Binoculars for Horse Racing

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Horse Racing BinocularsNo matter if you are going to the Kentucky Derby, the Grand National or just you local meet you really should not leave home without a good pair of horse racing binoculars as they will most definitely improve your enjoyment of the event. But what exactly makes a good pair or binoculars for horse racing?

When choosing any pair of optics for a specific purpose, you first need to decide what the most important features are for their main intended use, then you can look for a pair of optics that match all or as many of these features as possible.

Important Features of Horse Racing Binoculars

A pair of really good racing binoculars will actually be very similar to that of a really good general sporting event binocular and indeed a good bird watching binocular, but with a few subtle differences:

What Size

I think the first thing you need to consider when deciding on a horse racing binocular is what size you want. Always keeping in mind that you will have to carry it about with you to and from and whilst you are at the races. But compacts do have their drawbacks and so some people may feel that the benefits that full size or even mid-sized binoculars have over them are worth the extra weight and size.

  • Full Sized Binoculars tend to have objective lenses of around 42mm or larger
  • Mid Sized Binoculars have objective lenses of around 32mm to 36mm
  • Compact Binoculars have objective lenses between 21mm and 28mm

Obviously a small pair will be very portable with some bins small enough to pop into your jacket pocket, but as you will see below, different sized binoculars have their own particular advantages and disadvantages and the choice you make may not be quite as simple as how easy they are to carry.

Personally I like to take a really compact pair of binoculars with me to the races, but compacts do have their drawbacks and so some people may feel that the benefits that full size or even mid-sized binoculars have over them are worth the extra weight and size.

There two main advantages that larger binoculars have over compacts in relation to horse racing are:

  1. Because of their larger objective lens, full sized and mid-sized binoculars are able to take in more light, meaning that the image that you view through them is usually brighter and of better quality - Note: other factors like lens coatings and quality of the lenses and prisms will also have a big baring on this.

    On a bright sunny day, image brightness should not be a problem even with compacts and is only really and important factor in poor light conditions. Good quality compact binoculars will use high quality glass and coatings and will actually often outperform cheap or poor quality full sized binoculars. So if you are looking for a very cheap pair of binoculars (please don't!) I would suggest opting for a full sized pair of porro prisms, but if you are able to spend just that bit more, you could easily get the same performance from a compact porro prism that is far easier to carry around during your day at the races.

  2. At the same magnification full size binoculars tend to have a wider field of view, which as you will see below is a fairly important feature for racing binoculars.

If you want a better performance than a compact can offer, but don't want to carry about a full sized pair of optics, you should consider a pair of mid size binoculars which are a great compromise between the two.

Tip: When it comes to size, not all compact binoculars are created equal. So if you really want a small pair that you can just pop away in your pocket when not in use, look out for roof prism compacts that have a duel hinge design that makes them far smaller than standard single hinge or porro prism compacts when folded. For more details take a look at my article on the Best Compact Pocket Binoculars.

The Style of Binocular

Closely related to size, is the designs/styles of binocular. In general, you will come across two main designs/styles of binocular depending on the type of prism they use: the Roof Prism or the Porro Prism. Both have their own unique advantages over each other and so as with many things in optics there is no best option or right answer and the choice you make will be down to your own personal preferences:

  • Roof Prism Horse Racing BinocularsRoof Prism Advantages: The compact prism design usually means a smaller more compact binocular than porro prisms with the same size objective lenses. There are also less moving internal parts, so tend to be tougher and longer lasting.
  • Roof Prism Disadvantages: A cheap roof prism is usually optically inferior to a cheap porro prism's. This is because it is harder to align roof prisms and to ensure total internal reflection the roof prism design also requires expensive coatings which are obviously not used in cheaper models of roof prim binoculars. This is not a problem in the mid to expensive range, so if you are planning on buying a very cheap pair of binoculars which I would advise against anyway, you should rather rather opt for a porro prism design.

