Bird Watching Binoculars: Do’s and Don’ts

Expanding the eyes of a birder, binoculars are quite helpful, as they possess the power to greatly enhance the overall results of a bird outing. Decent binoculars make for decent birding, while poor binoculars can create missed opportunities with birds, as well as intense headaches that come from double vision, blurry images, and straining of the eye. There is no denying the difference felt between a pair of binoculars that cost about $60 and a pair that goes for $900.

There are various shapes and sizes that binoculars come in and additional features noted as “close focus,” “roof prism,” and “armor coated.” Usually, it isn’t necessary to waste too much time trying to figure out what all of this means, as if you are really into bird watching, you can gain a better understanding at another time. Perhaps, you will later trade for a better pair. Depending on your location, an appropriate pair of binoculars will cost about $60.

As you begin to buy your first pair of binoculars, keep the following “do’s” in mind:

  1. The power (or magnification) of binoculars should be at least 7-power. To identify the power, look at the first number arranged in the numerical notation regarding a pair of binoculars. For instance, a “7 X 35” pair of “glasses” allows items to appear as if they are seven times closer than they really are. Seven-power binoculars are considered the lowest requirement in order to catch a good view of birds. Keep in mind that binoculars with 10-power or stronger are sometimes hard for many birders to keep stable.
  2. The second number (“35” for a “7 X 35” pair of glasses) is at least five times as large as the power. Examples of this include “7 X 35” or “8 X 40.” It is the second number that characterizes the diameter (set in millimeters) of the large lens that will face the objects you wish to look at. This is also called the “objective” lens. When this lens is larger in number, you will notice that more light shows through in the binoculars. This makes it much easier to view the details of a bird with dull colors or specimens while in a low level of light.
  3. Binoculars should not be so heavy that you are unable to carry them around or become difficult to maintain for hours at a time. The weight matters, as some people can experience a hunchback because their binoculars are yanking at their neck and back.
  4. Try flexing the barrels of the binoculars to see how easy this task is accomplished. In order to test out the flexibility, you should spread the barrels as far as they can go and then hold onto just one of the barrels. The free barrel should not slip or fall out of the spread position.
  5. Color coating is another aspect of binocular. To find out if your lenses are color-coated, hold your binoculars a foot away and note if the large objective lenses show a reflection that is bluish or purplish in color. If so, they are color-coated, which actually lessens internal glare and elevates the amount of light that will come in contact with your eyes. It is important to also inspect the lenses to make sure coatings are blotch- and scrape- free.
  6. See if you can bring the barrels of the binoculars close together where the image you detect merges into a solitary, lucid image captured within one perfect circle. If the image is not one or lacks clarity, then the binoculars could have slipped alignment or the eyepieces are not coming together enough to accommodate your eyes. Unfortunately, these two instances can cause strain of the eye, as well as penetrating headaches.
  7. If you wear prescription eyeglasses, your binoculars should offer rubber eyecups that fold back. This permits the wearing of eyeglasses that allow you to come closer to the eyepieces of your binoculars. This will produce a much better field of view.
  8. If your binoculars cannot generate a clear image of an objective positioned only 20 feet away, take notice that some models of binoculars are not able to focus on objects situated so close. This means that you may miss out on that warbler or sparrow that hides in the bush close by.
  9. Position your binoculars on a sign with large lettering. Ask yourself if the letters close to the edge of the field of view are precise and clear as the letters located in the center of the field of view. In poor binoculars, the distortion of an image positioned towards the edge of the binoculars is not uncommon. It is comparable to looking through a fish-eye lens. Looking for binoculars with minimal distortion is highly recommended.
  10. Before selecting a pair of binoculars, make sure you can zero in on a license plate or small sign found about two blocks away. The numbers and letters should be clear and if not, try a different pair.

When purchasing binoculars, consider the following list of “don’ts:”

  1. Do not purchase binoculars that are compact or pocket-sized as your main choice for birding. These binoculars usually measure 8 x 21 or 10 x 21. While the size and weight are appealing, and the optics probably decent, it is a known fact that compacts possess a lower quality image when compared to mid- or full-size binoculars. Another disadvantage is that most compacts produce a narrow field of view, which makes it harder to find and keep track of birds.
  2. Do not purchase zoom binoculars, as they are often of less quality.
  3. Do not search for guidance regarding the purchase of optics from someone who doesn’t bird. This includes hunters, hikers, and boaters, who buy binoculars for different reasons. Looking at a bird is not the same as searching for a deer in the brush. Additionally, pocket binoculars are reasonable for those scanning the savannah for wildlife, but are not appropriate for a birder. Marine binoculars may offer sharpness and brightness in their images, but are way too heavy and bulky for a birder to tote all day long.
  4. Do not purchase binoculars until you have tested them out. It is important to make sure that they actually deliver comfort when held. You must look through them in order to deduce whether or not you will receive a clear view without interruption. You will find that various models accommodate different people, and that each and every instrument carries its own variations. When ordering binoculars in the mail or over the Internet, the company should allow exchanges.

Another thing pertaining to binoculars – you don’t always have to own the best specs for bird watching. Any pair of binoculars will suit you much better rather than having none at all. The main objective is to own something that allows magnification of the birds you intend on enjoying. If you follow the above tips, you should be able to locate the best pair of binoculars for watching birds that your money can buy.

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