Sunday, December 20, 2020

Binoculars for eyeglass wearers

Do you wear eyeglasses?

Do you wonder if you can wear your glasses with binoculars?

And, if so, how do you choose the best binoculars to use with glasses?

These last two questions are the subject of this article!

Eyeglass wearers should choose binoculars with long eye relief of over 15.5 mm. A wide field of view is also helpful, especially for nature viewing.

But not all eyeglass wearers will need to wear them when using binoculars.

And if you wear contact lenses, there's no difference between them and someone using bare eyes when viewing through binoculars!

Photo of binoculars and eyeglasses
I wish I didn't, but I have to wear glasses
when using binoculars!

Can you wear glasses when you use binoculars?

The good news is that you can wear glasses when you use binoculars!

The even better news is that you may not need to.

Not all eye conditions requiring eyeglasses require them when using binoculars.

Do you have to wear glasses when using binoculars? 

If your vision is simply nearsightedness or farsightedness, then you may be able to use binoculars without eyeglasses.

For instance, if you only wear glasses to read, then you won't wear them when using binoculars.

Conversely, if you take your glasses off to read, then you likely don't need to wear them, either, when using binoculars.

It is easier and preferable NOT to wear eyeglasses with binoculars. It's a pain, I can tell you! 

Glasses fog over easily in cold weather. Your eyeglasses also get pushed against your eyebrows and get greasy. And sprinkles or pollen or other debris gets smeared around on your glasses by the binoculars. Then the bridge of your nose may get sore by having the binoculars push on your glasses' nose pads.

If you have astigmatism you should wear eyeglasses when you use binoculars.

Astigmatism is the common visual condition where the cornea of your eye is not perfectly circular . Thus, your vision will be blurry in that eye, both near and far. Astigmatism is often different in each eye.

People with astigmatism wear glasses at all times, at least, when they want to see clearly. That's me.

So if you have astigmatism you'll most likely want--or need--to wear your glasses.

But what if you only have astigmatism in one eye, or it isn't very bad? Well, you might be tempted to go without glasses when using binoculars. I wouldn't recommend it though.

Using binoculars does put some strain on your eyes, whether you wear eyeglasses or not. So I'd recommend wearing your glasses. But you might try it both ways. And don't overdo it. Give plenty of time in between to rest your eyes. Eye strain headaches aren't fun.

Best binoculars for use with glasses

The best binoculars for use with eyeglasses are those with long eye relief and wide field of view.

Eye relief is basically the distance from the optical lens on the binocular to the focal point. It is how far away from your eye you need to hold the binoculars to get a full view. 

Obviously, your glasses prevent you from bringing the binoculars any closer to your eye. So you want your binoculars to have a longer eye relief than the distance between your eye and the outer surface of your glasses.

But the style of your glasses and the size of the lenses will be different. So will the shape of the bridge on your nose. You may need more or less eye relief than someone else who wears glasses. But both of you will definitely need longer eye relief than someone who does not wear glasses.

If your binoculars have a shorter eye relief than the distance between your eyes and glasses lens, then you will not see the entire field of view the binoculars offer. The edge all around will be restricted from your view. You will still see the object in the center of your binocular view, but the edges will vignette.

This is offset somewhat by binoculars that have an extra wide field of view. Still, you want to actually enjoy that wide field of view, not use the wider field of view to offset the narrow view given by too short of eye relief.

For bird watching, I want binoculars with a wide field of view to take in the picture window panorama, not give the impression I'm looking at the world through a straw. So getting the proper eye relief is critical.

What to look for when buying binoculars to use while wearing glasses

Eye relief

When deciding which binoculars to use or purchase for use with eyeglasses, look to the manufacturer's specification sheet for eye relief. It is listed in millimeters (mm). 

If you wear glasses then you want the eye relief spec to be at least 15.5 mm. Longer is better, out to 19 or 20 mm.

Any shorter eye relief than 15.5 mm and you will not be able to see the entire binocular view.

Field of View

Likewise, if you want to enjoy the expansive wide field of view, you want to check the spec sheet again. 

Field of view is given as both a unit of degrees of a circle, and as a width. That width is commonly given as a certain number of feet at 1000 yards distance. That is, if you were looking at a fence line perpendicular to you and 1000 yards away, how much of the fence line (how wide) could you see?

For 8-power (8x) binoculars anything over 390 feet at 1000 yards is a wide angle field of view. Something around 420 feet is really good. Anything less than about 340 feet at 1000 yards is quite narrow. Binoculars advertised with the words "wide view" doesn't mean they really are. Look at the manufacturer's specification sheet.

For 10x binoculars, a field of view of 360 feet at 1000 yards is quite wide. The more you increase magnification, the more constricted will be your field of view with the same model of binoculars. So 8x binoculars usually have a much wider field of view than 10x or larger.

Wide field of view is especially useful when scanning for wildlife, such as bird watching or hunting. If you are looking at a fixed object, then wide field of view is not as necessary.

Adjusting binoculars and sharing binoculars with others

Using binoculars with glasses is the same as without. With the exception that you rest the eyecups of the binoculars on your glasses instead of your eye socket frontal bones.

However, if you share binoculars with others, you will need to readjust them. Just like the driver's seat adjustments in the car, each person will have their own settings.

This is especially true if one person wears eyeglasses and the other does not.

Here's how you adjust binoculars if sharing with others (every time):

  1. Push the eyecups in if you wear glasses, extend them if you do not.
  2. Bend the barrels in or out at the center hinge to form one seamless viewing circle when looking through them.
  3. Look at a mid-distant object and use the focus knob to bring your left eye into clear focus.
  4. Adjust the right eye diopter to bring the right eye into focus to match the left eye.

If you need more help with these adjustments, I wrote an article on How to use binoculars that goes into greater detail. It has labeled photos.

I wrote an article on what makes the best binoculars for birding, with glasses or without. That article also lists several binocular models at all price levels that are all suitable for eyeglass wearers.

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