly out of “phase”. This reduces contrast and resolution in the the resulting image, so the best roof prism binoculars have a special coating applied to the prism surface to counteract this “phase shift” and prevent degradation of the image.
Essentially, binoculars are just two telescopes mounted side by side, one for each eye. To understand binoculars, you need to understand how a telescope works. Here's an easy demonstration that you can try yourself. All you need are two ordinary magnifying glasses and a piece of tracing paper. Do this once, and you will understand forever how binoculars work.
Mercury and Venus. These are both inner planets. They orbit the sun closer than Earth’s orbit. And for that reason, both Mercury and Venus show phases as seen from Earth at certain times in their orbit – a few days before or after the planet passes between the sun and Earth. At such times, turn your binoculars on Mercury or Venus. Good optical quality helps here, but you should be able to see them in a crescent phase. Tip: Venus is so bright that its glare will overwhelm the view. Try looking in twilight instead of true darkness.
Oculus packs a number of premium features in this compact, hand-filling 42mm binocular, including a tripod adapter, thumb detents on the underside of the barrels, a very precise clicking diopter control, and a cushioned nylon case. The optics, delivered through “ultra high-definition” glass inside the magnesium-alloy chassis, are solid, finishing in the middle of our full-size field. Our quibble is with the controls. The closed center hinge is so stiff it takes some serious work to spread the barrels, and the focus wheel is spongy.
I happened to have these with me in Vermont when a juvenile peregrine falcon alighted on shore not 25 feet from where I was fishing. In all my years at that spot, I’d never seen one up close. Airborne, yes, kaw-kawing in the broken sunlight, tail feathers flashing. But peregines aren’t in the habit of stop-and-chats. As if in a dream, this one pranced around in the sand, flaunting its ivory cravat. The color and contrast were unlike anything I’d seen birding. It was like opening a book of which you’d only ever seen the cover. I handed the binoculars to my wife, a serious birder, who caught her breath: “Oh, I didn’t realize they were actually blue.”
For a trusty pair of binoculars that are super portable, the Pentax AD are best for casual use like short hikes or travel. While they're not made for birdwatching or stargazing, they're perfect for throwing into a bag and going on a spontaneous adventure. You'll still get full performance with their compact size, making them a great pair to keep in your purse or bag at all times.
Thanks to vivid colors, contrast that doesn’t sacrifice sharpness at the peripheries, extremely smooth focusing and rugged, streamlined, compact build, the Diamondback has earned favorable comparisons to the Nikon Monarch 5, though it’s nearly half the price. And the finish feels nicer to me, less like a tennis grip and more like the Space Shuttle joystick, I imagine.
Most believe that Canon was the first company to have image stabilized binoculars due to very good marketing and bringing the price down to within reach of the consuming public, even if it's a long reach! Their introduction in 1997 was based on the work they had done for years in stabilizing video camera images. It quickly caught on and image stabilized Canon binoculars have many devotees. While the Canon technology doesn't seem designed to stabilize the larger movements encountered on boats/ships, speeding cars/trucks, and airplanes/helicopters, it does well with hand movements such as those often associated with health and age. The engagement of the stabilization mechanism and electronics is said to often result in a somewhat softer image which lacks the crispness found in Fujinons. We anticipate publishing a review of the Canon image stabilized binoculars.
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.
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.
Before you get into the details you should know what a rangefinder is. It is a device used to measure the distance between you and your target. It uses an advanced piece of optics to zoom in on your target to get a better look at it. The difference between a binocular and a rangefinder is that rangefinders display the measure of distance on the display. When the display of a binocular is integrated with the rangefinder function of measurement, it is called rangefinder binocular. The device came into existence when the military started using it to collect important mission data from a distance. Though, lately, it has become popular commercially among other activities too.
Inferior image quality at lower price points: because roof prisms reflect light off more internal surfaces than porro-prisms, all other things being equal they tend to produce a darker image. They also suffer from a phenomenon known as phase shifting which degrades the sharpness of the final image. High quality roof prism binoculars include special phase-correction, high-transmission coatings on the prism surfaces to counteract these negative effects. Roof prisms can match and surpass the quality of porro-prisms, but at a price.
When shopping for binoculars, there is a lot to consider: magnification versus mass, field of view, prism type, optical quality ("sharpness"), light transmission, age of the user (to match "exit pupil" size, which changes as we grow older), shock resistance, waterproofing and more. To choose the right binoculars for yourself, check out our Buyer's Guide: How to Choose Binoculars for Stargazing.