3 Things to Consider Before Buying Binoculars

When shopping for a new pair of glasses, remember there are other features to consider besides lens clarity

Whether you are glassing for elk above timberline or scanning a sprawling Alabama beanfield in low light, an investment in good glass will always improve your odds of seeing what you’re seeking. There are a lot of choices out there in a wide range of price points, but they all have a few things in common. Before you buy, here are some basics to keep in mind.

Magnification

Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism Binoculars
Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism BinocularsVortex Optics

Binocular magnification strength is designated with two numbers expressed as “n x n.” The first number is the amount of magnification, or how many times closer the object appears. The second number is the diameter in millimeters of the objective lens (farthest from the viewer). The larger the objective lens, the more light enters the barrel, which usually makes for a brighter image. The lower the natural light, the more critical a large objective-lens size becomes. Just remember that increased light gathering also means increased bulk.

Field of View

Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism BinocularBushnell

The second variable in selecting a pair of binoculars is field of view. That is the image width or area visible at a certain distance. For instance, a typical field of view might be 350 feet at 1,000 yards. As magnification increases, field of view decreases. Thus, an eastern woodland whitetail hunter might prefer an 8x35 glass for its wider field of view in close quarters, as opposed to the 10x42 binoculars carried by a western elk hunter or, say, the 15x70 honkers of a backyard astronomer. Let use and environment guide your choice.

Cost vs. Performance

Nikon 8248 ACULON A211 10x50 Binocular
Nikon 8248 ACULON A211 10x50 BinocularNikon

There is no question that the most expensive binoculars offer the highest performance. But how much do you really need? Some believe that beyond the age of about forty, deteriorating eyesight makes the highest-quality glass a proposition of diminishing returns. Aging eyes may not be able to detect the difference between the top-tier products and those a level below. Don’t assume you have to break the bank to get what you need. The only reliable way to determine what’s right for you is to sample multiple pairs from buddies, or at consumer shows, or in the local sporting-goods store, and then weigh what you see against what it costs.