Which are all crucial considerations, as binoculars tend to be highly subjective. It’s helpful to think of a pair as you might a new car: you want a rare symbiotic union of stylistic penchants, pragmatic details and clarity of vision that all mesh with whatever price point you’re willing to live with. Because the moment you drive it off the lot, the resale value craps out. There’s no monolithic pair that everyone should own, no starter set that’s worth the $200 you could just apply towards pricier lifetime binoculars. While cost is often a barometer of quality, it’s not always. Instead, a thornier set of metrics obtains: are you after high magnification for long-range birding — owls and shorebirds and the like — or will 7x or 8x suffice? Do you want a lightweight pair to stow in your glove compartment, carry-on or briefcase? How important is balance, overall feel, focus, and what birders call “eye relief” (basically visual ergonomics) to you? Because they’re different for everyone. In short, will you be driving an Audi 6 or a Ford Fusion?
The UpClose G2 8x21 Roof Binocular from Celestron is a light weight 8 ounces with a closed hinged bridge design. At less than 4 inches they are a prime candidate for an easily mobile binocular that leaves no excuse to be caught without some magnification for that surprise situation. The water resistant, rubber covered, aluminum body adds an added level of worry free use from too much rough handling and never too much use. The sure grip furnished by thumb indents and finger ridges are a welcome feature allowing a firm non-slip hold. Just another reason to make sure that this binocular gets taken along.
Again, you tend to get what you pay for here to some degree, and optics from established top-flight brands are usually incredibly well made (my binoculars are still the best made piece of equipment I have ever owned). That said there are plenty of very well made binoculars in the low-to-mid range from manufacturers who take quality every bit as seriously as the premium brands.
It is for this reason and a few others that many professional birdwatchers tend to choose binoculars with a lower magnification and a wider field of view, rather than the other way round. 8x magnification binoculars tend to be the most popular, although if you are often going to be looking at birds at far distances, water birds on a lake for example, you may also think of using 10x magnification, just keep in mind the field of view.
Now, as far as rangefinders are concerned, the most popular size is 7×50. There are sometimes 10×42, or in Zeiss’ Victory, 10×56. These are all numbers that you could go for. However, less than 7 times magnification won’t do the job. On the other hand, more than 10x, and you won’t be able to get as much light to your eyes, and the image will be darker. As far as the objective lens size goes, if you can’t mount the binoculars on a tripod, you will need something with an objective lens not larger than Zeiss’ 56mm, as it will be heavy and difficult to handle.
10x42 is a nice utilitarian size, but some may find them a bit large/heavy for general sightseeing as they may cause neck strain when worn around the neck while walking around town or in the woods. I'll give some recommendations, for that size - but you may want to consider some other sizes. An 8x42 drops the magnification down a bit, but you generally get a larger field of view, wider exit pupil, and usually a longer eye relief so they are a little better for sightseeing. Additionally, you may want to go with a smaller objective such as a 30-32mm, which will shave considerable ounces off the weight and inches off the size to make it easier to pack and carry...for smaller models like this, I'd stay at the 8x power to maximize image brightness, field of view, and exit pupil. With that being said, here are my recommendations:
As we touched on in the previous section, the greater the magnification capabilities, the lesser the field of view. Since telescopes are generally more high-powered than binoculars, they are notorious for having a very limited field of view. If you know exactly where the celestial objects you plan on viewing will be, this may be less of an issue, but if you need to scan the sky to find planets and stars, this can be very problematic. Seeing more of the night sky at once also gives you a better appreciation of how objects relate to one another in size and distance.
Another consideration are fixed focus binoculars (sometimes mistakenly referred to as auto focus binoculars, or sometimes slightly more accurately described as focus free or always in focus binoculars) These have a very large depth of view and once you have adjusted them to your eyesight, which only needs to be done once, they will be permanently in focus from a given distance to infinity. The obvious advantage of this is that you never have to change focus, which in terms of speed can't be beaten. On the down side,depending on the distance of the bird from your position, you won't always get the sharpest of images. If you want to learn more read my article on self focusing binoculars.
3. First, view the moon with binoculars. When you start to stargaze, you’ll want to watch the phase of the moon carefully. If you want to see deep-sky objects inside our Milky Way galaxy – or outside the galaxy – you’ll want to avoid the moon. But the moon itself is a perfect target for beginning astronomers, armed with binoculars. Hint: the best time to observe the moon is in twilight. Then the glare of the moon is not so great, and you’ll see more detail.
