How to Focus Binoculars Correctly for Crystal Clear Viewing

Written By John VanDerLaan 

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This is it: you finally bought a nice pair of binoculars to aid you during hunting season. Now, you can keep your eyes on the prize from a distance and prepare accordingly – only, the vision through your binoculars is blurry, and you can't seem to get a clear view of the land.

Many new hunters may need to learn how to focus binoculars before use. Whether you need help adjusting your optics over your glasses, live with nearsightedness, or need to become more familiar with how binoculars function, it's critical that you learn how to focus your binoculars according to your vision. 

This article will discuss how to focus binoculars correctly and provide you with all the tips you need to get that perfect, crisp image. 

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Anatomy of Binoculars

Anatomy Of Binoculars

On a standard pair of binoculars, the anatomy is relatively simple. Starting from top to bottom, the first piece of the binoculars is the dual lens cover. This piece shields your binoculars' magnification lenses from the elements when you're not using them. Beneath the cover is, of course, the magnification lenses where you place your eyes.

Twist-up eyecups surround the magnification lenses. You can adjust them depending on your visual needs and whether you wear eyeglasses. 

Next, you'll find a diopter adjustment wheel below the right or left eyepiece. You can use this adjusters to change the focus on that barrel, while the focus wheel between the barrels adjusts the focus on both lenses simultaneously. 

Some binoculars have a tripod attachment piece directly below the focus wheel between the barrels. If the attachment is a feature you want, investigate whether your chosen binoculars have a tripod attachment before purchasing. 

Finally, we come to the base of the binoculars, where you'll find the objective lenses and the objective lens cover. Some binoculars will also feature textured grips along the barrels for better support, but it largely depends on the brand. 

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Adjust the Eyecups

Adjusting The Eyecups On Binoculars

When learning how to focus binoculars, the first step is to adjust the eyecups to your visual needs. If you don't wear glasses, you'll need to rotate the eyecups counterclockwise to separate them from the barrels and bring them closer to you. Doing so will allow you to fit the binoculars to your face and block out any light in your peripheral vision.

If you wear glasses, you may need to retract the eyecups or rotate them clockwise to tighten them against the barrels. Generally, retracted eyecups will create a broader view, and you can continue to tighten them clockwise to expand this image.

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Adjust the Distance Between the Eyes

Adjusting Binoculars To Your Eyes

The next step in this process is to check and adjust your IPD or interpupillary distance. The interpupillary distance is the span between your pupils when your eyes focus on something far away. Finding your correct IPD is vital for avoiding eye strain and helping you achieve a crystal-clear image when viewing a distant object. 

First, take the binoculars in your hands and bend them to fit your face. If you've made the correct adjustments, you should see a clear, circular image. If the image splits, or you're seeing double, you may have to adjust further to achieve a clear shot. 

Calibrate the Diopter

Calibrating The Diopter To Focus Binoculars

Once you've completed the initial adjustments, the next step is calibrating the diopter. You'll likely need to test one barrel at a time to find the setting that works for both eyes. 

To adjust the left barrel, cover the right lens and peer through the left eyepiece, adjusting the left-hand diopter until you get a clear, crisp image. Then, repeat this process on the right side.

What Is a Diopter

Unlike the focusing wheel that simultaneously changes the focus of both barrels, the diopter pieces allow you to adjust the right and left barrels independently. This feature helps compensate for any differences in vision your eyes may have, ensuring a clear image on both sides.

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Use the Center Focusing Ring

Using The Center Focus Ring To Focus Binoculars

Select a distant, stationary object to help you focus your binoculars. Ideally, you'll select something at least 30 to 50 yards away. Then, lift your binoculars and peer through. If the image is blurry, you'll need to use the center focusing ring to make adjustments.

As with the diopter pieces, looking with one eye at a time may be helpful to ensure the most precise image. 

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How to Maintain Your Binoculars

Cleaning Binoculars Outside

Once you know how to focus binoculars, the final step is keeping them clean. The simplest way to keep your binoculars clean is to prevent the need for cleaning in the first place. This means using your lens cover whenever you're not using your binoculars. Keep all food, drink, and other potential messes away from your lenses as much as possible. 

When your lenses inevitably need a cleaning, you must do so carefully so that you don't accidentally remove the coating that makes binoculars effective. To prevent unnecessary damage to the lenses, remember to never clean your binoculars with any of the following:

  • A handkerchief
  • Your shirt
  • Saliva
  • Paper towels
  • Windex
  • Detergent

To clean your lenses, hold your binoculars over your head and blow away debris or dirt. Then use only the cloth that comes with your binoculars. If you must use a liquid cleaner, use only isopropyl alcohol-based products, and check the labels to ensure that the product is safe for coated lenses. 

Other general maintenance tips include:

  • Keep the eyecups retracted when you're not using the binoculars.
  • Store them safely on trips to your hunting grounds.
  • Don't let them swing around your neck, as any bumps can potentially damage the lenses. Use a quality binocular harness to keep them secure.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to focus binoculars is critical to avoid unnecessary eye strain and ensure a clear image. With a quality pair of binoculars and the knowledge you learned here, you can elevate your hunting game and keep your eyes peeled for the big bucks.

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John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the managing editor here at He oversees a team of editors, writers and pro staff that are subject matter experts in hunting and hunting gear. John's expertise includes thoroughly testing all types of hunting gear, as well as hunting all over the U.S. and Canada. While his hunting expertise includes game birds, small game and large game, his favorite game animal is the whitetail deer and he loves to share the knowledge that he has gained over 40 years of chasing the wily whitetail with both archery gear and firearms. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

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