How to buy binoculars (Shutterstock: see credit below)
Article 26 August

How to buy binoculars

The right pair of binoculars will last for years - but how do you make sure you're buying the best? With these top tips from Swarovski Optik's Michaela Leeb, of course!

How do I choose a pair of binoculars?

You need to think about exactly what you need them for. Usually there is a trade-off between size, weight and optical performance. For example, a cycling trip from Aberdeen to Brighton might require a different binocular compared with a birding trip to Costa Rica. For the former, you would want a small and light model that doesn’t weigh you down unnecessarily, but for the latter you’d want superb optical performance and wouldn’t mind if they were a bit more bulky or heavy – especially as you’ll have the chance to see native birds on a once in a lifetime experience.

There are also all-round models available which would fit multiple purposes. You need to decide what you'll need them for most.

What sort of magnification should I be looking for?

It's a question of comfort: the bigger the magnification, the larger the binoculars, meaning it’s harder to hold them without shaking – making observations harder. If you're on the move, you'll probably want a 10x magnification or less.

Magnifications greater than 10x are often used with tripods, monopods or with any other support, just to provide better stabilisation. 8x magnification binoculars are widely used since they represent a good compromise between image range and weight.

What sort of weight should I be after?

If you're tight on luggage space, then a pocket model is the right choice. Again, the correlation between optical performance, size and weight has to be considered. Heavier models usually have bigger objective lenses. Therefore, they offer bigger exit pupil diameters which results in increased viewing comfort.

Does what they’re made of matter?

A plastic binocular is usually less durable than an aluminium- or magnesium-based housing. A metal-based housing also guarantees a longer product life than other materials. However, weight must be evaluated for each model separately, since specific weight differs quite from material to material.


Swarovski Optik sponsors the Wanderlust World Guide Awards, which celebrates the world's best tour guides. The 2014 judging panel includes author Bill Bryson, expert wildlife guide Mark Carwardine and Wanderlust founder and Editor-in Chief Lyn Hughes. This year's ceremony will take place at the Royal Geographical Society on 21 October: tickets are now available (priced £5).

Main image: Hiker with binoculars (Shutterstock)