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.
As far as the build quality goes, they won’t disappoint you. They were designed with fairly high tech military standards, and nowhere is that more obvious than the armor. The non-slippery armor will both give you grip that’s more than sufficient for any user and provide fairly good shock absorption in case it’s something you happen to need, as it’s actually a rather rugged option. Inside, there is nitrogen gas. As mentioned with some of the previous models we spoke about, this will make sure that your lenses don’t get fogged up, even in high humidity situations or rainstorms. And wrapping things up with the build quality and construction is the fact that these binoculars with rangefinders are IPX7 water resistant, which should be more than enough for a variety of situations.
Best for City Birding: As bad as it sounds, rising at 5:00 a.m. has its rewards. Even on a murky spring day, the sky can have a surreal spark. Our resident downy woodpecker, an outlier camped among cardinals and chickadees, begins to lope and scamper in the breeze, tracing a parabolic line from trunk to trunk. We also have some nuthatches, goldfinches, titmice, and very occasionally a yellow-bellied sapsucker. We’re up high, third floor, facing east and west, a real hierarchy of light. Sometimes the morning sun is so enormous it’s as if a great fire is swallowing Back Bay, precisely the kind of place that requires a huge field of view, and the Diamondback has the largest of its class: 420 feet at 1,000 yards.
The Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 10x42 and the Leica 10x25 Ultravid BCR both earned a score of 8 out of 10 in our clarity testing. These models allowed us to see zones 8 and nine9 were clearly on the chart with just a little defocusing around the last millimeter or two near the edges. All five of these top pairs include multi-coated lenses, ED or HD glass, and excellent craftsmanship, which is what allows them all to be so clear.
Weighing at 34.7 ounces, it is not the lightest of the lot. You might feel a bit fatigued after carrying it for a longer time period. But it has long-range capabilities which outweigh this aspect. The range is estimated to be from 10 to around 2000 yards, which is much more than a mile. The binocular has a micro sd card slot which can be used to feed the ballistic information. Having a field of view of about 374 feet per 1000 yards, it is one of the biggest you will come across. The range and field of view go hand in hand to deliver you the view of a much larger area through the binocular, something which most of the rangefinder binoculars cannot offer. This will easily make you forget the weight of the device.
Another thing you have to keep in check is the lens coating. A lens coating is films applied to the lens to reduce reflections and glares which might affect your vision of the target. It also enhances light transmission and makes the colors look more vibrant. It might look great to put a blue-tinted coating in the lens, but the idea of applying a coating is to make the image look better. So keep in mind that coating is to make things better and not just to make the device look better.
I took my initial 17 models to a few of my favorite local Southern California beaches, mountains, and deserts for a couple weeks to get a feel for their handling characteristics and durability, and to get a rough feel for their images’ quality. But I couldn’t get an accurate handle on what actually looked better in such a familiar setting. My brain and its stored knowledge of overfamiliar birds take over, and binoculars are a lot harder to evaluate. That’s because with familiar objects, you know what you’re going to see even before you lift the binoculars.
Combine Nikon binocular performance with the extreme speed and ranging technology of a 1900-yard laser rangefinder and you have LaserForce, Nikon’s new 10x42 Rangefinder Binocular. Quite simply the single optic solution for serious hunters who depend on both their binocular for picking out distant animals and their rangefinder for getting the exact distance before taking the shot. Featuring ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass and Nikon’s ID Technology to compensate for incline or decline angles, LaserForce puts ranging precision, optical performance and rugged performance within your reach.
I’ve owned and used a pair of Bushnell bins for many years, and these are a hell of a lot cheaper than mine were a number of years back, yet they have the same decent 8x magnification power and a large 42mm diameter lens that soaks in plenty of light. Distant objects are bright and easy to see even in dim light when I have this pair of Bushnells raised to my eyes. The locking system also helps keep the ideal focal settings in place even when I jostle the hardware around, making the Legend L-Series great all-purpose binoculars for hunters, hikers, birders, and more.
