Binoculars

One of the first bird watching accessories you will wish to process after an I.D. book is highly lightly to be a pair of binoculars to get close up views of birds, you will have a wide range of manufactures to choose from with a few different designs so what should you consider when deciding which to purchase.
First of all you need to decide what you wish to see through your new optics; binoculars generally have from a 6 to 12 times magnification the larger the enlarged image the heavier the binoculars will be, the other thing is binoculars generally are only useful for observing birds up to about 100 meters and ideally 50 m with any clarity after that distant you are better switching to a telescope with greater magnifications generally starting at 15 x and often up to 60 x. The other use of binoculars is to get close views of butterflies and other insects such as dragonflies, if this is something you wish to use your glasses for then check how close they will focus down too.

Photo of a distant Skylark in grass, taken by P Cumberland.
Skylark, notice the out of focus in the foreground and background, this shows the effect of depth of field which you get with long focus lengths, this effect will especially be seen when using telescopes not so much with binoculars.
Stag Beetle picture taken by P. Cumberland.
Male Stage Beetle, in a raise posture. Binoculars will enable you to get in close to subjects without disturbing it, so you can see detail that it is likely you would otherwise miss out on.
Photography 
taken by P. Cumberland. Head study of a melanistic Pheasant.
Melanistic Male Pheasant, you will be able to get in close to study the birds feather structure with binoculars or when the birds are further away with a telescope, and see detail that without getting close up views is not visual possible to appreciated with the naked eye in the field.
For Bird watching in my opinion the two main considerations should be the weight and the magnification you wish subject to your requirements. As to the weight you need to remember you could be carrying them around all day along with other essential items as lunch, raincoat, etc. with them hanging around your neck all day, can cause strain problems if your muscles are not used to carrying any weights, the magnification in my opinion increase your understand of the feather structure, and colour patterns of the bird, but starts to blur out the further away you get from the subject because there is a smaller image appearing through the lenses.
One thing you should always do before buying is to try out a number of different binoculars which are often referred to as glasses, you can do this at either your local shop or on one of the many occasions when manufactures exhibit and allow you to try plus being able to ask any questions about their products you may have. The best for Birdwatchers is the Rutland Birdfair in August, were all the major optic companies servicing the birding community exhibit, plus a great day out for anyone interest in Birdwatching, personally I need at least two days there.
I have often had people that have never used binoculars before say they cannot see anything, generally this is because they have not set then up for their eyes, remember to asked how the glasses you are using are set up when you try them out, generally one of the pair of barrel of the optics to the eye can be rotated, so close the other eye and focus by twisting that adjustment, generally your left eye, on a subject, about 30m away, then open both eyes and with the centre adjuster between the two barrels, focus both eyes again at about 30m, you should then be able to quickly get a rough focus at most distances you will be using the binoculars for and only need to fine tune with the centre focus to sharpen the image up.
The other problem is finding the bird in the binoculars even more so with telescopes because of the smaller angle of vision, the best way to sort this out is look at the bird, and without taking your eyes of the bird lift the glasses to your eyes moving the glasses till you see the subject, with a little practice you should soon be picking out birds whilst in flight. If you are having problems when you first start, then practice by using a tree, then a bush and finally a flower, these static subjects will not move away as the birds often do.
You will find binoculars will have an 8 x 32 or 12 x 50 set of numbers; the first number is the magnification of the particular binoculars the second number is the diameter of the lens, by dividing the lens diameter by the magnification you get a light factor number the 32/8 is 4, any number over 3.5 will give you a good degree of light to produce a reasonable image during normal daylight, the higher the number the duller the light can be to give a clear image, the other factor that effects the quality of the light is the quality of the optic, which generally improves when you pay more, but in my opinion today’s optics, from the birding companies are all very good and it only pays having the top end, when birding either early morning or late evening and on the few very dull days we sometimes get in winter. The other benefit of the more expensive binoculars is that they generally have a closer focusing ability then the cheaper ones. Other then that it is down to design and feel that works best for you. I have one of the top end Telescopes and a couple of low end binoculars. One pair being an 8 x 32 the other a 10 x 50.


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