Binoculars bring you closer to the action, from birds to baseball to your favourite band. Choosing the right binoculars means deciphering specifications. Hereís what you need to know when shopping for these handy optical instruments.
- There is a wide range of binocular pricing. From under $10 to more than $2,500, you esseentially get what you pay for. Think about spending at least $250 for a good quality starter pair of binoculars.
There are two “magic numbers” to consider when buying a pair of binoculars:
Magnification: if it says 8 it means it will bring your subject 8 times closer; 10 means 10 times closer. The higher the number, the closer it appears.
Size of the objective lens (in millimetres): this determines how much light it lets in. The higher the number, the larger the lens, the more light that passes through, the brighter and easier to see the image.
Field of view is an important concept that refers to the amount of territory you see when you look through the binocular. The greater the magnification, the narrower the field-of-view. If a wide field-of-view is important to you (e.g. for viewing fast-moving objects like race horses, shooting stars, or race cars), don't purchase the most powerful binoculars.
The lens coatings help remove glare and allow as much light as possible to enter. Multi-coated lenses have the best clarity.
Weather-proofing: The best quality binoculars have a rubber O-ring to seal the joints; lower quality ones pack the joints with grease to create a barrier, and wears off eventually, allowing rust and other maintenance issues.
Be sure that you can maneuver the focus with one finger for easier handling.
If you share the binoculars a lot, get ones with settings marked on the diopter dial (used to adjust the two barrels to fit different eye/face shapes) so you can easily return it to your preferred fit.
The lighter the better. Anything over 2 lbs get heavy and cumbersome pretty fast.
We went on an island tour and tried out four different sets of binoculars to see which worked best at bringing the sights closer.
- Tasco: $100
- Leupold: $150
- Bushnell: $400
- Swarovski: $2400
The Bushnell’s had good strength but lacked clarity.
The Swarovski binoculars were the clearest and closest, and felt light and balanced in the hands.
The Leupold were clear and provided a good picture.
The Tasco provided the least clarity.
OUR TOP PICK
Without question the Swarovski binoculars were the top winner, but the price tag made us reconsider. Combining budget considerations with performance, the Leupold (approximately $150) were our binoculars of choice.