The Pentax AD 8 x 25 WP are among the smallest compact binoculars we tested. They are truly pocket-size and lightweight, and they offer excellent light-gathering glass, which is crucial for making out detail on distant or obscured subjects in nature. They also have a comfortable and easy-to-hold design. Compact binoculars don’t have the light-gathering ability of full-size models, so for very distant subjects or for viewing in lower light, you’ll still want your full-size binoculars. But, in exchange they offer exceptional portability and convenience and they’re a must for backpackers, sightseers who need a pair to stow in a suitcase, or for any situation where every ounce counts.
The design of the rangefinder binocular makes a big difference. It has to be compact and lightweight for you to easily handle. The weight defines how easily you can take it with you. You should have the ability to carry it with you without being fatigued. Also, if it is too compact, there is always a chance of the device falling off from your hands. A balance between compactness and weight would be the ideal match for a good rangefinder binocular.
Cabela’s has produced a little gem of a binocular that would be at home in a turkey vest or a treestand. It’s a true pocket optic, with double hinges that fold the bino into the size of a deck of cards but expand to offer good purchase for your hands and an image that seems large, thanks to premium HD glass. The eyecups are a little fussy, but that’s a small ding for a bargain optic.
When it comes to looking at the night skies, binoculars can work better than telescopes in some ways. They are more portable, intuitive to use and offer a wider field of view. If you like astronomy, you should have a decent pair of binoculars. Even if you already own a telescope or two, you should still have a minimum of one good pair of binoculars. If you are a beginning astronomer, or if you love to look up at the stars, then you will most likely use your binoculars even more than your telescope. The following is a quick guide on choosing astronomy binoculars. We’ve also listed our Top 3 Astronomy Binoculars for 2018.
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.
Contrast: the higher the contrast in the image you see through your binoculars, the better. A high contrast image will have more “snap”, and makes it much easier to pick out fainter objects at distance. It also helps you to differentiate between subtle variations in tone and hue, particularly at lower light levels. Contrast is largely impacted by the quality of the lenses and prisms in the optical design, their accurate alignment to reduce or eliminate internal reflection, and of course the quality of the lens and prism coatings (again). Outstanding contrast is one of the hallmarks that gives premium binoculars that elusive “Wow!” factor.
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Secondly, the argon-purged chamber helps protect the binoculars against water damage and prevents fogging, one of the most common issues with binoculars. And third, the company backs their bins with a lifetime replacement warranty against defects and lifetime no-cost repairs if you damage them by accident during normal use. And as any avid bird watcher can tell you, frequent normal use will eventually lead to damage.
Although perhaps not familiar with the Navy study behind it, many know about the 7X50 binocular configuration having been used by the military for low light conditions. What are the best astronomy binoculars? The best astronomy binoculars for beginners will doubtless be the general purpose 7X50 to 10X50 configurations. They're the most popular "small" astronomy binoculars and for a good reason! To start with, they're about the largest that can comfortably be held by hand for the extended periods often encountered by stargazers. They also provide an excellent field of view and will gather all the light you want for the size, since larger objective lenses make a binocular significantly heavier. If these are for a youthful face, you'll want to ensure that you choose an instrument that has an appropriate interpupillary distance. You'll also want to consider the binocular's weight and the strength of the person who will be using it. Star watchers usually hold binoculars up to their eyes for longer periods than bird watchers do!
Want really steady views? Invest in a dedicated binocular mount. This can be a simple "L" bracket ($10 to $20) that attaches to a tripod — or, much better, a fancy parallelogram-style mount ($200 or more) that holds your binoculars for astronomy pointing at any angle overhead while you raise or lower them to suit your eyes. This is especially useful for sharing views with others.
As far as scientific terms go, you’ll find BAK-4 prisms, XTR coatings, as well as what Bushnell calls the Matrix Display Technology. This might be of interest, as the feature enhances display readings as much as possible. If you haven’t used a pair with this technology before, you might not think you need it. However, it undoubtedly proves to be very useful in some situations where you find it tricky to see the display. Those BAK-4 prisms are coated with PC-3 phase corrective coating. This ensures that you get a clear, sharp view and, with the magnification levels you get, you will actually get a clear view of every fine detail you might need.
If you can afford them, as they do cost a pretty penny, they will give you clarity unmatched by anything else. When you’re looking at something, you’ll feel like you’re actually looking through your own eyes, and not through a pair of rangefinder binoculars. This is the best of the best, the crème de la crème, if you will. The premium optics have a multi-layer glass, and fluoride, which results in a lot of light being able to go inside the lens. You’ll be able to see objects right before it gets completely dark, with ease. That coating we mentioned is LotuTec, and it also plays a big role in the vividness of the image.
