Steadying Your Binoculars

The best way to steady binoculars depends on their size; improve the effectiveness and enjoyment of your observing with a few simple tips.

All binoculars will show you more detail in the sky if you can keep them still, either by holding them steadily or by mounting them. Mounted binoculars provide a clearer view, but this can become detrimental to the advantages of binoculars, especially small ones: extreme portability and simple, fast set-up procedure.


As a rule of thumb, for binoculars without angled eyepieces:

Up to 10×50

10x50s can be hand-held steadily by most people, especially if you learn more effective ways to hold them, or if you steady yourself. You can rest your arms,  on fences, tree branches, car roofs, chair armrests  – the list is limited only by your imagination. The simplest effective way to hold small binoculars for anything much above the horizontal is the “Triangular Arm Brace”. With this technique, you hold the binoculars with your index and middle finger around the eyepieces, the other two fingers around the binoculars’ body, and rest the first knuckle of your thumb in the indentations on the outside of your eye sockets (see photograph).

The triangular arm brace steadying technique. Credit: Stephen Tonkin

Up to 20×80

They benefit enormously from being mounted. A very common, but inefficient, solution is to use a camera tripod and head. Sooner or later there will be a territorial dispute between your legs and the tripod’s legs, which becomes even more complicated if you introduce the legs of a seat into the mix, especially with high elevation targets. A simpler solution – which allows seated or semi-reclined observing and also has less impact on portability – is to use a monopod like the Giottos 3920B or Neewer Carbon Fiber, with a Dolica G100 or Studio Assets Magnesium pistol-grip head .

Reclined or standing binocular techniques. Credit: Stephen Tonkin

Larger than 20×80

They must be mounted but, because of their weight, they cannot be safely mounted on a monopod. If they have angled eyepieces, they can be mounted on a tripod and yoke, but the “legs dispute” persists for straight-through binoculars. A sensible alternative is to use a parallelogram mount, which keeps your legs away from the tripod.  Simple parallelogram mounts like the Orion Paragon restrict you to standing and looking back over the tripod but, if the number of mechanical degrees of freedom is increased – such as with the Orion Monster –  observing in a comfortable seat or fully reclined is possible. Luxury!


About Stephen Tonkin

I first tried to use binoculars for astronomy in 1957, when my father took me outside to see if we could spot Sputnik. I was hooked! In 2011, I started The Binocular Sky website, to promote this aspect of astronomy. This led to me being invited to write a monthly Binocular Tour for BBC Sky at Night Magazine, for which I also write equipment reviews and articles on practical astronomy. I also teach astronomy courses, am a STEM ambassador, and do practical astronomy outreach with people of all ages. I am a speaker on the UK astronomy society circuit.

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