All About Binoculars

From casual birdwatching to twilight hunting, Barnaby Dracup has all you need to know for buying a pair of binos.

Buying a pair of binoculars might sound straightforward, but when it comes to finding the best binos for your needs, there are a few things to consider.

Binoculars come in two distinct types that are easily distinguishable by their shape, which in turn is determined by the type of prism they use – a roof prism or a porro prism.

A roof prism binocular means that the prisms are aligned with each other, offering a more compact design with the eyepieces and objective lenses in a straight line. This simpler design allows for easier dust-proofing and waterproofing of the internal components, and fewer internal parts means there is less to go wrong. However, the aligned prisms can cause image quality to suffer, and products need to be in the higher price ranges to compete in terms of optical quality.

A porro prism binocular is easy to identify because the eyepieces and the objective lenses are not in line with each other – these are the classic military-style binoculars you will have seen cigar-chewing generals peering through in Hollywood war films. They are also often larger and weigh more. Porro prisms have objective lenses spaced wider than roof prisms, so can produce a better stereoscopic image than roof prism designs.

When looking to buy binoculars, simply choose your price range and decide on what you require: small and compact for daytime twitching (roof prism), or large with good light gathering qualities (porro prism) for twilight hunting.

Opticron

Traveller BGA ED 10×32 Binoculars

£299

www.opticron.co.uk

Founded in the UK in 1970, Opticron is a family-owned business with nearly 50 years’ experience in consumer optics. The Traveller 32mm is one of the brand’s best yet, and features a wide field-of-view, long eye-relief (good for glasses wearers), a rainguard, a carry case and a 30-year guarantee. At this price these are a benchmark to judge others by, with a high level of optical glass and coatings, meaning you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Swarovski

EL Range 8×42

£2,530

https://uk.swarovskioptik.com

The EL Range 8×42 binoculars are ideal for any situation right up to twilight. Their expansive field of view and large exit pupil ensure optimum comfort during observation, and they come with a comfortable Carrying Strap Pro with pockets for the replacement battery, plus a field bag, eyepiece cover and objective lens cover.

The EL Range offers an outstanding combination of long-range optics and ergonomic design, with Swarovski’s master craftsmanship shining through in the razor-sharp images on offer.

Nikon

Action 7×50 CF Binoculars

£190

www.nikon.com

The Action binoculars feature an aspherical eyepiece lens to eliminate image distortion, are waterproof up to a meter for five minutes, and have a fog-free nitrogen gas filling. Their high-eyepoint design provides glasses wearers with a clear field of view, with multilayer-coated lenses and a large objective diameter for optimal image clarity.

Featuring rubber armouring for shock resistance, and a firm, comfortable grip, the Nikon Action is a reliable, sturdy viewing companion in most situations. Nikon now even makes eco-glass optics which are free of lead and arsenic and better for the environment.

Bushnell

10X42 Trophy Binoculars

£219.99

www.bushnell.com

The Bushnell Trophy uses superior BAK4 porro prisms and fully multi-coated optics to create versatile binoculars with bright, clear images and accurate colour rendition. The 42mm objectives give these binoculars strong low-light performance and a wide field of view. This combination of magnification, optics, objectives, plus a wide viewing angle make the Trophy ideally suited for most outdoor activities, from hunting, to birding and even when out in a boat (think a high-tech Captain Birdseye).

They feature rubberised non-slip armour nitrogen-filled optical tubes and O-ring seals to be waterproof and fog-proof – especially when moving from one extreme temperature to another. For long-term viewing sessions, the Trophy can be mounted on a tripod or other support system using an optional adapter.

Hawke

Sapphire 42mm Top Hinge ED Binoculars

£399

www.hawkeoptics.com

The Sapphire ED binoculars have extra low dispersion glass, fully multicoated optics and dielectric-coated prisms to provide super-clear, bright and highly detailed views. The waterproof, nitrogen purged (fog-proof) magnesium alloy body with rubber armour can be used with confidence in all weather conditions.

Other features include a quick-ratio focus knob, multi-stage twist-up eyecups, stay-on lens covers and a comfortable neck-strap. They are also supplied with a high-quality traditional leather case and Hawke’s lifetime limited warranty.

Zeiss

Victory HT 8×54 Binoculars

£1,755

www.zeiss.com

Zeiss binoculars are regarded as among the best in the world and, thanks to its revolutionary optics concept, Zeiss has managed to fit the performance of a 56x lens into a significantly lighter and more compact lens design.

The Victory binoculars deliver impressively bright images until late evening, with up to more than 95% light transmission, allowing for bird watching in bright moonlight. This revolutionary value allows you to experience the nature and countryside around you in a whole new level of detail. They are extremely easy to use as well.

Celestron

Trailseeker 42mm Binoculars

£180

www.celestron.com

The TrailSeeker binoculars provide solid outdoor performance, making them perfect for the avid twitcher or even a woodland deerstalker. Featuring good optical quality and dielectric-coated BAK4 prisms, which dramatically increase light transmission, these TrailSeekers offer unrivaled image quality and views for the price.

Featuring lightweight magnesium alloy frames, durable and fully waterproof for use in any weather, a wide field of view, fully multi-coated optics and an ergonomic design, these compacts are perfect for anyone seeking a high-quality entry-level binocular.

Helios

Fieldmaster 20-60x82ED Triplet Waterproof Spotting Scope

£649

www.harrisontelescopes.co.uk

The top-of-the-range Fieldmaster-ED82DS triplet is perfect for the most discerning birdwatcher and nature observer. This high-end instrument features a triplet objective lens, which provides a highly corrected image and exceptional optical performance. Two extra-low dispersion lens elements virtually eliminate any chromatic aberration, and deliver high-fidelity true-colour images. Features include high quality BAK4 prisms, multi-coated optics, a precision 4:1 ratio dual-speed focuser and a robust but lightweight magnesium alloy body with a sun shade for bright viewing conditions.