It can be really confusing trying to work out what are the best binoculars for you. There are so many different size, types, configurations, prices and quality standards in the market. Following are some of the basic issues and features to consider before buying your binoculars. If you want more information or technical detail, you can also check out the Frequently Asked Questions – Binoculars where these and other issues are covered in more depth.
What do you want to use the binoculars for?
There are specialist binoculars designed for different uses; opera, bird-watching, marine, hiking/outdoors, astronomy, hunting, sporting events are some of the types available. There are some binoculars that have special features such as a zoom function that enables you to change the magnification of the binoculars. Binoculars are often displayed under these headings to make the selection process easier.
What you want to use them for will help you in deciding the features such as size, weight and quality of the make.
What is your budget?
There are some very good brands in the market, we stock what we consider are the best value for money. You can get a good set of waterproof binoculars for under $500 made by Saxon or you move into the $1,000+ range if you want the quality and performance of the Steiner range. Some of the waterproof binoculars we offer can be over $2,000 but come with a 30 year warranty, superb construction and great optical performance.
What power binoculars do you need?
All binoculars have a pair of numbers ##x##, for example 10x42. The first number is the power (magnification) and the second number is the size of the lens (42mm). In this example, the 10 means 10 times closer than seeing the subject with only your own eyesight. The lower the magnification, the brighter the subject will appear and the wider the area that you will be able to see. So, decide on what you are normally looking at: birds, landscape, etc. The more powerful binocular will be harder to keep steady because of the small FOV (field of view). If you are going to use the binoculars at dusk a lot, you will need a larger lens size (maybe a 50mm instead of the 42mm lens. The larger the lens size, the more light that is let in to your eyes.
Coated lens also affects the brightness of the subject that you are looking at. Coated lenses increase the amount of light that will make it all the way through the binoculars to your eyes. The more light, the more contrast.
The coating of the lens will increase the cost of the binoculars. There are various coating options available ranging from coated - fully coated - multicoated - fully multicoated. Coated lenses are the lowest quality. Fully coated lenses are quite economical and can work well for you, depending on your needs. Multicoated or fully multicoated lenses are both very good choices. Fully multicoated lenses give the best light transmission and brightest images, and therefore the most desirable
How wide do you need the field of view (FOV)?
Field of view is the width of the area you see through the binoculars usually shown as metres at 1,000 metres e.g. 119 metres FOV at 1,000 viewing .
If you want to watch a yacht race and take in as much the action as possible you would look at a wide FOV. If you wanted closely examine small objects from a distance you would look at a narrower FOV. The narrower the FOV, the larger the magnification.
The field of view is normally in the binocular specifications and is often printed on the binoculars as well.
How heavy are the binoculars?
Are you going to be hiking with the binoculars? Are the binoculars going to be carried in a backpack or are they going to be worn all the time? Weight is a very important factor when choosing binoculars, you can get compact ones that weigh 200 grams or larger ones can weigh up to several kilos and are not much fun to hike with! If you want to move up to larger binoculars (above 10x50) and/or want to view for long periods at a time you may also need to purchase a tripod to hold them steady.
Do you need water resistant or waterproof binoculars?
Are you going to be viewing from the deck, walking on the beach or kayaking with your binoculars?
Waterproof binoculars are more expensive than water resistant binoculars but if you are going to using them in demanding situations where they will be in prolonged contact with water, they are essential.
How durable are the binoculars?
Are you going to be climbing, hiking, kayaking or just walking and not putting your binoculars in situations that you need extreme durability? If you need durability, there are various types of armouring that will help protect your binoculars but these come at a increased cost and increase the weight of the binocular.
Do you wear glasses?
Adequate eye relief is a very important factor for comfortable viewing. Eye relief generally decreases as power increases. Low eye relief (less than 10mm) requires you to get very close to the eyepieces, while higher eye relief (greater than 15mm) allows more distance. Eyeglass wearers need a higher amount of eye relief to allow room for their eyeglasses, however- many eyeglass wearers are surprised to find that they don't need their glasses when viewing with binoculars. For many eyeglass wearers, the binocular can replace their eyeglasses.
What are the warranty and the repair service for the binoculars?
Decent models should provide a minimum of two years warranty and some go much higher than this. Repairs can be an issue in New Zealand as they sometimes have to be shipped back to the country of origin for factory repairs. Make sure your binocular carries a warranty and there is a New Zealand agent that will stand behind the product.