Most people buying their first pair of binoculars get 10×50 binoculars. They are affordable and 10x magnification is good enough for most applications.
But, depending on what you are using the binoculars for, your real life experience with them may be very different from what you expected.
Most people find out that binoculars are not the superpower set of artificial eyes they expected. Though they can be very helpful in various fields, they have their limitations particularly when it comes to how far you can see.
In this quick guide, we explain how far you can see with 10×50 binoculars and what factors determine this distance.
What 10×50 Means
Before we continue, let’s discuss what 10×50 even means.
The first number is the magnification power of the binoculars. In this case, it is 10x, meaning objects appear 10 times closer than they would with your naked eyes.
Note that I said closer, not clearer. The moon may appear closer but if you are using a low quality pair of binoculars, you may be unable to make out details such as craters.
The second number determines the clarity and brightness of the image. It refers to the diameter of the objective lens. In this case, it is 50mm.
The objective lens is the part of binoculars that collects light. A wider lens collects more light, making for a brighter and clearer image.
50mm is pretty good and works great even in low light conditions.
What Determines Viewing Distance
There’s no standard table depicting the viewing distances of specific magnifications. Even binoculars with similar magnification may vary in how far you can see with each.
Here are the factors that determine how far you can see with binoculars.
- Magnification: The higher the magnification, the farther out you can see. A 10x pair of binoculars will show you objects that are further away compared to 7x binoculars. But, remember that higher magnification doesn’t mean better clarity. So buying the highest magnification binoculars you can afford is not always a good idea.
- Objective lens: As I mentioned, a wider objective lens collects more light and enhances the brightness and clarity of an image. You can see far out objects more clearly. You’ll see farther with 10×50 binoculars compared to 10×30 binoculars.
- Physical obstructions: If you are hunting, bird watching or observing wildlife, trees and foliage might get in your way, obstructing your view. Dust, smoke and fog will also reduce how far you can see.
- Weather and pollution: This applies to stargazers. Rainy, foggy or cloudy conditions will prevent you from seeing very far, or seeing anything at all. High levels of air pollution (smog, dust, smoke etc.) also reduce visibility.
How Far Can You See With 10×50 Binoculars?
The answer: it depends on your particular location and situation.
If you are on high ground with few obstructions in your line of sight, you’ll see farther. If you are in the middle of a jungle trying to watch birds, you won’t see as far.
If the sky is cloudy or there is smog in the air, you won’t be able to see very far into space.
On a clear summer night, there’s really no limit to how far into space you can see. Obviously, after some distance, you won’t be able to make out details of stars and galaxies.
With 10×50 binoculars, you should be able to observe most stars and easily locate the brighter stars like Sirius and Canopus.
You can also see some galaxies, nebulae and star clusters, though not in much detail as you would if you were using a 15×50 pair of binoculars.
Where 10×50 binoculars shine most is in observing the earth’s moon (you can see some craters), and Venus and Jupiter. You can even see some of Jupiter’s moons.
If you are using your 10×50 binoculars to observe terrestrial objects, the average viewable distance is 2-3km. But it can be shorter or farther depending on your environment.
If you are starting out in stargazing or birdwatching, 10×50 binoculars are good enough.
Later, you can upgrade to a pair with higher magnification, perhaps 12x, 15x or 20x. A wider objective lens (70mm, 80mm or 100mm) will also greatly improve how far and how clear you can see.