When deciding which pair to bring on an outing, I always consider how shaky the image will be. With higher magnifications, the small movements of your hands are greatly intensified. This can have an annoying, negative impact on the image.
Hand movement is not the only cause of shake. A strong wind can affect the image more than you might think. In windy conditions, even with 6× binoculars, the image can be continuously shaky.
In windy situations, try to find something to use as a windshield, like a tree or wall.
When I occasionally mount my binoculars on a tripod, I’m surprised to see how detailed the images are. This demonstrates how badly shake can affect the image.
In this article, I’ll show you some effective methods for holding binoculars steady. I hope you find a method that works best for you and helps you to enjoy using your binoculars more.
How to stabilize binoculars
No matter how carefully you read the instruction manuals, they usually don’t say anything about how to hold binoculars steadily. So, people tend to hold them every which way. It‘s funny to watch someone holding them with their pinkies out, as if they were singing at karaoke or having tea with the queen (below).
Experienced binocular users know how to hold them steady, minimizing the hand movement that degrades the image so much. I’ll show you how to reduce the tremor from our hands with several pictures.
The basic way to hold binoculars steady
First, you grip the barrel with both hands keeping your upper arms in close. Seen from the side, make a triangle with your elbow, shoulder, and the eyecup (see below).
Usually, we look at objects in front of us, horizontally. So, this is the general method of holding binoculars.
Some people hold binoculars with their elbows apart (see below)
This position makes the binoculars unstable and your arms tired.
Also, gripping the barrel too firmly causes extra hand shake. Hold them gently so that the tremor of your hands is lessened.
Get a support
Mounting binoculars on a tripod works well, but you lose mobility, which is one of the great advantages of binoculars. Look for something you can use as a support.
When I’m using binoculars in a theater, I always put my bag on my lap to support my elbows; this enables me to look through the binoculars for a long time without getting tired.
You can also get a steady view by leaning against something such as a tree, a wall, or a pillar.
In short, with a little common sense, you can use whatever is around you to make your binoculars stable.
Adjust the eyecups properly
Adjusting the eyecups is very important to getting a steady image. If the eye relief is too long and there is too much space between the eyecups and your eyes, the image will be shaky.
It’s ideal if eyecups touch your face gently, which is especially effective when looking upward through the binoculars. Recently, twist-up/down eyecups are most commonly sold.
I recommend that you adjust the height of the eyecups carefully to get a steadier image.
How to hold compact binoculars steady
Some might assume that it’s easier to hold compact binoculars steady compared to regular binoculars; this is not true. In reality, heavier binoculars don’t amplify the small movements of your hands as much.
In my experience, if you hold compact binoculars in the same way as a regular pair, the image will be unsteady.
For compact binoculars, the image will be less shaky if you wrap your hands around the whole body (see below).
How to hold binoculars for astronomy
Stargazing with binoculars can be a lot of fun. The main problem is that bending your neck upward for long periods can get really painful.
In stargazing, it’s even more important to reduce hand movement which can prevent us from seeing the dimmer stars clearly.
One of the most popular ways to hold binoculars steadily is to use a strap around your upper arms. First, put both arms through the strap and place it slightly above your elbows (see below).
Usually, when looking up, raising your elbows makes the image unstable. With the strap, however, both elbows are stable even when you look at objects directly overhead.
If you’re afraid of dropping your binoculars, you can use your belt instead of the strap.
Next, be sure to adjust the eyecups so that they gently touch your face. You will find this very effective in reducing hand movement.
However, there still remains a major problem. Bending your neck for a long time can still be painful.
The best solution is to lie on a foldable reclining chair; this is much more comfortable. Combined with the previous suggestions, a reclining chair enables you to enjoy stargazing for a longer time.
To make full use of the optical performance of your binoculars, learning how to get a steady image is important. To hold binoculars steady, you should try various methods to find what works best for you.
The shake caused by hand movement or a strong wind can negatively affect the image of your binoculars. So, it is important to learn how to hold them steadily.
Make a triangle with your elbow, shoulder, and the eyecup to steady the image. If there is something you can use to put your elbows on or to lean your body against, use it!
When you hold compact binoculars, you should wrap your palms around the barrels to lessen hand shake.
It is very important to reduce shake when using binoculars for astronomy. A strap around your upper arms enables you to see more dim stars without the annoying shake.
If you don’t mind the loss in mobility, a reclining chair is effective for stargazing without a strained neck or excessive shakiness. Tripods can be useful, but looking at objects in a high position can be painful.
Mobility is one of the main advantages of binoculars, so using a tripod can defeat the purpose. To get a steady image, you need to be creative and improvise to find what works best for you.