Binoculars are apparatuses that will never go out of style. Depending on the use you intend to make of them they can be the perfect companions to a picnic, great allies during any surveillance tasks and even a useful accessory for an evening at the opera or the theatre.
Today, many manufacturers are increasing the available number of models for these gadgets. This has made choosing the right binoculars a lengthier task. Moreover, even before making the final purchase, it’s important to be familiar with certain technical aspects that are specific to the field of optics.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Ranking: The best binoculars on the market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about binoculars
- 3.1 What are binoculars exactly?
- 3.2 What are the elements that make up binoculars?
- 3.3 What are the main uses for binoculars?
- 3.4 What are the advantages and disadvantages of using binoculars?
- 3.5 How to use binoculars?
- 3.6 Who would benefit from the use of binoculars?
- 3.7 What types of binoculars are there?
- 3.8 How are magnifications and diameter measured?
- 3.9 What are optical treatments that lenses and prisms perform?
- 3.10 What type of care do binoculars require?
- 4 Purchase Criteria
- 5 Summary
- Binoculars, also known as spy glasses or spyglass, are an optical instrument that is used to enlarge the image size of objects at a distance.
- Primarily, binoculars can be distinguished into to types based on the prism design: Porro Prism Binoculars and Roof Prism Binoculars.
- Binoculars are mostly used for surveillance tasks, nautical exploration and observing nature, particularly birds.
Ranking: The best binoculars on the market
In this section we have ranked the top 5 binocular models available to you on the Canadian market. Each one stands out and has been chosen because of specific characteristics that make them worth a second look. The one thing in common: they all offer great value for your money. Read on and choose the one that best suits your needs.
No. 1: Aurosports, Folding High Powered Binoculars (10 x 25)
These are compact, lightweight and foldable binoculars, ideal for bird watching. They can be used in both day and night time (low-light-level night vision – you won’t be able to see anything in complete darkness). This model has a large field of view and it allows you to focus on your target in great detail at 1,000 yards out and it’s lenses are fully multi-coated. They are made with waterproof, hyper-durable, anti-slip materials.
They are equipped with 10x magnification and with a 25mm objective lense. This is a very affordable piece of equipment, ideal for ornithology enthusiasts (bird watchers), during excursions to the countryside or while attending sporting or cultural events. In addition, they are suitable for both adults and kids, fit for hunting, hikiking, exploring and pretty much anything else you can think of.
No. 2: Occer, Compact Binoculars (12 x 25)
This high-power equipment comes with large eyepieces for a great and comfortable fit. These binoculars are foldable and even though they are extremely lightweight they are still super powerful at the same time. They feature BaK4 prisms with full multiple coating (FMC) to deliver a high quality image even in low light conditions. This item can be used in many different situations, it’s non-slip rubber armor is made to ensure a secure grip and it also makes it shockproof and water resistant.
This binoculars has 12x magnification, 25mm objective lens and wide field of view, 273ft/1000yds, letting you look farther and see wider. The long eye relief system combined with the large eyepieces give you a comfortable viewing experience, even while wearing sunglasses or eyeglasses. These compact binoculars have 15mm large eyepieces, which allow you to see a more clear image.
No. 3: Celestron, UpClose G2 Binocular (20 x 50)
Even though we have chosen to feature the 20×50 model, this brand offers different spec options: 10 x 50 / 20 x 50 / 7 x 35 / 8 x 40. This is a great option of high-quality binoculars at a very affordable price. It’s 20x long distance viewing makes this a great choice for whale watching and other long distance observation. Moreover, even at 20x this binoculars are only a little taller than a mobile phone and it’s remarkably light in weight and can be mounted on a tripod.
This model has a fully armoured exterior, it’s stylish rubber coated body protects the binoculars against the rigours of active use and rough handling. Furthermore, it has ergonomic thumb indents and finger ridges that provide extra non-slip comfort and ease of use. Like other models on this list, this instrument is water resistant with the addition of including a soft carrying case and binocular straps. Lastly, its soft, folding eyecups are comfortable to use and can be easily positioned for use with or without eyewear.
