8×32 vs 8×42 binoculars: Which one should you pick

8x binoculars are the favorite ones for those who want a compact and easy-to-carry instrument.  At the 8x level, most people consider 8×32 vs 8×42 binoculars.  This article indicates the pros and cons of each type so that you can choose the binoculars that match your needs.

What do 8×32 vs 8×42 binoculars mean?

The first number indicates the magnification, showing how large objects appear when looking through the binoculars. The second number means the diameter of the objective lens or the size of the lens. According to the figure, 8×32 binoculars have a magnification of 8x and the size of the lens is 32 millimeters. Similarly, 8×42 binoculars show 8x magnification and a 42-millimeter diameter of the objective lens. 

Some examples of 8×32 binoculars are Carl Zeiss-Victory SF 8×32 binoculars, Leupold-Golden Ring 8×32 HD binoculars, and Swarovski-CL Companion 8×30 B. 

Some examples of 8×42 binoculars are Carl Zeiss-Victory SF 8×42 binoculars, Leica-Ultravid 8×42 HD binoculars, and Bushnell Forge 8×42 binoculars. 

8x32 vs 8x42 binoculars
Comparison between 8×32 vs 8×42 binoculars. Source: Wirecutter

What are the differences between 8×32 and 8×42 binoculars?

I will first present a broad comparison of these two types of binoculars before delving further into each feature. Finally, I compare how well 12×42 and 12×50 binoculars serve general purposes.

8×32 binoculars 8×42 binoculars
Size and weight 0.98 lb

More lightweight, too small

1.38 lb

A bit heavier, easy to carry and use

Viewing distance Both have the same viewing distance with 8x magnification power
Image stability Both ensure high image stability
Field of view FOV is almost the same 
Image brightness & Low light performance Less notable light-gathering ability superior in performing under low-light conditions and producing brighter images. 
Exit pupil EP = 4 mm EP = 5.25 mm

Size and weight

To compare size and weight, it is easy to see that 8×42 binoculars are bigger and heavier than 8×32 because the diameter of the lens is 10 millimeters larger.  However, in general, both models are remarkably light in weight as a result of the magnesium alloy chassis with a weight of 0.98 lb and 1.38 lb respectively. 

Although the strap lugs on both models tend to press against the hand while using the focusing wheel due to their location, I still found both models to be pleasant to carry and use. In the 8×42, these are rather simple to maneuver around, but in the 8×32, which is smaller and so limits the user’s hand positioning, they are more challenging to avoid. 

The size and weight of binoculars do not depend only on the figures of magnification and size of the lens but also on the type of prism. There are two types of prism called Roof and Porro. Porro prisms are the more traditional ones and these are seen in older, binoculars with a zig-zag shape while Roof prisms are the newer option. Porro prisms have less light loss, so the images have good contrast and are clear but they are heavier. On the other hand, They are lighter than Porro prisms and more compact. This makes the binoculars lighter and easier to carry.

Viewing distance of 8×32 vs 8×42 binoculars

The magnification of a pair of binoculars determines the viewing distance. Binoculars with an 8x magnification, such as the 8×32 and 8×42, magnify objects 8 times more than they would appear to be when viewed through your eyes alone. The magnification number does not directly relate to the exact viewing distance, however, the farther the view distance, the higher the magnification number.

As 8×32 and 8×42 binoculars have the same magnification, these two have the same viewing distance. 8x is not a big magnification number, thus, it does not represent as good a viewing distance as 10x or 12x binoculars. 

Image stability 

Magnification has an impact on a binocular’s capacity to maintain a good-quality image. The stability of the image decreases with increasing magnification. To see details, you must keep the optics steady. As the magnification goes up, the view seems to move more.

Magnification of 8x is small, therefore, both 8×32 vs 8×42 binoculars ensure high image stability. When using these 8x binoculars, a tripod is not really necessary to maintain the image quality like 12x binoculars. That’s why for outside activities which require carrying binoculars all day such as birdwatching or hunting, 8x ones are preferred. 

