Choosing the Right Pair of High-Powered Binoculars

Choosing the Right Pair of High-Powered Binoculars

Binoculars for outdoor activities come in several shapes, sizes and magnification powers. While cheaper binoculars are great for kids and casual use, serious binocular users’ will want to make sure they have a quality pair of high-powered binoculars in their kit.

While a great set of binoculars with the highest performance are wonderful to have; unfortunately, they can come with a high price tag. Here at Bushnell, we’ve come up with solutions that problem, and we’ll tell you how.

Defining High-Powered Binoculars

When shopping for high-powered binoculars, the first thing we’ll want to pay attention to is the overall magnification power they have. The first number in the configuration is the magnification – 15x, 12x, 10x and so on, and that is how many times the view is being magnified.

The 2nd number is in millimeters and is the measurement of the objective lens diameter. The larger that is, the more light gathering and brighter the image. Another thing is that the exit pupil size will also increase as the objective lens gets larger, which can make viewing easier.

When defining high powered binoculars, many consider not only their ability to gather light, have high contrast and high resolution, but in order to be the whole package, both the magnification and objective lens size need to be considered as well.

So, what magnification and objective lens size defines a pair of binoculars as high power? The answer is that there isn’t a hardened fast rule, but generally it’s when the combination is over the standard sizes for normal use. The standard magnification for most binoculars is 8 or 10. The most common objective size is around 42mm. This coincides with the configuration we at Bushnell sell the most of – The classic 10x42mm.

Binocular Sizes

Depending on the nature of our outdoor activity, our high-powered binoculars can come in several different sizes. Typically, binoculars fall into one of the three following size categories:




While it’s wise to have a set of each at our disposal, for those of us looking to invest in our first pair of genuine high-powered binoculars, we will want to pick a pair that best suits our activity’s needs.

Compact Binoculars

Compact binoculars are great everyday binoculars. They are not only smaller in size, but generally lighter and easy to toss in our backpack for daytime outdoor activities. While they are great for children or general outdoor activities, they aren’t ideal as far as magnification range goes. The downside is that they’ll oftentimes not have the premium coatings and glass features that larger form factor binoculars do.

Mid-Size Binoculars

For those of us who consider ourselves outdoorsmen, we’ll generally turn to a mid-size binocular for our various activities. They can range quite a bit in magnification power; however, they do increase in overall objection lens diameter. A typical mid-size binocular spec looks something like 10x50 where they have the larger objective lens but not quite the highest magnification yet. Mid-size binoculars are bulkier compared to compact binoculars, but they do a much better job at balancing a moderate size with above-average light transmission and will have features like ED Prime glass.

Full-Size Binoculars

While full-size binoculars are the bulkiest, they capture enormous light, have the best glass features, and deliver a fantastic viewing experience. In this area you’ll find products like our12x50 Engage EDX that have ED Prime glass, our PCS & dielectric prism coatings, Ultra-wide band coating, and our Exclusive EXO Barrier. At the very top of our high-powered binocular lineup is of course the15x56 Forge that has all the same features plus the even larger magnification and objective lenses.

Something to consider getting when have binoculars this powerful is that they’re often best used from a tripod, in which case you should consider getting our binocular adapter. Using them on a tripod keeps them steady so you can fully appreciate the all that the binoculars are capable of, as well as reducing fatigue of holding them up. It’s a worthy investment.

Glass & Prism Features Explained 

Not only do binoculars come in varying sizes, they also come with several different coatings and different types of class.

ED Prime Glass

Our ED prime glass is also known as ultra-low dispersion glass, which allows for the visible colors of the spectrum to focus at virtually any magnification. What happens when we use our magnification on our binoculars is an effect known as chromatic aberration, or color-fringing. This effect then leads to unclear and fuzzy images. Our ED Prime glass eliminates chromatic aberration and helps to bring out the most detail, allowing you to see your target more clearly.

PC3 Phase Coating

Our PC3 phase coating is our proprietary phase coating formula that is applied to the roof prisms to enhance overall resolution and contract by forcing light waves back into perfect sync. Our PC3 phase coating brings each image into sync after it is halved and rejoined in a room prism optical system.

Dielectric Coating

This coating improves reflectance to greater than 90% on our binoculars. By utilizing light interference, it also helps to assure high reflectivity across the spectrum. The result—a deeper, richer, and more reproducible color image.

Ultrawideband Coating

This coating diminishes solar reflection, with a coating method that is customized for each lens element that is in the optical path. This coating allows for the best possible light to flow through the device from the opening of the objective lens, all the way through the eyepiece, resulting in maximum brightness and the truest color across the light spectrum.

Best Binoculars for Various Outdoor Activities

Given the vast variety of binoculars on the market, trying to find the best pair of high-powered binoculars for a given outdoor activity can be tricky. The deciding factor comes down to the specific activity and whether you need to set up with additional equipment.

High Powered Binoculars for Hunting

Having a pair of high-powered binoculars for hunting is excellent, but the most significant limiting factor is the fact that we must be able to move on an instant. This means that having full-size binoculars may not be ideal only for the fact that they are best used with a tripod or stand. However, if you are hunting larger game at a greater distance, having the clarity of high-powered, full-sized binoculars could prove beneficial since you won’t have to get up and move on an instant. Although, if you are serious about hunting and long-range shooting, you’ll want to consider the difference between high powered binoculars vs. spotting scopes.

High Powered Binoculars for Birding

Birding typically doesn’t involve having to get up and go, meaning that a set of medium to full-size high-powered binoculars could be suitable if you are planning to stay in a stationary position for an extended period. However, if you are planning a backpacking trip that will involve moving along a trail during your birding trip, you may choose to opt for a small high-powered binocular or a powerful yet compact folding roof prism binocular like our 10x30 Forge that offers all the high end features but at a smaller size.

High Powered Binoculars for Shooting

Much like hunting, choosing a set of high-powered binoculars can be tricky. While you’ll still want to consider the difference between high powered binoculars vs. spotting scopes, the fact that much of what you do for spotting in competitive shooting is a stationary activity. This most likely means that using a full-size set of high-powered binoculars is the best option. For precision rifle shooting, our most popular option is the Forge 15x56.

High Powered Binoculars for Astronomy

Believe it or not, when it comes down to binoculars vs. telescopes for astronomy viewing, many opt for a pair of high-powered binoculars simply because they allow for a fuller field of view thanks to their dual lenses. When looking up at the sky and viewing all that the universe has to offer, you’ll want a set of high-powered, full-sized binoculars.

Only the Best with Bushnell Brand Binoculars

When it comes to choosing an ideal optic device for your outdoor needs, Bushnell brings consumers over 70 years of experience. Whether you’re looking for binoculars, scopes or even telescopes, Bushnell has you covered.

From casual sports viewing to competitive shooting and hunting, Bushnell can fulfill all your optic needs.