The Difference Between Birding Binoculars and Hunting Binoculars

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When searching for binoculars, most retailers bundle the different types together and fail to differentiate between the ones that are ideal for hunting and those that are perfect for bird watching. The reason for the generalization is that, in most cases, you may get away with using birding binoculars while hunting. 

However, there is a difference between these two types of binoculars, especially for a person who would like to engage in hunting or bird-watching professionally. If you ignore the differences, you may choose one that is perfect for birding, only to realize that it is not ideal for hunting or vice versa. To ensure you never make this mistake, here are a few things to consider about the different types of binoculars.

The Difference Between Birding Binoculars and Hunting Binoculars

Photo by 1940chronicle

What do they have in common?

The first thing these two types of binoculars have in common is their magnification. When buying binoculars, it’s important to ensure that the magnification is medium-range. Medium range magnification is between 7X and 12x. Anything with a magnification that is higher than 12x could result in excessive shaking when identifying the target, whether you are birding or hunting. The reason for this is the high magnification power makes any small hand or body movements more noticeable.

Another reason why binoculars with high magnification are not preferred is that they have a small field of view. Admittedly, this is not desirable, as it defeats the purpose of having a binocular to identify game or birds. Lower magnification binoculars have a wider field of view, which is perfect for both birding and hunting. A wide field of view helps you scan a much larger area for your subject of interest. It also makes it easier to follow moving objects, such as sprinting animals or a bird in flight. High magnification should only be used in birding if you wish to view very fine details at a faraway distance.

If you want to carry specialty binoculars with very high magnification, you have to use it together with one that has lower magnification. However, this is something that hunters cannot do, as there is only space for one binocular. Most birders also prefer to carry one binocular only, though if they are traveling with a companion, they can hold the one with the high magnification, while their partner holds the one with the lower magnification.

Waterproofing is another feature that is a must for both types of binoculars. They can also have nitrogen-purged optics, which protects them from water exposure. Nitrogen-purged optics also help when dealing with small dust particles or fog that affects the clarity of your binocular. Optics that are fully coated are also a must for both hunters and birders. The reason for this is that the best times to identify birds and animals is during dawn or dusk. If your optics are not fully multi-coated, watching wildlife during these times will be an effort in futility.

What are some of their differences

Most birders prefer objective and large lenses that measure 50mm or more. The reason for this is that a large and objective lens gathers a lot of light, which improves the viewing experience of the bird watcher. This brightness is known as the exit pupil. When you combine lower magnification with a large objective lens, you’ll get more light delivered to your eyes. The extra light is especially advantageous when you are out at dawn or twilight, or when you are studying a bird that is hidden by the shadows of a tree. Since getting an extraordinary view of the animal is not the end goal of the hunter, large objective lenses are not necessary. Instead, hunters should go for a smaller and lighter lens, which is not too heavy or cumbersome to carry around.

Another feature that is different between these two binoculars is the optical design. Binoculars use a glass prism to orient images so that they are the right side up and not backward. There are two prism models used in optics today: The roof prism and the Porro prism. Roof prisms are smaller and have straight barrels. Porro prisms look more traditional and have offset barrels.

Roof prisms have a more streamlined size and are designed to handle rougher conditions than Porro prisms. Furthermore, they have internal focusing mechanisms that give them structural integrity, which reduces the risk of damage due to the entry of dust, fog, or moisture. They are more complex and have enhanced optical performance, making them more expensive.

Porro prisms, on the other hand, are simpler and cost less to manufacture. They are also larger and heavier. They are harder to waterproof, and the prism is more likely to move around in the binocular housing due to rough handling.

Porro prism binoculars have become a great option for birders, mostly because they are affordable while still providing excellent quality. These binoculars are extra bulky, which is, fortunately, not detrimental to bird watching. The affordable costs may encourage newbies to give birding a try without burning a hole in their pockets. However, a hunter does not require a binocular as his number one device. The hunter mainly relies on his firearm to hunt, and the binocular only helps him scout and identify wildlife. Because of this, roof prism binoculars are a perfect choice. It has a compact design and it is very durable. As a result, it can stand up to a lot of punishment and activity in the hunting backpack without suffering any damage.


What choices exist for people who want to do both?

If you wish to get one pair for both hunting and birding, focus on the things that they must have in common. Don’t get one with an extra-large objective lens, and focus on binoculars that have medium magnification power. Though they are a little expensive, the roof prism binoculars are the best option for people who want to do both birding and hunting, as they are compact, durable, and less bulky. Another tip for birders and hunters is to choose colors and patterns that are more natural, such as camouflage patterns. The reason for this is that bright colors are not ideal for hunting situations.

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