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How to Calibrate, Focus & Use Binoculars

A binocular is a vital piece of outdoors gear and no outdoorsman will argue against this. Binoculars enable users to see objects or targets that seem too far away for the ordinary eyes. For people who enjoy viewing the great outdoors, binoculars are valuable tools. Besides, they are very handy to people like birders, hunters, and hikers who want to keep out an eye for wildlife.

While it is not difficult to use a pair of binoculars, using them requires a bit of learning on how to adjust them to fit your needs. Most high-quality binoculars come with some features such as a diopter ring and adjustable eyepieces, and with some basic knowledge, users can set their binoculars up to be right for their vision and face shape.

Anatomy of Binoculars

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How to Focus Binoculars

To focus a pair of binoculars, all you need to do is follow some steps and you will be good to go afterwards. There are three steps involved in focusing a binocular and below are the steps.

Step 1: Adjusting interpupillary distance

Everyone has their distinct interpupillary distance and it is compulsory that you adjust your binoculars for your particular distance. To adjust your binocular’s interpupillary distance, hold it with both hands, then use it to view an object that is far away and simultaneously move the tubes of the binoculars upward or downward until right and left fields are aligned correctly, forming a faultless circle. If you have not properly adjusted the interpupillary distance, the image will not be comfortable to view and might be distorted.

Step 2: Calibrate the diopter

A lot of people don’t have identical eyes. They might be farsighted in one of their eyes and be nearsighted in the other eye. If so, users have to make adjustments on their eye lenses according to their eyes. The rings for diopter adjustment are situated behind the eyecups. One ring should be adjusted at a time, and you should close one of your eyes and fine tune the diopter ring before the opened eye. Look for an object through the lens and afterwards turn and rotate the diopter ring till that object is in focus.

Step 3: Using the focusing ring

After you must have made other adjustments, now hold the binocs up to both of your eyes and pick an object far away to view. Use one of your hands to reach the focus ring and slowly turn it so as to adjust the zooming range of the binocular. Keep turning the focus ring till the object being viewed appears perfect and not distorted or fuzzy. After the setting up of the binoculars, the only thing majority of people use ever after that is the focus ring. The other adjustments must remain as they are unless someone else wants to use the binoculars.

How to Use Binoculars with Glasses

If you are an eyeglass wearer and at the same time an avid outdoorsman, don’t be scared that your outdoors experience may get compromised by your glasses.

Adjusting Eye Cups

Commonly seen on the majority of modern binoculars, adjustable eyecups serve two different purposes; excluding superfluous sidelight and putting the right distance between the eye pupils and the eyepieces so that the whole field of view of the instrument can be seen. The types of eyecups that are commonly used include twist-up, pop-up, or roll-down. For eyeglass wearers, the eyecups are usually placed in the bottom while it is always positioned at the top for non-eyeglass wearers.

Cleaning Your Binoculars

Whether you are an avid hunter, birder or backpacker, your binoculars are probably used on a frequent basis, which makes them require regular care and cleaning to ensure that the lenses remain in utmost condition so as to deliver crisp and clear images for many years to come.

  • Get rid of all the dust from the lenses of the binocular by brushing it with the brush at the other end of a cleaning pen. The brush is usually very soft and will not damage the coatings or glass of the lenses. Also, you can blow the lenses with an air can as you are strongly advised against using your breath. Breath contains little drops of liquid that may damage your lens.
  • Use a lens cleaning solution to get rid of any residual dust on the lenses. And if you have a waterproof binocular, you can run it directly under a tap. However, we advise you against using fluid made for cleaning windows or eyeglasses because it may harm the coatings.
  • Now that you have gotten rid of the dust, you can use a microfiber lens cloth, lens tissue, or a soft cloth to wipe the lenses. Don’t use a facial tissue or paper towels as they are not smooth. They usually include wood fiber which will scrape the lenses or its coatings.

