How To Use Binoculars: The Full Guide for Adjusting Your Focus

Mark Porter

Table of Contents

If you’re heading out to the wilderness for a hunting or birdwatching trip, you’ll probably already have a good set of binoculars prepared.

But, do you know how to use them properly? How about calibrating them to get an optimal view? 

We have a quick and clear, step-by-step run-through using binoculars so you can see everything you need to. 

These are the short steps on using binoculars correctly:

  1. Wear the strap and hold the binoculars with both hands.
  2. Adjust the center hinge.
  3. Unfold the eye cups.
  4. Adjust the focus.
  5. Calibrate with the diopter adjustment.
  6. Aim your binoculars.

But, there’s a bit more to it than that, so follow through this guide to nail each step.

How To Use Binoculars: infographic

Using Binoculars: Step-by-step Guide

1. Wear the Strap and Hold the Binoculars With Both Hands

First things first: security. If you’ve got a strap on your binocular, put it over your head so they don’t fall. 

Binoculars might be sturdy on the outside, but they’re sensitive objects with small parts inside. While a drop may not break the glass, it can move the inner components and make them unusable.

Ensure you have a good grip of the binoculars with both hands and place them over your face. Look into the binocular with both eyes.

2. Adjust the Center Hinge

Your binoculars likely have a hinge at the center between the two lenses. This is for adjusting them to fit your face and the distance between your eyes perfectly.

When you’ve placed the binoculars over your eyes, pull the barrels apart or push them together until you reach the right spot. You’ve found it when you see one unified picture instead of two small ones. It should also feel comfortable, and the lenses should be aligned with your eyes.

3. Unfold the Eye Cups

Most modern models have adjustable eyecups that make it easier to perfectly fit your eyes.

But, most people who aren’t accustomed to using binoculars don’t even notice they can and should do this because the binoculars’ are usually folded down as standard.

However, if you leave them as they are, you probably won’t get a decent fit, and you’ll see black rings at the edges. This, obviously, restricts your field of view significantly, which can make you lose what you were looking for. You might also be disappointed with your purchase for no reason. 

The adjustment mechanism depends on the model, but it usually works either by folding or rotating the small cup around the lens.

For Glasses Wearers

For those who wear glasses, you’ll need to adjust the eyecup down. This way, you’ll fit your eyeglasses between your eye and the lens. The right setting will depend on your glasses’ and binoculars’ thickness, so go with what feels comfortable.

Without Glasses

If you don’t wear glasses, roll the eye cups up to provide enough distance between your eye and the lens.

They should be close enough so that you can see clearly but far enough so your eyelashes don’t scratch the lens. For most people, the fully extended setting is the right one.

4. How To Center Focus Binoculars Correctly 

If your vision is even a little blurry, you have some work to do to focus binoculars correctly. Don’t try to force yourself into using them until it’s right because it can get rough on your eyes.

Most models have a center focus wheel to adjust them for the right and left eye simultaneously. To adjust this, just point the binoculars into what you want to see and rotate the focusing ring. Stop when you have a clear picture when using both eyes.

We recommend using a stationary object when you’re focusing your binoculars, especially for the first time. It’s best if the object is far away, at least about 30 to 40 feet from you. You’ll have a harder time focusing if it’s too close.

If you turn the focusing ring but it isn’t razor-sharp on both eyes, head on over to the next step to adjust the diopter. Even if your vision isn’t sharp, we still recommend you check the diopter adjustment to ensure you have a perfectly clear view.

an old man look through his binocular

5. How To Calibrate Binoculars With the Diopter Adjustment

Your eyes likely won’t have the same sight strength because most people have one dominant eye.

For this, it’s important to use the diopter adjustment and calibrate your binoculars correctly to ensure clear vision on both sides

There’s a diopter adjuster in most binoculars, which calibrates them to fit the left and right eye perfectly. While the focusing ring focuses both eyes, the diopter compensates the differences. 

Step #1: Locate the Diopter Adjustment

The diopter adjustment is easy to use, but it can be tough to find, depending on your binoculars. It’s usually on the right eyepiece but can be in the middle or even on the center focus wheel. 

Sometimes, you may have to move, push or pull the center focus wheel to get to the diopter adjustment. If you’re not sure, check your binocular’s user manual to find it.

Step #2: Adjust the Diopter

First, look into the distance using the left and right sides of the binoculars. When you’ve got the image sharp and focused, close your left eye and use the diopter adjustment on your right eye until it’s sharp. 

Repeat the process with your left eye until both your left and right images are clear and you have one focused field of view.

Going Forward

When you’ve used the diopter adjustment on your binoculars once, you shouldn’t have to adjust it again unless someone else has been using them. Because your binoculars are now calibrated for your eyes, you should be able to focus them with the focus wheel alone.

Of course, you’ll need to calibrate them again if your eyesight deteriorates and you’re not using your binoculars every day.

6. How to Aim Your Binoculars 

A common problem for people who don’t use binoculars is that they lose a lot of time when aiming. This is because they tend to grab the binoculars, put them on their face and then aim towards the right spot. 

This technique can be confusing when you have a powerful set of binoculars and are using them to see something that’s relatively small or close. It’s harder to find what you’re looking for, and you’ll lose valuable seconds—and may lose the target for good.

Instead of this, try first looking at your object and then putting the binoculars over your eyes. It can still take a little while to find the object, but it’s much easier. You can also use landmarks, like trees or buildings, to narrow down the search.

Using Binoculars With Glasses

When you wear eyeglasses, using a pair of binoculars isn’t as easy as it may seem. The glasses add some distance between you and the lens. At a distance, you might not be able to get the full picture.

If you wear glasses, the best thing you can do is pick a pair with long eye relief. This means that they’re designed so that you can maintain a full picture at a longer distance from the eyepiece.

Use our guide above whether you have glasses or not, but pay attention to the eye cups step if you wear glasses.

The Full Guide for Adjusting Your Focus

The Takeaway

Now you’ve learned the basics of using binoculars, and it’s time to get out into the wild and start experimenting.

Remember that it’s not just about how you focus binoculars. You’ll need to go through some important settings to get the best fit for your eyes. Calibrate them to make them fit your left and right eye using the diopter and unfold the eye cups if needed. 

And, if you wear glasses, ensure you’ve got a pair with long eye relief when buying your pair. This will help you get the full picture without taking off your glasses and sacrificing clarity.

Keep Reading

best binoculas for Safari
Binospot Admin

Best Binoculars for Safari

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of the products discussed in this article, we may receive a small commission.

Read More »
The Best 10x50 Binoculars
Binospot Admin

Best 10×50 Binoculars

Besides eyeglasses, binoculars are perhaps the most popular optical tool used for individual needs. A solid pair of binoculars comes in handy for all manner

Read More »
What Is a Rangefinder
Binospot Admin

Best Rangefinder Binoculars

Rangefinder binoculars practically combine two optical instruments in one device. The first device, the binoculars, allows you to view objects at a distance. Additionally, the

Read More »
Binospot Admin

Best Binoculars for Hunting

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of the products discussed in this article, we may receive a small commission.

Read More »
How to Choose the Best Binoculars for Hiking
Binospot Admin

Best Binoculars for Hiking

This article includes affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of the products discussed in this article, we may receive a small commission. Hiking

Read More »

Need help or have any special requests?

then get in touch!