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How to Choose the Right Binoculars

When choosing a pair of binoculars there are several things you'll want know before you buy.

Your choice will depend on what you are using them for. Do you want binoculars for birding, hunting, watching wildlife on long backcountry hikes, an event in a large arena, an aviation show—or just for general purpose?

Magnification is usually the most important. But, depending on what you are doing, you may also want to take into acount field of view, brightness, ease of handling (weight, feel, ergonomics), suitability for eyeglasses, and overall construction.

Nikon makes a an extensive line of binoculars for a diverse range of uses. In this article, we're getting up close and personal with their most popular models!

Jump to this article for an in-depth look at what the numbers on binoculars mean.


Choosing Nikon Binoculars for Magnification

There are two major things to remember about magnification:

  • Greater magnification means a smaller field of view.
  • Magnifications of 6x to 10x are best for handheld outdoor use. Anything greater, and hand shaking can make viewing difficult.

It's recommended that beginners start with a lower magnification. There will be less hand shake—something that will likely become less of an issue the more you use your binoculars. Plus, it can be difficult to train binoculars with a smaller field of view on a bird in your line of sight. Again, you will become more skillful the more you practice viewing.

So, binoculars with an 6x-8x magnification are recommended for beginners. And those who feel more confident about getting their subject in their line of sight can try for 10x or even 12x magnification.

Nikon makes a range of these sizes in the following series of binoculars:


Nikon Binoculars for Specific Applications

How you are going to use your binoculars is directly related to how you choose your binoculars.

For birding and hunting binoculars, lower magnification for a wider field of view will be important, as well as a larger objective lens in order to gather more light during dawn/dusk or in forested areas.

For birders, the Nikon MONARCH M5 8x42 is a popular choice. For hunting, the PROSTAFF 7S 10x42 will fit the bill and even comes in a camo rubber-armored body.

For the ultimate in binoculars for hunting, the Nikon Laserforce rangefinding binoculars combine binocular performance with the speed of a 1900-yard rangefinder.

Hikers, backpackers, and travelers will be concerned with the size and weight of their binoculars. Roof prism binoculars (see section on design below) will be more compact. Smaller objective lens size will keep the weight down—32mm or less is ideal. Nikon PROSTAFF P7 8x30 binoculars are a good choice, as well as the super compact Sportstar Zoom 8-24x25 binoculars, that zoom from 8- to 24-power and have a 25mm objective lens—powerful, compact, and easy-to-use.

For Marine binoculars, waterproofing, fogproofing, and lower magnification for shaky conditions will be the most significant factors on a boat. Here, the Nikon PROSTAFF P3 8x42 are a good buy.

The best binoculars for stargazing will have a large objective lens to gather the most light—at least 42mm is recommended. For handheld binoculars, magnification of 8x to 12x is best to keep hand shaking from being an issue. The Nikon ACULON A211 10x42 binoculars are a good option for viewing the night sky.

Jump to this article for an in-depth look at what the numbers on binoculars mean.


Best Binoculars on a Budget

Another thing to consider when choosing binoculars is price.

Binoculars can range from around $100 to several thousands of dollars.

But if money's tight, you don't have to sacrifice performance and quality when it comes to getting the right binoculars for your favorite outdoor pursuit.

Nikon's new PROSTAFF P3 series costs $130–$150 and with different size options can cover a range of applications, including hiking, camping, birding, and sports and events. Features include:

    • Multilayer lens coatings cut glare and reflection for sharper, clearer views
    • A highly reflective silver-alloy coating is applied on the mirror surfaces of the prism so more light reaches your eyes
    • Waterproof/fogproof
    • Drop-resistant rubber armor
    • Comfortable long eye relief
    • Lightweight
    • Easy to use

The PROSTAFF P7 series will only set you back $180–$200. With four sizes available, you can use these Nikon binoculars for birding, wildlife, aviation, and general purpose. Features include:

    • Multilayer optical coating
    • Phase-Correction coating applied to the roof prisms for increased definition and clarity
    • Nikon’s dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coating maximizes light transmission across the visible range
    • Waterproof/fogproof
    • Locking diopeter
    • Eco-friendly glass that is lead-free and arsenic-free
    • Non-stick coating on eye-piece and objective lenses for easy cleaning
    • Turn-and-slide eyecups
    • Long eye relief to use with or without glasses
    • Rubber-armored body with non-slip grip
    • Lightweight

Nikon Compact Binoculars for Packing Light and Long Trips

Compact binoculars are the way to go if you plan to hike, travel, or backpack.

