How To Choose Binoculars For Horse Racing (Best UK Guide)
Spending a day at the races can be a fun day out, but unless you can get really close to the action, you will be missing out. A decent pair of binoculars will bring the action closer to you. In this guide we’ll give you all the information you need to make the best choice for the perfect binoculars to enhance your enjoyment at the races.
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at any binoculars are the numbers. Usually two numbers followed by an x followed by another two numbers, read on to see what they mean.
What Do The Numbers On Binoculars Mean?
The numbers we’re talking about are 8×32 or 10x 42 or something similar, usually stamped onto the main body of the binoculars. The first number tells us the magnification number 8x means you will be able to see objects 8 times closer than they actually are and 10x will be 10 times closer and so on.
The x stands for times so 8x gives 8 times magnification.
The final numbers tell us the size of the objective lens. That’s the lens furthest away from your eyes. It’s in millimeters and so 8×32 gives us an objective lens of 32 mm. What the diameter of the objective lens tells us is how much light the binoculars receive, which is important. It’s important because the more light received means the clearer and brighter the image will be.
How Much Magnification Do You Need For Horse Racing?
You would think the higher the magnification the better right? Well, the higher the magnification, the closer the image will be, but, unless the objective lens is large enough the image will be dark and not very clear. More light is better for seeing images on dull days, and for late races. Plus too high magnification will increase the lens size which will make the binoculars far too heavy to hold long term.
Added to which, any magnification over 10x will show a shaky image because our hands naturally shake when holding objects out in front of us but it’s only really noticeable above 10x magnification.
Field Of View
The field of view is the image you can see when you look straight in front of you, including any peripheral vision (to each side). When looking through binoculars the higher the field of view the better the viewing experience. With a large field of view you will be able to follow the horses easier and stay on focus with the moving horses at whatever speed they are running at.
You get a higher field of view with a larger objective lens. The expected average is usually around 6 degrees which works out to 315 feet at 1,000 yards. Top quality models have a field of view of 375 feet at 1000 yards. So if everything is identical with the binoculars but one has a higher field of view, that’s the one to go for.
What Size Binoculars Do You Need For Horse Racing?
You’ll probably be standing for a considerable time, so you’re not going to want a pair of binoculars that are too heavy. Let’s look at the sizes binoculars are made in and take it from there.
- Full Size
Full size binoculars are any binoculars with an objective lens size of greater than 40 millimeters
Mid-size binoculars have an objective lens of between 30 to 40mm
Compact binoculars have an objective lens of less than 30 mm
The confusing thing is, all modern binoculars are relatively small compared to 20 years ago. The technology has improved so far that even full size binoculars aren’t exactly enormous. Some can be, but the majority are not massive. Obviously compact binoculars are going to weigh less and take up less space.
However, mid-size or full size binoculars have larger objective lenses which give a far brighter image than small objective lenses. Also full size binoculars tend to have a wider field of view which is a fairly important feature for horse racing. So we recommend either full size or mid-size for better viewing at the races.
What Type Of Binoculars Are Best For Horse Racing?
There are two types of binoculars that are commonly available from all good binocular stores, they are;
- Porro Prism
Porro prism binoculars are on the whole larger and more cumbersome than roof prisms. It’s all to do with the internal workings that use an angled prism design to pass the image through to the eyepiece. Porro prisms can get knocked out of alignment if they are dropped or knocked about a bit (including dropping them) which can cause eye strain, headaches and migraines.
- Roof Prism
Roof prisms are designed in a different way which makes them less bulky, and they look like two tubes held together by a central focusing knob. They are more robust, easier to waterproof, and less likely to get knocked from alignment. The downside is a decent pair will cost more than a decent pair of Porros due to the special coatings needed on the prisms to keep the images sharp and clear.
We would suggest if you’re going for a budget pair, you’ll be better off with a porro prism. But if you can afford to pay more, a decent pair of roof prism binoculars will be better.
Is Shock Proofing Necessary On Horse Racing Binoculars?
