Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Binocular Steadiness


As binocular magnification increases, they become less easy to hold steady. The vast majority of optics users can hold an 8x binocular steady without much difficulty. With 10x, a significant portion of users will experience discernable image shake. At 12x or above, I generally recommend tripod mounting the binocular to obtain the full benefit of the increased magnification.

Too much unsteadiness can render a binocular unusable. I’m aware of a study conducted by the US Department of Navy regarding tripod-mounted binoculars versus hand-held ones. They discovered that the benefit of a stable binocular is comparable to doubling magnification. In other words, a tripod-mounted 8x binocular will render as much perceptible image information to a user as a 16x bin held in your hands.

While you may benefit from a wider field of view with a 6x or 7x binocular, there’s a strong consensus in the birding community that the best “all-purpose” combination of magnification and aperture is the 8x42. However, if you’re going to use binoculars on a boat, for example, a 7x50 may make more sense. On the other hand, a 10x42 or 10x50 may be a better choice on an African safari where there’s a lot of open savanna and wildlife is far away.

These guidelines are not set in stone, so feel free to go with whatever combination seems intuitive or best for your particular application or interest. Feel free to be the exception! One of the best things about purchasing a binocular from Eagle Optics is our friendly 30-day return policy. If you don’t match well with what you've purchased, simply return it hassle free! If you’re still unsure which way to go, give us a call and we’ll give you our best advice!

Mike McDowell
Eagle Optics Staff


  1. 8x42 is nice except for taking it with you. 7x21 or 8x24 (of good quality) is much more usable since you can have it most of the time with you.

  2. I recently went on a total of 12 nights of Safari in Southern Africa. I read one very helpful recommendation on line which among other things suggested 8 x42. The 8x especially because of the movement of land rovers. I found this to be very true and also we were on a lot of boats where the 8x was all we could handle. The wider FOV was also helpful. We never had a situation where we felt that we needed more magnification and there were some times that even the 8x was jumpy. On the other hand, both our ranger/guides at Sabi Sabi used 10x Nikon Monarchs.