Understanding Binoculars: What Do the Numbers Mean?

What are binoculars

Have you ever tried using a pair of binoculars before? They’re some of the easiest devices to use, aren’t they? You just put them close to your eyes, peek into the scopes and automatically take a closer look at what’s far away.

These tools can serve a lot of functions – basically anything that requires you to see from afar without actually moving away. Nowadays we have phones with cameras that can zoom in and out as we please, but binoculars give an authentic quality that no smart phone can provide – not with their grainy zoom-in images. The images are life-like and three-dimensional when you use a good pair of binoculars.

It’s a simple thing. It works like magic.

However, as soon as you decide to buy one, it gets far more complicated.

You’d have to understand how binoculars work if you wish to buy a pair that will not disappoint you. Sure, you can just march into any store that sells them and buy the first model you spot. But if you want binoculars that will actually serve your purpose – then you need to do a little more research.

Decoding The Numbers

For example, what do those numbers mean? If you’re not sure what we mean by “those numbers”, then you’re certainly not ready to buy binoculars on your own – at least not without referring to some of our handy reviews of the best binoculars – click here!

We’re actually talking about the set of numbers specified on every binoculars’ specs list. There you’ll see seemingly random numbers which children may confuse for multiplication problems. Examples are 8×42, 7×35, 10×50 – the possibilities are endless. What we can tell you now is that those numbers aren’t exactly random in nature. They are there for a reason, and it tells you a very specific clue about the model’s capabilities.

Often you’ll find the first number to be small – something like 7, 8, 9, or 10. That’s because this first number indicates the strength of magnification of the binoculars. The number corresponds to how much closer the subject will appear to you compared to your distance to the real life version. Will it be 7 times closer, 8 times closer, or 10 times closer? The first number should serve as your trusty guide.

As for the second number (shown after the ‘x’), it refers to objective diameter going across the lens. This refers to how much light the binocular can obtain for effective viewing. The higher the number, the larger the lens, meaning more light will be able to pass through. Coincidentally, the larger the number, the bulkier the model gets.

Basically, the bigger these numbers are, the farther apart you’ll be able to see clearly. Just take note that heavier models might need assistance from a tripod, as you may not be able to hold them comfortably for prolonged periods of time. You don’t want your stargazing session to be ruined by weary arms.


Now that you know what these numbers mean, you are that much closer to finding the pair of binoculars that are truly right for you. There are more factors that you should know about, and all it takes a simple research to uncover the binoculars’ secrets.

Check Out this video on how to choose the Best Binocular for You

For more articles head on to the best choice binoculars page.

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