Having a strong rubberised coating covering the casing of your binoculars is not a must have, but it can prevent a lot of accidental damage. If you decide on a pair of Porro prism binoculars, a rubber coating for shock proofing will definitely be handy. As the inner workings are liable to damage if they are knocked about too much. But even roof prisms will benefit from a good, solid rubber coating.
What Are Lens Coatings? And Do You Need Them?
Lens coatings are added to the lenses to reduce glare and improve the quality of the image. If you can, you should go for fully multi-coated as this means all of the lenses have been coated with more than one coat and will last longer. Having fully multi-coated lenses will definitely be an advantage at the races, where glare can be an issue.
Do You Need Waterproof Binoculars For Horse Racing?
In many ways it doesn’t seem worth buying waterproof binoculars for horse racing, with any luck you’ll be in the enclosed stands so even if it rains, you won’t get wet right? Well, not really, we’re in Great Britain, where rain can seem to flow sideways. What we’re saying is that wherever you are in the UK at some point you will get caught out by the weather.
Waterproof binoculars, as long as they are at a high level (IPX6 or above) will never let you down. They will also not let in any dust or microbial debris so you’ll be backing a winner with waterproof binoculars.
Fog Proof Binoculars
Fog proofing is another feature that is well worth considering when it comes to horse racing binoculars. Getting out of a warm car and trudging into the cold of a racecourse can cause the interior of your binoculars to fog up. This is due to the oxygen trapped between the lenses containing moisture that is susceptible to temperature changes.
With fog proof binoculars all of the oxygen is purged from the casing and replaced with an inert gas like argon or nitrogen. As these gases contain no moisture they aren’t susceptible to fogging up in fast changing temperatures. They also prevent any mould building up inside the lens either.
How Much Should You Spend On Binoculars For Horse Racing?
There are many good brands of binoculars out there, but at the end of the day it’s all about lens quality and extra features. You could pay as little as £50 and get a fairly OK pair of binoculars or you could go top of the range and spend around £1000. For around £200 to £250 you can get a great pair of binoculars with all the extra features included.
Best Binoculars For Horse Racing Checklist
Here’s a short summary of the best type of binoculars to get the best from your day at the races. You should choose the best pair your budget can afford. To get the best quality you can you need to check for;
When it comes to watching horse races, we recommend a magnification no higher than 10x and for comfort, 8x is probably about all you will actually need.
- Objective Lens
The larger the diameter is on the objective lens, the more light enters the binoculars. That means the brighter the image appears which is very handy on dull days or early morning starts or late evening finishes.So an objective lens size of 42mm will give you good lighting and not be too heavy to hold. Whatever pair of binoculars you choose, go for as large an objective lens size as you can.
- Field Of View
The field of view which is often abbreviated to FoV is the amount you can see through the binoculars lens. It will either be depicted as feet per 1000 yards or in degrees. An acceptable field of view is 315 feet per 1000 yards or 6 degrees, anything above these figures is a bonus.
- Binocular Size
As we have advised on an objective lens of 42 mm, you should be looking at full size binoculars. You will be pleasantly surprised at just how small some full size binoculars can be.
- Prism Type
This really has to be your choice, but remember Porro prisms will be heavier and more cumbersome and they will not take too much knocking about. Roof prisms will be lighter, smaller and more robust.
- Rubber Coating
Rubber coated binoculars will take more punishment than uncoated binoculars and having a rubber coating will prevent the casings getting scratched.
- Waterproof Binoculars
Living in the UK it’s always a good idea to go for waterproofed binoculars. The weather can always catch you out when you least expect it. IPX6 or above will be the best choice for horse racing binoculars.
- Fog Proof Binoculars
Fog proofing is a good idea especially if you are going to early morning meets.
The prices range from around £50 to £1000 for binoculars but for around £200 you can get a decent pair, that will be more than adequate for watching horse racing.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best binoculars for horse racing are something with a 7x,8x or 10x magnification and as large an objective lens as possible. If everything else is equal, choose the pair with the largest objective lens.
10×50 allows you to see objects 10 times closer than they actually are. Plus a 50 mm objective lens will allow lots of light to enter the binoculars giving a bright view even on dull days.
They both have the same magnification, but the 10×50 pair has a larger objective lens which will allow more light to enter, giving a brighter image even on dull days.