Buying Binoculars and Scopes For The Right Mission

Buying binoculars is mission specific, with key optics differences for birding, astronomy, hunting.

Find, Compare, and Buy Binoculars - View all Optics

Evaluating The Scope Company's Core Business Strengths. How important are the binoculars you're shopping for to the company's business and reputation?

  • For some companies, binoculars are a sideline or an afterthought but riflescopes are a specialty.
  • For some companies, binoculars are a major line of business and they carry a smattering of scopes as a convenience.
  • Some companies focus on specific markets, such as hunting, birding, or astronomy, with purpose-built models, special coatings, and specific convenience features.
  • Other companies have general–purpose models for all markets.
  • Other companies trade off quality for price for the casual user with a limited budget.
  • Other companies try to have something for everyone, across the board.
  • Some companies – in Europe and Japan, not in the US – manufacture binoculars and scopes, from importing the special sand they use to make the glass through assembling the finished product.
  • Some companies design products and have them manufactured to their specifications, either in Japan (known for high–quality optics) or in China.
  • Some companies are marketers that buy stock binoculars and scopes from manufacturers in China (primarily) and just have their name imprinted on them.

Sampling Products - Test Ease Of Use.
Buying binoculars is a sensitive instrument purchase, that you want to get right. How easily can you get your hands on an instrument to check it out? Not all companies make shopping easy.

Check For Product Warranties. Is the warranty adequate for your intended uses?

Buying Binoculars Locally And Via Internet
In the end you are going to have to examine products in person, comparing similar models across at least a few brands, to see – quite literally, with the eyepieces held up to your eyes – which ones are comfortable, optically sharp enough for your needs, and within your budget.

Look For Multiple Brand Seller Locations. Try to find stores that stock at least two or three of the brands you are most interested in. Visit at a time of day when light conditions are a good approximation of the most difficult environment where you plan to use your optics–a hazy, bright day if you're a sailor, for example, or dusk if you're a hunter–and judge for yourself whether one brand or one model does what you want it to do better than another.

Spotting Real Differences That Will Be Important. Which model has the brightest image? The sharpest image? The best field of view (hint: bigger may or may not be better, depending on the situation)? Which model has the most stable image? Which model lets you most easily pick out the thing you're trying to look at from the surrounding background?

Once you've decided what brand meets your needs, decide if you're better off supporting your local merchant or shopping for a better price on the Internet. Then make your purchase.


The best warranty is a lifetime warranty that is transferrable to a new owner. Instruments that include electronics of any sort generally have more limited warranties regardless of manufacturer. In any case, read and evaluate warranties carefully. Some require purchase through an authorized dealer. Many require that you pay shipping as well as an inspection fee. Some require international shipment.


Europe Versus Japan Manufacturers. As a rule of thumb, the most expensive European brands offer the best instruments. However, there is a consensus among experts in the field that you can get very nearly the same quality for about half the price by dropping down one notch to other reputable manufacturers, mostly in Japan. After that, you are looking at a fairly straightforward relationship between price and quality, as long as you stick with reputable companies.

The Professional User. If you use optics professionally, it may well be worth your while to have the very best. For example, if you are taking a large–format photograph through a spotting scope and you are going to enlarge it for an exhibition wall, even a slight difference in image quality may prove critical.

But if you can't see the difference between two models that differ significantly in price, then you might just as well get the less expensive one.

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