What Makes A Good Pair Of Binoculars? Our Check List.

Written by 

Steven 

Updated on: 

October 12, 2021

How Do I Find a Pair Of Good Binoculars? - Our Ultimate Guide

There are so many kinds of binoculars on the market, whether you want a bird watchers pair of binoculars or expensive binoculars with art image performance. 

But you might be wondering, what makes a good pair of binoculars? 

Well, a good pair of binoculars typically have to use good quality glass optics, as this is what creates the intensity of the image you see. However, premium binoculars also have a whole range of other features too which make them top spec.

So in our guide below, we will cover the main points as to what makes premium binoculars and what factors you should consider before investing in a pair, we have also thrown in a short care guide to keep your high-quality binoculars in the best condition.  

What Type Of Binocular Do You Need?

Before we can get into what makes good binoculars we should go other the specs you need to consider beforehand so as you can be sure you are choosing the right pair. 

There is a huge range of binoculars to choose from when talking about the initial types, from roof prism binoculars to Porro prism binoculars, as well as night vision binos

We will go over these main two types of premium binoculars below to help you decide on the humble binoculars for you. 

Roof Prism Binoculars 

Roof prism binoculars are the more modern version of Porro prism average binoculars, they are more sleek and compact having a streamlined design which makes them lighter binoculars too. 

These compact-style binoculars however have a more complex internal lens system that produces a brighter image than Porro prism models making the high-quality optics a little more expensive.

Pros 

  • Lightweight. 
  • Compact choices of model. 
  • Better high-contrast optics.

Cons 

  • Can have a narrow field of view. 
  • Expensive price. 

Porro Prism Binoculars 

Porro prism binoculars on the other hand are the old school version of premium binoculars that sends light from your objective lenses through a pair of triangle catchers which inverts the light to create an image seen through the lens. 

Although this design does make the heavy binocular a little bulkier, it is easier to fix thanks to its simple mechanism and are often more affordable binoculars. They also have great, high-contrast images and a wider field of view than roof prism binoculars.

Pros 

  • Great 3D imaging. 
  • Affordable price. 
  • Wide field of view. 

Cons

  • Bulky. 
  • Lower magnification.

Which Type Should I Choose?

Overall, for long-range spotting and daytime use, we would suggest going for the more expensive roof prism binoculars, however, if you want binoculars for birding or short-range spotting, then the more affordable Porro prism binoculars might be the better choice with their wider field of view.

What Size Binocular Do You Need? 

Not only does the different type of binocular determine how good they are, but so does the two numbers that determine their size. 

When choosing a good pair of binoculars you have to ensure your getting the right magnification level and objective lens size otherwise your binos might be of no use. 

Binoculars come with two numbers to determine their power, the first number with the 'X' symbol refers to the magnification that your binoculars come with.

A higher magnification over 10x is great for purposes such as astronomy but will be harder to get good image stabilisation, it will also limit your field of view.

The second number refers to your objective lens diameter, this shows how much light your binoculars will let in through the lens which can help them work better in low-light conditions. 

We've listed the ideal binocular sizes to pick based on activities down below. 

  • Sporting events - For sporting events, any sizes between 7x25 and 10x50 are a great choice that will keep your binoculars compact and keep a wide field of view too. 
  • Bird watching & hunting - We recommend a 10x42 to a 12x52 pair of binoculars for birding and hunting, this allows you to magnify well for tracking subjects but still will not limit your FOV too much. 
  • Marine - Binoculars with a power of 7x40 and 8x42 are great for marine binos, these should be waterproof and have durable rubber armour too for outdoor water use. 
  • Astronomical - If you are looking to zone in on the night sky then your binoculars need to have a pretty high magnification of over 15x and an objective lens of over 50mm.

Steps For Choosing Your Binoculars 

We will get into what features make a good pair of binoculars next but we will briefly go over a few steps to keep in mind for choosing the right pair so as you can be sure your binos will be the right ones.

  • Decide your price - Spending more on binoculars will often give you a better intensity of the image in the long run, but you can also find some pretty good binoculars in the lower price range too which don't compromise on image quality, this might be at the cost of weight, however.
  • Choose a power - As we mentioned above, what makes binoculars good are if they are suited to your purpose, so you must ensure that the model you buy has the right magnification as well as objective lens size.
  • Test some binos - So as you can get a feel for what you want, you should try testing out a few different binoculars first so as you can know the type of binoculars that you want, this will also help you decide the prism style and power.
  • Check the reviews - Checking the reviews of your binoculars beforehand is important, some binos might be heavier than stated or have faulty accessories, so knowing what your getting beforehand will determine how good your binoculars are. 
  • Consider the important specs - What makes binoculars good are their specs, some important wants you should always check are the eye relief for eyeglass wearers, the field of view, magnification, close focus and weight.
  • Look for a bright image - No matter the prism design or price, a brighter image is what makes binoculars good, so ensuring your model has multi-coated optics is one way to get a good image quality.

What Features Make Good Binoculars? 

Determining what makes a pair of binoculars good is down to preference, but there are some important features to make sure your binoculars have if you want the best pair for observing. 

We've listed the essentials to look for which make binoculars stand out over others below. 

