Viking Optical News

Buying and Using Binoculars – 10 Tips for Beginners

Binoculars for bird watching

If you’re new to this community, you might feel daunted at the prospect of venturing out with your new  binocular. Or perhaps you are yet to purchase a binocular due to the sheer amount of choice on offer. It can be overwhelming knowing where to start, here at Viking Optical Centres we are committed to education and inclusivity.  Making optics accessible to everyone who wants to participate. That’s why we have compiled a list of helpful tips for aspiring binocular users below:  

  • Finding the right Binoculars for you. The best way to start shopping is to really think about what you want to use them for. This is the first step to determine what sort of spec you are looking for. Our website has a wide range of binoculars to browse amongst, and any member of our team will be excited to discuss your ambitions with you should you need advice. 
  • Magnification. All lenses will have a certain magnification. The greater  the magnification, the more stability you will require to hold steady. So it is smart to consider how much magnification you actually need. For instance, if you are fairly close to the object you are looking at, you do not need to overcompensate with high magnification. You will achieve a better image by using a lower magnification. If, however, you are looking at something (a bird) that is perched miles from you in the treetops, you will benefit from a higher magnification and possibly even a tripod. Bigger and more powerful lenses are often heavier so a tripod wouldn’t go amiss to keep your hands from shaking and disturbing your field of view.     
  • Consider the light. Knowing what sort of light you will most often be observing from can help you decide what lens you need. In low light situations, for instance dawn and dusk, a large objective lens should be used without compromising comfort and useability. An objective lens is the lens that is furthest from your eye. The ‘windows’ out of the scope, if you like. You’re essentially aiming to collect as much light from those lenses as possible, so the bigger the better. Think of it in terms of a net: The bigger the net, the more light you can catch.

If you will be using your binoculars in broad daylight, or perhaps snowy environments where there is a lot of glare, it’s worth considering purchasing binoculars with ED glass lenses. ED means Extra – Low Dispersion. ED glass virtually eliminates something known in the field as chromatic aberration. In layman’s terms ED glass will provide impeccable colour correction, thus resulting in a sharpness unparalleled by any regular binocular.  

  • Terrain. If you’re a keen hiker or rambler, make sure you choose something versatile, light and easy to carry. Something with a strap perhaps or a comfortable light-weight case
  • Get the right fit. Making sure you get binoculars that fit comfortably against your face. All of our binoculars are adjustable in the centre hinge, however it is important you do your research beforehand to make sure that you are buying the right size for you personally. Make sure you have got enough room between the two barrels to be comfortable and the eye cups don’t interfere with your vision. Ergonomic features such as grip, eyecups and straps should be considered carefully, especially the most avid of explorers who will be out for many hours of the day. 

If you wear glasses it helps to retract the eyecups. The key is to minimise the gap between your eyes and the ocular lens. The ocular lens is the glass closed to your eye. The ‘window’ in. By minimising the gap you are blocking out any unwanted light that could create shadows around the edges of your image. This is why, even if you don’t wear glasses (or you wear contacts) it’s important your eyecups are flush with your eye sockets to ensure you get a crisp and full picture right to the edge of your vision.   

  • Use your naked eye. Start by studying the panoramic view before you without your Binoculars. It can be a tricky task to train your focus onto something very small in the distance when you are not used to it. Especially if you are using a strong magnification, it is best to really gage where you are focusing your line of vision. With your eyes fixed on the desired focal point, lift the binoculars up to your face all the while concentrating on the same place. By practicing this method you will be less likely to lose what you were aiming to look at. 
  • Use your ears. If we are hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife, it’s more likely that we will hear it than see it. Keep your ears trained on the sounds around you, ready for any rustle or movement. 
  • Keep your lenses clean. If you are going to invest in a decent binocular, make sure you invest time into taking care of them. There is nothing worse than having a dirty lens!
  • Always keep your strap round your neck. Even then most experienced birdwatchers among us have accidents from time to time. Better to be safe than sorry, so it’s best to keep your strap around your neck even if you are holding onto them tightly.
  • Adjust your diopter. A diopter is a handy feature that enables you to compensate for the differences in your own eyes. Most of us will experience differences between our left and right eyes in terms of strength of vision. This dial means you can manually adapt each barrel to suit your visual requirements. Keep both eyes open to start but cover up the right lens. Then, ‘focus on a middle-ground object, using the central focusing ring. Change the lens cap so that you see through your right eye. With both eyes open, and staying in the same position, focus on the same object by using the diopter adjustment on the central column.’ (

At Viking Optical Centres we believe in sharing and preserving our natural habitats through education and community. It’s never too late to learn something new and start taking an interest in your natural surroundings. We have a whole range of outdoor adventure gear and optic equipment to support you and your new hobby. Give us a call on 01986 875315 or email us now at