Binoculars Buying Guide

binocularsA quality pair of binoculars is a must for anyone who likes to get out and go. Whether for use on a hike, at a NFL game or some other location, binoculars extend our ability to take in the world at a glance.

How Binoculars Work
Binoculars work by applying physics concepts to light waves. Although brands can differ, the basic idea is for light to hit the lens at the front end of the binocular. This lens is actually two convex lenses. They serve to compress the fuzzy image received from the target and condense it into a tight, clear image.

Unfortunately, the physics involved in bending the light to sharpen the image has an odd side effect – it turns the image upside down. To fix this problem, the image is then passed through two prisms of glass positioned to spin it 180 degrees. It is then usually passed through a magnifying lens to increase the size of the image before being passed to the end lens where your eye peers into the device. The magnifying lens, however, may appear before the prisms on certain models.

The two sets of lens on each side of the binoculars work independently of each other. To this end, the lens sections on the right and left ends of the binoculars actually focus on the target from slightly different angles. This is because the brain is trained to process slightly different raw data received from each of the eyes. Every person has a slightly different distance between their eyes. To account for this, designers added pivot points to binoculars so users can change the distance until they image they are looking at is in focus and sharp.

Binoculars are defined by their size. Having said this, the size means something different than most expect.

Binocular sizes are not directly determined by how big the binoculars are per se. Instead, size refers to the characteristics of the various lenses in a set of field glasses. These characteristics are designated by numbers.

For example, a set of binoculars may have a designation of 10 x 18. The first number represents the level of magnification the lens in the binocular will provide for any given image. If you look at a bird sitting on a fence 50 yards away, the bird will appear 10 times as large as it would when looking at it with the naked eye.

And what about the second number? The second number represents the size of the refractive lens, which is an indication of brightness. Brightness is a critical issue because it impacts how well the binoculars work during certain parts of the day. If a person intends to use the binoculars for sporting events held during the day, they do not need much brightness because of the sunlight present. Bird watchers, on the other hand, usually prefer more brightness because most birding is done at the crack of dawn or dusk when birds typically are out feeding. The lack of light during these times of the day can make viewing the birds very difficult unless the binoculars are designed to account for the problem.

Uses for Binoculars
There are endless uses for binoculars. In a classic sense, binoculars are often used for specific viewing activities. One can’t really be a bird watcher without a quality pair. At the same time, it is the rare hiker or camper who ventures off without a good pair of field glasses to help them both take in the fine details of the natural world around them and keep track of where they are while hiking.

Binoculars are a smart accessory for large events as well. Nothing is worse than standing 1,000 feet away from your favorite singer at a concert. With binoculars, you can get a first row view without paying first row prices.

Many people are surprised to learn one can actually conduct a bit of astronomy with binoculars. It is true. At their core, binoculars are simply two telescopes locked into a single case. While binoculars are nowhere near as powerful as telescopes, they can be used to view the moon closely as well as certain planets such as Mars.

Much like a Swiss Army Knife, binoculars are one of those items every person should own. After all, you never know when the opportunity to bring life into a bit more focus will pop up.