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Bird Watching Binoculars

Bird watching is a fascinating hobby that can become a lifelong pursuit. While many just like looking at the birds that visit their backyards, others want to learn more about these interesting animals. One of the best ways that you can observe these creatures is with a pair of bird watching binoculars or ‘bins’ as the bird lovers call them.

Of all the people who use binoculars and spotting scopes, birders are probably the most demanding. Birders bird in environments that include deserts at temperatures above 125º, high mountains, dense forests, windy plains, beaches, mudflats, rolling oceans, and the arctic and Antarctic, in sun, rain, fog, and overcast. Birders bird from dawn to dusk, then go out at night to look for owls. Through all of this, birders demand good views of the finest feather details to determine not only the species of the bird, but its age and gender as well. Much of the time, the birds are moving.

The simple answer is to get the best equipment you can afford that fit your birding style and feel right when you use them.  If you're brand new to birding, you have a few options. You can get an inexpensive binocular, borrow a pair from a friend, or you can read  reviews, decide what you like, and get a top quality pair of binoculars to start out with.

A compact model is good if your bird watching includes hiking or going on long distance bird trips where the amount of weight that you carry is a major consideration.

Bushnell Powerview Compact Folding Binoculars 
Image of Bushnell Powerview Binoculars

Bushnell PowerView 12x25 Compact Folding Roof Prism Binoculars (Black) are the best of both worlds, combining contemporary styling and design with traditional Bushnell quality and durability. A variety of styles and features appeals to a wide range of observers from students of nature to concertgoers. Outstanding light transmission through fully coated optics ensures bright, crisp clear viewing.  An excellent value for the general and outdoor use.

Click on the Image to see Buyer's Comments and more Information.

And you will want them to be comfortable in your hands. You will also want them to be comfortable when they’re pressed up to your eyes.

Your binoculars should be able to focus very quickly and up close as well. They must be able to work and allow you to see even in dim lighting.  Dust and moisture shouldn’t be able to cause problems for you when you’re out in the field.

Having a good pair of binoculars can make your bird watching experience much more enjoyable.

There are several things that you should take into considerations before you buy a pair of bird watching binoculars.


Things to look for in a
Good Pair of Bird Watching Binoculars

  1. Power
    The Power (or magnification) should be at least 7. The power is the first number given that describes binoculars.  For example, a "7 X 35" pair of "glasses" will make objects appear as if they are seven times as close as they actually are. Seven-power binoculars are about the minimum needed to see birds well.

    Binoculars 10-power or stronger can be difficult for some birders to hold steady. More magnification results in larger objects in the view and more ability to distinguish detail. It also means that the binoculars will be harder to hold steady, a narrower field of view, and less apparent depth of focus. There are tricks to make it easier to hold binoculars steady, but even 10x may be too difficult for some people to handle.
  2. Object Lens
    The Object Lens number (the second number) should be at least five times larger than the power number.  Such as "35" for a "7 X 35" pair or "40" for an "8 X 40" pair.  This second number describes the diameter, in millimeters, of the large lens that faces the object of interest. The larger this lens is, the greater the amount of light the binoculars allow in and thus the easier it will be to see details in dim light or on a dull-colored bird.
  3. Field of View
    Field of view, stated in feet (or meters) at 1000 yards (or meters), is the width of the scene that is in view. A wide field of view makes it easier to find birds when looking through the binoculars. The trade-off is in loss of the ability to resolve detail. Other factors being equal, lower magnification means wider field of view, but increased eye relief and nearer close focus also narrow field of view. Too wide a field of view will often result in distortion at the edges of the image.

    Look at a sign with large letters. The letters close to the edge of the field of view should appear as sharp and well-formed as the letters in the center of the field of view. Image distortion near the edges is common in cheap binoculars. It's kind of like looking through a fish-eye lens. Look for a pair that has minimal distortion.
    Bushnell PowerView High-Powered Surveillance Binoculars
    Image of Bushnell Powerview Binoculars Bushnell PowerView 20x50 Super High-Powered Surveillance Binoculars with Patented 1-touch InstaFocus system that holds your subject in sharp focus.
    Has 170-foot field of view at 1,000 yards; weighs 30 ounces; limited lifetime warranty
    Click on the Image to see Buyer's Comments and more Information.
  4. Weight and Balance
    They should be light enough so you can use them for two hours without tiring or getting aching muscles.  If they are too heavy you might end up with a sore neck because your binoculars act like a heavy yoke.

