Binoculars, also sometimes referred to as “field glasses”, are in fact two refracting telescopes used to view far-away objects with detail and precision. However, they differ from regular telescopes in a way that they enhance the images produced which makes them ideal for hunting, bird watching, golfing, and even going to games or theatres!
Buying a pair of binoculars can be confusing due to the wide variety available in the markets. In this article, we will help you figure out the right fit for you. Would a pair of 8x (8x42) binoculars be best for you? Or would 10x (10x42) do the trick? And most importantly, what sets these two types of binoculars apart?
Binoculars can be expensive and hence, are a one-time investment. Do adequate research while choosing what pair you want to buy. You don't want your money to go to waste!
Before getting into the differences between the two types of binoculars, we need to understand what the terminology used to describe them actually means. For instance, in 8x42 and 10x42 binoculars, you can see that the name of the binoculars is divided into two parts; a part before the X (the 8 and 10) and a part after the X (the 42). What do these numbers signify?
the measure of how many times the object will appear closer to the viewer when
observed through a lens. 8x refers to the magnification and signifies that the
object will appear 8 times its original size via the binoculars as opposed to
seeing it with a naked eye.
Similarly 10x means that the object would appear to
be 10 times larger when looked at through the lens of the
binoculars. Higher magnification naturally means that the observer would be able to see
further away objects in greater detail.
The second part in binocular sizes in a measurement of the lens itself. The 42 in 8x42 and 10x42 refers to the diameter of the lenses in mm. This means that the lenses would be 42mm wide from end to end. Lenses with bigger diameters will allow more light to pass which would result in a brighter image.
We know what you
might be thinking. Since the 10x42 binoculars offer a more magnified image,
they are obviously better, right? Wrong! This is where your “the bigger,
the better” belief is put to test. Let’s explore the pros and cons of this
type of binoculars to help you decide if they are the right choice for you.
Spoiler alert: this is one hell of a pair!
As it has already
been established, 8x binoculars have a lesser magnifying capability than 10x
binoculars. Lower magnification will make it more difficult for the observer to
view faraway objects because the farther away an object is, the less detailed it will
However, if you
have binoculars with a higher level of magnification, it should be kept in mind
that not only will it magnify the image greatly but it will also magnify every
little move or shake of the hand. This makes it very hard to make use of the
higher magnification as it is difficult to stay focused at a target to observe
the finer level of detail that a higher degree of magnification provides
If you are a
person who wears glasses and cannot see clearly without them, the 8x42
binoculars might just be the one for you. Eye relief is used to
refer to the minimum distance from the eyepiece to the eye of the observer
where a clear magnified image would be visible.
10x binoculars have a smaller
eye relief than 8x binoculars, which is what makes 8x binoculars so glasses
friendly. As these have a bigger eye relief, it leaves out space for the
glasses of the user and still provides a clear magnified image.
If you do not
wear glasses, this shouldn’t be a concern for you at all. But if you’re a
person who wears glasses on a regular or has family members with glasses who
could end up using the binoculars, you need to pay special attention to
magnification might get you a more detailed picture, but that too comes with a cost.
The field of view is used to refer to how larger or wide the area covered by
the binoculars will be.
magnification, the lesser the field of view. The lower the magnification, the
higher the field of view. Since 8x binoculars will give you a greater field of
view than 10x, it will be easier to spot and locate your target with 8x!
An example of this
can be that the higher the magnification, the harder it would be to spot a
small deer in a large pasture. However if the magnification is lower and you
have a greater field of view, spotting the deer and other smaller objects would
be much easier.
binoculars in front of your face at a distance and look through the eyepiece.
Notice a small circle in the center of each eyepiece? This is called
the exit pupil and its size in comparison to your own pupil has a monumental
effect on the brightness of what you see through your binoculars.
This comes to play in
low light conditions such as at dawn and twilight. In these conditions where
light is scarce, your pupils dilate to allow more light to come in. The size of the dilated pupil is larger than
the binocular’s exit pupil, and the image appears dark.
Even though both 8x and
10x binoculars have exit pupils smaller than the dilated human pupil, 8x still
has a larger exit pupil than 10x binoculars. Due to this, 8x binoculars offer a
brighter image at dawn and twilight as compared to 10x binoculars.
To find the size of the exit pupil, divide the diameter of the lens with its degree of magnification. This way the exit pupil of 8x42 binoculars will be 5.3mm (42/8) and 10x42 binoculars will have an exit pupil of 4.2mm (42/10).
important factor to consider while buying binoculars is their price!
shopping, you’ll realize that 8x binoculars would be cheaper than 10x
binoculars. If you end up shortlisting 8x and 10x binoculars of the same
quality, you will see that the 8x would be cheaper. Hence the price tag you get
10x binocular for, the same price tag can get you a higher quality 8x
binocular! Here are some durable 8x binocular options that you can explore:
Now that we have seen the 8x42 binoculars in detail, it’s time to move onto the more powerful set with a higher magnification! The 8x42 pair has a great performance, but that does not mean you can write off the 10x42 that easily! Let’s talk about the qualities and capabilities of the 10x binoculars.
It has been established that the 10x magnification is greater than the 8x magnification as the image is 10 times the size of the object. This magnification might be the way to go when you are viewing far-off objects or objects that are really small. Want to spot the detail in the coat of a deer? Or want to observe the crown of a far-away humming bird? This is the pair for you!
10x binoculars not only magnify the image greatly but also amplify the effect of slight hand movements. This makes it difficult to keep the image steady for detailed viewing.
binoculars, as discussed before, have a smaller field of view than 8x binoculars.
When you look through the eyepiece, the area magnified will be smaller than in
However, it will be
greatly magnified and a more detailed image. This quality works in your favor
if you are observing a single object as it will prevent unnecessary
distractions and you can direct all your focus to the one magnified image. On
other hand, it
may be inconvenient to find your target as the area covered by the binoculars is
If you do not wear glasses, this section should not worry you at all. However, if you (or someone in your family that might use the binoculars) wear glasses, eye relief is something you cannot ignore.
Usually, 10x binoculars have a smaller eye relief than 8x binoculars, so it is safer to get the 8x ones. But if you dive in deep and look a little harder, you can find 10x binoculars with a 16mm (or more) eye relief as well.
By dividing the diameter of the lens with the magnification, we get to know that the exit pupil for 10x binoculars is 4.2mm while for 8x binoculars it is 5.3mm.
This compared to the dilated human pupil of diameter 7mm, it becomes clear that 8x binoculars will give you a clear image in low light conditions compared to 10x binoculars. However, this does not matter when the light is enough. So if you only plan to use your binoculars in daylight, this should not be a concern.
One cannot ignore
the price while buying a pair of binoculars, especially when you’re on a
budget! Higher magnification costs much more, hence 10x is more expensive than
8x. You can find higher quality 8x binoculars for the same price as you will
get 10x binoculars but of lower quality. Here are some 10x binoculars that you
When you set out to decide what the perfect set of binoculars is, let us make it clear that there is no such thing!
The perfect binoculars are the one that suits you and your family’s needs better. Different binoculars are better for different jobs. Some people might prefer a 10x, while others might think it is of no use. Some might hail 8x as the most supreme pair of binoculars, others might not pay any heed to it at all.
8x has better image stabilization and better low-light results.10x give you higher detail and help you view objects that are further away. Now it is up to you to decide!
If you’re interested more in binoculars, you can head over and read our post about the comparison between 10x50 and 20x50 binoculars.
My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!
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