Are these design features only a matter of preference?
Could the open-bridge design just be a new sales pitch?
Are there any legitimate benefits to either design?
When choosing the right binocular for you, you might want to consider what type of bridge you're getting in the buy. It could determine how you hold the binoculars, how heavy it is, or simply how aesthetically-pleasing the binoculars are.
Stick with us as we explore this often overlooked feature!
What is a Binocular Bridge?
This part of the binocular contains the hinge assembly that connects two monocular barrels together to construct binoculars and adjust for IPD. It houses the focus mechanism, and bridge strength and assembly often determines a binoculars constructional integrity. The bridge will also have the tripod mounting attachment where you can thread the adapter. This may be found in between the barrels on the bridge or on the underside of the bridge.
Binocular Bridge Types
It's getting more difficult nowadays to determine various bridge designs just by looking at them since styles are evolving and have been changing drastically just within the last 15 years. However, you will always be able to identify the designs if you know what you're looking for. Here's the various types of bridge systems that you should know about.
1. Traditional Bridge
Most Porro prism and many roof prism binoculars will fall into this category, and many binocular users will be familiar with this style. This type of bridge is often one large single hinge that lends to its "bulky" aesthetics and is associated with closed bridge binoculars like this Celestron Cavalry 7x50 GPS Porro prism binocular.
It ensures constructional integrity to provide ultimate strength and durability even with harsh use. A roof prism with the same single hinge and closed-bridge design will look like this Leupold 10X42 BX-1 McKenzie binocular.
2. Single-Hinge Bridge
The single hinge system is associated with closed-bridge binoculars.
3. Closed-Bridge Design
These binoculars can have both single and double hinge systems. This might sound blasphemous since it's mostly associated with a single hinge binocular. The closed bridge of the binocular can be large and bulky, and it has no open spaces.
Back to the double-hinge, closed-bridge binocular, this design is often seen on compact and folding binoculars like this Swarovski 10X25 CL Pocket binocular.
- Enclosed housing for focus system
- Concealed hinge
- Typically more robust
- May be better to carry for larger hands
- Compatible with both single and double hinges
- May allow for a closer IPD range
- More affordable than open-bridge binoculars
- Can be heavier than open-bridge designs
- Aesthetically they can be bulky
4. Double-Hinge Bridge
Double hinge bridges are usually associated with open bridge designs. However, compact binoculars break the rules as seen with the above-mentioned Swaro CL Pocket and this Tasco Essentials 10X25 compact binocular, they can be closed bridge too.
Double-hinge systems on a closed bridge allow for the ability to fold your binoculars into an even more compact optic for easy packing and stowing away in a pocket.
However, the double-hinge, open-bridge binoculars have definitely flooded the market for the last decade. They're becoming even more popular. This leads us to the following open-bridge design.
5. Open-Bridge Design
This is also known as the double-hinge bridge because the barrels are connected with two hinges allowing for an open space between the barrels large enough to wrap your hand around as seen on these Burris Signature HD 10x42, Carson RD 10x50, and Swarovski EL 42 10X42 binoculars. This design is seen on roof prism binoculars.
There is often a connecting piece between the objective bells to stabilize and balance the weight of the frame. This connecting piece also features the threading for a tripod adapter. The open bridge design on this Carson RD 8x26 binocular shows that even the already compact binoculars can sport the slimming profile.
- Reduces overall weight of optic
- Provides a slimming profile
- Allows for wrap-around grip on a barrel
- May be easier to carry for smaller hands
- May provide more comfortable, ergonomic handling
- Provides extended range of grips for multiple users
- More expensive than closed-bridge binoculars
6. Modern/Single Hinge
This design has become one of the new and modern styles on binoculars. The bridge with the focusing assembly is situated higher up the barrels and is short in size. It's funny because they feature the benefits of an open bridge design only because they allow for a wrap-around grip. But, they lack the stabilizing hinge connection and they actually sport the single hinge design with a closed-bridge.
Which is Best For You - Open or Closed-Bridge?
There are real advantages to both designs. Open bridge binoculars aren't anything new despite heavy marketing in recent days. Some old-school users prefer the closed-bridge binocular because it's what feels natural in their hands. Those same people, having tried some poorly-made open-bridge binoculars, may have been turned off the design. However, there are quality open-bridge binoculars out there that may have you think again before you boycott them all.
Open-bridge binoculars may be for you if you have rather small hands and want the convenience of less weight and being able to hold your binocular with one hand. Because the frame is balanced and lightweight, it's easier on your wrists and hands to use for prolonged glassing sessions. It also allows you the ability to use an extended range of holding your binoculars.
However, closed-bridge binoculars may be for you if you usually "wear" your binocular, say on a strap, where you won't always be carrying it with one hand. While the lighter weight may be in the open-bridge binocular's ballpark, more and more closed-bridge binoculars are shedding weight to provide a more compact and user-friendly design. They're usually known to be more robust and durable than open-bridge ones. Lastly, some high-end binoculars feature thumb grips for increased optical performance and aid correct handling to better balance your binocular during use to prevent hand or wrist strain.
To be Closed or Open-Minded?
At the end of the day, only you can decide which type of bridge design works for you. Of course, an open-bridge binocular will do nothing for you if you're using inferior glass with unforgiving eye relief and poor construction. The same goes for a well-built closed-bridged binocular.
Maybe it's best to stay open-minded about the design and always look to the factor that matters most - glass quality. A closed-bridge binocular with great glass is always a value buy and the easiest to afford. If you're going to pay extra for the open-bridge design, you may as well make it worth it and ensure you're getting great glass in the mix too!
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Simon is an avid outdoor enthusiast who is passionate about bringing you the most up to date, accurate & understandable information on hunting, optics, and the outdoors.