If you are an avid outdoorsman/woman, a quality pair of binoculars is a valuable item to have. Binoculars are versatile and suitable for multiple outdoor activities. You can use them for bird watching, hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking, sports events and more.
When shopping for the best pair of binoculars, you are going to notice that there are two sizes that are commonly used: 8×42 and 10×42. Though these two binoculars are strongly related, each size is unique in its own way. The differences between the two binocular sizes make one better than the other in certain situations.
If you are buying your first binoculars, understanding the core differences between these two binocular sizes will help you make the right buying decision. To help, we have an in-depth look at each size as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each. Let’s take a look.
Which is Better 8×42 or 10×42 Binoculars?
8×42 or 10×42 Binoculars- Terminology
If you are new in the market, you are probably wondering what these numbers mean. They represent the magnification power and the diameter of the binocular’s objective lens.
Magnification is a measure of how many times an object will appear closer to you when you view it using binoculars compared to how to see it with your naked eyes. The objective lens on the other hand is the part responsible for gathering light into the binoculars.
The first number represents the magnification of the lens while the second number after the x is the size of the objective lens. Both binoculars have a similar 42mm objective lens but different magnification power.
8×42 binoculars are the best binoculars for all-round use. They offer the perfect balance between performance and portability. They are ideal for close and mid-range observation but not suitable for viewing long-distance targets.
Since magnification and field of view are inversely related, the lower 8x magnification provides a larger field of view. Field of view refers to how wide of an area you can see through the binoculars. A large field of view is much-needed for easy target identification. It also helps you track down moving targets easily.
If you put on eyeglasses/sunglasses when you are out in the field, you’ll appreciate the longer eye relief that the 8×42 binoculars provide. This is the maximum distance between your eyes and the binoculars eyepiece. Having a long eye relief makes your glassing session more comfortable as it minimizes eye fatigue.
In terms of optical performance, both sets have a similar objective lens so they collect the same amount of light. They also have an exit pupil that’s smaller than 7mm which is how big your pupils dilate. This means that in twilight conditions, the images will appear dark. But the exit pupil in 8×42 is slightly larger so the images will appear less dark in low light conditions compared with the 10×42 counterparts.
Lastly, if you are not willing to spend a huge sum of money on binoculars, you’ll find that 8×42 binoculars are more affordable. Between binoculars that offer the same features and quality, 10×42 models will be more expensive.
Advantages of 8×42 Binoculars
- Less expensive
- Better low light performance
- Wider field of view
- Long eye relief
- Steadier and better-quality images
- Best for all-round use
Disadvantages of 8×42 Binoculars
- Not ideal for viewing long-distant targets
- Might not provide the best detail
Check Out: Best All-Round Binoculars
The 10×42 set boasts a higher magnification of 10x. This is suitable for viewing long-distance objects. It will bring the distant objects 10 times closer so you’ll be able to see every detail regardless of how far they are. This high magnification will also help you spot the small-sized objects easily.
This binocular has a smaller field of view compared with the 8×42 set. But this doesn’t mean that we should write off 10×42 binoculars. The smaller field of view is great when you are glassing one object only and you don’t want to be distracted by other things. But it can make it more difficult to spot the object in the first place because of the small area.
The eye relief is also smaller for the 10×42 set. However, eye relief isn’t a big issue as the big percentage of people don’t wear eyeglasses. But if you wear glasses, make sure that you look for binoculars that let you shoot comfortably with your glasses on. Most 10×42 binoculars offer a generous eye relief to accommodate all users, with or without eyeglasses.
In terms of optical performance, 10×42 binoculars provide great images in good and average light conditions. However, the quality of the image also depends on the quality of the optics. But if the lighting is inadequate, these binoculars produce darker image compared with the 8×42 set. They use thicker glass which makes it difficult for light to pass through.
With optics, you get what you pay for. Typically, you’ll find that 10×42 binoculars are more expensive than 8×42 models. They use more glass to make the eyepiece thicker for the higher magnification which translates to the higher price. However, you can still find a quality 10×42 set that’s available at a reasonable price.
Advantages of 10×42 Binoculars
- Suitable for viewing long-distance targets
- Great versatility
- Provides more detail on targets
- Greater durability
Disadvantages of 10×42 Binoculars
- Smaller field of view
- More expensive
- Smaller eye relief
- Not ideal for low light situations
See: Best 10×42 Binoculars for Bird Watching
Similarities between 10×42 and 8×42 Binoculars
- Same weight. Majority of manufacturers will list 8×42 and 10×42 binoculars in the same models to weigh the same.
- Same light gathering ability. Both 10×42 and 8×42 binoculars have the same 42mm objective lens size. This means that their light gathering ability in different light situation is the same assuming that the quality of the glass is the same.
Hopefully, you have found this detailed comparison insightful. In the end, your ideal binocular size trickles down to your preference as there is no one-size-fits all. Make sure that you choose a pair that works best for your needs. If you are looking for a pair of binoculars for general purpose, 8×42 excels in that category. But if you want to see more detail of your targets even at long distances, go for the 10×42 size.