Choosing binoculars isn't always easy, and sometimes advertisements make exaggerated claims. Only you can make the choice, bearing in mind price, performance, size, durability, and your own particular needs. At the bottom line, ask yourself 'Does this binocular feel OK to me?' If the answer's a definite 'Yes', go ahead and buy.
What do the figures mean?
In all binocular specifications, two sets of
figures are supplied (e.g. 10x42). Sometimes there's a letter as well,
such as B or GA. The first figure indicates magnification the number of
times the image is enlarged. This is usually 7x, 8x, or 10x,. The second
figure indicates the diameter of the 'objective lens' - the lens furthest
from your eye. (The measurement is in millimetres.) The larger this lens,
the more light enters the instrument. It's this measurement that determines
the physical size of the binocular. The letter B means that the eyepieces
are suitable for spectacle wearers. You can use these binoculars while
wearing your glasses without losing field-of-view.
What magnification do I need?
Generally, the lower the magnification the
wider the field-of-view and the brighter the image the easier to use without
a support.So 8x are ideal if you are using a telescope as well, or for
woodland use, or at sea, or in poor light. They are recommended if you're
walking, too, being easier and quicker to use. You get good depth of field,
and you don't have to keep refocusing.
What type of binoculars do I need?
There are two main body types: the traditional
porroprism design, with an angled body shape, and the roof prism (or 'Dach')
design, with its 'straight through' look. Roof prisms may be more expensive.
They have internal focusing which is more robust and protects the optics,
and they are more compact.
As well as magnification and type, you need
to think about the way the binoculars handle: are they comfortable to
use? Is the weight and size manageable? Think about the optical quality,
the image brightness, the field-of- view. What are you going to use the
binoculars for hide-work, estuary viewing, in woodland or in the garden?
Are you going to use them frequently and in rough conditions? If so, you
need to choose a durable pair, maybe checking for waterproofing. Are you
going to use them for insect watching and long range plant study as well?
If so, make sure they have good close-focusing ability.