Choosing Binoculars: Field of View and Close Focus

October 15, 2013
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Two of the important measurements you see on binocular specifications are Field of View and Close Focus (defined below). Whereas power and objective lens size determine how big and bright your image will be, field of view and close focus determine how much of the world you’ll be able to see through your binoculars.

How do the 102 binoculars in our review pan out when it comes to close focus and field-of-view? Check out this graph, where we’ve divided the field into quadrants to help you zero in on the best performers.

How to read the graph:

  • hover over a dot to see the binocular model, manufacturer, and price
  • dots in the lower right quadrant have closer focus and wider field of view than most binoculars
  • if field of view is more important to you, look on the right half of the graph
  • if close focus is more important, look on the lower half of the graph
  • keep optical quality in mind, too: the orange and blue dots are our Best in Class and Top Picks

What the Measurements Mean

Field of View determines the width of the image you see. It’s very important when you’re scanning the sky, looking for a bird in dense foliage, or following a bird as it moves. A wider field of view leaves more room for error when you put your binoculars up to your eyes, allowing the bird to stay within your binocular image. Just like with a telescope or a camera’s zoom lens, field of view typically decreases with higher magnification. This is why many birders prefer 8x or even 7x models. Manufacturers typically report field of view at 1,000 yards—in practice this means that if you look at a bird 15 feet away, you’ll see an image between 12 and 30 inches wide.

Close Focus is surprisingly important in binoculars—birders don’t just use their bins for long distances, but also for seeing things close up in great detail. A close focus will allow you great looks at birds (or insects), and will allow you to follow a nearby but hidden bird, keeping your quarry in focus until it decides to make an appearance.

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