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Binoculars and Bird watching


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To see birds well, to identify them with any certainty, to simply enjoy them in all their stunning detail, you need good birding binoculars. Really good binoculars will last for decades and become a natural extension of your eyes and hands.
Here is a piece of advice for those new to birding: Those old binoculars that have been lying around the house for years will not do. Most will be of low quality, out a alignment, and unsuitable for birding. Directly compare them to entry-level birding binoculars (about 200 usd) and you will be convinced. Birding doesn’t require a big outlay of cash, but this is the place to spend what you can for quality. With good birding binoculars you will see more detail with less eyestrain and "get onto birds" faster. Many people struggle briefly with old or cheap (under 100 usd) binoculars, and some give up birding without ever experiencing the pleasure of looking through good binoculars. Once you know that birding interests you, don’t wait to upgrade.
Choosing Binoculars
Most long-time birders have strong opinions about binoculars which have the best optics, which are the easiest to use, which are overpriced. The list goes on. A good approach to choosing binoculars is to become familiar with the features important to all birders and then make an informed decision within your budget. Definitely try out as many models as you can. Seek out other birder’s advice; field trip participants are often delighted to let you try their binoculars and tell you what they do and don´t like about them. We will mention a few brands and models, but there are many good choices.
Below is a list of features to become familiar with. This is not a treatise on binoculars; our aim is to give you basic information and get on with the birding.
- Magnification All binoculars feature a set of numbers, such as 8 x 32 or 10 x 42. The first number is the magnification (or power) of the binoculars. The second number is the diameter in millimetres of the objective lens (the lens at the front). For instance, 8x binoculars will make the bird you are looking at appear eight times larger compared to your view with the naked eye. For birding, binoculars 7x do not have enough magnification, and anything above 10x is too difficult for most people to hold steady. Of the few zoom models available (with a variable range of magnification), most work well only at the lowest power, and they are overpriced, heavy, and a poor choice.
7x binoculars With the best depth of field (so you don’t have to adjust the focus wheel as much)and the largest field of view (so you see more area), these great for finding and tracking birds in wooded areas. Many birders find them underpowered in some situations.
10x binoculars These provide the largest image of the bird you are looking at. You will see more detail if you can hold them steady enough, for they magnify any vibration or shake more than lower power binoculars. Their field of view is usually less expensive than that of lower power binoculars, so you might have more problems locating birds tracking a nearby bird in motion. As a class, they do not focus as closely and have a shallower depth of field, so you have to adjust the focus more often. They excel in open situations, such as looking at distant shorebirds or raptors.
8x and 8.5x binoculars This is the middle ground and the most popular choice of magnification among birders. The best models rival 7x models in close focus, depth of field, and field of view, and they have an extra bit of magnification.
-Construction The two basic designs for binoculars are porro prism and roof prism. The internal arrangement of prisms accounts for their different shapes; excellent binoculars are manufactured in both styles.
Porro Prism These traditional- looking binoculars have wide-set objective lenses. Porros are less expensive to manufacture, so you can find excellent choices in the low-to mid price range. These designs produce a more three-dimensional image-an attractive, underappreciated feature. However, the design is inherently more fragile and more likely to go out of alignment, and some birders find them uncomfortable to hold.
Roof Prism This style has sleek, straight-through barrels, but on the inside they are actually more complicated. The roof prism design fits most people’s hands better, feels more balanced in use (steadier binoculars mean better image and more detail), and is lighter in weight. Roofs are also more durable and easier to waterproof. The very best and highest priced binoculars employ this design. On the negative side, internally they have more glass surfaces, and lower priced roof prism models are often optically inferior to comparably priced porro prism models.
Image Quality This is hard to quantify and somewhere subjective. When you pick up binoculars you want the image to have a natural restful quality and to be easy to adjust. Some binoculars have “jumpy” images or ones that feel like they are squirming when you pan across the landscape; this is caused by a lack of sharpness at the edge of the field of view. Other defects to avoid are a noticeable color cast to the image and color fringing (as evidenced by multicoloured edges around subjects).To assess image quality, compare similarly priced models side by side.
Image Brightness Image brightness is directly related to the size of the objective lens- the light –gathering lens at the front of the binoculars. Check the size of the objective lens by looking at the second number featured on all binoculars; for example 10 x 42 binoculars have a 42 mm diameter objective lens. The size of the objective lens divides by the power, called the exit pupil (42 + 10 = 4.2 mm), gives a rough estimate of image brightness. Higher numbers are better) Brightness is also affected by the quality of the glass and the coatings. (Fully multicoated lenses are best).
Size and Weight The size of the objective lens is also the variable that most affects both the overall size and the weight of binoculars. For everyday birding, most birders prefer midsize (± 32 mm objective lens) or full size (± 42 mm objective lens) binoculars. Some high quality, midsize binoculars are very close in image quality to comparable full-size ones, and the savings in weight can be substantial-around 20 percent although the prices are about the same. If possible, handle models in both sizes and choose the model that best fits your hands. A midsize model will definitely feel better around your neck. Some very good compacts are available (8 x 20 and 10 x 25 are popular sizes), but few birders use them as everyday binoculars.
Field of view A wider field of view is better. A wide field of view makes it easier to find birds and easier to keep moving birds in view. Most manufacturers label all their birding binoculars as wide angle, but all are not created equal. The standard measure is how many feet from side to side you can see at distance of 1,000 yards. Anything under a 330 –foot field of view starts to feel narrow; a 400-foot field of view feels luxuriously expansive.
Close focus Closer is better. This feature has improved markedly in recent years; a few models allow you to focus on your feet! That might be more than you need, but the growing numbers of birders who also look at butterflies find this highly desirable. At the least, you don’t want to find yourself backing away from a bird so that you can focus on it. That translates into a close focus distance of 10-12 feet; do not accept a distance greater than that. Less than 8 feet is excellent.
Fast focus Preferred by most birders, this feature is easy to check. Start with the binoculars focused as close as possible and then turn the focus wheel until you have focused on a distant object. If you had to turn the wheel much more than a full revolution, the focus is not fast. While you are doing this notice whether your finger falls naturally on the focus wheel; if it doesn’t, try a different model. On some “fast focus” models, the focus wheel has been replaced by a rocker bar. These are useless for birding and impossible to focus accurately.
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