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While it may seem intuitive, learning how to use binoculars effectively and efficiently can take a bit of practice. For many first-time users, they assume all that’s needed is to place them in front of their eyes and look through them. However, due to each individual having different eyesight and eye placement, there may be some tweaking needed to really get the most out of their binoculars in terms of clarity.
I’ve found that the easiest way to teach people how to use binoculars correctly is to break it down into its physical components, ensuring the user knows what each element is for and how that element may affect their view.
The Anatomy of Binoculars
While the image above shows you what each part of the binocular is called, it’s also important to understand what each part of the binocular does.
The ocular lens is the lens closest to your eye, and this lens is the final step before the image reaches your retina. It will feed your eye the image that the prism, located between the ocular lens and the objective lens provides. Ensure that this lens element is clean and dust-free for the best viewing.
The diopter ring is located typically next to the right eye cup and controls the focus for that particular ocular lens. The reason the diopter ring exists is so that you can compensate for varying vision between the right and left eye. This is something you shouldn’t need to set regularly unless you accidentally adjust it during handling.
The focus wheel is located on the center of most binoculars, the reason for its centered placement is because this is a wheel you’ll be using regularly during regular binocular use. The focus wheel is what you will use when adjusting your focus to the distance of your subject.
You’ll find the eye cups at the ocular lens and what these eye cups do is primarily offer comfort. Older binocular models would sometimes have metal eye cups, but today it is standard for eye cups to be made from rubber, making them much more comfortable. They can also be extended in most modern binoculars to improve eye relief and increase clarity for glasses wearers.
The objective lens is the largest lens of the binocular, on the front side. These objective lenses pass the image in reverse form through the internal prism, where the image is rectified and passed through to the ocular lens. Objective lens diameter is a large defining factor on the brightness achieved by the binoculars.
Now that you’re able to see what piece of the binocular we’re referring to in the process of getting them set up for your eyes. You can think of the initial phase as a type of calibration that needs to get done to ensure you’re getting the most out of binoculars.
How to Calibrate Your Binoculars
The process of calibration is a quick and easy one. When adjusting the focus (Step 3) we recommend that you stand about 10 yards away from a static target, such as the base of a tree, a road sign, or even a wall when adjusting your focus. Subjects that have more detail, texture, and contrast will typically make it easier for you to notice subtle changes in your vision while making adjustments. We find that road signs are often a solid choice for this.
While this may seem like a lot of work to go through, most of these adjustments are done seldomly. The right eye diopter focus is only needed once your setting is disturbed. For this reason, we recommend noting where the ring placement is (if your binocular allows it). This will allow you to adjust it back without needing to reconfigure it.
The focus ring on your binoculars will be used frequently on the other hand. Every time your subject distance varies you’ll need to use the center focus ring to get it back into focus. This also leads to tracking, which is the process of following a moving target. Keeping a target in focus while tracking it can be tricky initially, but as you use your binoculars more you’ll see that it soon becomes second nature.