What Are The Different Types Of Binoculars & Their Use?


All binoculars are not the same, there are several types of binoculars having specific features, individual advantages, disadvantages, and what they’re ideal for.

Whether you are a first-time buyer or planning to upgrade your gadget treasure, you need to understand the different types of binoculars that exist on planet earth.

Let’s look at the various types of binoculars in detail.

Binoculars having two telescope pairs are classified into two types:

  • Non-Prism or Galilean binoculars
  • Prism binoculars


Non-Prism /Galilean Binoculars(Opera Glasses)

Galilean Binoculars - Types Of Binoculars


In the early 1700s, small Galilean binoculars, called spyglasses or prospect glasses, had become common. Galilean binoculars are so named because the concept was first used in the telescopes made by an Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei to observe the stars.

The Galilean binoculars were very basic in design and have the advantage of being relatively simple optical systems. These binoculars consist of convex lenses that serve as the objective lenses and concave lenses that are used for the eyepiece and while prism is not employed to form erect images.

Galilean binoculars are now known as Opera glasses or theatre binoculars. They are usually used in theatre events or opera and musical performances. to help you catch even the most subtle of movements.

Ideal Use:

Viewing theatrical productions, concerts, sporting events.



Prism Binoculars


The two most popular and modern prism binoculars around the world are:

  • Roof Prism Binoculars
  • Porro Prism Binoculars

Both refer to the type and configuration of the internal prisms used to magnify and transmit light through the binocular to the eye.

However, aside from these two types, there are more types of binoculars, which people can choose from depending on what purpose you are going to use them. There are Marine Binoculars, Night Vision Binoculars, and Astronomy Binoculars.


Porro Prism Binoculars

Porro Prism Binoculars - Types Of Binoculars

Porro Prism Binoculars were developed in the 19th century by an Italian Optician Ignazio Porro; having the longest history among prism binoculars. This design was the first real set of modern binoculars still in use today.

These traditional types of binoculars are easily identified by their classic zigzag looks. They have a dogleg shape style or a V-shaped design. The old fashioned Porro Prism binoculars can be recognized by the fact that the objective lens is offset from and not in line with the eyepiece or ocular lens.

Porro Prism works by sending light coming from the objective lenses using a pair of light-catchers. This process inverts the light to give a sharper and magnified image of your target object. Porro prism design will give better performance for the money, especially in medium or low-priced binoculars.

Prisms Grade

Prisms direct the light path inside the binoculars. There are two types of prisms commonly use for binoculars.

  • BaK-4– Superior prism because it has a better light transmission. Better Porro prisms binoculars are made from high-density glass, BAK-4. If you hold binoculars away from your eyes and up to the light, you can see the circular exit pupils in the eyepieces
  • BK-7– Good light transmission and more affordable. The less expensive BK-7 prisms will have squared-off, non-circular exit pupils.

Ideal Usage:

  • Porro Prism Binoculars are best for general usage. So you can use Porro Prism Binoculars during any activity or events you may do or go into considering some limitations. 

Roof Prism Binoculars

Roof Prism Binoculars - Types Of Binoculars

Roof prism binoculars are modern straight-tubed binoculars than the older-style Porro prism binoculars.

The internal prisms overlap closely, allowing the objective lenses to line up directly with the eyepieces, resulting in an overall H-shape. Hence making the binoculars to be slim and sleek, compact and lightweight.

Roof prism binoculars appear to be very simple at the first glance but inside they have a much more complex machination than any other style of binoculars.

Roof Prism Binoculars works when the light coming from your target object entered through the objective lenses. A roof prism gathers the scattered light waves into a path and transmits them towards the eyepieces.

They create a light line path between the light and lenses for achieving high magnification and brighten images with the right color contrast.

High technology is required to produce these types of binoculars, that is why you may find them more expensive than Porro Binoculars. Most people prefer roof prism binoculars because of their slim and stylish design.

Ideal Usage:

  • Roof Prism Binoculars are ideal for hunting and birdwatching.

Night Vision Binoculars

Night Vision Binoculars - Types Of Binoculars

During nighttime or low-light situations, your standard set of binoculars would become useless. In such situations for nighttime enthusiasts, you may want to consider a pair of night vision binoculars (Porro Prism) known as night optical or night vision goggles.

It collects lights with the help of a large objective lens and amplifies through electronically. It translates the light into a green hue so that the eye can absorb the vision into darkness.

It’s very hard to find have high magnification in night vision binoculars. The more your magnification the more you get dim images in the darkness.