Binoculars Built for BirdingBinoculars are so common a companion of outdoor enthusiasts that many pack them with hardly a second thought. They’re tossed into a backpack alongside bug spray, sunblock, and waterproof matches with not half the care afforded the typical cell phone. But to some outdoors groups, binoculars serve a highly specific and eminently indispensable purpose. And there is perhaps no group for whom this rings more true than for bird watchers. If you count yourself among this exceptionally technical clan of hobbyists, here are 10 birding binoculars you’ll want to know more about – even if you know about them already.1. Vortex Diamondback 8x28$175 – 225This compact roof prism model is a true bargain for birders (or birdists, as some prefer) searching for a lightweight binocular they can carry on any occasion, in any pocket or pack. Argon-filled, with multi-coated lenses and phase-correction dielectric coating, the Diamondback is valued for its close focus (2 meters) and macro clarity. It is as adept at scanning for far-off albatrosses as it is at taking in the details of the little auks flapping so close you can feel the wind on your face.2. Celestron 71404 TrailSeeker 8x42 Binoculars$175 – 225Wide field of view, BAK-4 prisms with phase and dielectric coatings, two-meter close focus, magnesium alloy body, and fully multi-coated optics ensure that this binocular is lightweight, durable, and sharp of sight at both short and long ranges. Though the model does not allow the same degree of light-gathering as other more expensive bins, its wide view is excellent for birders because it necessitates less movement to keep an eye on the avian wildlife.3. Eagle Optics Ranger ED 8x42$300 – 350Reviewers have praised this model for several reasons key to birding: Its rubberized waterproof design is durable for weather conditions birders frequently find themselves in, and its supple focus knob allows for easier tracking of birds moving among trees and other obstructions. The Ranger ED may be slightly too large for distance backpacking, but its image quality is top notch. Take these bins on trips that don’t require much hiking.4. Zeiss Terra ED 8x32$425 – 475Since its foundation in Germany in 1846, Zeiss has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading optics companies. The Terra ED is among the best of its name. Noted for its impressive field of view, which is said to surpass most of the other Zeiss models, these binoculars make an ideal accompaniment to any nature adventure – and hence, a fine fit for birdwatchers. An under-armor harness, plastic storage case, and nice velvet bag are also included.5. Steiner Predator 8x42$425 – 475Another German optics company, Steiner field-tests every lens it produces. Its Predator Pro has good mobility, a bright picture, and is simple to use. The color adjusted transmission coating is designed to increase contrast and light transmission, making wildlife (particularly fast-moving bird life) easier to see – though some reviewers have been unable to notice the difference when compared to lenses without the coating. Its magnesium alloy chassis is also durable and lightweight.6. Athlon Cronus 10×42$475 – 525Ideal for birders whose top priority is high-quality glass at a reasonable price, the Cronus is Athlon’s flagship model and commands a solid reputation among similar Nikon and Bushnell scopes. The ESP dielectric coating makes for excellent light transmission and clarity, two aforementioned priorities in birding. Reviewers have praised this model’s minimum focus distance (two meters) and detail when glassing at ranges around 300 meters (985 feet). Even at viewing distances of several miles, Cronus performed at least as well as more expensive birder-loving brands like Zeiss and Swarovski.7. Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 10x42$475 – 525The Monarch line has always been Nikon’s best-selling binocular product, a beloved choice among birders the world over. And though the 8x42 Monarch 5 is said to be their most popular model in terms of sales, the 7 (as professed by Nikon itself) is its top-performing binocular. Nikon is certainly qualified to make this statement: Founded in Japan in 1917, it has its hand in many areas of image technology. Not only that, its Monarch 7 is a quarter the cost of similar bins like the Zeiss Victory and is among the lightest and smallest in the Monarch family. The 7 uses a lens coating that sets it above the 5 and 3 models, and its online reviews attest to its quality.8. Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10x42$475 – 525Building on the success of the award-winning Endeavor ED, the ED II offers resolution-enhancing BAK4 roof prisms with phase coatings, extra-low dispersion glass, a close focus of two meters, fully multi-coated optics, 19.5mm of eye relief, and a magnesium body that is proofed against fog and water. (Rumor has it other binocular producers have had to lower their prices to better compete with Vanguard’s respectable position in the market.) Vanguard uses high-end Hoya optics from Japan to provide optimum clarity, though some reviews have mentioned that the adjustment on these bins can be a little stiff at first.9. Leica 10x25 Ultravid BCR$725 – 775The Leica-proclaimed “reference standard,” these compact binoculars are compared to just about every other compact model available. In some reviews, they are the lightest and smallest models tested. It may seem that Leica needed to make huge compromises in order to produce such a small model, but this does not appear to be the case: Regardless of their size, these bins still have many of specs modern birders have come to expect, such as multi-coating on every air-to-glass surface, phase-coated roof prisms, nitrogen-purged waterproof housing, and internal focusing. This model is perfect for bird watchers who like to put some hike into their hobby.10. CL Companion Polaris 8x30 B$1,325 – 1,375Swarovski is known for making glass of such superior quality it can virtually be marketed as jewelry. While the CL Companion Polaris is not as extravagantly outfitted (or priced) as some other Swarovski bins, it is a winning choice for both bird watching hikes and trips that require little foot traffic whatsoever, like Arctic or Antarctic bird watching cruises. Use its 124-meter (372-foot) field of view to get oriented, then zoom in using the 8x magnification. The binocular weighs 17.6 ounces (500 grams), measures 4.7 inches (119 mm) long, and has a comfortable ergonomic design, making it an easy item to pack for any occasion or distance. Keep these bins at your side and you’re sure to amass all manner of bird-filled sights to share with your fellow members in the American Birding Association, or any birdwatching society to which you happen to belong.
Carl Zeiss lenses are made in Germany and are world-renowned for their clarity, quality, and optical capabilities. In terms of image quality, you cannot buy much better range-finding binoculars. Well balanced, waterproof, with superb optics and range finding ability, the Carl Zeiss Victory RF Binoculars make calculating distance a snap. They are all-around excellent, and we can recommend them without any reservation. This product is an absolute joy to use.
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.
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.
Because the human pupil is about the same size as the binoculars' exit pupil, the emergent light at the eyepiece then fills the eye's pupil, meaning no loss of brightness in low light conditions due to using these binoculars (assuming perfect transmission). Thus the result is that you will perceive the image as being as bright as if you were to see it with the naked eyes.
Orion's telescope and astrophotography accessories will enhance your telescope enjoyment without breaking the bank. Expand your viewing experience with accessories ranging from moon filters to power-boosting Barlow lenses to advanced computerized telescope mounts. Capture breathtaking photos with our affordable astrophotography cameras. And when you're stargazing, Orion's telescope cases and covers, observing gear, red LED flashlights, astronomy books and star charts will make your observing sessions more convenient, comfortable and meaningful.
I initially thought these would only benefit prairie land outfitters, or those who guide hunts out in the vast open. If you think about it, the guide can monitor the range on the targeted animal while not having to take his eyes off of it. There would be no need to constantly switch between a rangefinder and a pair of binoculars, therefore a combo would be ideal for that type of situation.
The last marine/military oriented option on our list, we have the SVBONY 7×50. Similarly to the other rangefinder binoculars higher on the list, it’s a budget offering. It may not do as many things as the Bushnell above, or as the Nikon and Zeiss below, but then again, the price is very far from them as well. It costs a fraction of the price, and for someone who needs a new pair of binoculars but doesn’t have a high budget, it will more than just do the job. It’s also ideal for people who spend a lot of time on the water, because of its characteristics, such as the floating, waterproof construction. Let’s take a look at the specs and performance.
Recommendation: Always choose fully-multi-coated optics for wildlife observation and birding. If you’re buying roof prisms look for phase corrected prism coatings and silver mirror coatings if your budget will stretch to them. Dielectric prism coatings are better, and will deliver a brighter image, but tend to cost significantly more. If you’re shopping in the “premium” segment of the market, look for additional protective lens coatings that shield the external lens surfaces.
So, you found the Andromeda galaxy (M31) with your 2-lb.,10x60 binoculars. Now you want to actually see it without all that zigzagging round, turning your stars into lightning bolts. And you also want to show it to your partner. Wouldn't it be nice to just park your binoculars in position on the sky? To do that, you need to be sure your binoculars have a screw mount point for a support system.