No. 4: Bushnell, H2O Binocular (10 x 42)
These next binoculars are 100% waterproof and are O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged for reliable, fog-free underwater performance. It’s BaK-4 prisms and multi-coated optics offer crisp and clear images with improved light transmission, even in low-light conditions. These binoculars are ideal for outdoor activities and star gazing.
With their 10x magnification and 42mm objective diameter; 12-foot close focus distance; 17mm eye relief they offer a wonderful viewing experience. Their non-slip rubber armor and Soft Texture Grip absorbs shock and provides a firm grasp. It’s large center-focus knob ensures easy adjustments and it comes with twist-up flexible eyecups for comfort.
No. 5: Vortex Optics, Diamondback Roof Prism Binoculars (8 x 28)
These Diamondback binoculars are the workhorse of the Vortex brand lineup; they are known for impressive optical quality and long-lasting durability. These dielectric, fully multi-coated lenses transmit more light and clearer, brighter images. They boast of a field of view that is one of the largest in its class, which helps you efficiently explore your surroundings and identify your target.
It has a sleek, short hinge design with rubber armor and thumb indents that leave more room for your hands creating an easier, secure, non-slip grip. It’s multi-position eyecups twist up for adjustable eye relief. A right eye diopter adjusts to make up for focal differences in your eyes. Lastly, it’s argon purging provides enhanced waterproof and fogproof performance even during extreme weather conditions.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about binoculars
When buying binoculars, and any other technology really, it’s essential that you consider a number of important aspects. Keep in mind there is a vast range in models of binoculars on the market, each with specific and varying characteristics. For your benefit, in this section we address the most frequently asked questions from buyers.
What are binoculars exactly?
Binoculars, binocs or spy glasses, are a tool that lets people see far away, it enlarges imagines that are at great distances. They use optics technology and are made up of a pair of matched telescopes (cylindrical tubes), inside these tubes there is a set of lenses and a prism, which enlarges the image for each eye individually, producing the effect known as stereoscopy.
What are the elements that make up binoculars?
Let’s begin with the eyepiece, this part of the apparatus is noticeably smaller than the other end (the objectives). The next part of the exterior is the diopter adjustment tool which allows for the individualized focusing of each eye. Next, comes the focus wheel, it can be found near the eyepiece, in between the lenses. This dial allows you to slight move the interior lenses in order to bring images to focus. It’s a great tool to adjust for the varying needs of different eye sights.
Let’s move on to their interior which is made up of prisms and objective lenses. Prisms are made of glass and are located in the handle portion of the binoculars. These receive the light from the objective and reflect it back and forth. Note that a longer handle portion means more prisms are incorporated into that pair of binoculars – which in turn means the more magnification of your target.
Last but not least, there are the objective lenses. These are located opposite the eyepiece and this end is noticeably larger than the opposing end. The main job for these lenses is to capture available light and feed it safely to the eyepiece, they are the main gateway for allowing the sight of a target. Keep in mind that damaged objectives may render binoculars practically useless. Lastly, some models of binoculars come with a universal tripod attachment.
What are the main uses for binoculars?
Binoculars have many applications mainly in surveillance, nautical exploration and nature observation – nature lovers often use them to bird watch. Moreover, shorter-range binoculars are often used at theatres or circuses to see the show up close.
They are also often used for observing the stars. In fact, experts often recommend starting your astronomical observations with binoculars, rather than going straight to a telescope. Furthermore, the use of binoculars has extended to the viewing of sporting events.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using binoculars?
Binoculars have a number of advantages that make them irreplaceable tools for certain specific tasks. For starters, nowadays they are lightweight and easily transportable. In addition, they offer a wide field of vision and can be used in a large variety of activities. As for their downfall, these instruments have a limited magnification capacity.
How to use binoculars?
When using a pair of binoculars for the first time, the initial step is to align your pupils with the exit pupils. Moreover, it’s also important adjust the eyepiece cups to best fit you. These can be separated a little to make sure they encompass most of the eye. This will allow you to enjoy a more complete field of vision.
Of course, after you’ve put on and adjusted your binoculars, it’s important that you focus correctly on the object you are targeting.
To do this, close your right eye and with the center wheel adjust the focus until you see the image sharply and clearly. Then, just like the first side, close your left eye and opening your right eye and adjust the image with the diopter wheel.
Who would benefit from the use of binoculars?
