Bird Watching Binoculars
For the serious birdwatcher, there are really only two visual aids that are remotely worth considering, binoculars and spotting scopes. For this article, we will be focusing on the former. Binoculars are practically synonymous with birdwatching, and the general public will normally assume anyone seen with a pair to be a birdwatcher. Despite the burgeoning popularity of the spotting scope, binoculars still remain the undisputed king of birdwatching visual aids.
Made from two identical, mirror-symmetrical telescopes placed side-by-side and aligned together, binoculars grant birdwatchers an incredible depth of field and magnification while retaining the eye’s ability to see objects in three dimensions, something which a monocular telescope is unable to do.
The only thing the beginner should really concern themselves with when they first take up the hobby is making sure they get hold of a pair of reasonably inexpensive optics that that feature variable focus, don't weigh more than a kilogram and give a clear, sharp view. Make sure you try out the binoculars before you buy – dependent on your eyesight, a given pair of binoculars may not be the best option for you to pick. Some birdwatching binoculars work better with spectacles, for example, while some make it almost impossible to use the two types of optics together.
As you get more advanced, you can begin to worry about things like magnification and objective lens size. Objective lens size is a fairly simple choice to make - the larger the lens, the more light will be collected and the sharper the final image will be. However, large lenses also tend to lead to bulkier construction, and can be less manageable.
Magnification and zoom require a bit more thought and consideration. The theory behind this conundrum is simple - the higher the magnification of the binoculars, the further the distance visible. However, as you zoom progressively closer, the field of view becomes more restricted, and the image may not be quite as clear as a lower magnification could provide. A high magnification is therefore not necessarily a better option, particularly for spotting birds on an initial sweep of an area. Finding a happy medium is therefore a key part of choosing a good pair of birdwatching binoculars – many people like to combine a low-magnification, large objective lens pair of binoculars with a birdwatching spotting scope for more close-up work. However, if your budget will only stretch to one of the two, go for a mid-range pair of binoculars as they are easier to manage, quicker to use, and cause less eye and neck strain.
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