Binoculars are primarily used for magnification. They are meant to magnify what you see through your naked eye and that appears to be enlarged or magnified. Binoculars are used in hunting, photography, astronomy and by people who deal with optics apart from sailors and armed forces among others. Since the primary task of a binocular is to magnify what you see, it is the magnification of the device that matters most.
However, along with the magnification spec, the objective lens also matters because of the quality of image that you will see. It is not necessary that the larger binoculars’ magnification is, the better they are. On the contrary, those that have very high magnification power will tend to offer very low quality images, often blurred or out of focus.
There are two specs that you need to understand about binoculars before delving into the 5 most common magnifications in them. Every binocular is allotted a number, usually something like 7 X 35 or 10 X 50. This set of number corresponds to the magnification and the objective lens diameter. In the first case, the magnification is 7 times and the objective lens is 35 mm. In other words, you can view images up to seven times larger than what they appear to the naked eye and the lens using which you see it has a diameter of 35 mm. In the second case, the magnification power of the binocular will be 10 times and the objective lens will have a diameter of 50 mm.
Larger the objective lens, better it is since it will allow more light to come in which will help in low light situations. Even in bright situations, the more you zoom in or magnify the image; the amount of light in the image will reduce dramatically. That is because the field of view narrows down and the image doesn’t have much room to allow sufficient light.
The 5 most common magnifications in binoculars are 5x, 7x, 8x, 10x and 12x. In other words, you can magnify the image up to five times its actual size as seen through the naked or unassisted eye, up to seven times, eight times, ten times or twelve times.
Binoculars with over 12x magnification will typically require tripod stands or some kind of mounting fixture to avoid vibrations of the hand as at that level of magnification, even a slight nudge of the arm can distort the image or shake the image out of the viewing zone.
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