Spotting Scope Vs Binoculars

 

If you are a hunter, outdoorsman, birder, or someone whose hobbies require viewing things from a far distance, then you must have been stuck between either choosing a spotting scope or binoculars before. Both of them are the essential long-range viewing tools, and debates continue to rage on about which one is better among these tools.

While these instruments seem like small instruments, you can’t overemphasize their importance. As an outdoors enthusiast, a spotting scope or binoculars can make or break your outdoor trip. These tools can be the difference between a stunning view and a missed golden moment that you may never see again
But if you are trying to find out which one is better with these tools, you have come to the right place. While we aren’t going to tell you which one is better, we will allow you to make that decision by yourself. Spotting scope or binoculars? There is only one way to find out!

Spotting scope or Binoculars?

There may never be a clear winner, but if you want to find out the differences and similarities about this tools, we are going to discuss them below.

Usage

Depending on the activities and the users, the usages of these tools vary. While both tools can do almost the same things, they are more suitable for different tasks than each other.

Bird Watching – If you are looking to observe or watch the birds, then a binocular would be ideal for you. But if you are passionate about birding, that would mean you want to know about the different bird species. Thus, you would have to observe and watch them to learn every possible thing about them. In this case, what you will be needing is a spotting scope.

Astronomy – You need to have some know-how before you can use spotting scopes. Thus, if you don’t know much about spotting scopes, you should opt for binoculars instead. But binoculars can allow you to view constellations. But they will be ineffective if you want to view other cosmic objects, such as the asteroids. This is because binoculars usually come with limited aperture size and magnification power.
But spotting scopes are built for long-range viewing, and if compared with any binocular in the world, they will emerge as winners. They can enable you to see the star clusters, or other planets (and the wonderful moon sometimes). Ensure you remember these tips before choosing the best instrument for your needs.

Target Shooting – A binocular is ideal for hunters who only shoot within 200 yards. Binoculars are stable, simple, and very portable, making them perfect for such hunters. But if you are someone who shoots beyond 200 yds, the perfect instrument for you would be a spotting scope. It will allow you to capture every detail due to its higher magnification. Spotting scopes are becoming more and more popular among snipers as a result of this.

Hunting – It is easier to carry a pair of binoculars in the woods than a spotting scope. Normally, hunters don’t need to scan hundreds of yards, so they usually don’t need more than binoculars.
But in some situations where a hunter needs to scan through hundreds of yards, a spotting scope with a tripod would be the ideal instrument in this sort of situation. Besides, the area sometimes determines the hunter’s inclination.

Features

Also, both tools come with different features that make them fit for different things. Below is the analysis of each of their features.

Magnification power– If you are looking for higher magnification, then you should definitely go for a spotting scope. They have in-built zoom in lenses and they usually come with high magnifications varying from 20x to 60x. But binoculars come with fixed magnification and usually not above 20x.
Image stability– Binoculars are usable while on the move or while standing due to their lower magnifications. Meanwhile, spotting scopes have a high sensitivity to movement, and you will need to settle down and put them on a tripod/limb/stationary rock before you can use them.

Portability & compactness– Without any doubt, binoculars win when it comes to portability and compactness. They can be slung around your neck for easy movability (the smaller models may even fit in your coat pocket). Spotting scopes, on the other hand, are heavier and you need to carry them in a large cargo pocket or rucksack. If it is the former case, you may find the weight of the scope a little awkward after some time.

Price–A pair of advanced binoculars with several features can be costly. But a regular pair of binoculars with decent features is usually less expensive than a spotting scope. Although they aren’t as powerful as spotting scopes, binoculars come with impressive functionalities for a price that many hunters can afford.

Hunters who only hunt once in a while or who aren’t ready to spend a lot of money on a hunting equipment will probably see this as a huge plus and opt for a pair of binoculars. But, avid hunters who often go to the forests in search of a game will most likely opt for a spotting scope.

