Binoculars Buying Guide

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Binoculars Buying Guide

Binoculars are an exciting and informative way to see the world. They allow users to view wild animals without disturbing natural habitats, see on-field action at sports events in large stadiums and arenas, and peer at distant sights that would be difficult to reach (such as craggy mountain sides). Binoculars are also used by military organizations and astronomers who enjoy them for their wide field of view in comparison to a telescope. Binoculars can provide users with many new activities and may even surprise them with the things that can be seen in the world. Binoculars can be purchased at many different locations, including camera stores, electronics retailers, and online sites such as eBay. Understanding the different types of binoculars that are available will help buyers choose the appropriate piece of equipment for individual needs, and make the most of any activity in a large space.

What are Binoculars

Binoculars are hand-held instruments that allow users to see things in the distance through the use of two mirror-symmetrical telescopes mounted side-by-side. Binoculars, also known as binocular telescopes, or field glasses, provide a three-dimensional image through the use of their two lenses, granting the viewer a sense of depth. A great pair of binoculars can shorten the apparent distance between a viewer and an object in a natural way that feels as though the viewer has actually crossed the distance.

Choosing Binoculars

Binoculars are produced in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. They also have many different intended uses. Choosing the binoculars that are right for an individual is sometimes a complex process, so it is important to narrow the search as much as possible before making a selection. The following descriptions of types and features of binoculars can help buyers make an informed decision when purchasing a pair of binoculars.

Size

The size of a pair of binoculars is the primary consideration to keep in mind when shopping. Binoculars come in three general sizes: full, mid, and compact. They each have their own pros and cons, though the user’s intent with a pair of binoculars may ultimately determine which is preferable. The following describes some of the key differences between the sizes.

Mid and Full-Size

Full and mid-size instruments are usually considered standard and are referenced together. Standard binoculars tend to be easier to use than compacts, though they may also be heavy and a bit cumbersome to carry around. One of the biggest advantages of standard binoculars is the size of their exit pupil, which is the area of the eyepiece that allows for sight through the instrument. The large exit pupil of standard binoculars lets users easily look through the eyepiece, as it accommodates movement of the binoculars due to wind and other conditions, without the exit pupil moving out of alignment from the user’s eyesight.

Mid- and full-size binoculars provide a crisp, clear image for birding, hunting, or viewing animals at a distance. Many of these instruments weigh between 20 and 35 ounces. Larger, heavier models geared toward astronomy and nature can also be mounted on a tripod to keep the viewed image as steady as possible. Manufacturers of full-size binoculars include Canon, Bausch & Lomb, Bushnell, and Eagle Optics.

Compact

The immediate benefit of compact binoculars is their light weight and portability. However, many people feel that compact binoculars are difficult to use due to their reduced exit pupil size. Any shakiness or unsteadiness on the part of the viewer will often cause the exit pupil to fall out of alignment with the user’s sight, thereby causing the user to lose sight of the imagery. In addition, many people find compact binoculars to be more difficult to focus. The focusing mechanisms of compact binoculars are more sensitive than those of full-size instruments, and therefore require more precision to accurately view an object. This problem is compounded by compact binoculars’ small size, which are more susceptible to movement as a result of wind.

Still, the benefits of compact binoculars are enough for many users to favor them, especially those who intend to have the instrument around their neck for long periods of time. Even small differences in weight can have a large effect on a person over the course of several hours. Some compact models even weigh less than one pound. The Nikon Travelite V, for example, weighs a mere nine ounces. Besides Nikon, compact models are available from companies such as Minolta and Pentax.

Features

Binoculars have various features which must also be taken into account. The amount of magnification required, zoom, aperture, etc. depend upon the application; be sure to consider these factors when purchasing a pair of binoculars.

Magnification

Binoculars each have their own level of magnification. This is indicated in item descriptions by a number followed by a multiplication symbol. For example, binoculars listed as 8X magnification make objects appear eight times closer to the viewer’s position. Magnification of 7X to 12X should suffice for general use of binoculars. Instruments with higher magnifications need to be held steady to see a clear image, and most instruments over 12X magnification will require a tripod for stability.

Zoom

The zoom feature on a pair of binoculars controls the range of magnification. For example, a pair of binoculars may feature zoom capabilities from 7X to 12X.

Aperture

Aperture represents the diameter of the front, or objective lens. This measurement is represented in millimeters. Aperture determines the amount of light captured in an image and with binoculars it is generally expressed with a two-number designation. The first number indicates magnification and the second represents aperture. For example, a 5X 30 pair of binoculars magnifies an image five times and has a 30-millimeter opening. For recreational binocular use, look for an aperture of 20 to 60 millimeters. Astronomical uses require a larger aperture, such as 70 or 80 millimeters.

Focus

There are two primary types of focusing mechanisms: central focusing and independent focusing. Binoculars with central focusing allow for adjustment of both left and right sides of the instrument in tandem, and are most common form of handheld binoculars. Independent focusing, on the other hand, means that each side, or tube, of the binoculars can be adjusted individually. Binoculars featuring independent focusing are generally reserved for larger models meant for intensive field work.

Field-of-View

The size of the area that can be seen through a pair of binoculars is called field-of-view. Wider fields-of-view allow the user to track fast-moving objects, scan the sky for birds, and generally observe nature with greater ease.