  • Magnification -The first and most important feature that will determine if your binoculars are good is how far you can see with them, some people assume the higher magnification the better, but this is not always the case is will be harder to hold and limit your image width. Going for a 10x or 8x magnification is suitable for most people, but for astronomical views in the sky, you might want something higher around 12x or 15x.
  • Objective lens - Your objective lens size will allow more light for a brighter image, by standard a good pair of binos will have a diameter version of around 42mm but higher options are available too, however, these will add extra weight to your design.
  • Exit pupil - The average binoculars should have an exit pupil of about 4mm but they can range between 2mm and 7mm too, some lower light binos might have a larger exit pupil.
  • FOV - Field of view refers to how wide you can see through your lens, this is typically expressed per 1000 yards in most binoculars but can also be said in degrees. Higher magnification will limit your FOV so bear this in mind when choosing your binoculars. 
  • Eye relief - If you wear glasses the eye relief of your binoculars are super important, the higher the eye relief is the better as there is less risk of it cutting off the image you see at a distance. The eye relief on your binoculars should always be over 15mm.
  • Close focus - You never know when you might want to view an object up close as well as far away, this is where the close focus distance is important, as it will allow you to focus on objects such as feathers that are near you. The best close focus distance for binos is around 2m.
  • Lenses - The lenses are the most essential spec of your binos, whether you want lenses for bird watching or sporting events. This determines how much detail you will see as well as colour, so extra-low dispersion glass lenses tend to be used on the best binoculars. 
  • Lens coating - Not only should you consider the type of glass lenses used in your binoculars but you should additionally look at the lens coating. Lens coatings help stop your image from fringing and give a sharper view, the best type of glass lenses to watch out for are Bak-4 prism coatings or fully multi-coated lenses. 
  • Eyepieces - The eyepieces around your binoculars should be comfortable to use for long periods, for people who wear glasses have eyepieces lenses that are adjustable or can be twisted up is very important too. 
  • Focus mechanism - Most good binoculars will have an easy centre focus mechanism but some of the cheaper binoculars might not have this at all, this focusing should be quick and easy to set for any user.
  • Design - Outdoor binoculars need to have a durable design for activities such as birding, your binoculars should have rubber grips and be armoured in case of any dropping. The best binos have nitrogen filling too so as they can stay fog proof and waterproof.
  • Weight - Depending on the type of binoculars you buy, some can get pretty heavy, and you need to ensure your binos are lightweight compact-sized binoculars if you are going to be holding them for long periods during activities such as birding.
  • Night vision - Night vision is a great extra feature to look for in good binoculars if you are into hunting or viewing wildlife at night, not all binoculars have it but some of the higher-end models will.
  • Accessories - Some accessories which make good binoculars are a carry case, neck strap and even a tripod, some of these will be included depending on the value of your binoculars.
  • Warranty - No matter what, your binoculars should come with a one-year warranty for buyers protection, this also shows the binoculars manufacturer is responsible and reputable.

How To Take Care Of Your Good Binoculars 

Once you've found a good pair of binoculars you will need to ensure that you are taking care of them properly for them to function properly and last a long time. 

We have listed a few tips for taking care of your new binoculars below. 

  • Always use the strap - The strap on your binoculars can save you many times if you pick your binos up too quickly and drop them.
  • Clean the lenses when needed - To clean the lenses of your binoculars properly you should be using a proper lens brush, microfibre cloth and lens cleaning solution, never fog the lenses with your breath and always remove dust before to prevent any scratches. The outside of your binoculars can be cleaned with a cloth easily.
  • Carry them in their case - When not using your binoculars always store them in their carry case to prevent dust build-up and stop any accidents.
  • Keep out of direct sunlight - Direct heat for long periods has the potential to harm your binoculars, store them in the shade when you can.
  • Use the lens caps - The lens cap is there for a reason, to prevent scratches and dust from ruining your optics, always replace them after use.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Makes Good Binoculars 

How much does a decent pair of binoculars cost? 

This varies according to a huge range of factors but on average they can cost from £100 to even £500 if you get a luxury model.

Is the objective lens size important on binoculars? 

Your objective lens size is important if you want to be using your binos in low light situations such as for the night sky, for people who want to keep their binoculars compact they should get a smaller objective lens size.

Do I need a pair of binoculars with waterproofing? 

Waterproof binoculars are great for outdoor use, we always recommend opting for waterproofing when possible as it can save your binos in any unexpected weather conditions.

Are the eyepieces of binoculars important? 

Yes, the eyepieces are important as it is where you will rest your eyes for long periods, they should have comfortable rubber grips to avoid eye fatigue and be a comfortable distance apart for people who wear glasses, ideally, they need to be twistable eyecups too for better adjustability.

Should I get binoculars with a higher magnification? 

Binoculars with higher magnification are great for viewing objects from a further distance but you will have to make a compromise for the field of view if you choose a higher magnification, the image will be harder to keep stable too.

Final Words

To conclude, what makes binoculars good is down to what you need, but the most desirable features are a durable design, coated optics, and easy use focusing system as well as a good compromise between the field of view and magnification. Always be willing to spend more if you after an extra high-quality image.

Born and raised in the south coast of UK, a small town close to Cornwall, I have adventure in my blood. Ever since a young age, I have always been into the great outdoors and particularly love watching the natural wildlife. Birdwatching is what I enjoy the most, and thus my natural interest in binoculars began. I founded and run Best-Binoculars.UK a site where I talk about various aspects of and review binoculars. Hope you enjoy my ramblings :)

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Steven
Born and raised in the south coast of UK, a small town close to Cornwall, I have adventure in my blood. Ever since a young age, I have always been into the great outdoors and particularly love watching the natural wildlife. Birdwatching is what I enjoy the most, and thus my natural interest in binoculars began. I founded and run Best-Binoculars.UK a site where I talk about various aspects of and review binoculars. Hope you enjoy my ramblings :)

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