Binoculars & scopes buying guide

Choosing the right binoculars or scope for your needs and your budget can be difficult. Our buying guide will help you through the minefield of information and choices.

You can also get fantastic advice and try out different models at some of our retail stores.

Click here to see our range of binoculars & scopes.

 

A binocular is a fantastic tool for getting closer to nature. Which one you buy will involve a fair degree of personal preference rather than science, but here are some pointers to help you make a choice.

Magnification
In general, binoculars best suited to watching wildlife and birds do not have extremely high magnification. This is because big magnifications require a lot of light to work. Lots of light needs huge objective lenses, which would render the binocular impractical in terms of portability. In addition, high magnification makes it very hard to hold the image steady.
So, an 8x or 10x magnification is the best compromise between power and practicality. If you think of looking at an object with your naked eye as 1x, then an 8x binocular would make the image eight times bigger than your naked eye.
If you mostly birdwatch in open country and/or looking across large stretches of water, you may want the extra magnification of a 10x. However, if you mostly birdwatch in woodland, at fairly close quarters, and/or like to be out when the light may be poorer (dawn and dusk for example), you would be best to opt for an 8x model.

Brightness
When trying to identify wildlife, it is helpful to have as much light and colour as possible. A quick indication of brightness can be gained by dividing the diameter of the objective lens by the magnification. For example, an 8x42 binocular would have a brightness score of 5.25 (42 divided by 8), whereas a 10 x 25 would have a score of 2.5 (25 divided by 10). More expensive models also increase their brightness by adding sophisticated coatings to the lenses, and by using very expensive and highly engineered glass.

Weight And Size
If you do a lot of walking and already carry other gear with you, or if you have a medical condition, you may want to think about lightweight or compact models. However, it is worth noting that with a good neoprene strap, most people would not find any binocular particularly heavy in normal use. Very often, weight is associated with better quality lenses, and therefore a better quality of image. Some expensive models use light alloys in their body casing in order to decrease weight.
Most compact binoculars are only suitable for watching wildlife in very good light. This is because, in order to reduce their size and weight, the diameter of the objective lens will have been reduced substantially. A typical compact objective lens would be 25mm diameter, whereas a typical full-size model would have 42mm objective lenses.

Field Of View
Simply put, this is the ‘width’ you see when looking through binoculars.

Field of view

A wide field of view makes following moving objects easier – particularly important when watching birds. Expensive models will offer as sharp an image at the edges of this circle as at the centre. Spectacle wearers should look for twist-down eye-cups. These allow them to see the same size of circle as non-spectacle wearers, and are really handy when swapping quickly between those with and without spectacles. In general, 8x magnifications offer a better field of view than 10x.

Close Focus
If you like looking at dragonflies, butterflies and plants, you should make sure you go for a model that will focus down to 3m or less. Generally, an 8x magnification offers a better close focus than a 10x.

Price
As with anything else in life, there is an element of ‘you get what you pay for’ with binoculars. As the price increases, the quality of the materials used increases, the number of features increases, and guarantees are extended up to 30 years. Eventually, at the top end of the price range there is also the inevitable cachet, reputation, or fashion element associated with all premium products. Whatever your budget, we will have something to suit you, so please ask one of our knowledgeable staff for assistance if you require it.