How To Choose Binoculars For Fishing (Best UK Guide)

How To Choose Binoculars For Fishing (Best UK Guide)

You’re probably thinking, how can binoculars help me catch fish? Well what’s the first thing you do when you get to a venue? If you’re like us, you’ll be wanting to check  the whole venue range and check out where the fish are and what they’re up to. With a large enough objective lens diameter, you’ll have a clear view just before dawn (when the fish are feeding) and with the correct magnification and reduced glare, you’ll be able to see below the surface of the water so you’ll be able to spot the best swim to fish.

If you like to keep records of the swims you fish, using binoculars will help to plot the best swims to aim for. If you’re new to the angling scene, and don’t know how to recognise the signs of activity below the surface of the water, by checking out the water with a decent pair of binoculars, you’ll not only see where the fish are, but you’ll be able to scan the whole stretch of river for any signs.

A decent pair of binoculars will also help you to keep an eye on your long-range surface hookbait or set up your adjustable zig precisely.

What About Sea Fishing?

If you’re going sea fishing from a boat, then there’s a possibility of sonar equipment that will help to track large shoals of fish. Which is great but, a decent pair of marine binoculars will be a great help too. Marine binoculars are never recommended in any other size than 7×50 because this allows enough light to enter the lenses to see clear, bright images without getting a shaky image due to the movement of the boat.

Marine binoculars are also usually encased in a rubber coating to prevent them slipping from your grip and also to prevent them getting damaged if you do drop them. They are also waterproofed (or should be), which is useful against sea spray and rain. Most marine binoculars have a wide field of view which is handy for keeping an eye on any schools of fish and associated bird activity.

If you decide to get marine binoculars, we’d recommend investing in a floating strap to cover the existing strap and stop the binoculars from sinking into the briny depths never to be seen again.

What Features Do You Need In Fishing Binoculars?

As an angler, you’ll probably have enough gear to carry when going fishing, especially on match days. So any extra equipment has to earn it’s place or get left at home. So let’s check out exactly what you can expect from a decent pair of binoculars, and why you should take them with you. 

Sometimes, you’ll be sitting on the bank, and you think you notice from the corner of your eye some movement on the surface of the water way over at the edge of your view. With binoculars you can be sure whether it’s a fish showing or just a swirl in the current. So what should the perfect angling binoculars be like? What features will be good for fishing?

Magnification & Objective Lens Diameter

The magnification tells us how much larger the object you’re looking at will appear through the binoculars lens. So that slight ripple you’ve just noticed with your eye could reveal the dorsal fin just breaking the surface through a decent pair of binoculars. Say the binoculars have 8×42 stamped onto the body or chassis, these numbers tell us they have 8 times magnification (the X indicates times) this means everything you see through the lenses will appear 8 times larger than with the naked eye.

The 42 indicates the diameter of the objective lens (the lens farthest from your eyes, closest to the object you’re looking at), and it’s important for a number of reasons. Firstly, the objective lens is the only way light can enter the binoculars and so it’s important to illuminate whatever you’re trying to see through the lenses. The objective lens also indicates the size of the binoculars.

If the objective lens diameter is below 30mm then the binoculars are called compact

If the objective lens is between 30 to 40mm then the binoculars are mid size

If the objective lens is greater than 40mm then the binoculars are full size.

With modern designs even high objective lens diameters doesn’t necessarily mean big, bulky binoculars. Especially if you choose roof prism binoculars.

Most people think the higher the magnification level, the better, but that’s only true up to a point. If the magnification is too high, you’ll get a shaky, blurry image. This is due to the perfectly normal shake we all have when holding anything for too long. Under normal circumstances that shake is unnoticeable, but when magnified higher than 10x it becomes only too apparent.

We recommend for general use, hand held binoculars should have a magnification no higher than 10x. For angling, 8×42 is the perfect balance between magnification, weight and light gathering ability. Too much magnification will also make it difficult to see the “full picture” this is because of something called the Field of View.

