There used to be a time when there buying a pair of binoculars seemed a lot less complicated whether you wanted them for hunting or just to magnify the birds you happen to see while hiking. You just went out to a store and bought yourself the binoculars and used them for whatever purposes you wanted – be it hunting or birding! But now, thanks to specialization and advances in optical technology, there are marine binoculars and a number of other specialized ones made for hunting, birding, and even digitized binoculars. For those planning on using their binoculars when at the beach or on a boat, then those made for marine use are definitely the way to go. But how do you know if you are getting a good pair of binoculars made for use near the water instead of a set of hunting binoculars?
Like any pair of binoculars, the optics are really the determining factor in quality. This is true no matter if you are using the binoculars to hunt, look at birds, or simply scan the sea for ships and other interesting things. Any pair of binoculars will magnify the object you are looking at but the image quality will depend upon two critical factors: lenses and prisms. For marine binocular optics, the lens is the most important component to consider.
A lens is the part of the optical equation that helps gather light and bring objects into focus. Binocularity, that is the convergence of two images into one, and image brightness are both affected by basic optics and the size of the lens. Basically, the larger the lens, the brighter the image will be in your binoculars—this is true for mariners, hunters, or bird watchers. The prism, on the other hand, has a role in the optics of your binoculars in that it folds the incoming light several times. Although far more complicated than simply folding light, the prism basically makes it possible to magnify objects with a more compact device like the binoculars. All things being equal and without a prism, the laws of optics dictate that it takes something with a length of 3 ft. or more to enhance an image using a lens, such as is the case with a telescope.
Well, any binoculars used near the sea or even in humid conditions should be waterproof which is a huge difference compared to hunting or birding binoculars. Rapid temperature changes and high levels of humidity can cause the lenses to fog up on a pair of binoculars. Waterproof binoculars are filled nitrogen or a similar gas to prevent condensation within the optical system.
Again, the lenses really are the most critical component of the optics on a pair of binoculars and they determine quality and price no matter what you use them for, be it hunting or deep sea fishing. Binoculars with coated lenses are not as affected by glare or internal reflection and therefore have superior optics as they present the viewer with a clearer image than can be had with uncoated binoculars. Inexpensive lenses that are not coated may only permit half of the available sunlight to reach your optical system and thus your eyes while coated lenses allow around 95% of the light in. This means that the optical quality of a pair of compact binoculars with coated lenses may be very similar to that of a pair with much larger lenses.
The magnification of your binoculars will be important when using them at sea. A magnification level beyond 7 or 8 will make it very hard to keep an object in view and this is another difference between marine and hunting binoculars. The only way to further magnify an object and still be able to keep it in view is to invest in image stabilization technology on your binoculars. This is a very convenient feature if you are on a boat! Just as hunting would be very difficult if your target continued to bounce up and down, viewing through a pair of binoculars while both you and the object are bouncing up and down with the waves is very difficult indeed – no matter how great the optical system!
The lens quality is critical when determining what kind of binoculars to buy for use near or on the water. The features you choose, such as lens coating and image stabilization, also play a large part in the optical quality of the objects you view. In the end, Bushnell Marine Binoculars are probably the best quality pair you will find for the money. Online merchants are a great resource when it comes to helping you find the best pair of binoculars to suit your budget while providing the most superior optical quality. They generally have a larger selection because they don’t need to worry about inventory concerns and can also offer you a better price due to the low overhead associated with online businesses.