When it comes to needed hunting gear one piece of equipment that I find as essential as my bow or rifle is my binoculars. Whether you are a deer or turkey hunter or simply enjoy watching birds or other wildlife in your backyard, nothing is more useful than a good pair of binoculars. However, there are a wide array of products and types of binoculars on the market all at different price points. Because of the number of choices, outdoor enthusiasts sometimes have a difficult time focusing on a set of lenses that will best suit their needs.
When it comes to choosing a good, practical pair of binoculars, keep in mind bigger is not necessarily better. Most people will be happy with a small, compact set of lenses that can be kept in a shirt pocket or purse. Modern compact binoculars are lightweight optical wonders and won’t slow you down in the field because they’re small enough to be carried in a coat pocket while hiking, or in one of the easily accessible compartments of a backpack.
Even though they are smaller than larger models, compact binoculars can pack a good deal of power. To determine the magnification of a given pair, find the set of numbers imprinted on the binocular’s objective lens. The first number in the set represents the size to which an object is enlarged. For instance, if a pair of binoculars shows the numbers 8X25 mm, they will enable you to see an object eight times larger than it would appear with the naked eye. The 25mm refers to the diameter of the objective or larger lens.
Be aware however, that you don’t want too much power because the greater the power of the lens, the smaller the field of view. In addition, it becomes more difficult to hold the binoculars steady when the magnification is increased. For most outdoor applications, a power of 7 to 10 provides a nice balance between magnification and field of view.
When choosing a new set of binoculars look for a pair with good image clarity. A good set of binoculars should provide an image that is bright and sharp. Most reasonably priced binoculars available today meet those criteria, but first-time buyers should be aware of the second set of numbers found on the barrel of the binocular. The second number on an 8 X 25mm set refers to the size of the objective lens in millimeters. The objective lens is the one closest to the object being viewed. In the case of my binoculars, they are 8 power and have objective lenses measuring 25 millimeters in diameter. Simply put, the greater the diameter of the objective lens, the greater the resolution of the image. Most binoculars on the market today offer a 40mm objective lens or larger. This makes them bulkier than the pair I use.
Don’t be fooled into thinking small, compact binoculars don’t offer good resolution, they do. Many of the better models have features that enable them to provide an image that rivals those of full-size lenses.
When selecting a pair of binoculars, be sure to ask about the anti-reflective coating on the lens surfaces. These coatings reduce reflection within the barrel of the binocular, enabling your eye to receive a less obstructed image that is brighter and sharper. There are many types of optical coatings and some give better results than others, but all will increase your ability to spot a deer in the brush, identify species of birds high in a tree or pick out features on a distant shoreline from your boat.
Binoculars have different focusing mechanisms. Some models allow the user to focus each lens separately for maximum clarity. This works great for a play or sporting event but it may be a little too refined for most outdoor applications. While there are advantages to both types of focusing, most people will be happier with center focus models.
When looking at a set of binoculars, make sure they are durable. One way manufacturers increase durability is by adding a rubber coating to the body. This helps absorb the shocks binoculars often suffer in the field.
Finally, remember you get what you pay for. If looking for a compact set of binoculars, my advice is to bite the bullet and buy as expensive a pair as you can afford. I got tired of replacing cheap binoculars every few years because while the optics remained good, the mechanical reliability left a great deal to be desired. By their very nature, compact binoculars are constantly folded and placed in a shirt pocket or backpack. The hinges on these models become loose after a relatively short time they fail and render the binoculars useless. I have been using a pair of Leupold 8 X25 compact roof prism binoculars for over thirty years. They were expensive but they are guaranteed for life. Recently, some manufacturers have begun offering lifetime guarantees so be sure to ask about the guarantee that comes with the glasses.