Size and weight will be at the top of you list when you want to travel light.

So which binoculars are smaller and lighter?

First of all, binoculars with a roof prism design (see section below) are smaller and more portable. Their straight barrels allow them to be made compact and thin, unlike the bulkier dogleg barrels of Porro prism binoculars.

Second, the smaller the objective lens size, the lighter the binoculars. The second number on binoculars models is the objective lens size. For example, on the Nikon PROSTAFF 7S 8x30, the second number indicates that the front lenses are 30mm. This is a good size to travel with. Any binoculars with a larger second number will be heavier, e.g., the MONARCH M7 10X42.


Binoculars Design — Pros and Cons

Binoculars come in two prism designs: “Roof prism” and “Porro prism.” The purpose of prisms, located in each binocular barrel, is to correct the inverted and reversed images you would see in their absence.

Porro prism binoculars are named after their prism’s inventor, an Italian named Ignazio Porro, and feature “dogleg” or “zigzag” barrels, with the objective lenses (front) offset from the ocular (rear) lenses.

Advantages:

  • A better depth of field/better stereoscopic 3D images because of the wider objective lens spacing.
  • Generally less expensive as they are less technical to manufacture to high performance levels.
  • Porro prisms offer a bright view from total reflection.

Disadvantages:

  • Because of the dogleg barrels, Porro prism binoculars are generally bulkier, and therefore less convenient to pack and carry.

The Roof Prism design has a straight barrel, but not a straight light path, from the objective lens to the ocular lens.

The prisms inside each barrel resemble a tiny, peaked roof—hence the name.

Roof prism binoculars, chosen by those who prefer a slim-line design, are costly to produce because their very small prisms require special grinding and polishing to maintain image integrity.

Roof prisms also demand a relatively expensive coating process, much like lens coatings, to maximize their performance.

Phase-correction coating corrects most of the optical deficiencies inherent in roof prisms. Phase-correction coating is applied to the surface to minimize loss of resolution, ensuring high-contrast images.

Advantages:

  • The biggest advantage of the Roof prism design is smaller size and portability. Because Roof prism binoculars have straight barrels, they can be more compact and thin.

Disadvantages:

  • They are more costly than Porro prisms.

How to Choose Binoculars for Eyeglass Wearers

If you want to wear eyeglasses with your binoculars, it's important to get a pair with a long eye relief—more than 15mm is recommended.

Eye relief is the distance from the outer surface of the eyepiece lens to the position where the exit pupil is formed (eyepoint).

Looking through binoculars from the eyepoint, you can obtain the whole field of view without vignetting.

A long eye relief ensures anyone can find a clear, comfortable viewing position, with or without eyeglasses.

The Nikon PROSTAFF P3 has a 15.4mm eye relief.

The PROSTAFF P7 binoculars are designed with long eye relief for a comfortable, clear field of view, whether you have glasses on or not.

The Nikon MONARCH M5 and MONARCH M7 series also offer long eye relief.


Best Nikon Binoculars for Low Light

Binoculars for birding and hunting need to perfrom at optimum moments when lighting is sometimes scarce.

The best binoculars for low light situations, such as dawn, dusk, or forest areas, are ones with a greater objective lens diameter.

You'll know the diameter by the second number on binoculars. For example, on the MONARCH M5 8x42, the second number stands for 42mm and is the objective lens (front) diameter or size.

Combined with the quality of lens and prism coatings, this number determines the amount of light gathered to form an image. Therefore, the larger the diameter, the more light gathered—a necessary feature for binoculars used in poor light conditions.

For the more experienced, the MONARCH M5 10x42 is a great choice. Novices who may have a shakier grip, should consider starting with an 8x magnification.


Where to Buy Nikon Binoculars

Buy your Nikon binoculars on PlayBetter.com. We've been an authorized Nikon dealing for years while selling their golf rangefinders.

Plus, you'll get FREE 2-day shipping and FREE 60-day returns—no questions asked!

Plus, our team is always here to support you in any way we can.

PlayBetter offers financing through affirm with interest-free payment options.

We are here to help! Feel free to hit us up in chat, by email, or call!

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