Source: aBinoculars.com

Field of view (FOV)

The area you can see with your binoculars is measured by the field of vision. The two most common ways to express it are as an angular field of view and a linear field of view. The true angle perceived by the optics is known as the angular field of vision, and it is typically expressed in degrees. The area visible is measured in feet and expressed as the linear field of vision at a distance of 1000 yards. You can see a larger region if the angular or linear field of vision is larger. Simply multiply the angular field by 52.5 to determine the linear field of view from the angular field.

Magnification is connected to the field of view. A larger magnification typically results in a smaller field of view. When you boost the scope’s power, you’ll be able to view more specific features of your target or scene, but you’ll see less of an area. When you lower the magnification to a low setting, the field of view will expand to allow you to see more of your surroundings. However, not all 8x binoculars have the same field of view. In a particular line of binoculars, such as Vortex Diamondback, Zeiss Terra, or any line of binoculars, the smaller, lighter-weight 8×32 version will have a wider field of view than the 8×42. 

In general, 8×32 and 8×42’s FOV is almost the same due to the same magnification. 

Image brightness and low-light performance

The size of the lens affects the brightness of the image. The image brightness improves with a larger lens size. Because it is more effective at capturing light, an objective lens with a larger diameter will result in brighter, higher-quality images. 

Between 8×32 vs 8×42 binoculars, 8×42 has a larger diameter of the objective lens so this type of binoculars is superior in performing under low-light conditions and producing brighter images. 

Source: Ebay

Exit pupil (EP)

The exit pupil is the name given to the circular light beam that emerges from the optical eyepiece. If you hold your binoculars at arm’s length and look through them, you can make out a dazzling circle of light. That circle of light is the size of the exit pupil. It is calculated by dividing the optical power by the objective diameter. For instance, 8×32 binoculars have the EP = 32/8= 4

The exit pupil has often been used as a measure of how bright a binocular is, under the premise that the larger the exit pupil, the more light there is coming out of the eyepiece. According to the formula, EP of 8×32 is 4 while EP of 8×42 is 5.25. Therefore, 8×42 binoculars demonstrate better performance in image brightness.

When to use 8×32 vs 8×42 binoculars?

For stargazing

For stargazing, because the distance between our location to the stars is too far, 8x binoculars are not suggested due to the small magnification. Meanwhile, 12x or 15x ones are much better at stargazing, which allows you to zoom in more times to see stars more clearly. However, if you are considering choosing between 8×32 vs 8×42, I would recommend 8×42 because a higher size of the lens can catch more light at night.

For hunting

For hunting purposes, 8x binoculars are an ideal option because they are compact, easy to carry, and have stable images as well. Your choice depends on how you go hunting. If you go hunting with a gun, you can shoot the prey from a faraway distance, thus, a binocular with larger magnification may help you catch the goal better. However, bow hunting does not allow you as far distance as hunting with a gun so you do not need a large magnification binocular. Moreover, your type of prey also affects your option of binoculars. If you hunt night animals under low light conditions, 8×42 binoculars will gather light and perform better. 

For birdwatching

About birdwatching, you should depend on your chosen birds to get the type of binoculars. If you want to see birds active at night such as owls, Northern mockingbirds, nighthawks, and night herons, it is suggested to choose 8×42 due to its low light performance. For birds singing and flying during the daylight, both 8×32 and 8×42 are suitable. 

For sightseeing

Those who choose binoculars to go sightseeing want to see panoramic views. Both 8×32 and 8×42 have the same magnification so there is no difference in the coverage of the image although 8×42 ones still show the advantages of image brightness. 

For concerts/ theaters

8x binoculars are such a match for outdoor concerts and theaters because it is lightweight, and easily stored in bags or pockets. The darkness of nighttime shows and concerts calls for binoculars with a bigger exit pupil that provides a bright view. Thus, 8×42 is recommended for night performances. 


In conclusion, although the objective lens diameters of 12×42 and 12×50 binoculars are different, they have the same magnification. Each of them is therefore appropriate for a particular purpose. To find the best pair of binoculars, take into account your needs, such as light brightness, weight, or image stability.