You may be interested in purchasing a pair of binoculars if you like spending time in nature or the countryside and want to observe the elements more closely – namely birds. Moreover, if you love to do nautical exploration and activities, they can be great gadgets to face the great distances at sea. Furthermore, if you do surveillance in an open field or even to attend leisure activities such as theatre or opera – a pair binoculars will come in handy.
What types of binoculars are there?
There are two types of binoculars based on the prism system design they have: Porro Prism Binoculars and Roof Prism Binoculars. The performance of the binoculars you choose will be determined by which of these two types you decided on. The following table is a visual presentation of the most important characteristics of each of these two types of optic instruments.
|Roof Prism||Porro Prism|
|Prism||Their prism is aligned with the lenses.||Their prisms are not linearly aligned.|
|Size and weight||They are smaller and lighter and therefore more manageable.||They are heavier and larger.|
|Sharpness||Less sharpness and contrast.||These offer images with more sharpness and greater contrast.|
|Price||Their price is usually higher.||These tend to be cheaper.|
How are magnifications and diameter measured?
To express the magnifications and the diameter of the binoculars a series of numbers are used and they are expressed as follows: 10 x 50. The first figure represents the increase (magnification) of the target being observed. Thus, the greater this value, the closer the image to reality.
The second figure on the other hand, represents the diameter of the objective lens in millimetres (mm). This value influences the amount of light they let through. Thus, a larger lens means more brightness and a higher quality image. There are also zoom binoculars with specs expressed like: 10 – 30 x 40 – These instruments have a varying degree of magnification.
What are optical treatments that lenses and prisms perform?
When the light enters through the binoculars’ objective lenses, it goes through the elements and changes its medium. This causes unwanted reflections to appear, taking away luminosity and distorting the colours. This can be avoided if the lenses and prisms of the binoculars are coated with magnesium fluoride.
Binoculares can have the following types of coating:
- Coated: At least one of the major optical elements has a coating on at least one surface.
- Fully Coated: All lenses and glass surfaces have a coating layer, this includes the long side of the prism.
- Multi-Coated: When at least one of the surfaces has several layers of treatment.
- Fully Broadband Multi-Coated: When all surfaces are treated with several coats, this is predominantly found in binoculars with sporting scopes.
What type of care do binoculars require?
First and foremost, we would like to advise that you buy a waterproof or water-resistant model. If this is not possible, it’s very important that you make sure that water and dust particles don’t enter the interior of the gadget. Moreover, we suggest that you change the protective tape they come with a thicker one. This will not only make the grip more comfortable, it also helps keep them safe by avoiding accidental drops.
In this next section, we analyze a series of important criteria that we believe you should take into consideration before purchasing a pair of binoculars. Some of these are the normal criteria you should consider when making any type of purchase, others however are specific to binoculars and are often overlooked or unknown to the average user.
- Intended use
- Weight and size
- Lens diameter
- Angular field of vision
- Relative brightness
- Exit pupil
This is a question you should always ask yourself when choosing to purchase something. For example, you would use a different type of binoculars for going to the opera once in a while and for bird watching on the countryside every weekend. Nor will you use the same binoculars to make simple astronomical observations. The specifications you need in the model you choose will greatly depend on your interests and needs.
Bird-watching is usually done using binoculars with magnifications between 7x and 10x. For the opera, theatre or any other type of show on the other hand, 3 x 10 lenses are often best. 7 x 50 and 10 x 50 binoculars however, are used for simple astronomical observations. Finally, binoculars with specs of up to 20 x 50 are usually used for scanning and surveillance.
The mount design of the binoculars is of major influence and positively correlated to their resistance to many environmental factors. It is also a key component in how comfortable the equipment you decide to purchase will end up being. For this aspect, rubber frames tend to be more comfortable. Keep in mind that the highest quality binoculars are sealed against water and dust particles.
Weight and size
If you plan to carry them with you often, we would suggest making sure not to overlook this criterion. Remember that their weight and size will depend on the type of binoculars you choose. The porro prisms are heavier and larger than the roof prism models. Last, it’s often best to opt for a model that has a well thought out ergonomic design.
