I research binoculars a lot. And every so often (very often actually), I stumble upon these products with unbelievable claims, and in particular I’ve been noticing lots of “60x60 binoculars”, which annoys me quite a bit.
60x60 binoculars are almost certainly a lie and even if it were true, they’d be impossible to use. Using these ludicrous numbers is a marketing gimmick and is meaningless, especially if they’re also cheap.
What does 60x60 mean in binoculars?
Here’s a quick intro into how binoculars are rated and what the numbers mean.
The first number (before the ‘x’) means magnification.
A 60x binocular would magnify things 60 times, or make them appear 60 times closer. A human 60 meters away would appear as if standing just 1 meter away.
If you’re not sure what that means, I’ll tell you – that would be HUGE magnification, the kind used on some serious astronomical telescopes.
There a few problems with such magnification:
- The view would be incredibly shaky. You would need a tripod just to hold the image still enough for you to be able to understand what you’re looking at.
- The field of view would be tiny – meaning you’d just be looking at a very small area. That would be fine if you were looking at a celestial body, such as a planet, but if you’re trying to look at, say, an animal, it would be incredibly difficult to even find it.
- Dimness – simply put, the more you zoom into something, the less light your binoculars collect, and the darker your image. At 60x, you would need huge lenses to collect enough light to view anything clearly.
The second number (after the ‘x’) stands for the object lens size.
The big lens in the front of your binoculars is the objective lens. So this number shows its diameter in mm.
A 60mm lens is not unreasonable, though quite large for “normal” binoculars. Common lens sizes for full-sized binos are 42mm and 50mm.
A 60mm lens would mean a pretty big binocular. A pretty heavy one too.
Frankly, it’s unlikely that any of the binos sold with these stats actually have such big lenses.
Could 60x60 mean something else?
In the binoculars world, not really.
I mean, the (magnification) x (lens size) format is so ingrained in usage in the optics industry, it would be dumb and confusing to use it for anything else.
What else could it be?
I doubt any of the binos sold are 60mm x 60mm in size – that’s smaller than a credit card. 60x60 inches? No way.
So what does it mean if a binocular is ’60x60′?
Or in fact, it means they are trying to trick you. It’s a marketing gimmick. They’re trying to use these huge numbers to look more impressive than all the competition.
If you shop for binos, you’ll typically see numbers such as 10x50 or 8x42 etc. And then when you see 60x60, you’re supposed to go “Wow! These are awesome, I’m buying these!”
I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re doing when they put such insane numbers on their products.
I’ve also noticed with some models, they say 60 x 60 in the titles, but in the details section it actually says something much more reasonable, like 7x50. Here’s an example:
The heading says 60x60, but details say e.g. 7*50.
And frankly, people who don’t know much about optics will often buy these binos. They might be happy with the purchase or they might not, but oftentimes, they won’t even know that they bought something that’s not what it says it is.
I see reviews and questions where people doubt whether what they have bought actually has 60x magnification. But in many cases people aren’t sure because they don’t real world experience with proper binoculars.
In any case, I would say that labelling products like this is in very least misleading and possibly even verges on fraud.
How do I know if this sort binocular is any good?
Of course, just because a product is described in a misleading or outright false manner doesn’t mean it’s not a decent product, right?
At least one might argue that.
But the problem is this: If you know the seller is lying about one stat, how do you know what other parts of the product listing they might be lying about as well?
Here are some things that are common among binoculars labelled “60x60”:
- They are cheap. I mean they might cost $20 to $50 or so and in the optics world that is cheap. I’m not saying you can’t get a workable binocular for $50, but these particular models are really pushing it.
- They are made in China.
- They come from an obscure brand, or sometimes you can’t figure out if they even have a brand of any kind.
- They feature heavily photoshopped product photos.
- They have these weird colourful lens coatings, often orange. I don’t know of any decent quality binocular model by a reputable brand that would use such coatings – again it seems like another marketing trick.
So when these products state that they are “waterproof” and “fog proof”, is it really true?
Frankly, I believe (not claiming anything with certainty here) that if you stuck many of these models in the bathtub for a minute, they’d be full of water.
And then you might also see claims of “night vision” on many of these. Well, clearly they are not true night vision devices – you can’t get those for $30 – but maybe they mean to say that have good optical performance in low light conditions. Well, honestly, I doubt that.
To get great twilight performance, you need superb optics (glass, lens coatings etc), and a large objective lens diameter compared to the magnification (something known as exit pupil). And these “60x60” models have none of that.
What’s the verdict on 60 x 60 binos?
Well, my verdict is: don’t buy them. They’re not worth the money. Or should I say, they’re probably not worth the money because you don’t know what you’re buying.
If they lie about the most fundamental statistic that describes a binocular, they probably lie about other stuff too.
I’m on a budget. Which binoculars should I buy instead?
The one issue with buying binoculars is that there are just so many to choose from and frankly, they’re tend to be pretty similar.
But here a few tips:
- Decide on your budget. I’d try to budget at least $50-$100 dollars for this. In this range, with some research, it is possible to get a device that will work reasonably well for a beginner.
- Decide on magnification – go for 7x, 8x or 10x. Though you get more detail at 10x, the higher the number, the shakier the image. So it may actually be that you will get a better view with 8x. And 7x is recommended for marine use.
- Decide on the size. Binos with 25mm or 32mm lenses are considered compact, while 42mm and 50mm are considered full-sized. The former are great for travel and backpacking, while the latter are better for more serious viewing but will be more cumbersome.
- Pick a brand that has numerous models on the market. In budget price range, your binos will almost definitely be manufactured in China, but that doesn’t immediately mean they’re crap. Producers such as Eyeskey or Gosky make very decent optics for the price.
- Read user reviews. See if you can find ones that have been written by somebody who knows a bit about the topic, e.g. it’s not their first purchase etc.
If you’d like a specific recommendation, you can have a look at these:
Gosky makes good low-cost binoculars that have been hugely popular among people who don’t really need the quality of higher-end brands.
You can use these for birding, hunting and just generally enjoying nature. Don’t expect to be blown away, but they’re very good for the price.
We’ve seen that there are sellers out there who employ quite deceitful ludicrous nonsense in order to get more sales, and this is sad. So my goal is to educate people about optics and make sure they know what they’re buying.
I hope you’ve found this article useful. If you decide to buy those 60x60 binoculars nonetheless, well, let’s just say I hope you get lucky and they are actually worth the cost even if their description has nothing to do with reality.