The Binocular Site
Binocular Buying Tips
With the overwhelming options, features, and price points available, it can be downright scary to buy your first set of binoculars. While it is certainly worthwhile to do deep, investigative research, advice from the pros who have been there and done that can be much more valuable.
Most “research” has been offered by companies who want you to buy their binoculars, and you need good advice that isn't biased. Well, fear not, I have the tips you need to make a good purchasing decision, so you can avoid getting scammed and end up with a decent set of binoculars for your needs.
You may wish to consider contacting friends and local groups that use binoculars. Ask your hunter friend about his scope or binoculars, look in the phone book for birdwatching groups, or see if there's an astronomy club nearby. The advice and tips you can get from others in the know is always valuable. Discussion forums and online groups are also an excellent way to learn about specific models and get reviews from those who have used them.
On your own? You need to know about:
- Objective lens sizes – The bigger they are, the more light they take in, and the better they are in low-light. But, the bigger they are, the heavier they are, and the more expensive.
- Coatings – Coatings dramatically improve image quality even compensating for other features that are lower. Fully multi-coated binoculars are treated with coatings on every air-to-glass surface, making the best quality possible.
- Prisms – Porro prism binoculars are typically larger and heavier, but perform better at lower price points. Roof prisms may be more compact, but are often more expensive. Porro prisms are often great as a first set of binoculars, while Roof prisms will be in the binoculars that last a lifetime.
- Magnifications – It would seem that higher magnifications, but in fact, this is not always so. Do not get conned into buying higher magnifications. The higher the magnification, the smaller the area you can view at once, and the more likely your image could be distorted by the slightest shaking of your hands. 8x and 10x are perfectly fine for most normal uses, and are preferred by hunters and those who use binoculars to get up close at the game.
- Glass types – The two main types of glass used in binoculars are BK-7 and BAK-4. BAK-4 is recognized as higher quality, but can be more expensive. If you want to invest in the best quality, BAK-4 is the choice. If you want to buy a first set, second set, or a set for your kids, BK-7 is fine.
- Armor and eye cups – Comfort is perhaps the least appreciated aspect of using binoculars, yet is absolutely paramount. You're not going to use those binoculars if they hurt your eyes after a few minutes, don't fit in your hands nicely, or are too heavy to hold up. Try those binoculars in store.
- Focusing – Both center focusing and independent eye focusing are available, and which you choose is rather subjective. You need to investigate the focusing mechanism in-store to appreciate how it works, how easy it is to use, and if you're going to use it. If your picking up a set for casual birding, you may not be as concerned. But if you're in the military or need to do bird counts by focusing in on moving raptors, you need to be able to quickly and easily focus.
If you do have more time to research, it is highly recommended. While high-pressure sales people can make you feel you need to buy a set of binoculars this very moment, a little extra time will offer you a much better investment. The reality is, in terms of binoculars and scopes, higher prices do reflect better quality.
While that is somewhat of a relief, ideally you want to choose a set that meet your needs perfectly. To that end, we have binocular buying tips for those who want to go birdwatching binoculars, astronomony binoculars, hunting binoculars, and recommend you check them out to ensure you get the best binoculars for you.
More advanced features are often available too; for example, night vision technology is prized for surveillance, and giant binoculars with their extra wide lenses are great for observation during the day. Some prefer to use telescope binoculars since they allow for interchangeable eyepieces and can be more comfortable for astronomy, whereas some prefer the ultra-compact and low magnification available in monoculars.
While these added features may incur a higher cost, they are inevitably worth the extra investment, as long as they meet your needs. Therefore a little added time considering your options can go a long way when buying binoculars.