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Compass in Binoculars | Optics Trade Debates

Welcome to Optics Trade debates. In each episode, we talk about a different topic and try to answer the most common questions we receive about it. Today we are going to discuss compass in binoculars.

Compasses are found only on marine binoculars. Before binoculars included compasses, sailors couldn’t get an accurate reading of their compass, because they were using two devices. It’s a lot easier to get bearings and accurate readings with binoculars that include a compass.

Most marine binoculars in use today feature an integrated compass. There are two versions of compasses in binoculars: the analog display, and the digital display.

The analog version is a lot more common. It features a full compass in one of the barrels. The downside is that it covers a part of the field of view and some people find it difficult to use.

To get a reading on the digital variants, you push a button and it’s displayed in the middle of the field of view. So the reading is displayed only when needed. The downside is that the display usually has a lower light transmission rate and the difference can be noticeable.

These compasses are usually more expensive but it’s a lot easier to observe through them. A battery is needed in order for the compass to work. Advanced binoculars can even display things like the current air pressure, temperature…

Binoculars that come with a compass can have it illuminated or non-illuminated. All digital models fall into the category of illuminated compasses. On the other hand, the analog models can be illuminated or non-illuminated. Analog compasses that are not illuminated are visible only in the daytime, while the illuminated compasses are also visible in darkness. The illuminated models also need a battery to function.

Digital models are calibrated for the region in which they are sold and need to be recalibrated if used in another part of the world. More premium models feature self-calibration.

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Explanation of the term ‘compass’ on our website:

Built-in compass is intended almost exclusively for marine use. There are two types available. First one has a digital display of compass in the middle of the field of view. The second, most common compass system is permanently seen at the bottom. They can also be illuminated or not.


Compass showing permanently in the viewing field (left) and compass with digital display at the middle (right)
Source: Minox and Steiner

Products mentioned:
Binoculars with Compass:



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