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Planning Retirement Online

Binoculars - seeing the light

March 2012  

 

BinocularsBinoculars can make such a difference in so many areas; from simple bird watching at home to enjoying vistas from car trips to seeing the stage at a big theatre - the list goes on. Today, binoculars come in a range of small, easy to carry models and are more popular than ever before.

But that means there is more choice available, so what do you need to look for when you are buying a pair of binoculars?

To start with, obviously the level of magnification is important. Then you need to consider the weight and size, the optical quality including the image brightness and field of view; the use - will you be using them in wet or rough conditions? Suddenly, what was meant to be a pleasurable outing to buy a pair of binoculars can turn into a nightmare of indecision!

There are basically two types of binoculars these days. Roof prism or Dach design binoculars are designed in a basic “H” shape and the eyepiece and the actual tubes of the binocular are in a straight line. Porroprism binoculars are the traditional “M” shape where the eyepiece is not in line with the long tube leading to the lens. Roof prism binoculars have internal focusing which is more robust and can help to protect the optics; they are also more compact but can also be more expensive.

Then you come to the numbers. Most binoculars will have two descriptive numbers such as 10 x 42. The first number shows the binoculars’ magnification ability; how much larger you will see the image than you would with the naked eye. The number is a direct indication of the size, for instance with a 10 at the beginning, it indicates that you will see the object you are looking at as if it were ten times closer that it really is.

The second number (the 42, for instance) indicates the mm diameter of the lens. This is where the light enters the binoculars and the larger this number, the brighter the image should appear. This of course means that generally, binoculars offering high lens diameters will be larger and heavier.

In shops you will find that binoculars with lens diameters of less than 30mm are classed as compact while binoculars with diameters of over 30mm are classed as standard.

Another aspect to consider is the field of view. This means how wide a perspective you have from looking through the binoculars. This is usually measured in degrees and are based on the width of the scene visible from 1,000m distance. Generally, the higher the level of magnification, the smaller the field of view but you can buy special wide-angled binoculars which give a greater field of view at the same magnification.
We are not there yet! Another aspect to consider is lens coating. Binoculars work by reflecting light many times through a set of lenses before reaching your eyes and each time the light is reflected, some of the light can be lost. This can make the final picture much darker and also less clear.

Coating lenses helps to reduce surface reflections and improve the transmission of the light to ensure you receive the brightest possible image. Fully multi-coated lenses work the best and mean basically that all the surfaces are multi-coated. Binoculars can be coated in a number of lesser degrees right back to a basic “coated” binocular where only some of the surfaces are coated.

Some binoculars will have some letters associated with them along with their descriptive numbers. For instance, the letter B means that the eyepieces are especially suitable for people who wear glasses and you can use the binoculars without losing your field-of-view. The letters GA usually indicate that the binoculars are covered with rubber or similar materials to help protect them. BA means the binoculars have both these advantages.

Most binoculars have various adjustments to ensure the best focus for your eyes. For instance, the interpupillary distance (how far apart the left and right halves need to be to fit your eyes) can usually be adjusted. Some binoculars are also designed so they can be fitted onto a tripod for a steady viewing platform and of course there are other individual variations as well between makes and models.

Even if you intend to buy online, it is best to physically try out some binoculars first so that you have a clear idea of what would be best for your individual circumstances. Armed with some basic knowledge, you will be able to ensure a clear vision for the future!

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