  • Porro Prism Horse Racing BinocularsPorro Prism Advantages: Because the objective lenses are wider apart, they tend to have a better stereoscopic image and a wider field of view than porro prisms. They are also cheaper to make than roof prisms and so tend to be optically superior in the cheap to mid price ranges.
  • Porro Prism Disadvantages: Bulky in comparison to porro prisms. There are also more moving parts and so they are harder to make dust and waterproof and have slightly more chance of something going wrong.

Magnification

The whole point of a taking a pair of binoculars to the races is to get closer to the action, so you may be forgiven for thinking that the more powerful the magnification the better. This is not true as high powered binoculars have a two main drawbacks that will make viewing the races far from ideal:

  1. The first problem with increasing the magnification is the higher the magnification, the smaller your field of view (FOV) will usually be (see field of view below). This means that a binocular with a high magnification and small FOV will enable you to see loads of detail, but less of the whole picture and so you could miss out on some of the action.
  2. The next problem with high powered binoculars is that it becomes harder and harder to keep the image steady as any movement you make becomes progressively magnified through the binoculars. This is will be even more of a problem when you have to follow something like running horses.

So you have to make a compromise between getting close enough to the action to really see what is going on, but not so close that it makes actually seeing what is going on difficult! So in my opinion binoculars with a magnification between 7x and 10x will be more than adequate for most horse race events. If however you are going to be particularly far away from the action you could consider a 12x magnification which is still fairly easy to keep still, but will get you just that bit closer to the action.

A more powerful Magnification has a Narrower Field of View

Field of View

The field of view (FOV) of a pair of binoculars is basically the width of the image that you can see through the binoculars and so a wide FOV enables you to catch as much of the action all at once without having to move the binoculars about. In horse racing, the distances that you view the action tends to be fairly big and the main group of horses tend to keep fairly close together and so the FOV is perhaps not as important as in many other sports. But ideally you still want is a pair of binoculars with as wide a field of view as possible in your chosen magnification, enabling you to observe as much of the action without having to move the binoculars all around the place.

The FOV is usually expressed in feet at a distance of 1,000 yards, but increasingly common is in meters at 1,000 meters or it is sometimes described as an angle. I would say that a FOV of 315ft at 1,000 yards (105m at 1,000 meters / 6.0° ) should be fine, but as I say, the wider the better, so if you are undecided between two models, check which has the widest FOV.

A less powerful Magnification has a Wider Field of View

Eye Relief

This is only really important if you use eye glasses. Basically Eye Relief is the distance from the ocular lenses where you will see the full field of view. The eyecups on binoculars ensure that your eyes are positioned at the correct distance from the ocular lens, but if you wear glasses and want to keep them on whilst glassing, you need to reduce this distance to ensure that you still see the entire view without any vignetting on the sides.

Adjustable eyecups allow you to change the distance and ensure that even with your glasses on your eyes are the correct distance from the ocular lenses. Binoculars with a longer eye relief are ideal for those who wear glasses as they basically project the image further beyond the ocular lens, giving you plenty of room to play with. So if you wear glasses, you should be looking for an eye relief of at least 15mm, to see the full image full image.

The down side to long eye relief is that it usually reduces the field of view. Some people wonder if you need to wear glasses at all using binoculars, well If you are near-sighted or far-sighted, you can use your binoculars without wearing glasses and the binoculars focus will compensate, but if you have astigmatism, you will need to use your glasses.

Horse Racing Binocular Reviews

Below you will see that I have listed a few of the best horse racing binoculars that I have reviewed in the three main size categories:

Or you can take a look at All Binoculars ideal for Sporting Events, including Horse Racing that I have so far reviewed.

Compact Horse Racing Binoculars

 

Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 Binoculars

With the duel hinge design and compact body, these true pocket binoculars fold up to easily fit into the palm of your hand or indeed your pocket!

Fully fog and waterproof, you get a wide field of view and generous eye relief, which is complemented by fully multi-coated optics and phase corrected BaK-4 roof prisms for an image that you expect from Swarovski.