Prisms

Prisms work as mirrors, and reverse an image. Although inexpensive models use an older design that does not require prisms, as their imagery is naturally right-side up, nearly all modern binoculars use prisms to correct the upside-down appearance of an image in the instrument. Located between the objective lenses and eyepieces, prisms come in two designs:

Type of Prism

Description

Roof

With roof prisms, the objective lenses generally rest in a line with the eyepieces. This results in binoculars that are narrower in size than Porro prism binoculars.

Porro

Porro prisms tend to be larger instruments. Their objective lenses sit far apart and are offset from the eyepieces. These prisms allow for a strong sense of viewing depth.

Image Stabilizers

Some models of binoculars feature image-stabilizing technology that reduces the visible effects of shakiness or movement on the image being seen. Though these binoculars tend to be more expensive, they allow for high magnification with handheld instruments.

Coatings

To reduce glare and reflective light on the lenses of binoculars, manufacturers often prepare their instruments with specialty optical coatings. Optical coatings are comprised of thin layers of material that effect the way that light is reflected and transmitted through the optic. A few of the most common types of coatings for binoculars are listed in the chart below:

Coating

Description

Coated

Coated optics indicates that at least one surface of the instrument is covered with a single anti-reflective coating.

Fully-Coated

With fully-coated binoculars, anti-reflective coatings have been applied to all external surfaces in a single-layer coat.

Multi-Coated

A pair of binoculars that is multi-coated has had at least one surface covered with multiple anti-reflective coatings.

Fully Multi-Coated

If binoculars are listed as fully multi-coated, their external surfaces have all received multiple anti-reflective coatings.

Specialty Binoculars

Besides traditional models, manufacturers produce several binoculars for special uses, such as night viewing. Though these instruments tend to be more expensive, they can be indispensable for certain activities.

Digital Camera Binoculars

Modern binoculars are capable of doing much more than magnifying faraway images. Instruments are available that include a built-in digital camera that can store images on an internal memory card. Images captured with digital camera binoculars can be downloaded right to a computer, just like any other digital camera. Some camera binoculars are also able to record video.

Night-Vision Binoculars

Night-vision binoculars amplify existing light and produce a green-colored image, allowing users to see in the dark. These instruments are great for evening boating expeditions, or observing wildlife that awakens at night such as owls. There are several models available that do not offer true night-vision, but are able to enhance vision in the darkness. Item listings at an online marketplace like eBay will usually note this feature when it is applicable.

Waterproof and Fog-Proof Binoculars

Because binoculars are often used in outdoor environments, manufacturers make several models with weather-resistant qualities. Waterproof instruments exist for boating or other activities that may involve water. Fog-proof binoculars are also produced, and offer protection in a light drizzle or heavy fog.

Find Binoculars on eBay

Once a type of binoculars is decided on, go to the All Categories tab on the eBay home page and click on the Cameras and Photo link in the drop-down page, followed by Binoculars and Telescopes. Once there, continue to use the Categories menu to narrow the search. From any eBay page, specific search criteria may be entered. For example, to find night vision binoculars, type "night vision binoculars" (without quotation marks) into the search box. Visit eBay’s Customer Support pages for more tips on searching with keywords. If keywords are not producing the desired results, try shopping eBay Stores and following the Cameras & Photo link in Stores Directory. Alternatively, inform the eBay community about a desired item by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay, and eBay will send an email when a match becomes available.

Buy Binoculars with Confidence

Before making a purchase on eBay, be clear on the binoculars included in the listing. Research sellers and understand how eBay and PayPal protect purchases. Carefully read the details in the product listings and examine available photos. Request additional photos if the ones available are not satisfactory. Figure delivery costs into the final price. If the item is expensive, be sure the seller will insure it when it ships. If more information is needed, ask a question by clicking the contact link at the bottom of the page.

Always make sure to complete transactions on eBay with a bid or Buy It Now option. Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs. Never pay for an eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services like Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying an unknown party. In the unlikely event that an item is not received or is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection may cover the purchase price plus original shipping.

Research the Seller

Research sellers to feel positive and secure about every transaction. Find out how long sellers have been registered eBay users and look at the types of items they typically offer. Check their feedback scores, as well as the number of transactions they have completed. Look at the percentage of positive responses they received, what buyers said in their feedback, and if the sellers received praise. Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies, sometimes including money-back guarantees. Always check the terms and conditions of a transaction before buying.

Questions about a particular listing should be directed to the seller. Experienced sellers will want to satisfy questions to encourage buyers to return for future transactions. When a high-quality seller is found, inquire about an eBay Store, especially if the seller specializes in a favored type of binoculars. Forging relationships with experienced sellers can provide increased peace of mind.

Conclusion

Binoculars provide users with the ability to peer into the distance and inspect faraway objects in full detail. They are an essential part of many activities such as bird watching, and can increase the enjoyment of almost any large event. There are a number of different binoculars available to suit the needs of individual users on eBay, and finding the pair that is right for a given circumstance is only a matter of understanding the abilities and differences of specific models. Researching brands, types, and sellers can help ensure a positive buying experience and the attainment of a high quality instrument that will provide many years of viewing enjoyment.

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