Binoculars vs. Telescopes - Which Should You Choose?
When it comes to astronomy, a telescope may seem like the obvious best choice. And in many cases, it is! However, we shouldn’t overlook the convenience and ease of use that binoculars have to offer and the circumstances where they may be the best option! Though they are often forgotten about when it comes to astronomy, binoculars are a powerful tool, and depending on which ones you pick, you could see 25 or even 50x more stars than you would with the naked eye. Today, we dive into when you should pick up your binoculars rather than your telescope, and how to pick the right binoculars for your needs.
Things to Consider
Most binoculars are easily transportable compared to telescopes which are often much bulkier, heavier, and more difficult to set up. If you plan to be moving around a lot, hiking longer distances, or don’t have a lot of room – binoculars will do the trick!
Field of View
Binoculars often have a wider field of view that lets you easily scan the stars of the Milky Way and make sense of space at a macro level. Especially for beginners, making sense of an object through a telescope when it’s so close up can be a little disorienting. With the wide field of view offered by the binoculars, it will be easier to understand what you’re looking at, how it relates to other objects in space and will give you a better chance to make sense of constellations! For a wide field of view, keep the magnification low (10x or less) and the biggest objective lens you can find (50mm or more).
1 vs 2 Eye Viewing
The single eye viewing that you do with a telescope can be tricky for beginners. We’re not used to viewing things with one eye and it can be difficult to focus at first. The 2 eye viewing of binoculars is more natural. 2 eyes working together also allows you to perceive clearer depth perception – in other words, objects will appear in 3D! 2 eye viewing can also make it easier to stay focused and distraction-free as binoculars will fully engross you in the viewing experience.
If your interest is in terrestrial viewing you’ll want to choose binoculars that can focus at a close range. Binoculars with a more distant point of focus are more specialized for stargazing. You’ll also probably want to choose binoculars that are lighter in weight so that you can easily hold them with steady hands for an extended period.
We live in a water-filled world. Condensation can gather on the glass of binoculars, they can get rained on, they can be dropped overboard, etc. Opting for waterproof is a smart choice to increase the lifespan of your binoculars. Nitrogen purged binoculars are also an important factor. Sometimes with cheaply made binoculars, air laden with water vapor can be sealed into the optics while at the factory. Your binoculars will fog up the first chance they get! Opting for nitrogen purged binoculars will ensure this doesn’t happen.
Both binoculars and telescopes are uniquely valuable and serve a distinct purpose. Depending on your interests, it may make sense to have both!
Binoculars are the perfect choice for situations like watching a meteor shower when you’re not sure exactly where the meteors will appear but you know it will be within a general radiant. In this case, low power, wide field of view binoculars are what you need! Binoculars will fit in your backpack if you’re hiking and can’t carry a full-size telescope. They’re also easier to see through and to understand the cosmos at a macro level.
To observe something small, like Saturn's rings or Jupiter’s clouds, you need a high magnification – 100x or more. With greater magnification comes increased shakiness, because each slight twitch in your arm is magnified as well. We can’t hold binoculars very well with a magnification above 10x – the image will likely get too jumpy. To solve this you’ll need a mount, which can be an expensive addition. In this case, it might be best to opt for a telescope. Telescopes will give you incredible magnification, clarity, and the option to add a camera and take some mind-blowing pictures of the cosmos if you so wish!
Which do you find the most useful? Binoculars or a telescope? Let us know your go-to in the comments below!
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