Spotting Scopes Vs Telescopes

If you are an avid birdwatcher or stargazer who is looking to upgrade his game, you may be stuck between either choosing a spotting scope and a telescope. The primary difference between these two instruments depends on what it is originally built for.

Spotting Scope – Spotting scopes are used for land viewing. Usually, they don’t come with as many features as telescopes, which makes them easier to use. If you are looking for a viewing tool to watch the wildlife, or watch boats from the beach, a spotting scope will probably do the job better than a telescope. If you will be majorly watching things on land, you should definitely opt for a spotting scope.

Telescope – Telescopes aren’t designed for viewing things on land. The myriad of adjustment choices makes it more difficult to use but stargazers love these capabilities once they learn how to use them. If you do use a telescope for land viewing, you may get a lot of distorted, sometimes upside down images, but you can purchase accessories that can fix this for you.

On the other hand, telescopes are not really designed for land viewing. They are very adjustable, which makes them less user-friendly than spotting scopes, but astronomers love what they are capable of doing once they have gotten used to them. While telescopes may perform terribly and deliver distorted images when used for land viewing, there are accessories you can purchase to fix them to an extent.

Conclusion

It is very difficult to declare a winner between a spotting scope and binoculars. Both instruments have their advantages and disadvantages, and most times, it always winds down to what you are intending to do with the optic. But having provided several tips and discussed several things that should aid your decision, you must have jumped on either ship by now. But if you are still undecided, why not go for both devices? It wouldn’t be a bad idea, provided your pocket is deep enough.

How to choose Binoculars

Having binoculars at hand on a hike can make your trip more pleasurable. There are many binoculars available in the market but the technical jargon is little intimidating for a beginner and making one wonder how to choose binoculars.

To make things easier, here is comprehensive binoculars buying guide discussing the specifications and every factor you need to consider before buying a binocular. I have broken down this into two parts.

  • Understanding Binocular specifications & features
  • Understanding your requirements

 

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Understanding binocular specifications & features

What do the numbers on binoculars mean?

The first thing you notice is two numbers (ex: 7 X 35, 10 X 50).  The first number 7 (in 7 X 35) represents magnification. Its 7X zoom i.e the object appears 7 times closer. In 10X50 binoculars, the object appears 10 times closer. The second part of the number, 35 (in 7X35) represents the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters. The objective is the larger lenses away from the eyepiece.

How do these numbers affect the view?

As the magnification (first) number increases

  • the object appears bigger
  • but the field of view gets narrower. So, it gets harder to focus or stabilize.

If you pick one with higher than 10X, you would need a tripod or monopod.

As the objective lens size (second number) increases

  • More light gets in.
  • The image gets brighter. So, better for low light activities.
  • But the binocular gets bigger and heavier.

Most of the binoculars fall in 30-50mm. Compact binoculars have less than 40mm lens. Astronomy binoculars have greater than 50mm lens.

Eye relief

Eyepiece should be at a comfortable distance from your eyes while viewing. The distance of eyepiece of binoculars from eyes when viewing is called ‘eye relief’.

  • 5-15mm distance from eyes is comfortable for normal viewing
  • 12-15mm eye relief if wearing glasses.

Porro Prism Vs Roof Prism

Porro prism & Roof Prism differ in how they send light from objective lens to eyepiece.

Porro Prism is older one. They are there since world war II. These are “A” shaped. Cheaper but bigger size.

Roof prism is a new addition. These are “H” shaped. These are little costlier but compact.

Field of View

Field of view is measured in feet @ 1000 yards. Ex: 380 ft @ 1000 yards. Its also represented in degrees. Ex:  Angular field of view – 6.1 degrees.

As the magnification increases the field of view decreases.

Glass grade

  • BAK4 (barium crown glass) is the costlier ones and are effective.
  • BK-7 (borosilicate glass) is also good but the light at the edges is low and hence the view is a bit like a square.

