Advice: Binoculars for Puffin, Whale & Seal Watching

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The sea life is something wonderful and unique when compared to what we see on the surface. There are very few chances of acknowledging the wonderful sea creatures as they are very sensitive to humans. To experience sea life better, a top-notch and specialized marine binocular is a must.

If you are a sea-life enthusiast, you may not want to miss any chance of experiencing the distinct species. So, how to pick the right binocular that is equipped with enough features to offer a smooth experience? Well, the article is going to make it easier for you.

How to Choose the Right Puffin, Whale & Seal Watching Binocular

There are a large variety of binoculars available in the market for different types of activities. When it comes to marine binoculars, there are several things that you should look for to be assured about the performance. Let’s see what to look for while selecting a marine binocular.

Types of the Binocular

Based on the mechanisms, binoculars can be available in two variations which are Porro Prism Binoculars and Roof Prism Binoculars. When it comes to marine binoculars, most of them are equipped with Porro Prism. This particular variation offers a better depth of field and field of view for a smooth and comfortable sighting experience.

When compared to the Porro Prism, the Roof Prism are more streamlined, making them more compact binoculars. Although it will be lengthy in size, the compactness also makes these binocular ergonomic and easy to carry around. We will recommend you to go for the Porro Prism binoculars for a better sighting experience.

Magnification Range

The larger magnification range allows you to view the whales and other sea life from a massive distance. However, the bigger the range will, the harder you will find it to keep the object in view. As a result, marine binoculars typically arrive with a limited magnification range of 7x. Make sure to pick a binocular that offers around 7x of magnification to comfortably view the objects.

Nowadays, some binoculars can offer you a larger magnification range without causing any hassle in viewing the object. They equip image stabilization features that allow you to see far away without any difficulties. You may go for a bigger magnification range like 10×42 if the device equips the image stabilizing feature.

Light Transmission Efficiency

Going for a massive magnification range is just not enough for a bigger and better view. You also need to consider the light transmission efficiency of the device. The overall clarity, sharpness, brightness, etc. depends on this measurement. When a binocular is equipped with quality glasses, you will get better light transmission efficiency.

The less expensive binoculars are typically equipped with optics that can pass around 75% of the light. Some of the premium and exceptional models may pass around 95% of the light, which will make the object sight better and brighter. The entire scene should be clear on these optics while the cheap one may produce astigmatic images.

Objective Lens Diameter

One thing common about the devices that let you see things closer is they gather lift from the target object. Typically, the bigger the objective lens diameter is, the better the light transmission will, which will result in a better quality of the image. This spec is typically mentioned alongside the magnification range.

As an example, 7x50mm means the lens has a 50 mm diameter objective lens. Bigger objective lenses are better but they will be a bit heavier. Typically, anything around 50mm is an ideal point for size and light transmission.

Types of Prism

The binoculars will show you a reversed image of the object. Different types of prisms are used in the binoculars to show the corrected version of the image. Typically, the BK7 and BAK4 prisms are two of the main variables used in the binoculars. The BAK4 is comparatively better when compared to the BK7.

How do you know which prism is used in a binocular? It should be mentioned on the spec. If you don’t find it on the specification, there is an easy way to identify the prisms. Simply hold the binoculars a bit away from your face and determine the shape of the exit pupil. If the shape is square then it’s a BK4 prism and if it is round then that is a BAK4 prism.

Field of View

Field of view is an important aspect while it comes to sea-life experiencing. You will want to go for a bigger figure when it comes to the field of view as it allows you to track an object with ease. A binocular with a narrower field of view will make it harder to keep an eye on the target. It’s something very important to consider when it comes to tracking the species like whales that are only visible for a few seconds.

The field of view usually depends on the magnification range of the binoculars. A typical 7x50mm marine binocular arrives with a field of view around 6-degrees to 8-degrees.


