Buyer's guide for spectating binoculars
Binoculars are the ideal piece of equipment to use if you want to get a clearer view at a sports game, concert or the theatre. In fact, a good pair of spectating binoculars will improve your enjoyment of any spectator event, allowing you to get a closer view of the action and immerse yourself in the experience.
Using binoculars at a sports match will allow you to see your favourite player close up, look out over the entire field and enjoy the game to your heart’s content from your own unique viewpoint. If you’re spending a day at the races then binoculars will help you to keep your eyes on the prize and get a clear, close up view of your winning horse crossing the finish line.
Having binoculars on hand at a concert or the theatre brings equally as much enjoyment, giving your viewing experience the edge and allowing you close up views of your favourite stars facial expressions, dance moves and elaborate costumes that others around you can’t see.
If you’re planning on spectating at an event soon, then we really can’t express enough how much more you will enjoy the whole experience if you have a pair of binoculars in hand. But what are the best binoculars for spectating?
Factors to consider when choosing spectating binoculars
There are a number of key factors that you need to consider when choosing the best spectator binoculars for you. Before you read our buyers guide below, take a second to consider what type of spectating you will be doing most often with your binoculars. Will you be using your binoculars at the theatre, at outdoor concerts in the evening, or to watch the cricket or horse racing in the day? Whilst you can choose a spectating binocular that is versatile and will perform well in all of these situations, there are some differences between the type of spectating binoculars best suited to these different locations and times of day, so you may want to take these factors into account when making your choice. A clear idea of when and where you will be using your binoculars the most will help you to decide between different specifications, designs and features, allowing you to get the ideal binoculars for you.
So what are the most important things to consider when choosing spectator binoculars?
The top 5:
- Field of view
Field of view
When choosing binoculars for spectating, the most important factor to consider is the field of view of the binoculars. With spectating binoculars, the wider the field of view the better, as it quite simply refers to the width of the image that you can see through the binoculars. So if you’re at a sports match, the field of view will refer to the amount of the pitch that you can see; at a concert, the amount of the stage that you can see and so on.
So if for example you're at a AFL match, there’s no point getting a really close up view of the player catching the ball, if your field of view is so small that as soon as he throws it again it is out of your field of view and you have to spend ages moving your binoculars around the pitch to try and locate where it has gone.
The width of the field of view is normally expressed in feet, metres or degrees, and is usually stated in a binoculars specifications. When choosing your binoculars, try and opt for ones which have a field of view of 315ft/105m or above and you should be fine.
Field of view is effected by magnification which we will discuss in further detail below.
When most people choose binoculars for the first time, they automatically think that the higher the magnification the better. This is often not the case, especially for spectating binoculars, as higher magnifications result in the binoculars having a smaller field of view, something that we have already highlighted as very important. Having said that, the whole aim of having binoculars for spectating is to get a clearer and close up view, so you need to have a careful balance between enough magnification and a wide enough field of view to see the action.
With this in mind we’d recommend binoculars that have a magnification of between 4-10x depending on what you are planning to spectate.
If you’re going to be watching a sports game or concert outdoors in a large stadium where you will likely be further away from the action, then binoculars with a magnification of between 7 and 10x will be most suitable.
If you’re at the theatre, an indoor concert of indoor sports game then a binocular with a slightly lower magnification of between 4-8x will be your best option.
Binoculars with these lower magnification ranges are also much easier to stabilise in your hands, reducing the chance of the images you see through them being blurry and shaky.
Whether you opt for compact, mid sized or full sized binoculars is down to personal preference, but there are some important things to consider when making your decision. Whatever size binocular you choose, keep in mind that you will need to carry them with you for the duration of the event that you are spectating. Below we will consider the different size options and compare full sized vs compact binoculars.
- Full Sized Binoculars are those that have objective lenses of around 42mm or larger
- Mid Sized Binoculars are those that have objective lenses of around 32mm to 36mm
- Compact Binoculars are those that have objective lenses between 21mm and 28mm
Full sized binoculars vs compact binoculars
For many spectating applications we’d recommend you use compact binoculars. They are lightweight, comfortable to hold for long periods of time and easy to throw into a pocket or rucksack to transport. They come in a range of magnifications and can produce the wide field of view you need.
However in some situations, we’d advise full size binoculars. Despite being harder to transport and heavier to carry, full sized binoculars do have some advantages over smaller binoculars, especially in low light conditions.
Larger object lenses allow full sized binoculars to let in more light than compact binoculars and transmit it to your eye. The more light transmitted, the brighter and clearer the image you see will be.
On a bright sunny day, image brightness should not be a problem so compacts or mid sized binoculars will perform well. Having large lenses is only really an important factor in poor light conditions, so if you are planning to spectate at an evening concert or sports game then you should take this into account and opt for binoculars that are on the larger side.
In many situations, mid sized binoculars can provide the perfect compromise between having a binocular that will perform well in low light, but is light weight and easy to transport.
The weight of the binoculars that you choose will be closely linked to the size that you choose. Larger binoculars with large lenses will weigh more than compact binoculars, but sometimes this added weight is required to ensure that your binoculars do the job that you need them to do.
Weight is also closely linked to the design of the binocular and the materials that are used to construct it, so keen an eye out for the binoculars weight in the specifications section of it’s listing, and if you do choose to go with a compact binocular, look for one that weighs around 600-700g for the most comfortable viewing experience.
If you’re planning on using your binoculars outdoors at all then it’s wise to opt for ones that are waterproof to protect them from any unexpected downpours. Look for binoculars that are nitrogen purged too, to prevent the internal elements of the binoculars from fogging in damp conditions.
Feeling a little overwhelmed with the factors that make up a great spectating binocular? Here’s a brief recap of the main things to consider when making your choice and some awesome recommended spectating binoculars too.
Field of view is very important - opt for binoculars with a large field of view to catch all of the action
Opt for binoculars with a magnification range of between 4-10x. Take into account whether you’ll be using them indoors or out and how far away from the action you’ll be when picking your magnification.
Compact binoculars will be suitable for outdoor spectating in the day and they’re light and easy to carry. Binoculars with larger lenses such as full sized binoculars or mid sized binoculars will be needed if you’re spectating in low light conditions.
Weight and portability will always be linked to the size of the binocular that you choose, but if possible opt for a lightweight binocular for hours of comfortable spectating.