Price: (5/6) High Value Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 9/10 87%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 9/10
Extras & Details: 8/10

 

Levenhuk Rainbow 8x25 Binoculars

Available in 7 different bright colors, these low cost Levenhuk Rainbow binoculars also feature a very compact double hinge design, fully water and fog proof shell, BaK-4 roof prisms, twist-up eye-cups and multi-coated optics.

Add to this a very wide field of view, then these and their other features combine to make a compact ideal for general use, travel, hiking and especially for viewing outdoor sports like horse racing, tennis or cricket, where I can see their colors really making them stand out from the crowd. They also make great kids binoculars.

Price: (2/6) Low Cost Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 6/10 63%
Very Good
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 5/10
Optical Stats: 7/10
Image Quality 6/10
Extras & Details: 5/10

 

Levenhuk Energy PLUS 8x25 Binoculars

Low costing compact binocular from Levenhuk that comes with a number of higher end features including a water and fog proof shell that protects fully multi-coated optics within.

Highlights also include a very wide field of view and a close minimum focusing distance.

Price: (2/6) Low Cost Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 7/10 70%
Excellent
Body Stats: 7/10
Optical Quality: 7/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 7/10
Extras & Details: 5/10


Below are some of the best Mid Size binoculars for horse racing, sorted by size, that I have so far reviewed:

Mid size horse racing binoculars

 

Swarovski 8x32 EL W B Traveler Binoculars

A lightweight & compact open-hinge magnesium body design combined with very high quality optical components and coatings that produce a view that is pretty much optically impeccable. There really are fantastic binoculars and definitely one of, if not the best mid-sized binocular on the market.

Price: (6/6) Expensive Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 9/10 92%
The VERY Best
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 9/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 10/10
Extras & Details: 10/10

 

Swarovski CL Companion 8x30 Binoculars

Weighing just 17.6oz ounces and measuring 4.7 inches long by 4.5 inches wide, it's hard to believe Swarovski can pack so much of their renowned optical excellence into such a compact unit and make it just that bit more affordable, but they have.

Ideal for anyone looking for a premium compact binocular to take travelling, on safari, hiking, camping or to a sporting event, the CL Companion includes their legendary Swarotop & Swarodur anti-reflection coatings as well as phase correction and Swarobright coatings on the roof prisms producing an excellent high quality image even in low light situations.

Price: (5/6) High Value Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 9/10 88%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 10/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 9/10
Extras & Details: 9/10

 

Minox 8x33 BL Binoculars

Quality mid-sized waterproof and fog-proof binoculars that feature the comfortable open bridge design and come with high quality optics that include Bak-4 phase coated roof prisms and fully multi-coated lenses.

Price: (4/6) Mid-High Value Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 78%
Excellent
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 7/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 7/10


Below are some of the best Full Size binoculars for horse racing, sorted by size, that I have so far reviewed:

Full size horse racing binoculars

 

Zeiss 8x42 Victory FL Binoculars

The Zeiss 8x42 T* binoculars are close to binocular perfection and make ideal binoculars for everything from birding and outdoor recreation to virtually any sightseeing venture.

Price: (6/6) Expensive Binoculars
 

Minox 10x42 BV Binoculars

With an impressive 10x magnification and good field of view and exit pupil rating of 4.2mm, these Minox BV 10x42 BR binoculars not only compete with, but in many cases outperform much more expensive brands. In my opinion, these really are a great pair of binoculars for safaris and general viewing.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
 

Leica 10x42 Ultravid HD Binoculars

With any pair of Leica Binoculars, you know that it is a quality set of optics and these Leica 10x42 Ultravid HD Binoculars are right up there with the very best. The come with with all benefits of their HD-models including the innovative Floride lens glass that improve image contrast and colour fidelity and a water and dirt repellent coating on the lenses.

Price: (6/6) Expensive Binoculars
These Binoculars are On SaleDiscounted Binoculars: These Leica Ultravid binoculars are discounted on Amazon.com, Eagle Optics and Binoculars.com in the USA.
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