There are a number of different types of binoculars. In this piece, we’ll explore the specifications for the various binocular types and how this relates to the usage for each variety.
The specifications for each type of binocular are comprised of two figures, such as 10 x 50.
In the case of binoculars with specifications of 10 x 50:
10 — the first number — indicates the magnification power. The higher the number, the more powerful the magnification. In the case of 10, this indicates that these binoculars make items appear 10 times closer. So if you’re viewing an object from a distance of 100 metres, it would look like you’re standing just 10 metres away when using these binoculars.
50 — the second number — indicates the millimetre diameter of the objective lenses, which are located at the end opposite the eyepieces. The larger the objective lens diameter, the more light your binoculars will capture. Therefore, a larger objective lens diameter is better for low-light situations.
Full-size binoculars are the largest, most powerful type of binoculars. The most common specifications are 8 x 42 or 10 x 50. Since these binoculars have a large objective lens diameter – the second figure (42 or 50) – the binoculars tend to be quite large, but they’re also very good for low light settings. The large size makes full size binoculars rather heavy, so they’re rather impractical for hiking. But they are favoured for long-range viewing, wildlife or nature watching, surveillance and activities where you utilise a tripod (since they can be a bit heavy to hold for long periods of time.)
Mid-size binoculars commonly feature specifications of 7 x 35 or 10 x 32. Mid-size binoculars are fairly good for low light situations and they are often favoured among wildlife watchers, sightseers, sporting events and concerts, along with surveillance activities. Most mid-size binoculars are a bit heavier and larger than what is ideal for backpacking, though hikers who are in it for the experience of observing wildlife or nature may find the moderate power a fair trade-off for the weight and bulk. They tend to be the most comfortable for long periods of usage.
Compact binoculars commonly feature specifications of 8 x 25 or 10 x 25. They are ideal for use in daylight conditions; they tend to perform poorly in low-light conditions. Compact binoculars, as the name suggests, are small and compact, making them ideal for hiking, backpacking and other activities where you may favour small and lightweight binoculars. The small size makes them a bit uncomfortable for periods of extended usage.
Another option that consumers may wish to consider are monoculars, which feature a single scope. Monoculars are a smaller option with many models featuring powerful magnification and a large objective lens diameter, without the weight and bulk of binoculars. This makes them ideal for individuals who need to view across large distances and in low light conditions for short periods of time. Since you can only use one eye to view with monoculars, depth perception is poorer than with binoculars and they can be uncomfortable to use for long periods of time.