What Is The Field Of View (FoV)?

When you look through the binoculars, everything you can see, from left to right, is called the field of view. The wider FoV a pair of binoculars has, the easier they are to use because you won’t have to keep moving them from your eyes to identify where you’re looking at. You’ll be able to see all of the points of reference to clearly identify exactly what you’re seeing.

On binoculars the FoV is expressed in one of 2 ways, angular FoV and linear FoV. Anything between  6° and 8° angular or between 105m per 1,000m to 140m per 1,000m linear is an acceptable FoV.

What Is Exit Pupil?

Exit pupil is the circle of light you can see if you look through the binoculars at arms length through the objective lens whilst holding them towards the light. The diameter of that light beam is called the exit pupil and it’s an important feature to consider when buying binoculars. The exit pupil is the only way light can enter the binoculars and it’s responsible for how bright the image you can see is.

Our pupils shrink in bright light to protect our eyes from damage, and dilate in dull conditions to allow more light into our eyes so we can see clearer. The exit pupil makes up that whole area of light when we look through the lens of binoculars. In daylight conditions, the binoculars exit pupil is not so important, but on dull days or just before dawn or dusk, we need a larger exit pupil value to see through the binoculars.

The exit pupil doesn’t always show up on the binocular specs but as long as we know the level of magnification and the size of the objective lens diameter we can easily work it out. Just divide the objective lens diameter by the magnification, the answer is the exit pupil in millimeters. So our 8×42 pair from earlier has an exit pupil of just over 5mm because 42 ÷ 8 = 5.25.

Eye Relief

This is basically the perfect distance between your eye and the ocular lens (the lens closest to the eye) while still being able to see the full FoV. The average eye relief is between 9 to 13mm and most binoculars will easily accommodate that. If you need to wear glasses however, you’ll need more space to accommodate the glasses and still see the full FoV. This is called long eye relief and is somewhere between 15 to 24mm.

Eye Cups

The eye cups are the soft plastic or rubber edges around the ocular lens. They’re there to make the binoculars feel comfortable on your face. The eye cups can be adjusted by either twisting or rolling them up or down and can help to increase/decrease eye relief.

Which Type Of Binoculars Are Best For Fishing?

There are two main types of binoculars and they are both used for seeing far away objects close up. They both have pros and cons and as their history and other technicalities probably don’t interest you, let’s jump straight into the good and the bad.

Porro Prism Binoculars

Porro Prism Binoculars Good PointsPorro Prism Binoculars Bad Points
Wide FoVHarder to waterproof
Realistic 3D imageHeavier
Higher rate of light transmissionLarger, Bulkier
Less expensive than comparable roof prismsEasy to damage (prism misalignment)

Roof Prism Binoculars

Roof Prism BInoculars Good PointsRoof Prism BInoculars Bad Points
Higher magnificationNarrower FoV
LightweightHigher production costs because of precision components
Easy to carry compact designExtra costs transferred to customer (purchase price)
Less likely to get damaged, more robustSlightly less image clarity (except top of the range models)
Easier to waterproof

Waterproof Binoculars

For any activity using binoculars in the UK we would recommend waterproofing, but for angling, it’s an absolute must. Sitting on the banks of either a river, stream, lake or gravel pit in all weathers will result in getting soaked with rain at some point. You’ll probably have your waterproof gear to keep you dry, but if your binoculars get wet, and that water gets inside, they’re going to get ruined.

Be sure they’re waterproofed to at least IPX6 as this means no water can get inside the binoculars from any angle (including that annoying almost horizontal rain that tends to start the very second you get your gear set up). IPX7 allows the binoculars to sink to a depth of one metre and not let any water in for up to 30 minutes.

Floating Strap

For about £15.00 to £50.00 you can buy a strap that wraps around the binocular strap and stops them from sinking if they do end up in the drink. Considering a decent pair of binoculars will cost about 80% more than the strap it’s not a bad investment to save losing your latest fishing asset.

