July 1, 2022

How to choose compact binoculars

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Small in size but big in results

We’ve been using our trusty Nikon compact binocs for many years and it’s time to replace them with a new pair. The rubber coating on ours has disintegrated probably because we kept them in the glove compartment of our car. Over the years the heat created a hostile environment making the rubber coating cracked and worn.  So, this is a refresher course for me about how to choose compact binoculars.and the features to consider. I think compacts should be foldable, lightweight, easy to use and provide a clear sharp image. You’ll find many to choose from in the $100 category.

A lightweight 8×25 compact is a good size for traveling

Many uses for compact binoculars

When we’re on the road they are handy because they’re easy to use in a hurry. Often if we’re looking at a small road sign that’s difficult to read or a large billboard with fine print, compact binos make the signage easy to read. And when we leave the car, compacts can easily slip into a purse or jacket pocket wherever we wander.

When we spend time outdoors compact binos are lightweight whether we’re peddling a bicycle, paddling a kayak or canoe, or walking on a nature trail. The size, shape and weight of binoculars matters when you’re on the move.

When choosing compact binoculars our priority are ‘nocs that are easy to focus and carry.  They also must provide a clear, sharp, and bright image.  

What to consider choosing compact binoculars

Choose 8- power magnification for a wider field of view or 10-power for a more detailed look. The 8-power optic means the object you see will be 8 times closer than what you see with your eyes. But remember the more magnification, your hand shaking becomes a factor. An objective lens less than 28mm is a good choice because it allows the binoculars to be lightweight but still gather enough light for bright images even in shade or on overcast days.  Binoculars with numbers of 8x25mm or 10×25 are a good size for compact binoculars.

Type of binocular prisms

Size and shape The type of prism inside the binocular’s body can be either porro or roof.  These prisms invert the image coming through the objective lens to produce an upright image you see in the eyepiece.  The type of prism determines the shape of the binocular’s body.  Porro prism binoculars have wider spaced barrels. Roof prism binoculars have straight barrels smaller in size and shape, sometimes lighter in weight, too.

Lightweight roof prism binoculars

Protective surfaces and features

Compacts with rubber coating are durable and will protect the binoculars if you drop them, but not guarantee they are shatterproof.  Being fogproof is a good feature especially if you go from a damp, cold area to one that is warm and dry.  Waterproof vs. water resistant binocs are a good choice especially if you’re using them on the water or on a rainy day.

Binos with multiple lens coatings are better at transmitting light. Check it out with a flashlight and shining it through the outer lens. Move and tilt the light. The lens are coated if they appear green or blue.

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Gene and Katie Hamilton are long-time writers about using binoculars for boating, bird watching, stargazing and traveling. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

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