Ideal Usage:

  • Spelunking, nighttime exploration, wildlife observations, surveillance, or hunting during low light situations.

Marine Binoculars

Marine Binoculars - Types Of Binoculars


As its name suggests, these types of binoculars are specifically designed for marine use or any other activity around water or wet environments. They have a wider ocular lens and an objective lens with low to moderate magnification power.

While whale watching look for a larger field of view with a lower magnification. Marine binoculars do not have high magnification so that you would be able to keep stable on a rocking boat

Too high of magnification will cause a shaky image with just the slightest hand movement. Just so you know, the higher the binoculars’ magnification power, the harder it is to handle.

Marine binoculars are also generally fog and waterproof. They can even float in the water.

Ideal Usage:

  • Marine Binoculars are the best for activities around water like whale watching, ship and boat gazing, snorkeling, diving, swimming, and observing the sea.



Astronomy Binoculars

Astronomy Binoculars - Types Of Binoculars


According to history, telescopes are the pioneers for sky walking, binocular came afterward. Astronomical Binoculars are specifically designed for exploring and observing sky objects.

 You can use telescopes but there are times that is not feasible to use just one eye to see the beauty of the heavens, so a pair of Astronomical Binoculars is what we need.

There are wildly different variations, some models are compact that easily fit in your pocket for spur-of-the-moment views. And there are some that actually require a tripod. The larger models are very pricey however, their dual ocular lenses give a much larger field of view than a standard telescope.

Those gigantic binoculars have huge magnification and large optimal objective lenses, which ensure the huge light-gathering as much as possible.

Ideal Usage:

  • Astronomical Binoculars are ideal for observing heavenly objects. You can use it for stargazing, examining the night sky, and viewing heavenly bodies.



Types Of Binoculars - Based of Features

There are several binoculars with roof or Porro prism and their usability depends upon the feature they possess. Some characteristics you may find worth knowing:

Foldable Binoculars:

Always want to keep binoculars in your bag or jacket’s pocket, like me? Then tiny yet foldable roof prism binoculars are the best options. They come in handy, portable, and lightweight.

Zoom Binoculars:

They are binoculars with continuously variable magnifications so you can adjust to zoom-in or zoom-out, e.g. from 10-30 times.  The hyphen indicates that the magnification is variable from the first number to the second. This is done by moving a zoom lever to increase (“zoom in”) or decrease (“zoom-out”) magnification.

This is different than traditional binoculars that will have a fixed magnification such as 8x or 10x. Mostly best for astronomy and stargazing. You may want to read about Best Zoom Binoculars.

Wide Angle Binoculars:

Birders usually go for wide-angle binoculars. They provide a very wide field of view in both Roof or Porro prism designs.

Focus Free Binoculars:

Fixed focus binoculars have the best performance at medium ranges. Though sometimes referred to as autofocus binoculars or self-focusing binoculars, these binoculars actually require no focusing at all; they are designed with the focus at a fixed distance. These binoculars often work best at medium distances.

Focus-free binoculars are the best choice for beginners and children, or for users that will not be viewing objects that are very close or very far. 

High-Powered Binoculars:

High-powered binoculars have their best use for long-distance viewing whether trying to spot a cheetah in the distance on safari, or watching water birds from your deck, or viewing deer or elk or other game on the next ridge when hunting, or watching ships and whales, or even for sky watching

Image-Stabilized Binoculars:

Image-stabilized binoculars are binoculars that have a mechanism for decreasing the apparent motion of the view due to binocular movement. These binoculars are designed to minimize image shaking in hand-held applications. Higher-power binoculars magnify the image more, but the image shift is also increased.

These are binoculars for active situations where movement is necessary, such as birdwatching or viewing a football game. These are really techy and expensive binoculars.

Water Proof Binoculars:

Waterproof binoculars are sealed and filled with a dry, inert gas (nitrogen gas) that contains no water vapor to condense inside. Since waterproof binoculars are expensive, so make sure to get this feature in any binocular costing over $100.

While Hiking, hunting, birding you actually need to consider buying waterproof optics.

 Tripod Mounted Binoculars:

For higher-powered binoculars, a tripod is a must accessory. As you already know higher the magnification power more shaky would be the hands. Mounting binoculars on a tripod helps to produce steady images and keep binoculars safe from accidental drops.



Choosing binocular depends upon the activity you would be going to use your gadget for. We have explained different types of binoculars that will assist you in making the right decision. So, nothing to worry about anymore just get a good pair of binoculars and enjoy your adventure.

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