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A set of binoculars can be the difference between spotting that trophy buck and watching him bound away into the thicket. Choosing the correct magnification is just as important as buying a high-quality pair of binoculars.
Too much magnification and it will be challenging to spot targets that are moving or nearby, while too little magnification makes it challenging to spot animals far enough away.
With the right magnification, hunters will be able to quickly identify where an animal is, what it is, and whether it is worth pursuing.
Understanding the numbers used to identify different magnifications will help hunters select the perfect binoculars for the next hunting adventure. All binocular manufacturers use the same numbering system to identify different magnifications and to make it easy for buyers to find the magnification they want.
When looking at binoculars, the magnification is listed as a number times another number. The first numerical value indicates the magnification strength, while the second number identifies the diameter in millimeters of the front lens which is also called the objective lens.
The larger the first number, the greater the degree of magnification. Common magnification values are 8x, 10x, and 12x. An 8x magnification means that objects viewed through the binoculars will be eight times larger. That means a deer or hog standing 300 feet away will appear as though it is 37.5 feet away. A common mistake that many people make is assuming that a larger magnification makes for a better set of binoculars. This is often a false assumption since larger magnification also results in a larger magnification of hands shaking. A larger magnification makes tracking a moving object more difficult, too.
Most hunters will use binoculars primarily for spotting game animals that are still beyond shooting range and then use them as the hunter gets into position for a shot. Since most hunting is done at distances of less than 500 yards, it doesn’t often make sense for hunters to carry binoculars with 12x or higher magnification.
Most hunters will find that an 8x or 10x magnification is ideal for spotting and tracking game animals while in the field.
The size of the binocular lens is one of the more misunderstood aspects of buying the best binoculars. A larger lens size allows more light to enter the lens which improves clarity and image brightness. This factor is particularly important for hunters who are often trying to spot game animals in low-light conditions at dusk and dawn. The downside of a larger lens is that it can make the image too exposed in bright light conditions which makes it a challenge to see fine details. A larger lens also means that the binoculars will be larger and heavier, adding bulk to a hunter’s gear.
Compact binoculars have lens diameters below 30mm. Compact binoculars are an acceptable option for most hunting but might not offer a bright enough image for low-light conditions. The compact size makes them easy to pack and lightweight enough to carry on a neck strap all day without discomfort.
Mid-size binoculars are those with an objective lens diameter of 30mm to 40mm. This size is the most popular with hunters because the lens offers a great compromise between light gathering ability and portability. There are lots of factors that make some binocular models better for hunting than others, but the most useful designs are typically mid-size binoculars.
Full size binoculars are those with an objective lens measuring larger than 40mm. These are popular with people who enjoy whale watching, birding, and stargazing, but are not often ideal for most hunting situations. The large size of the binocular lens makes them heavy and less comfortable to carry, but some hunters will still choose these designs for long-distance spotting, then switching to a more mid-size option when targets are closer.
Most hunters will find that a mid-size pair of binoculars with an 8x or 10x magnification and an objective lens diameter around 32mm. All else being equal, binoculars in this size range offer the best image quality and portability. Lens quality, coatings, and other design features can make some mid-size binoculars better than others despite having the same specifications.
Many hunters target deer, hogs, and turkey early in the morning or late in the afternoon or evening. These are the times of day when animals are most active and offer the best opportunities to harvest the best animals. Hunters should look for an 8x32 binocular for a larger field of view or a 10x32 binocular for better distance. Many companies offer binoculars with a variety of lens coatings that can vastly improve low-light hunting opportunities.
Hunters will find that a compact binocular with an 8x or 10x magnification and a lens around 26mm will make a good choice for hunting in areas with limited visibility. This size is easy to carry without adding bulk. Since visibility is limited in these conditions, larger binoculars will not be as useful for most hunters.
Many types of animals live on prairies and fields that give the animal options to evade predators. Spotting and identifying animals in large open spaces will require a larger binocular or even a spotting scope. Look for a magnification of 10x or 12x and a larger lens measuring 44mm or larger. A stand or tripod can make a big difference in how effective large binoculars can be in open spaces.
Hunters looking for duck and other waterfowl or hunting in rainy conditions should consider spending a little more and buying binoculars that are waterproof. Moisture that gets into the lens will distort the image and can destroy the optical quality of binoculars. An 8x or 10x and a 32mm lens are excellent choices for hunting in marshlands, swamps, and other damp conditions, but hunters should choose a waterproof design.
One trend that hunters should notice throughout this article is the number of times that an 8x or 10x mid-size binocular is recommended for hunting. The magnification is ideal for spotting game animals in a variety of conditions while the larger lens improves low-light image quality.
There are a lot of different features and options available from binocular manufacturers so shopping for a pair that work well for you is important, but focusing on an 8x32 or 10x32 magnification will work for most hunters in most situations without being too much.