Binoculars usually arrive with two variations of focusing technique which are individual focus and center focus. With the individual focus, you will need to adjust the focus of both eyepieces separately. Most of the marine binoculars come with individual focus. It’s also the preferred choice of the marine watchers as you don’t require adjusting focus every time.

Besides, the center focus arrives with a single knob, and turning it will change the focus of both eyepieces. This variation allows you to share the scenery with partners more easily. You can go for any of these variations based on your preferences.

Lens Coating

The purpose of the lens coating is to enhance performance by reducing glare and reflection. There is can be three types of lens coating which are fully multi-coated, multi-coated, and coated. Fully multi-coated means all the lenses of the binocular have multiple layers of coating. Multi-coated means several lenses in the device have multiple layers of coating. Besides, coated means at least one lens has a single layer of coating.

Apart from reducing glare and reflection, the binoculars also help to increase the light transmission. You should go for a binocular that says fully multi-coated or coated for the best performance. Also, try to go for a marine binocular that arrive with hydrophobic coatings as it serves better on the marine environment.

Build Quality

You will want a well build binocular to deal with damp marine environments. While watching the sea animals from boat or shore, there are high chances of the water splashes affecting the binocular. So, it needs to be waterproof with an O-ring sealed to prevent water from entering into the mechanism. Besides, the inside of the binocular also needs to be purged with proper gas to make them fog-proof.

The marine binoculars also need to be armored with a layer of rubber above to protect them in case of falls. Another benefit of the rubber armor is it provides you better grip for ease of targeting and holding.

Additional Features

Some digital binoculars arrive with a digital compass nowadays. Some of these may be illuminated while some others are not. Having a compass on the device may help you to be aware of the direction in the endless horizon. A very few of the binoculars nowadays also arrive with a rangefinder reticle. This enables you to determine the distance between you and the object.

Besides, some marine binoculars include floating straps, which can be very useful if you accidentally discard the binocular on the water. This will keep the device floating on the water. Note that the floating straps are also available separately. We will really recommend you to prevent losing the costly device because of a foolish accident.

Eye Relief

This specific factor is highly essential to consider if you require eyeglasses and they need to be on while using the binocular. In case you don’t know, eye relief is the distance between the ocular lens and eyes at which you can get a full field of view. While wearing the glasses, you will not be able to put your eyes on the required distance for the full view on a binocular with usual eye relief.

To solve this issue, you will require going for the one that offers you bigger eye relief, sizing around 15 mm. That is enough space for viewing your target with ease. Note that the larger eye relief will also narrow down the field of view. So, don’t go for the big number if it’s not necessary.

Frequent Asked Questions about Marine Binoculars (FAQs)

Below, we will answer some of the frequently asked questions about marine binoculars.

Do we need binoculars for whale/puffin/seal watching?

While you may experience the seal without a binocular, the gear is a must for watching species like whales and puffins. As they are pretty sensitive to humans, you will require watching from a long away and that’s why the binocular is important.

Which is the best magnification for binoculars?

The best and coast guard recommended magnification range for the marine binoculars is 7x. It enables you to watch the sea life comfortably without any issues.

Can I see puffins along the South Coast of Iceland?

Yes, you can see the puffins from the South Coast of Iceland. Westman Island accommodates the major traffic of Puffins in Iceland. You can experience the birds from cliff tops and boats using a marine binocular.

Do you need a built-in rangefinder or compass?

These features are not necessary but they can be useful from time to time. Especially, if you are a geek who wants to be aware of things like object distance, these will be useful features.

When is the best time of year to see puffins in Iceland?

Typically, the late spring and summer is the best time of the year to watch Puffins in Iceland. This is typically between May and August. The best time of the day is the morning and evening as they usually come out in these times for fishing.


As you see above, when it comes to selecting a pair of binoculars, there are so many things to be aware of while picking one. If you can consider the above-discussed aspects, chances are high that you will be able to end up with the right marine binocular that serves your purpose of Puffin, Whale & Seal Watching.

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