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Binoculars are one of most popular optical instruments for the hunters, astronomers, fishermen, boaters, sports fans, and military troops. Binoculars are available in hundreds of specifications and with a multitude of different features. How to choose a binocular that best fit your needs? This buyer's guide is intended to help our customers who need some basic information about binoculars.

Quality of Binoculars

Quality is the most important "feature" of binoculars. In many cases the brand name is a guide to quality. Companies like Celestron, Leica, Minolta, Nikon, Pentax, Steiner, Swarovski, and Zeiss have spent decades earning a reputation for high quality optical products, and they are unlikely to produce a clearly inferior product. Other companies, like Tasco, Jason, and Bushnell have built a reputation on low price.

Binocular Lenses

The lenses of a binocular serve to collect light, thereby enabling the high-resolution observation of distant objects. In a quality binocular each objective lens typically is manufactured of two separate glass elements, the so-called crown and flint elements. The refractive specifications of these elements permit the objective lens to image objects free of false colors.

Binocular Prisms

Since the objective lenses form images that are both upsidedown and reversed left-for-right, prisms are required to invert the primary image. Most commonly, binoculars utilize either porro prisms or roof prisms for this purpose. Porro prisms give binoculars their familiar zig-zag profile, while roof prisms permit a straight-line design. Either type of prism, properly manufactured, yields excellent optical results.

Collimation of Binoculars

Collimation refers to the optical and mechanical alignment of the binoculars. If a pair of binoculars is out of collimation, after prolonged use it may feel as if they are trying to suck your eyes out of your head. Cheap binoculars are often (perhaps usually) shipped from the factory out of collimation. Good binoculars are carefully collimated, often with laser instruments. This requires time and expense at the manufacturing level, and raises the price at the retail level.

Binocular Eyepieces

The most basic function of an eyepiece, or ocular, is to magnify the image formed by the objective lens, in fact the eyepiece also largely determines the binocular's field of view, edge-of-field image resolution, and other characteristics.

Binocular's Magnification

Magnification, or power, is perhaps the most misunderstood term of binocular optics. While higher powers can be useful, power by itself does not increase the level of observable detail; image resolution is a function of objective lens diameter, not of binocular power. Higher powers result in images that are less bright and in a binocular that is more difficult to hold steady in the user's hands. Powers of 7x to 12x are by far the most popular among regular binocular users. Binoculars with magnifications above about 16x are generally not recommended for use without a tripod.

Binocular's Field of View

A binocular's field of view is measured in degrees of arc or as field-width (in feet) at 1000 yards distance. Other non-wide-angle binoculars have fields of view of perhaps 270 ft. at 1000 yds. Depending somewhat on the observer's intended applications, wide-angle binoculars are generally well worth the relatively modest additional cost involved.

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