Binoculars have come a long ways in the last 10 years. Overall quality and value has substantially improved with companies like Zeiss and Vortex bringing better “bang for your buck” binoculars to the marketplace. Also, companies like Swarovski, that offer some of the top performing binoculars on the market have recently upgraded the technology in their optics, benefiting both the discerning hunter and birder.
Before you buy, reference this Q & A along with other considerations from a fellow marksman and SCHEELS associate.
How often will I use the binocular?
Binoculars that are regularly and consistently used will need to be robust and offer lens coatings that minimize scratches. If you are one of these frequent users, make sure to pick a brand that offers a great warranty. If the optic is only going to be used occasionally, technology has advanced so that you can buy a great value binocular for less than $100!
What and when will I be using the binocular for the majority of the time?
These topics are very important when shopping for binoculars. What you will be using them for will help you pick size and focal distance. When you will be using them will help you decide how much you need to spend to get acceptable light gathering.
What justifies a high or low end binocular?
Whether you’re a rancher checking cows or looking to catch the details of a sporting event, you may be able to compromise some factors that affect performance on your optic. However, if you are on a once in a lifetime hunting trip, you will appreciate the detail and ergonomics a premium binocular offers.
If you are a hunter would you appreciate having a rangefinder built into your binoculars?
In the past, most hunters carried a rangefinder and a binocular. This can be a real inconvenience when you have to quickly transition between a binocular and rangefinder to find an animal and range it. With some of the offerings available today, you only have to find the animal once and can get an accurate range almost instantly.
Binoculars by the numbers
When shopping for binoculars there a couple of numbers you want to keep in mind. First is magnification, or how much closer a binocular makes an object appear to you. Matching magnification to your intended use will make a big difference in what you purchase. A person bird watching in a thick forest will most likely want a different “power” of magnification than someone hunting antelope on the prairie. Remember, more or higher magnification is not always your friend in the field. Often times higher magnification will provide the user with a smaller field of view and a decrease in image brightness. Binoculars with a magnification of 12 power and up may cause you some level of eye strain/fatigue, if proper form or a tripod is not used. High power binoculars are an awesome tool when glassing for the smallest details at an extreme distance, just don’t forget your tripod! A quality tripod will steady the binoculars which will eliminate the eye fatigue/ strain these optics are known for. I recommend that anyone looking to use high magnification binoculars focuses on high quality glass, such as the Vortex Kaibab or Swarovski SLCs. For most users, an 8-10 power binocular will provide the magnification needed, give a large field of view and display a bight image.
Once you decide on a particular magnification you need to pick an objective lens size that fits your needs. The objective lens on a binocular is the lens farthest from your eye and has an impact on overall binocular performance. Due to how binoculars are made, you will see a larger field of view and a brighter image with optics featuring larger objective lenses. The trade off is that these binoculars are also generally heavier and more cumbersome. Most active users will select a 40/42 mm objective lens. Users looking for an exceptionally bright image or that do not have to carry their optic over rough terrain for great distances will pick a 50mm plus objective.
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Ask about the warranty
Most quality manufacturers now offer “no fault” lifetime warranties on their optics. If you are someone who is tough on equipment make sure you select a brand that offers this feature.
Make sure our salesperson teaches you to balance the binoculars you are considering.
Balancing a binocular is simple and allows you to custom set each diopter for your individual eyes. This will insure you get the best performance from whichever optic you buy.
Take the optic for a test drive
When you have your binocular selection narrowed down to 2-3 options, take the time to review each option side by side. It’s a common misconception that doing this in the store is not worth your time. Do not forget this step! Look at fine detail items no more that 30-40 feet from you. Pick out the eyelashes on the taxidermy or check a dark corner for cobwebs. Then take a quick look at the camo clothing in our store and compare how the subtle color changes show up in the binoculars. You will see differences right away, and remember these small differences will have an even bigger impact on image quality the farther the object viewed is from you.
Optics truly are an area where customers get exactly what they pay for. Match the magnification and objective lens to your use and then buy the best you can afford. You will see more game/birds/details and after a long day spent behind the glass your eyes will thank you!