    Weight is often overrated in binocular specs. Today's construction materials are lighter and stronger than ever before. With some mid-priced, bright, quality, 10x50 binoculars weighing less than 30 ounces, any able-bodied adult should be able to handle them easily. Unless you are very experienced, you would have a hard time picking up a binocular and telling whether it weighed 28 ounces or 32. Even over a day's use, it is doubtful most people would know the difference.

    A real concern should be balance. A well balanced binocular should put very little stress on your arms, wrists, and hands. A poorly balanced pair, even if it is lighter, will strain your muscles
  5. Focusing Speed
    The focusing mechanism should be easy to adjust. focusing can be a joy or a pain. The keys to a good focusing binocular are speed and precision.

    If you can't change focus quickly, you'll miss the bird. A good focusing mechanism will go from close focus to infinity in a full turn (360º) or less
  6. Coatings
    When you look at the large objective lenses a foot away, they should reflect a bluish or purplish color.  This means the lenses are color-coated which reduces internal glare and increases the amount of light that gets to your eyes. This coating should be free of any blotches or scratches.
  7. Eye Distance
    You should be able to move the barrels of the binoculars close enough together so the image you see merges into a single, clear image in a single circle. If the image isn't singular or clear, the binoculars may be out of alignment or the eyepieces may not come close enough together to accommodate the distance between your eyes. These two problems can cause eye strain and severe headaches.
  8. Eyeglasses
    If you wear prescription glasses your binoculars should have rubber eye cups that fold back. This lets you to put your glasses against the eyepieces and gives you a larger field of vision.

    If you are nearsighted or farsighted, you can use your binoculars without wearing glasses and the focus will compensate. However, if you have astigmatism, you will need to use your glasses.
  9. Close Focus
    All binoculars can focus at infinity. The real trick in binocular design is in how closely it can be made to focus. Any birder (or butterflyer) who started out with a cheap pair of binoculars has experienced standing 10 or 15 feet behind the rest of the group to look at a bird that was inside their close focus capability.

    General-purpose binoculars have a close focus around 20 to 25 feet. A good birding binocular should have a close focus of 10 feet.  Some binoculars can not focus this close, so you may miss birds in a nearby bush.
  10. Weatherproofing
    Weatherproofing ranges from none to shower proof to waterproof to nitrogen purged. Waterproof sealing is done with rubber "O" rings. Active birders should get nitrogen purged waterproofing, whether they live in a humid climate or not. Nitrogen purging can also keep out dust, sand, or anything else that can get inside the binoculars. That's why most birders prefer "weatherproofing".
  11. Body (Prism) Design
    This is one of the most basic choices in choosing your binocular.
    • Porro prism binoculars have an angled design. When they stand on their barrels the figure M can be seen. The focusing mechanism which is an external wheel moves the eyepieces along an external barrel.

      Porro Prism binoculars are less expensive than roof prism binoculars. You can get the same optical quality for significantly less money. However, they are heavier and harder to weatherproof.
    • Roof prism binoculars have 2 straight side by side barrels. When they stand on the barrels the figure H can be seen. Roof prism binoculars have internal focusing, but you need to adjust the focus with an external knob or wheel.

      A Roof Prism binocular of the same optical quality will be lighter and have fewer problems. Even though they cost more, they will probably be more rugged, and in the long run, they may also be more cost effective.


Digital Camera Binoculars

Finally, there is a special kind of bird watching binoculars that combines a digital camera with binoculars. You can focus on you bird subject and record a digital image at the same time.

There are many models available and the Celestron VistaPix  LCD Digital Camera Binoculars is a nice pair, having good optics and camera features.

Celestron VistaPix 8x32 2.0MP LCD Digital Camera Binoculars
Celestron VistaPix 8x32 2.0MP (3.0 interpolated) LCD Digital Camera Binoculars
Binocular and Digital Camera Combination; Gold rubber-coated texture for a comfortable grip; Continuous video capability; Tripod adaptable; Plug and Play - with mass storage, no drivers are necessary; Print out images quickly and easily; 8 or 10x zoom.
Click on the Image to see Buyer's Comments and more Information.

Your bird watching hobby was never so easy and fun than when you have a good pair of bird watching binoculars in your hands.

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