Buying Binoculars with the Right Magnification for Your Needs

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Your Guide to Buying Binoculars with the Right Magnification for Your Needs

Many people looking to purchase binoculars for the first time fall victim to a very common misconception: that the higher magnification of the binoculars, the better the equipment. While technically this is true, a higher magnification provides a greater level of zoom than binoculars with a lower magnification, the right magnification depends entirely on the intended purpose of the binoculars. This means that, to meet some people’s specific needs, a lower magnification may be the better option.

Understanding Magnification

The technical specifications of binoculars gives details as to the level of magnification the device offers. When browsing different makes and models, look for two numbers separated by an x, such as 4x28. While the number after the x, in this case the 28, refers to the lens diameter, the 4x refers to the magnification. In this instance, the zoom level is 4x, which means an object viewed through the binoculars will be seen at four times its original size.

Depending on individual needs, there are both advantages and disadvantages to low and high levels of magnification. For example, beginners may find lower magnification binoculars easier to get to grips with due to simplicity of use, whereas those planning to use their equipment to view specific objects in built up or crowded areas may find a higher magnification device provides better results.

Choosing Binoculars with the Right Magnification

It is important to consider the type of activities that will be carried out with a pair of binoculars before making a purchase. Binoculars can enhance a variety of events, including walking and hiking, bird watching, and hunting. Different magnifications suit different purposes.

Low Magnification

A very low magnification level is considered to be anything between 4x and 7x, while low magnification can top out at around 10x. Do not be tempted to purchase a pair of binoculars with a magnification less than 4x, as these are usually designed as children’s toys and are not suitable for normal usage.

Zoom Level

Look for a magnification level of under 10x, or between 4x and 8x for extremely minimal magnification. These binoculars will magnify objects between four and eight times their original size. Anything less than 4x will not magnify to a point where the human eye can benefit from the zoom.

Field of View

The field of view on these low magnification binoculars is excellent; the best on offer. This means that when looking through the lens, a wide image can be viewed all at once, rather than having to focus on a single, small object.

Ease of Use

Low magnification binoculars are very easy to use. Due to the lower level of zoom, the image viewed through the lens is less vulnerable to the effects of shaking and hand unsteadiness, so most people should be able to see a clear image, regardless of skill.


Those new to using binoculars may find a low magnification pair to be particularly beneficial due to the ease of use and wide field of view. These devices are also good as introductory pairs for children who do not have the same hand stability as adults.


Due to the very wide field of view, low magnification binoculars are primarily used for viewing an entire landscape, rather than a single specific object. For walkers and hikers who want to view their surroundings, a low magnification pair of binoculars is highly recommended.


Medium Magnification

When looking for medium magnification binoculars, search for those with a zoom level of between 10x and 14x. These binoculars are considered to be all round pairs, suitable for a range of activities and events. They are a good compromise between the wide field of view offered with low magnification binoculars, and the intense zoom of high magnification varieties.

Zoom Level

Binoculars with a medium magnification increase the image by around 10 to 14 times its original size. Due to the higher quality lenses needed to create the higher magnification, these models may cost more than their lower magnification counterparts.

Field of View

The field of view on medium magnification binoculars is not quite as good as that of lower magnification equipment, but much better than that of high magnification binoculars. This means they are suitable for both landscape viewing and looking at specific objects in the distance.

Ease of Use

These binoculars are more susceptible to the effects of shaking, so are slightly more of a challenge to get the hang of initially unless experienced at handling the equipment. Large movements could affect image quality and make the landscape blurred.


Despite the vulnerability to shaking, these binoculars are still suited to beginners due to them having an all round versatility. For those who are not sure what the intended purpose of the binoculars is before purchasing, a medium magnification pair will usually be the best bet.


Like low magnification binoculars, these models can also be used to view a wide and general landscape, but their higher zoom level makes them more versatile. These binoculars are ideal when used for hunting in the open, when the landscape will need to be scanned for movement.


High Magnification

High magnification binoculars range from 15x to over 25x, and offer the greatest level of zoom available. These binoculars are often considered to be the best due to the high quality lenses needed to create the high magnification, but due to limited field of view, they are not suited to everyone and to every purpose.

Zoom Level

The magnification on these models is excellent and unrivalled. The zoom allows for viewers to see intricate detailing and features of an object far off in the distance without needing to get up close and personal.

Field of View

The field of view is sacrificed in favour of magnification in these models. The amount of landscape that can be viewed through high magnification binoculars is very limited, as the lenses tend to focus on a specific area, rather than a broad spectrum.

Ease of Use

These binoculars are much more complex and challenging to use as even the slightest of movement by the user can affect the image that is viewed through the lens. Unless a user has a very steady hand, the image may be blurred or unclear.


These binoculars are not recommended for children as they tend not to have the same level of arm and hand control as adults, and may find it difficult to see a clear image. Experienced users are suited to these models, although beginners are welcome to learn.


Due to the intense magnification which focuses on a very small area, these binoculars are ideal for use in crowded or built up areas. They are good for sightseeing in cities, for viewing small birds in large trees, and for hunting in forested or woodland areas.

Other Aspects to Consider

If a potential buyer of binoculars has a specific type of activity, event, or need in mind for the equipment, there is one other very important aspect to take into account other than magnification level: Lens diameter. The lens diameter does not just determine the size of the binoculars, it also affects the amount of light that is let into the lens. This will determine the conditions in which the binoculars can be used to their full potential.

If planning to use the binoculars in the daytime or in very brightly lit conditions, a small lens will usually suffice. This means users can look into very small and compact models that are easy to pack into a rucksack and easy to transport. However, if planning to use the binoculars for stargazing, or hunting in forested areas where natural light is restricted, a larger lens will be required. Generally, try to look for something over 35mm, although between 45mm and 60mm is optimal.


Finding the right magnification of binoculars largely depends upon the intended purpose of the equipment. Walkers and hikers wanting to survey their surroundings should look for a low magnification pair that have a wide field of view, while stargazers and hunters should choose the opposite: a high magnification pair with a narrow field of view. Mid-level magnification offers a happy medium between the two. Do not forget to take lens diameter into account too, as this affects the conditions in which the equipment can be used.

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