Binoculars are an important part of every boaters arsenal, but which is the best pair for you? When choosing marine binocs, there’s more than meets the eye.
For starters, everyone assumes that more powerful is more better. Not necessarily so. On average boats in average seas, standard 7 x magnification binoculars are usually a good all-around choice. But if you’re bobbing around on a small boat in big waves, it’ll be tough to use them because not only do they magnify your view, they also magnify the motion of the boat. No, you can’t see as far with a 5 x pair, but at least you’ll be able to focus in on something, instead of merely seeing a blur of water and sky.
Even on relatively large boats, in all but the calmest sea conditions, 8 x and more powerful binocs are nearly impossible to use. So, what do you do when you really need to see far away? Reach for a pair of image-stabilized binoculars. With an internal gyroscopic stabilization system these units lock on to an item and stay locked, allowing for much more magnification. 10 x, 14 x, and even 16 x magnification becomes possible. The net result? Using a pair of 14 x Fujinons, I can spot a flock of birds working over baitfish from a solid five miles away. With standard 7 x unstabilized binoculars, I doubt it’s possible to spot the same flock at much beyond two miles. Yes, these gyro-binocs are expensive (count on spending about $1,000 for a good quality 12 x or 14 x pair) but the expense is well worthwhile.
Some other details to take into consideration: Obviously, marine binocs should be waterproof. Nitrogen-filled is a big perk, since it prevents fogging. And magnesium flouride multi-coated lenses are good for cutting glare and reducing reflections.
Don’t cheap-out, when it comes to choosing marine binoculars. In the long run, they can do more for helping you spot items that the best radars available – and thanks to the long-range birding abilities, an image-stabilized model will even help you catch more fish.