So what Kind of Binoculars are there?
Generally speaking there are 5 binocular categories that any newcomer to optics should be aware of. These 5 categories overlap but also differ in various ways because they are built for a variety of purposes. This article will highlight what the different categories are and what the key features you should be looking for when buying this type of binocular.

What are they?
One of the biggest uses of Binoculars is for Astronomy. This usually comes as a shock to most beginners because they normally assume that astronomy is the domain of telescopes not binoculars. Many astronomers actually opt to use binoculars for astronomy because they are much more compact and easy to handle when compared to a telescope. They also offer quite an enjoyable viewing experience!

How do I choose a good one?
So with Astronomy binoculars you want to go Big. When talking about Big, it refers to the size of the objective lens. You can identify this using the last number in the specifications. If the binoculars are a 15×70 then the objective lens is 70mm. Usually you want to have at least 70mm as your objective lens size. The larger the lens the more light the binoculars capture. More light means a brighter and more illuminated image. Because astronomy is done in such poor light conditions you need to get a pair of binoculars a significant amount of light

The other thing to take note of is that with astronomy binoculars, because of their large objective lens size, they tend to be heavy. It is highly recommended that you get a tripod to support the binoculars to give you a stable viewing experience. Trying to hold them up by hand into the night sky can be very difficult and your hands will most likely be shaking constantly.

What are they?
Binoculars are extremely popular for bird watching. Because of their size and portability a good pair of binoculars is the constant companion of any bird watcher. These binoculars are a lot smaller than those used for astronomy and are usually used in good light conditions during the day. Birding binoculars are also fairly sturdy because of their constant movement through various terrains.

How do I choose a good one?
A good pair of birding binoculars need to have a wider field of view. If you are zoomed in too close to a bird and it moves to another tree, it will be very difficult to find it again if your view is overly magnified. So go for binoculars that are about 8x to 10x in magnification.

Also take into account that you want binoculars that are portable so this means you should go for something that has a smaller objective lens. Normally something in the size of 32mm or 42mm. So with the magnification and objective lens considerations your good birding binoculars have a specification of 8×42 or 10×32.

Finally if you are serious about bird watching consider going for higher quality lenses in your binoculars. They are normally called ED lenses. Without being too complicated these lenses ensure your images are a lot crisper and lines are less blurred. Colours tend to stand out more and with any birding enthusiast, a solid image of that rare bird is paramount, so better quality lenses is a must!

What are they?
If you ever start hunting you know that you need to spot your target from a good distance out. A critical way to do that is using a pair of binoculars. Hunting binoculars can be quite similar to birding binoculars however the main difference is that hunting can also be done at night in poor light conditions. Field of view is not always as important (depending on the type of animal being hunted) so a higher magnification is appropriate

How do I choose a good one?
Hunting Binoculars need to be compact. When moving around a jungle, forest or bush you need to be able to have a lightweight but powerful pair of binoculars to help you spot a target. Having said that however because hunting is done in dimmer light conditions when animals come out, it is important to consider getting slightly larger sized objective lens binoculars to increase light gathering capabilities. Something in the region of 42mm and above is a popular choice.

When shooting target from longer distances a higher magnification is needed so many hunters don’t just settle for 8x but instead go for 10x magnification. This of course depends on the type of target you are hunting. If you are hunting something which you are in close proximity to, it is highly recommended to go for a lower magnification so that you can re-acquire a target one it is on the move.

Finally when you are hunting there is no guarantee that the binoculars wont be completely dry or safe from knocks. Always go for something waterproof and also with some kind of rubber armour that give it shock protection!

Casual Use (Sporting Events, Concerts etc)
What are they?
Many people use binoculars for very casual purposes. They foresee that they will need a pair of binoculars to watch a sports event, concert or even while travelling. As a result they look for something versatile and all purpose that will suit well in a variety of conditions. These binoculars don’t need to be too expensive and are just general all round performers that will suit most casual users well.

How do I choose a good one?
Most casual users want something that is lightweight but good enough for their purposes. In the majority of cases binocular users will never recommend going for a zoom binocular (binoculars that can zoom in and out i.e change magnification). This is because zoom binoculars tend to have poorer image quality. Having said that however most casual users are not bothered by the lower image quality that more seasoned users are particular about. Casual users usually want to zoom in and out when using them.

For example when viewing a sporting event they may want to zoom in on a player or incident, as well as have the flexibility of zooming back out for a wider field of view.

A good pair of binoculars to consider are the standard 10-30×50 or 10-30×60. These have a 10x to 30x zoom which most casual users find quite adequate and very useful.

Once again these binoculars do not need to be very large so a 60mm is about the maximum objective lens size.

What are they?
People who sail and are on marine vehicles regularly will know that standard binoculars are not suitable for their use. They need to be rugged and resistant to water in order to survive the sea. Some marine binocular users also need to account for the constant movement that comes with being on the sea as the waves rock back and forth.

How do I choose a good one?
Well Marine Binoculars first and foremost must be waterproof. They should also be very rugged and the tubes should be nitrogen filled. The nitrogen instead of other gases helps to prevent the air from reacting with other substances. Once they are tightly sealed and filled with nitrogen it prevents any chemical reactions that will affect the viewing capacity of the binoculars.

Marine Binoculars should also have lower magnifications. The reason for this is because a higher magnification when the boat is moving up and down can lead to sea sickness. Lower magnifications will give more viewing stability. If you have more money to spare, consider getting image stabilizing binoculars that have special features to make viewing images on a rocky sea much more stable.

Marine Binoculars also do not need to have large objective lenses as there is plenty of light during the day. Usually a size of 40mm to 50mm is sufficient.

These are the main 5 categories of binoculars that every newcomer should be aware of and what considerations to take into account when choosing a pair. Always look to buy binoculars that suit your usage and give you the best viewing experience for what you intend to do!

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