There are a lot of different situations where a good pair of binoculars will come in very handy. Hunters, birdwatchers, boaters, hikers, sports fans, military and law enforcement personnel can all benefit from the ability to get a closer look at faraway objects. It is important to note however that there is a world of difference between a quality pair and a substandard pair of binoculars so we wanted to go over in this binoculars buying guide some of the essential qualities to look for when buying binoculars.

Determine use for the binoculars

One of the first things you should do is think about your primary use for the binoculars. If you’re going to use your binoculars for backpacking, hiking, birdwatching etc. you may want to look for a pair that is light weight as well is something that is durable and can withstand the abuse that often comes with being out in nature. You’ll want a pair that can get damp and dirty without being damaged. If you’re going to be using your binoculars for stargazing you’ll want something with a very high magnification and something that also allows a lot of light to come in. When you know how you will be using your binoculars it will be easier to choose the perfect pair.


When shopping for binoculars one of the first things that a lot of people look at is the magnification. There is usually a description consisting of two numbers such as 7×50 or 8×42. In this description the first number refers to the magnification. 8x would mean that the object you are viewing will appear 8 times larger than it does with the naked eye. The second number in the description refers to the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. A pair with the description 8×42 has an objective lens with a diameter of 42 mm. This number is important because a larger diameter objective lens means that the binoculars will allow more light to come in which is an important consideration if you will be using your binoculars in low light situations.

Compact or a full-sized

In addition to the magnification and the diameter of the objective lens another thing to consider is whether you want to go with a compact or a full-sized pair of binoculars. Both types will be in approximately the same price range and both types may be equal in terms of magnification and image quality. The obvious benefit of a compact pair of binoculars is that they will be much lighter in weight but some people find compact models more difficult to adjust than full-size binoculars. If you want a pair of binoculars that is compact but also offers strong magnification, a roof prism design may be a good option.

Porro or roof prism

All binoculars have prisms and it is the prisms that allow you to see images that are upright. Without the prisms the images you see would be upside down and laterally reversed (mirror image). There are two types of prism designs one being the roof prism and the other being porro prism. In binoculars with roof prisms, the prisms are mounted in line with the lenses giving you a sleeker, more compact body and still allowing for strong magnification. The drawback to these types of binoculars is that there may be a slight but noticeable reduction in image quality versus binoculars with the porro prism design. Roof prism binoculars are also more expensive so if you need to keep costs down you may have to go with a slightly larger pair of binoculars or something with a little less magnification.

Porro prism binoculars are designed in a double Z shape where the objective lenses are offset from the eyepiece lenses. This configuration takes up more space so the binoculars will generally be larger and heavier than roof prism binoculars. The main advantages with the porro prism design is that image quality is a bit better and they are significantly less expensive.

Coated lenses

Whether you choose the porro prism or roof prism design you may want to buy a pair of binoculars with coated lenses that help reduce glare, improve resolution and provide better image quality.

Others Features

There are also a number of features to look for that will make your binoculars a lot more versatile. If you buy a pair binoculars with features such as waterproof, impact resistant and have a rubber, slip resistant grip, than it will be beneficial in just about any type of situation.


Of course we cannot discuss the essential qualities to look in binoculars buying guide without mentioning price. Binoculars come in a wide range of prices and although a higher-priced pair will normally be of much higher quality than a less expensive pair, price alone is not always enough to determine quality. Once you’ve determined how you plan to use your binoculars and you have figured out how much magnification you want and which size lens would be best it’s time to start shopping around.

When you’re doing your comparison shopping you will be able to look at the various features and find a pair with the features you are looking for that is also available at a fair price. It’s also a good idea to look at user reviews online because listening to the experiences of other people that have already purchased and used a pair of binoculars that you are considering will give you a much better idea about the quality of the binoculars. Getting feedback from other people will let you know if a particular pair of binoculars lives up to the claims made by the manufacturer and allows you to be much more confident in your buying decision.

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About the Author Anton Scharff

Anton is a hunting expert who respects nature. Ask him anything about large game. Lover of the great outdoors.

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