How to Choose the Right Magnification for Your Binoculars
Magnification is not exactly a very high priority when purchasing a pair of binoculars. This might sound surprising, especially considering this article’s title, but all magnification does is increase the image received. Which is good, of course – a key reason for buying a pair of binoculars is so that you can see small, distant objects in detail. However, what is more important is the aperture of the binoculars. A larger aperture permits more light to enter, which also allows for a brighter and sharper image to be formed. With that said, magnification is still an important factor when choosing a pair f binoculars. It’s just that it is not the highest priority as some ads might claim.
At the heart of it all, engineering binoculars is a science of tradeoffs. In order to gain one thing, you have to lose other things. One cannot have the best of all worlds, at least not without a truly exorbitant price tag. For example, the price one pays for a wider aperture is a lack of clarity and focus, which are what you would have if your binoculars had better magnification. This usually leads to a big bright blur being seen through your binoculars. On the other hand, too much magnification leads to a sharp, dim image that is often illegible anyway because there is no contrast between one color and the next. In addition, many objects of interest can be seen without overly extreme amounts of magnification, so exceeding the required thresholds is not only a waste of money, but it will ruin your experience as well. Remember that engineering binoculars is the science of tradeoffs.
That said, we have prepared a list of guidelines for the degree of magnification your binoculars should have, depending on their purpose..
General use: General purpose binoculars can get away with a 7-8x magnification. That will suffice to see most things, from human beings at a few hundred meters’ distance to birds flying through the sky.
Hunting/Birding: These binoculars will generally require a higher magnification, from 8-10x, because the objects you will be looking for are small, not moving, and usually hidden in grass. Since light is not an issue, you can sacrifice aperture size for greater magnification.
Marine: Binoculars meant for use on the ocean will have to cover very long distances, kilometers, at the minimum. You should start with 10x and work your way up from there, especially since one of the uses of marine binoculars is to spot sailors floating between the waves. This requires careful attention to detail.
Astronomy: Astronomy binoculars can have magnifications from 7-10x, though this figure can increase if you are using tripod-mounted binoculars.
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