How to Use Binoculars

As one of the most important tools any birdwatcher can carry, the humble pair of binoculars is a vital part of the hobby. They allow ease of identification, make it simpler to locate birds in the first place, and allow observation from distance that are unlikely to cause the birds to panic and take flight. Yet despite these intrinsic benefits and the rising cost of a good pair of optics, many birdwatchers – new and old – suffer from a lack of knowledge of how to use, set up and maintain their binoculars correctly.

The first rule of using a pair of binoculars is to ensure you use the neck strap. It secures the binoculars to your body, keeping them close to hand while still allowing you to work on other tasks. It also reduces the risk of loss or damage. Be aware though – they can put strain on the neck if they are too heavy or if the strap is poorly-fitted. Many birders like to use a binocular harness to distribute the weight of their optics over the shoulders and back. This is a popular choice amongst birdwatchers who like to use heavier, larger binoculars.

Learn to use your binoculars’ different focusing mechanisms. Most binoculars that are especially geared towards birdwatchers have two special focusing mechanisms – a central wheel used for focusing the lenses, and a diopter adjuster, designed to compensate for the differences between your right and left eyes. Unless you have perfect 20/20 vision, your eyes are going to have slight differences in the way they focus, perceive distance, and sharpen images. Make sure that both parts of the binocular are correctly focused before use, and ensure that they are correctly-spaced for your eyes. Focus on an object in the distance, and use the central wheel to bring it in to clear view. Next, close one eye, and use the diopter setting to sharpen the view. Repeat for the other eye.

Keep your binoculars clean. No matter how super-duper they may be, all binocs will need cleaning at some point in their lives. Cleaning the lenses is something that should be done meticulously and carefully, using the correct tools – don’t just wipe them with a cloth as this can severely scratch the coatings. Purchase a cleaning kit from your local shop, and ask for a demonstration on how to use it. Take the time to study the process properly. Start by removing dust with a compressed air canister or fine brush, then wet a lens cloth or lens tissue with cleaning solution and move it in slow circular movements to clean the remaining dust. Dry with a dry section of the lens cloth.

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