Fog Proofing

It might be a warm day when you set up your gear and start fishing, but how many times has the weather changed completely in seconds flat? That sudden weather change can cause binoculars to fog up, which makes them unusable. Or retrieving them from your cold bivvy and trying to use them in the cold dawn (frosty) air.

Fog proof binoculars prevent this from happening. They purge all of the air out of the tubes and replace it with a gas that doesn’t react to sudden temperature changes and so doesn’t fog up.

Dust Proof 

As no gas can escape, so nothing else can enter including dust, mould spores or any other microbial debris that might otherwise impede your view.

Image Stabilised Binoculars

Having image stabilised binoculars could solve a lot of problems for you especially if you’re fishing from a boat. I S technology was initially used in the camcorder industry and works by detecting any slight movement and compensating for it. Which means no matter how choppy the water gets, the image you see through the binoculars will never be shaky.

This also allows you to use higher magnification (which isn’t really necessary for angling) and still keep a clear image. I S binoculars are at the pricier end of the spectrum but we wanted to present you with a full range of choice.  

Light Transmission

The more efficient the light transmission, the clearer, brighter and crisper the images you’ll be able to see through the binoculars (which is really the whole point of having them). Light transmission is greatly affected by the quality of the glass used to produce the lenses and the prisms that make your binoculars work.

BAK4 Glass

This is the top quality precision optical glass used in most scientific optical equipment. It’s also used in the top quality binoculars too. BAK4 glass has the least imperfections of any optical glass which means better light transmission.

BK7 Glass

This is still high quality precision optical glass, but with slightly more imperfections and so slightly less light transmission. BK7 glass is used in the majority of binoculars by many brands worldwide.

E D Glass

E D or Extra-low Dispersion glass prevents colour loss keeping the images seen through the lenses to be bright, clear and true to colour. With no colour fringing or haloing.

Lens Coatings

Also responsible for better light transmission, lens coatings come in many forms. The ones to look for are Fully multi-coated (FMC) lenses. This means that every lens, inside and out has been fully coated in multiple layers to reduce glare and improve light transmission.


You’re going to pay anywhere from £100.00 to £250.00 for a reliable pair of binoculars that will last for upwards of 20+ years. So you’d expect a decent warranty on such precision equipment, and you won’t be disappointed. Most of the better brands of binoculars offer a lifetime warranty on their binoculars. This means that as long as you own them, and you don’t deliberately damage them, if they do get any problem, the company will repair or replace them with no problems.

Protective Anti-Slip Coating

The best quality has this as standard but it’s always worth checking. The coatings used include polycarbonate and rubber and they prevent any accidental damage from dropping, bumping or scraping the binoculars.  

What To Look For In Binoculars Specifically For Angling

The best type of binoculars for fishing will be waterproof, fog proof, with enough magnification to see all of the casting range without causing the image to shake. A large enough objective lens to allow enough light to illuminate the images through the lens, but small enough to carry/hold comfortably. They will also be durable, and encased in some sort of protective coating.

The perfect size for angling binoculars are 8×42 in our opinion with FMC lenses and High quality precision optical glass. 8×42 are large enough to see all that is needed for fishing (bubbles, rises, where fish are feeding, the distance for the cast, where to position swim feeders, and far more) without being too big or heavy to handle.

8×42 will also work well for boat work and at the extreme edges of daylight (dawn and dusk). They’re also the perfect size for carrying from one spot to another, so if you don’t like to remain stationary all day, they won’t impede your movement at all.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are 8X42 binoculars good for?

8×42 binoculars are perfect for seeing a wide area through the lenses (FoV) which means you’ll be able to see more of the river/lake or body of water and where the fish are at. They have a high exit pupil (5mm) which will allow plenty of light in to illuminate the subjects (fish) that you’re looking for. Plus they won’t be too large to carry or hold.

How can I prevent glare through my binoculars?

All good binoculars have FMC (fully multi-coated lenses) to reduce glare.