Types of Binoculars
Let’s take a look at the various types of binoculars, along with what they’re good at and where they fall short. After reading this article, head over to our list of top 5 binoculars to make a more educated choice.
Galilean binoculars are called that because they have the same basic structure as that used by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1609 to observe the stars. These binoculars consist of convex lenses for the objective and concave lenses for the eyepieces, and form erect images.
Advantages: * Because no prism is employed, they can be made very compact and lightweight
Disadvantages: * Maximum magnificatioin is up to about 4X * Narrow field of view * Peripheral areas of the field are likely to be out of focus
Opera glasses are typically Galilean binoculars.
Porro prism binoculars
Now we get into the first of the the two main styles of what most people recognize as binoculars. Porro prism binoculars were invented by Ignazio Porro in Italy during the middle of the 19th century, so they have the longest history among the prism binoculars. It is easy to recognize a pair of Porro prism binoculars, because the eyepieces and objective lenses are offset from each other, rather than being in line with one another.
Advantages: * Since the objective lenses are wider spaced, they can produce a slightly better stereoscopic image * Less expensive to make high quality Porro prisms, so they tend to be cheaper to buy
Disadvantages: * Less compact design than roof prism binoculars * More moving parts, so there’s more to go wrong * More difficult to make fully water and dust proof
Porro prism binoculars make perfect general use optics for birdwatching, viewing wildlife, watching sporting events, and so forth.
Roof prism binoculars
The roof prism binocular features the prisms aligned with each other in a straight line, so they tend to be sleeker and more compact than Porro prism bins. You can easily identify a roof prism binocular, because the eyepieces and the large objective lenses will line up with one another.
Advantages: * Compact design * Less internal parts, so less to go wrong * Easier to make dust and waterproof
Disadvantages: * The image quality can suffer slightly because of the aligned prisms, but advances in technology make this less true today than in the past
Like Porro prism binoculars, the roof prism design is ideal for watching birds, viewing wildlife, or observing sporting events.
There are varieties of these varieties
You’ll also find some niche binoculars that are designed for specific purposes. These can be either roof prism or Porro prism designs, and there are two main varieties worth mentioning: Giant Binoculars and Marine Binoculars.
You might assume that you have to use a telescope to view the stars, but binoculars have their place there, too. In fact, Giant Binoculars are specifically designed just for that purpose. These binoculars are much larger than other bins, because they have huge objective lenses designed to take in as much light as possible, along with larger than average magnifications.
If you’re using binoculars in a watery environment, it can be wise to invest in a pair of marine binoculars for that purpose. Various additional features can come along with a good pair of marine binoculars, but at a minimum they are extremely tough and fully waterproof. Some also float, and many come with a compass and are also rangefinder binoculars.