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Buying Binoculars

The Best Binoculars for You: What to Know

Binoculars are often identified by two numbers separated by an “x”, referencing the magnification and the size of the objective lens. In the case of 8x42 binoculars, the first number, 8, means the object you're viewing will appear eight times closer than it would with your unassisted eyes. If you're looking at a deer 200 yards away, the image will appear as if it were 25 yards away, or eight times closer. The second number is the diameter of the objective lens, in millimeters (mm). The larger the lens, the more light that is allowed in and the brighter the image.

Camera buffs will often use binoculars to identify wildlife from a safe distance that won't cause frightened flight. Then they get close enough to use a DSLR camera to capture the shot they want. In these situations it's important to keep your binoculars, your camera and accessories organized. A convenient, comfortable camera bag can be a valuable addition to the gear list.

Another attribute to consider when choosing binoculars is FOV, or field of view. FOV is the width of the area you can see when you look through your binoculars, typically represented at 1,000 yards out. So, if your binoculars have an FOV of 420, that means you'll have around 420 feet of horizon in view when you're looking at objects 1,000 yards away. FOV is a function of the magnification because, as the magnification goes up, the field of view goes down. So, while an 8x magnification binocular will provide more detail, a 6x magnification offers a larger field of view. One more thing to consider: magnifications of 10x or more tend to amplify the movements of your hands, which can make getting a steady image difficult. If you choose higher magnification field glasses, you can either go with image stabilized binoculars, specifically designed to decrease apparent motion and image shaking, or you can use a tripod.

Choosing Binoculars for Your Outdoor Activities

Finding the best binoculars for your needs starts with determining how you'll use them. Compact binoculars are smaller and lighter, and make a good choice for outdoor activities and sporting events. The best compact binoculars are also waterproof, shock-resistant and have a wide-angle field of view. Binoculars with magnification of 7x to 10x are a good choice for most hunting situations, though for long-range animal scouting, you'll likely want 12x to 16x magnification. Many boating enthusiasts prefer a 7x magnification for use out on the water. In these situations a waterproof binocular, with a large objective lens that lets in plenty of light, is essential.

Birdwatching Binoculars: A Closer Look

When it comes to finding the best bird watching binoculars, it's largely a matter of preference. Some birders prefer a higher magnification that allows them to easily discern feather and coloring details. Others prefer a lower magnification with a wider field of view that makes it easier to follow birds in flight. If you're a serious birder, other devices you might find useful include a handheld GPS for marking the locations of your various sightings with waypoints so you can find them again. Additionally, a headlamp can come in handy to provide hands-free light when you're out during pre-dawn or post-dusk hours. And don't forget our large selection of water bottles that will keep you hydrated during long hours in the field.