How to Use Binoculars with Glasses for Birding

A human eye can only focus on objects at a certain distance.

So if you wish to see objects beyond this particular distance more clearly or, as in this case, birds, you need extra assistance.

This assistance comes in the form of binoculars.

For someone who wears glasses, it can be extra challenging to use binoculars. There are several things to be considered.

It may seem like a tedious task at first to find the right kind of binoculars for eyeglasses wearers. But it goes a long way and saves you a lot of trouble and time later on.

First, let’s dig into it by discovering whether you need to keep wearing your glasses when using binoculars.

The answer is yes as well as no. It all depends on your eye condition or the reason you wear glasses.

When Is It Important to Wear Glasses While Birding?

Not everyone who wears glasses needs to keep them on while using binoculars.

Some eye conditions warrant one to wear glasses at all times, especially while performing activities like birding.

On the other hand, certain eye conditions save you the trouble of wearing glasses for birding; binoculars alone would suffice.

Let’s take a look at each one of them.

Short-Sighted Vision

People with short-sighted or near-sighted vision can easily focus on distant objects.

Hence, they do not necessarily need to wear glasses along with binoculars when it comes to birding.

It is more of a preference if they wish to wear glasses to enhance their birding experience.

Far-Sighted Vision

Activities like birding need you to have an excellent distant vision.

People with far-sighted or long-sighted vision are most likely required to wear glasses under their binoculars.

Therefore, to properly enjoy birding, wearing glasses becomes the ultimate solution.

If you are long-sighted, keeping your glasses on while using binoculars is easier and more convenient.

Moreover, this requires you to make just as many changes to binocular settings as a non-glasses wearer and not more.


Keep in mind that certain eye conditions cannot be compensated for by changing some extra settings of your binoculars.

You absolutely need to wear glasses in addition to binoculars if you are suffering from them.

One such condition is called Astigmatism. Astigmatism is not simply a defect of focus. It makes you see blurry images of objects at all distances.

Therefore, wearing glasses becomes a necessity in this case.

Things To Consider Before Setting Up Your Binoculars

The things that you need to consider before setting up or buying a pair of binoculars are eye relief and eyecups.

Let’s discuss each of these in detail.

Eye Relief

A binocular comes with two pairs of lenses, ocular lenses and objective lenses.

Ocular lenses are the ones that you place against your eyes. The distance between your eyes and these ocular lenses makes sure that you see a clear image.

The maximum distance at which you can see a good clear image with no blurry edges is called eye relief.

If this ideal distance is not maintained, you will lose parts of the image and possibly a bird if it does not fall in your restricted field of vision.

For an eyeglasses wearer, a binocular with long eye relief is preferred.

Now, what do they mean by long eye relief? A person who wears glasses will obviously cover a greater distance from eyes to the ocular lens than those who do not wear glasses.

If a binocular has an eye relief of 10mm, it is only at this distance that a person can see a full picture.

If you wear glasses, then the chances are that the distance between your eyes and the ocular lenses is greater than 10mm.

Now, if the binocular has an eye relief of 10mm, you will have to bring the ocular lenses closer to your eyes by adjusting the eyecups.  

Even after making maximum adjustments, if the distance between the eyes and the ocular lenses can not be brought down to 10mm, you will not be able to see a full picture.

Hence, it is necessary to pick a pair of binoculars with long eye reliefs if you wear eyeglasses. The most preferred eye relief for glasses wearers is at least greater than 16mm.

Eye Cups

Eyecups play a vital role in forming a clear image with maximum field of vision. This is because it helps in adjusting the eye relief.

There are two types of eyecups, fixed-focus eye cups or twist-up eyecups.

Fixed-focus eyecups are an older version. It comes with a single layer of rubber caps over the cups.

You can simply remove them to decrease the distance between your eyes and the ocular lenses. It does not offer many options for adjustment of eye relief.

On the other hand, twisting eye-cups can easily be adjusted to achieve the optimum distance between your eyes and the ocular lenses.

Some of these modern twist-up or twist-down eyecups come with the ability to stop at a click of your choice. It simply makes a click sound at multiple different lengths.

All you have to do is stop at the click that suits you.

Fixed-focus eyecups are cheaper, while the modern twist-up or twist-down or more convenient to use.

They are also perfect for glasses wearers as you can adjust according to your need.

Knowing what specs to look for before buying a pair of binoculars is half the battle won.

If you wear glasses, you need to look for binoculars with a good eye relief of at least 16mm and good twistable eyecups.

It is, however, better to try them out with your glasses on. Some feel more comfortable with 17mm of eye relief as it also depends on the shape of one’s face.

How to Set Your Binoculars for Birding

Once you have bought the correct binoculars, you are only a step away from enjoying the peace and pleasures of bird-watching.

Hold the binoculars close to your eyes with your elbows close to your body and wrists perpendicular to the binoculars. This is the correct way of holding binoculars.

You do need to extend your binoculars’ eyecups as the distance between your eyes and the glasses already covers the extended length.

However, you can still extend the eyecups if you feel that the eye relief distance is too short.

Now how does one figure out whether the eye relief distance is short or long?

  • If the image you see has blacked out from the rim of your visual field, the eye relief distance is too short.
  • If the image formed is only a portion of the visual field you would otherwise see without binoculars, the distance of the eye relief is too long.

The blacking out of edges when the eye relief distance is short is also called vignetting.

Vignetting is a very common issue with a very simple and easy solution. You just need to extend your eyecups till these blacking out fades and an image with sharp, clear edges is formed.

Vignetting helps you identify short eye relief much more easily than identifying a long eye relief problem.

 For long eye relief problems to be identified, you must compare the image with or without binoculars. Otherwise, you would not even notice it, but you will literally miss out on the big picture.

The last step is focusing just like all bird-watchers, with or without glasses.

Adjust the distance between the barrels to obtain a perfectly round image.

Then adjust the focus by fixating your eyes on a distant object and twisting the center focus wheel to bring this distant object into focus.

Now, this last step in focusing is optional, and it also depends on its availability. You can adjust the focus for each eye independently.

This is called the fine focus. You fix it by alternatively closing one eye and fixing the focus of the other eye.

Voila! You are all set now to relish beautiful birds taking flight in nature.

Final Thoughts

Wearing glasses is hardly an issue when it comes to using binoculars for birding.

You just need to know if binoculars can compensate for the condition you have or not. If not, buying the right binocular is the only thing left to do, and you are good to go.

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