Home Binoculars Looking Through Binoculars 101: How to Focus, Adjust, and More

Looking Through Binoculars 101: How to Focus, Adjust, and More

looking through binoculars


Using binoculars seem to be simple in nature. It’s two lenses you stick to your face and look at things through. But if you’ve ever seen the inside of a pair of binos, you know they are actually kind of complicated! Fortunately, using them doesn’t have to be. If you make the right adjustments, hold them the right way, and have realistic expectations, life will be simple.


1. Spacing Out

spacing out binoculars

The human brain is a really interesting thing. Every human has one, even though they may not always use it! One interesting fact is that they are all different, and are all different in the littlest of ways. For one, our eyes are spaced apart. Since they are spaced apart differently, binoculars are often adjustable.

Step 1 is to space the binoculars out to match your eyes. Grasp both sides of the binoculars and hold them up to your eyes. Pull them apart, or push them together until you see one clear, circular picture. It’s easy and should be done in a few seconds. Once you get a lot of practice in, you will get used to your binoculars. This part will become second nature.


Wearing glasses?

If you regularly wear glasses, be sure to buy binoculars with adjustable eyepieces. Most quality binoculars will have adjustable eyepieces anyway. The reason is the measure of eye relief. Eye relief is the distance the lenses are from your eyes. This is what allows you to see a full, clear picture.

binocs with adjustable eyepiece

If you wear glasses, you have to have a longer eye relief to make up for the room the glasses take up. Adjustable eyepieces extend and retract with a pull or a twist. If you are wearing glasses, the eyepieces will be pushed in or down. If you don’t wear glasses, they will be in the up position.

Check this article for more tips on using binoculars with glasses.


2. Focusing

Now that those little adjustments are out of the way, let’s get into focusing your binoculars. Most binoculars have a focus device. However, some will have a fixed focus. The most common form of focus is a center focus. A center focus is basically a wheel that rotates left or right to your best focus. Alternatively, there will be an independent focus adjustment for each lens.

Look at your manual to determine your focus type. If there is a wheel in the middle, it’s likely a center focus. Next, locate your diopter adjustment. This tool exists to focus the binoculars for people who have uneven vision in their eyes. Usually, it’s on the right eyepiece and it has a + 0 and – 0 sign.

Once you have both the focusing wheel and diopter adjustment located, you can start focusing on the adjustments.


binocs diopter adjustment

Nondiopter Side

The first thing we are going to focus on is the nondiopter side. This is most likely the left side. First, cover the front lens of the diopter side. You can do it with your hands, a lens cap, etc. Look at an object that’s both large, yet features small things with fine details. Trees are the most common target because they are large, and the branches provide fine detail.


Diopter Side

Using the main focusing device, focus the optic until the tree looks nice and clear. Once the tree is in focus, uncover the diopter lens and cover the opposite lens. This will be the right lens. Now turn the diopter + or – until the tree branches look clear. You should be able to see the fine details of the branches.

Now uncover the lens and look at the tree. It should appear to be in focus. You’ll need to change the focus as you look at things at different distances, but you’ll adjust only the center focus from this point on.


3. The Hold

man demonstrates how to use binoculars

Magnified optics don’t just magnify the picture in front of you, they magnify every little movement you make. A slight tremor could throw you completely off focus with powerful enough binoculars. Because of this, it’s important to practice a firm hold and utilize proper technique. Remember that the higher the magnification, the more pronounced every movement is.

If you are using your binoculars offhand, then there is a technique to help reduce movement. Offhand means no tripod or rest. Now, hold the binoculars with both hands and use every finger to establish a grip over the barrels.

You’ll want to tuck your elbows into your sides and try to press them together. Once they are in front of you, rest them on and against your torso. This position isn’t the best for extended holds, but it will reduce movement long enough to scout what you are looking at.

Additionally, if it’s possible, a rest will always aid you in using binoculars. A rest can be a tree, a rock, or even you climbing into the prone position and using your arms as a bipod. Looking up or tracking a fast-moving target are the hardest positions to stabilize yourself. In this situation, a monopod can be a big help.



binocs monopod

A monopod attaches to the bottom of the binos and reaches all the way to the ground. This allows the binoculars to be easily directed, turned, and moved in a hurry. Additionally, it provides excellent stability and is surprisingly lightweight.


4. Breath Control

Breath control is also a big factor. This is a lot like shooting. You need to be calm, relaxed and allow yourself the ability to breathe. Do this calmly. Take methodical breathes that make the movement of the binoculars predictable. Don’t get too excited while scoping that trophy deer, or birding for that golden eagle!


Scoped Out!

Binoculars are awesome tools, and a great piece of gear for the great outdoors. The best binoculars in the world won’t make a difference if you don’t know how to use them. Get out there, follow these steps, and actually practice before game day! Become familiar with your optics, and how to use them. You’re never too experienced to get better.

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes


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