When choosing your pair of binoculars, it’s important that you decide on ones with mineral (glass) prisms. If possible, avoid prisms of organic origin, these are usually made with low quality plastics. Currently, there exists two types of mineral prisms: BK-7 (borosilicate) and BaK-4 (barium).
In general, BK-7 prisms tend to be cheaper and less efficient in light transmission. BaK-4 prisms on the other hand, are of higher quality and for this reason they provide images with greater sharpness and contrast. Moreover, this type projects a more luminous image, since they have a higher reflective index.
Without a doubt, their magnifying capabilities is a factor of utmost importance. Generally, magnifying values below eight can be considered low values. Magnification between eight and ten are considered normal. Then, values between 10 and 16 are considered relatively high, while those with a magnifying capacity above 16 are very powerful instruments.
The higher their capacity for magnification, the greater the chances that any movement makes the image shake and vibrate. Thus, when using gadgets with magnifications greater than 12, we advice the use a tripod for a more stable image. So, if you’re using an instrument with magnifying values above 16, the use a tripod will be absolutely necessary in order to use it. However, this rule doesn’t apply to models with mechanical or electronic stabilization systems.
The objective lenses in binoculars are located on the front of the instrument. They are the lenses with the largest diameter and the size of the diameter is the second characteristic number expressed in the specs of binoculars. Remember that the larger the diameter of these lenses, the sharper and brighter the image you receive. This is a crucial aspect to consider if you will be using the gadget in low-light conditions or at night.
Lastly, the resolution is also directly related to the size of the objective lenses. Nonetheless, make sure not make the common error of thinking that the higher this number is, the better the binoculars will be – The quality of the binoculars will also deepened on many other factors.
Angular field of vision
In general, the angular field of vision of a pair of binoculars is indicated in degrees on the outside of the binoculars. A larger field of vision implies a being enable to observe a larger and wider area. This aspect is indirectly related to the magnifying capabilities of the gadget. This means, the higher the magnification, the smaller the field of vision and vice versa.
The exit pupil refers to the cone of light that comes out of the eyepiece. The higher this value, the brighter the image the binoculars project, hence its great importance. The value of its diameter is obtained by dividing the diameter of the objectives by the number of magnification. Thus, in 20×50 binoculars, the exit pupil is 2.5 mm.
The diameter of the pupil of the human eye usually varies between 1.5 mm under bright light, 5 mm in normal conditions and 8 mm in dark environments. If the diameter of the exit pupil is smaller, you will have the sensation that you’re looking through the peephole of a door. If this number is higher, you won’t be able to take advantage of all the light captured by the objective lenses.
The relative brightness is defined as the ability of the binoculars to capture and transmit a sufficient level of light to provide sharp, well-contrasted images. The higher the relative brightness, the brighter the images you will see. This value is calculated by squaring the diameter of the exit pupil.
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The focus, or sharpness adjustment capabilities are carried out by means of a wheel usually located in the middle of the lenses. More, some binoculars allow you to independently adjust each eyepiece. Remember that when choosing binoculars, it’s important that you check both its minimum and infinity focusing distance.
The minimum focus is defined as the minimum distance at which it is possible to focus on an object. A good value for this criteria is around five or eight meters. It is considered excellent focus if this value comes close to two metres. On the other hand, to check out the infinity focus, you can try and focus on a very distant, rectilinear object.
Some of the most common accessories for binocular are: carrying straps, rain covers and tripods. The strap is used to easily carry the binoculars while walking. The lids are used to protect the lenses from the rain or water exposure and the tripod is used to stabilize the image and prevent vibration.
Binoculars are optical instruments that allow us to zoom in on distant objects. This makes them ideal for a wide variety of uses and activities. However, they are not all made the same, nor do they offer the same types of benefits. For this reason, it’s important that you are clear about what kind of particular use you plan to give them and what kind of features you need them to have.
Remember that you’re not going to buy the same binoculars to go to the opera on Friday nights as you would for astronomical observations. Their varying uses and characteristics makes choosing the right gadget a not so easy task. Furthermore, there are certain technical criteria you must consider before making your final choice.
We hope this guide has helped you find the right binoculars for you. If you have found value in this information, we would appreciate it if you could share this article with your friends or comment on your thoughts.
(Featured image source: Martnez: 43293816/123rf.com)