What Are Binoculars Used For?
The short answer to this question is binoculars are used for seeing far off objects clearer, closer and larger than with the naked eye. How much larger depends on the level of magnification, for instance a pair of binoculars with a 10x magnification will make objects appear 10 times larger through the lens than with the naked eye. However, any greater magnification than 10x will need a tripod to support the binoculars due to our natural tremor (hand shake) which when magnified will render any image as blurry and unrecognisable.
Because we use both eyes with binoculars we get a good depth of vision, stereoscopic viewing which is good because along with our two eyes, our brain thinks in stereo when it comes to optics. Our brain needs to see the image through both eyes to understand it better, which gives us a clearer image and idea of size, depth etc.
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A Quick Word About Binocular Sizes
Binoculars come in 3 sizes which are determined by the size of the objective lens. The objective lens are the ones closest to the object you are looking at. They are responsible for allowing all of the light into the binoculars to illuminate all images you can see through the binoculars.
Sizes run as follows;
Compact Binoculars – Any binoculars with an objective lens diameter of less than 30mm
Midsize Binoculars – All binoculars with an objective lens diameter of between 30 to 40mm
Full Size Binoculars – All binoculars with an objective lens diameter greater than 40mm
What Activities Can Binoculars Be Used For?
Due to their ease of handling and portability, binoculars can be used for many sports, hobbies and pastimes. Depending on the type and size of binoculars you choose they are suitable for;
Binoculars For Birdwatching
Binoculars are well suited for birdwatching, depending on the types of birds you want to watch, there are binoculars to suit your needs. If you intend to watch songbirds or similar you’ll do best with a pair of binoculars with an 8x magnification. Due to their speed and agility 8x magnification will help you to keep up with them without losing sight of them due to a narrow field of view.
The field of view is the amount you can see through the binocular lenses from left to right while looking straight ahead. The field of view narrows as magnification increases which is why 8x is best for songbirds. If you intend to watch wading birds or waterfowl, which move slower, then 10x will be a better option.
Binoculars For Astronomy
If you are going to use binoculars for astronomy we’d recommend 10×50 for hand held binoculars and 15×56 for tripod supported binoculars. These both offer a good light to magnification ratio but anything above 10x needs to be supported with a tripod or similar because of our natural tremor which, under high magnification is exaggerated to such a degree as to make the image too blurred to see.
Binoculars For Whale Watching
You’ll need to decide whether you intend to watch whales from a boat or from dry land. This is because for use on boats we never recommend binoculars with a magnification any higher than 7x. The natural swell of the water will make the images seem slightly blurred at anything above 7x, most marine binoculars have values of 7×50 because this gives sufficient magnification (7 times larger than with the naked eye) and enough light (50mm diameter objective lens) to see objects clearly.
If you intend to watch whales from the land, you’ll need a decent pair of 10x binoculars for hand held and up to 20x if using a tripod. Remember that hand held binoculars allow far more maneuverability as there will not be a tripod to lug around.
Binoculars For Wildlife
There are many options when it comes to wildlife watching, safari parks, actual safaris, the wildlife in your garden, local park etc. Whichever type of wildlife you intend watching, a decent pair of binoculars will help you get the most from your time. We recommend binoculars with values of either 8×32 or 8×42 for wildlife watching. Just consider the weight you are comfortable carrying, as the larger the objective lens, the heavier the binoculars will be.
Binoculars For Plane Spotting
Whether you intend spotting planes at an airport, air show or even just from your backyard, a decent pair of binoculars will enhance your viewing pleasure. As different planes fly at different altitudes, you’ll need to plan accordingly. For general plane spotting with hand held binoculars we’d recommend 10x magnification.
For high altitude plane spotting we’d recommend 12x binoculars unless you’re planning on using a tripod when you’ll do better with 15x to 20x binoculars.
Binoculars For Horse Racing
Binoculars can be very useful at the race track, they can help you study the form of the runners and riders. As you will need to carry them all day, and as you will be relatively close to the action, go for a compact or midsize pair of binoculars as these will weigh less and be easier to carry.
Binoculars For Watching Butterflies
Watching butterflies, moths and other insects can be an interesting way to spend some time. Using a pair of binoculars with close focus will enhance your enjoyment. Any binoculars with a close focus of 2m (6ft 6inches) are considered to be close focus binoculars and will allow you to study the insects at a distance of only 6ft 6inches away.
Binoculars For Football Matches
Getting decent seats at football stadiums is not always easy and they’re often pricey too. Taking a decent pair of binoculars with you will ensure you don’t miss any of the action. We recommend 8×32 binoculars for taking to football matches. They are large enough for you to follow all of the action without being too large to block your neighbours view.
Binoculars For Watching Cricket Matches
Whether it’s a county match, an international or just your local club on the village green, binoculars will help you to see all of the play. A decent pair of 8×42 or 10×50 binoculars will allow you to see the whole cricket match with ease.
Binoculars For Trainspotting
As you’ll probably be spending all day jumping on and off trains, you’ll need a fairly small and lightweight pair of binoculars. Try a pair of 8×25 binoculars for convenience.
Binoculars For Ship Watching
As with whale watching, you’ll need to decide on where you intend to watch ships from, on land we recommend 10x for hand held binoculars and 12x to 15x for tripod supported binoculars. If you intend to watch ships from aboard a boat, then 7x will be the highest recommended magnification.
Binoculars For Archery
Using binoculars to help you spot targets in archery is a good idea as long as you follow any rules in place. Many competition rules have a maximum of 8x magnification in place for binoculars. We recommend a pair with a large objective lens to allow plenty of light to illuminate your targets.
Binoculars For Opera
This is where binoculars originated, as opera glasses. And as such you’ll only need fairly low magnification. If you intend to use binoculars for watching opera, we recommend anywhere between 3x to 6x to be more than sufficient.
Binoculars For Backpacking
If you’re going hiking or backpacking and want to get the best from your trip, a decent pair of binoculars will help you see as much as possible. We recommend something small and lightweight as you’ll be carrying them all day. Something like 8×32 or even 8×42 will serve you well.
Binoculars For Watching Golf
There’s a lot of walking involved with watching golf matches, and the courses cover large areas. A decent pair of binoculars will make your day more fun and you’ll never miss a shot. Remember you’ll need to carry them around all day so a compact or midsize lightweight pair will serve you best.
How Much Will A Decent Pair Of Binoculars Cost?
A decent pair of binoculars will enhance your enjoyment of many activities and they don’t need to cost a fortune either. From around £100.00 to £350.00 is the price for a pair of lifetime guaranteed, waterproof, fog proof binoculars from many well respected manufacturers.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use binoculars for astronomy, you’ll need a good light to magnification ratio, something like 10×50 for hand held binoculars. If you intend to use a tripod you could go for 15×56.
You can take binoculars to the opera but you will only need low magnification binoculars something like 3×25 will be sufficient for opera use.
Check with the event organiser, but most archery competitions allow binoculars up to 8x magnification.