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Overview of Choosing a Binocular

Last updated 2010-01-21 - Send Feedback
Related: binocular, binoculars, video

Over the years, my experience with binoculars has been disappointing; I never owned a top quality pair of binoculars, and I was always put off either by poor image quality, usability, or both.

In late 2009 I resolved to look into the state of the art in binoculars, applying my perspective as a photographer and outdoor enthusiast.

There is a lot of useless junk and misinformation out there on binoculars, as I found when wading through web searches, so this review focuses on what you really need to know.

Evaluation units by B&H Photo

B&H Photo

High quality binoculars are relatively expensive, so I was fortunate to have the generosity of B&H Photo in loaning me the binoculars reviewed here.

B&H carries a huge range of binoculars at great prices. Please consider buying through the B&H links on this site, thank you.

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Ergonomics in general

Ergonomics are critical with binoculars:

  • Too large/heavy and you won’t want to take them.
  • Too little eye relief and you’ll not like using them, or you’ll have trouble with eyeglasses.
  • Too high a magnification and you won’t be able to hold them steady.
  • Depth of view and field of view can make the experience pleasurable or not.
  • Brightness under daylight and dim conditions.
  • Color rendition, color fringing, distortion.
  • Eyeglasses demand adequate eye relief.

See, it’s simple!

Not really. Only by trying different brands and models was I able to sort through it all to find out what really mattered, and what actually is comfortable and usable.

Please see the suggested models on the Conclusions page.

Image stabilization

I have not yet had the opportunity to evaluate any image stabilized binoculars, which could be of great merit for some applications, particularly 12X and great magnification, or for anyone who has an essential tremor.

The main issue I observe is that image stabilized binoculars all seem to have poor eye relief.

Binoculars at B&H Photo:


B&H Deal ZoneDeals by Brand/Category/Savings
Deals expire in 9 hours unless noted. Certain deals may last longer.
$3097 SAVE $200 = 6.0% Nikon D850 DSLR in Cameras: DSLR
$1797 SAVE $200 = 10.0% Pentax K-1 Mark II DSLR in Cameras: DSLR
$998 SAVE $400 = 28.0% Sony a7 II Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$1798 SAVE $200 = 10.0% Sony a7R II Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$2798 SAVE $400 = 12.0% Sony a7R III Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$3998 SAVE $500 = 11.0% Sony a9 Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless

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