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Tips On Buying Binoculars

Jan 27, 2008
Binoculars are a necessary addition to anyone's backpack, purse, or pocket; whether en route to the latest opera or a trek to your favorite hiking, hunting, birding, or marine adventure. With all the product specs and new technologies, the whole process of buying a new pair can seem a little intimidating. Below is a basic list of what types of binoculars there are as well as an easy-to-understand specification reference guide according to activity; to help you find the best set of new eyes for your intended purpose or adventure.

Before even considering what type of binoculars to buy, it is necessary to understand just how these trusty devices work. Binoculars are essentially dual refractor telescopes for each eye; made up of a series of curved lens' that refract and reflect the light from the object in view, and magnify it at the eyepiece. They come in a variety of magnifications (power levels) and apertures; as well as other technical specifications to enhance the sharpness, clarity, light resolution, etc of the distant object.

ˇThe magnification of the binoculars is inversely proportional to the aperture (width of the objective lens); so if you have a high magnification, the object will become closer while limiting the light that the aperture allows (so the image will look closer, but darker). The common formula that you will find will be example: 7X35. In this example, the first number if the magnification, and the second is the aperture. Moreover, the aperture's width will tell you how much light will be allowed in your sight.

ˇThere are prism types and prisms glasses to concern yourself with when buying a new pair of binoculars. Prisms are glass mechanisms that in short, assure that you see the object of interest right side up, from right to left (whereas the reflection refraction science of the matter receives the image upside down). There are roof prisms and porro roof prisms. The former is smaller than the porro, and helps cut down on the bulkiness of a standard binocular. Though the roof prism is quite a bit more expensive, it is also typically better aligned because it is housed inside the binocular as opposed to the porro which is on the outside. The porro prism is the original prism used in binoculars, is the larger construction of the two, and is much more inexpensive. Luckily, binoculars with porro prisms are usually just as optically correct; the only downfall is the less portable design. Almost all binoculars come with the Bak4 prisms. This denotes a certain level of quality in the actual glass. Never invest in a pair of binoculars with a different prism glass grade.

ˇField of View is inversely proportional to the magnification of your binoculars, and is the term that denotes the actual amount of the object that you will see, in relation to the distance it is from you. For example, if you want to see an object that is 100 yards away, and the field of view is 250 feet at 1000 yards away; you will be able to discern a maximum of 250 feet of the object. The higher the field of view, the lower the magnification (the more you see of the object, the less the details will be apparent).

ˇLens coatings come in three variations: fully-coated, multi-coated, and fully-multi-coated. The lens coatings are chemicals added to the lens to enhance the light available. Coatings of some sort on the lenses of your binoculars is absolutely necessary, because about half of the light perceived from an object is lost when the light reflects off your lens. Fully-coated lenses are the most base of coating. It involves a single layer of chemical, and though inexpensive...will not allow hardly any more light than having no coating at all. Multi-coated lens have been treated with a composite of special chemicals to allow a middle range light allowance. Finally, the fully-multi-coated lens (or FMC) offers the maximum light allowance, and is really the only fool-proof coating system to use.

ˇThere are three basic focusing technical specifications that you will come across when searching for the perfect pair of binoculars: center focus, individual eyepiece focus, and no-focus or focus-free. Center focus involves one wheel to focus objects, and is the most common choice as it resolutely focuses both close and distant objects with ease. Individual eyepiece focus involves focusing both right and left eyepieces separately, and works best with medium to long distance objects. Typically, once focused properly, the IF system will allow you to see objects 40 yards plus in focus; and no further adjustment is necessary. The focus-free or no-focus systems cannot be adjusted to a different focus. Though these give you no control of sight variance, binoculars with no-focus will be much less expensive.

ˇDiopter adjustments are systems that will compensate for the sight perception abilities between your left and right. Most people have one eye that is slightly stronger than the other as far as perception, and having the diopter is very convenient for the best in vision.

ˇEye relief refers to the maximum amount of distance your eye can be from the objective lens in order to be able to perceive the object in question's field of view, clearly. This will vary depending on whether you wear glasses or will be watching something for extended periods of time. Typically, the standard eye relief is 14-15 mm in length.

Binocular Activities

General: If you are looking for an all-purpose set of binoculars, the most common specs to look for are: 7X35 or 8X40 magnification, fully-multi-coated lenses, any focus, and middle-of-the-road field of view.

Hunting or Birding: If you are looking for binoculars best suited to hunting, the best specs to opt for are: 8X40, 8X42, 10X40, or 10X42 magnification; waterproof armored construction, long eye relief, roof prism, center or individual eyepiece focus, and medium to high field of view.

Marine: If you are looking for the best binoculars for spotting marine wildlife, the best specs to look for are: 7X50 magnification, waterproof armored design, long eye relief, roof prism, center or individual eyepiece focus, and medium to high field of view.

Sporting or Opera: If you want a pair of binoculars or opera glasses best suited for watching sporting or opera events: 8X40 or 8X42 magnification, long eye relief, roof prism, low field of view, and higher zoom features.

Astronomy: If you're looking for the best binoculars to see the stars, the best specs to look for are: 7X50 or 10X50 magnification without a tripod (10X70, 20X80, or 25X100 for use with a tripod), long eye relief, roof or porro prism, and low to medium field of view.

Also worthy to note as you embark on your trek to find the best binoculars suited to your interests and whims, is that buying a brand that you know will never lead you astray. I recommend any one of the following: Barska, Bushnell, Carson, Alpen, Galileo, or Tasco.
About the Author
Opticsale.com has a variety of discount, high performance, brand name binoculars and binocular accessories.
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