Lens coating

Lenses and glasses are applied with anti-reflective coating. These are coated to stop the light that falls on the glass from reflecting. Some binoculars are multi-coated, fully coated…

Coated (C) – some glasses are coated.

Fully coated (FC) – all glasses are coated.

Multi-coated (MC) – some glasses are multi-coated.

Fully multi-coated (FMC) – Fully multi-coated.

Focusing ability

Binoculars focus in two ways.

  • Centre-post mechanism – both the lenses are focused by the common central control
  • Individual lens focusing – each lens has a separate control.

Image stabilization

Image stabilization a recent addition to the binoculars. They use the same technology used in cameras to stabilize the image. There are two main categories.

  • Active:  These use electronic sensors and adjust some part of the view to correct the shake.
  • Passive:  they use an internal gyroscope to minimize the shake from the hand of the holder. These are recommended for a view from

Night Vision

If you are more of a night person and use it for watching nightlife or hunting in the dark, you could choose the binoculars with night vision. These optico-electronic devices work by amplifying the available light. Some night vision binoculars come with digital cameras which record/shoot low-quality images/videos and with very minimal magnification.

Understanding your requirements

There are so many models available in the market that each of them is better designed to suit some specific activity. While some are good for bird watching, some are handy while hunting and some have better night vision and so on. So while looking at the specifications & other features, keep in mind the activity for which you are going to use it the most.

Binoculars for Sports, hiking & Birdwatching

This is the most general use of binoculars. Most of the binoculars made fit into this category. For these purposes, one prefers to have a compact and lightweight binoculars so that it is easy to carry around. At the same time power of the binoculars is also equally important.

Binoculars with the power 8x to 12x and objective lens of 25mm to 50mm are preferred for this purpose.

Binoculars for Hunting

This is another most use case. There are wide range of binoculars available with different features. Depending on the type of hunting, one can choose their gear. Most of the binoculars with 8x to 12x, which are also used for other common purposes can be used for daytime hunting. If hunting at night time or during early hours before sunrise, one could pick binoculars with night vision.

Binoculars for Stargazing – Astronomy

Most people usually overlook binoculars for stargazing but Binoculars are smaller and have certain advantages over the telescope. Unlike telescope, you don’t necessarily need to have a tripod for binoculars. Good astronomical binoculars are cheaper than basic telescopes and are a good start for beginner astronomy enthusiasts.

Astronomy binoculars need high magnification power. Usually, a magnification greater than 12x is preferred. These are bigger & bulkier. Sometimes you would need a tripod to comfortably use it for a long time.

Other things you need to consider

Budget

First thing actually, one would start their search with a budget in mind. You could get decent binoculars under 100$ price range and the features and the quality increase as you invest more money. In general, there are very good binoculars with high end features in the range of 200-500$ and we  wouldn’t  suggest going for a cheap one as we do not want it to break in the middle of a trip.

Would you need a tripod/monopod?

If you are going for a very heavy binoculars with magnification greater than 10X, chances are you might need a tripod or a monopod to be able to hold such heavy binoculars for a longer time. Usually, binoculars used for astronomy would need a tripod. Even some bird watchers use tripods.

Additional accessories

Carrying Case, Eyepiece and Lens Protection Covers, Cleaning Cloth, Binocular Neck Strap – these are some basic accessories you would need along with the binoculars. If you are going with a night vision binocular or a binocular with a camera, you would also need a power cable, memory stick. Some binoculars come with accessories included. If they are not included, well, you should buy them separately.

Brands

There are very good brands making the binoculars of very high quality. All these good brands make the binoculars in all the price ranges – low priced, mid-range, high end. Starting from under 100$, you can find them until 10,000$. Here are some of the popular brands producing binoculars. Bushnell, Carl Zeiss, Celestron, Swarovski, Nikon, Pentax, Steiner, Barska, Canon.

So, there are many many options out there with specific features for specific activities. We recommend you to first understand the binocular specifications and keep in mind the purpose you are going to use the binoculars mostly for.