opera_theatral glasses

Opera glasses vs binoculars

A drama of a famous author is performed on the stage and yesterday you have bought the ticket to get the pleasure of it. To the right, you notice small elegant binoculars, shining noble purple brightness in the hand of a lady. You both sit in the same row, but she sees everything in detail, and you only the general. What’s this? Do you really miss all the fun? The devil is in the details!

At the end of the article you can see our video review. Click to pass!

What are the opera glasses called?

Going to the theatre you have a choice:

  • huge binoculars with a wide angle of view to keep an eye on the whole stage
  • to get small sportive binoculars with a narrow angle of view and which does not fit your suit or a dress
  • to choose small pretty binoculars, also called opera glasses, fitting the situation as well as your costume. It will allow you to keep up with all the performance, laugh at sudden jokes and to grasp, what the antihero conceive.

In other words, opera glasses are binoculars that suitable for opera, theatre etc. They are usually made of metal and plastic. The body is covered with shiny purple, white, gold or silver vanish or enamel. They are made in retro style and you can easily imagine it in a hand of a noble old lady or a young woman from the last century. Some of them are supplied with a handle, like a lorgnette, the others have a metallic chain, and also you can find the models with a small torch, designed to highlight the chair number if you are late and the main lighting is switched off already.

Why it is better to use opera glasses in a theatre? Or opera glasses versus binoculars

First of all, I have to say that everything should be used according to its destination. Opera glasses did not appear yesterday – there is a long tradition of using. Therefore, no one type of binoculars doesn’t fit better for the performances than opera glasses. Let’s try to understand, why.


As you probably could notice, opera glasses have not high magnification. Normally it’s 3–4x. You can think: it’s too low, I have seen 15–30x binoculars! But in fact, you don’t need more being inside, even 5x magnification will be uncomfortable. In addition, in such a compact design, the increase of magnification will cause the constriction of a visual field.

Brightness and field of view

Opera glasses are designed specially to make the angle of view wider than regular small binoculars with the roof-prisms (one of the ways of designing which makes binoculars smaller). It’s possible because their objective lenses are bigger than the eyepiece lenses. It also allows opera glasses to let more light through and make the image brighter than regular roof-prisms binoculars could have. The brightness of an image is critical in the twilight of a theatre.


The purpose of opera glasses determines its appearance. It was not intended for observations of wild animals lying in a Savannah grass, nor for astronomical observations or even for discovering sinister harpies under the roof of a gothic cathedral. Therefore, it should be small enough to fit in a pocket or in a clutch bag, it also should have coated lenses, and its appearance should be relevant to the situation. All these factors cause the price, which is not high (20–40$ in the main).

Probably, you’ve seen different versions of opera glasses. Let’s describe them:

  • Simple

The model represents just two optical tubes, connected by a focus ring. Normally magnification is 3x, lenses diameter is 25 mm. Without a chain or a handle.

  • Opera glasses with a chain

This model has a metallic gold or silver chain. As you can hang this one on the neck or your arm, you’ll never lose it.

  • Opera glasses with a handle (on a stick)

This one is equipped with a handle like an ancient lorgnette. The edition for lovers of exquisite ancientry. A handle is folding, after the performance, you can easily fold it and put opera glasses in a little clutch bag.

  • Opera glasses with light

Among the other models, you can find the variants with a little flashlight. It’s very useful: if you are late and the light in the hall was switched off already, just use it to find your seat! Don’t worry: it’s not too bright, you won’t disturb the others.

  • 4x magnification Opera glasses

You can’t ignore these pretty models with a thickened, rounded body! Why are they such different from the others? It is caused by the specifications: their magnification is 4x, and objective lenses are 30 mm. This one fits for more distant rows.

How do opera glasses work?

If you already have binoculars, there is no need to explain how does it work. Functioning of opera glasses doesn’t differ from each regular binoculars, it will be easy for you. So, what details you should know about how binoculars work?

How to focus opera glasses?

It’s easy. There is a focus ring on a bridge, connecting two optic tubes. Twist it looking through the eyepiece and stop when the image is clear. Opera glasses are constructed with the use of so-called Galilean scheme and have central focusing – it means that you can focus both eyepieces simultaneously.

How to set interpupillary distance?

Binoculars have no size, so you can easily give yours to your children or grandparents. The interpupillary distance can be customized by pushing up/down the optical tubes.


Can I use it wearing eyeglasses?

Yes, you can. A visual surface is located approximately in the same plane as the eyepiece lens, that allows you to look through the eyeglasses comfortably.

How to change the battery of the flashlight?

Some opera binoculars are supplied by a little flashlight, which works on 2 batteries. If they are dead, you should turn of the screw on the opposite side of a flashlight button and extract the batteries.


How to clean the lenses?

The lenses of objectives and eyepieces can also be unscrewed. To clean them, use a special optic cleaning cloth.

As you can see, there is no difficulty in using opera glasses. It’s so because of using the easiest and oldest optic scheme in the construction – Galilean. We can say, that opera glasses are the ancestry of all modern binoculars, such as binoculars for birdwatching, hunting binoculars or astronomical.

You can see our video review of an opera glasses with a chain and light. Have a good time and good luck!

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