Monday, October 8, 2007

About Binoculars

How to Use Binoculars

When I began to bird, I had trouble using binoculars. Here is what I would do: See a bird. Look down at my binoculars. Lift them to my eyes, search all over for the bird that I now could not find to save my life, and then berate myself for losing sight of the bird. Many people in the birding class had the same problem. Our birding prof Bev instructed us all on the simple secret of finding birds with binoculars: Keep your eye on the bird.
Here's how to see a bird through binoculars. Locate a bird, keep looking at the bird, lift your binoculars to your eyes between you and the bird you have not lost sight of because you are keeping your eye on the bird, and you will see the bird. It is habit. Just train yourself to keep looking at the bird. Don't look down. Keep the bird in view as you lift the binoculars. This small habit makes birding less frustrating and lots more fun.
If you use zoom binoculars, remember to keep your zoom set at the lowest magnification so you can easily find the bird. Then zoom in if you need to do so. If you keep your zoom binoculars on the higher magnification, you limit your field of view. The binoculars often will be out of focus when you bring them up to your eyes. Then you will lose time re-focusing. So put them back on the lowest power after you view a bird, and you will be ready for birding action when the next bird flies in.
There are usually two ways to focus on all binoculars. 1) There is usually a way to twist each eye piece to do some basic adjustment for your vision. 2) Then in the center of the binocular, there is usually a dial to bring the object you are viewing into focus.
So when you first get your binoculars, adjust the eye-piece focus first. Then you might never touch it again. However, the dial in the center of the binocular you will use every time you look through your binocular to bring different objects into focus. If your binoculars suddenly seem severely out of focus no matter how you change the center focus, check the eye piece focus and see if it has been changed accidentally. That may solve your problem. If not, you may be able to contact the manufacturer and find a repair shop near you.

How to Choose Binoculars

I bought two sets of binoculars when I first started birding. A simple 7x35 pair which proved adequate, and cheap. But as I birded, I noticed I needed more power to see the birds I wanted to see. So I upgraded to the pair I am using still decades later: Bushnell zoom from 7-21x35.

Not everyone likes zoom binoculars. However, it is a great binocular for me because it is like a mini-spotting scope, and I am very near-sighted. I am also short. Most leaders on bird walks set their spotting scopes way too high and so I never get to see the birds. If I stand on tip-toe and stretch, I risk knocking the scope and losing the bird for everyone. That would make me really popular. With my little zoom binocular, I have my own personal spotting scope. The drawback is that it is a very heavy binocular. And when I zoom in--because of the high magnification--it magnifies not only the bird, but every move I make. I have to have very steady hands. Sometimes I lean on something to reduce the shake with the zoom. Sometimes it is mind over matter, and I really can concentrate on not moving my hands much. Many innovations have reached the market in two decades. I am thinking of getting a lighter pair. I am used to and enjoy the zoom feature and will probably get a new, lighter pair of zoom binoculars.

Know Yourself

1) How is your eyesight? How much magnification do you need to you need in order to see birds clearly?

2) Does it fit your hand so that you can use it easily? Is it comfortable to use?

3) Do you have any physical disabilities that would make it hard to hold binoculars that are heavy or bulky?

4) What can you afford? Buy the best you can within your budget. You don't want to feel guilty every time you peer through your binoculars.

5) How heavy a binocular can you carry around your neck? Would a harness work for you or not?

Try Before You Buy--Don 't Spend Big Bucks on Your First Pair

1) Try other people's binoculars. Go to a store and try some out. Go to the Sea and Sage Audubon and try some out. Ask other birders about the binoculars.

2) Consider starting out with a cheaper pair and seeing how it is to bird with them. As you get more experienced, you will realize what you need. Then when you spend more money, you will know what you need and want, and spend wisely.

Where to Buy

You can buy online, but even if you buy online, it is good to go into a store and at least try them out first. In all the store links I have tried to connect you directly to the optics or binocular page rather than the main page so you don't have to search the site for binoculars.

There is a place called Scope City in Costa Mesa: Scope City
3033 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 957-6900

They have lots of binoculars, but they aren't the only place. Sports stores are great places to look at binoculars such as Sports Authority, Big 5 Sportng Goods, etc. Also try binoculars out at Target, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, Best Buy, and other discount stores. Don't forget to go back online and see what they offer as well. Amazon actually sells binoculars for a great price. Check the prices before you impulse buy because the prices can be vastly different. Why overspend?

Binocular Accessories

There are all kinds of straps and harnesses to reduce the weight on your neck. Check them out first and see if they work well for you. Some people love harnesses, some do not.


All About Birds: Binoculars

Cornell University Ornithology Lab's All about Birds tackles binoculars

Birdwatcher's Digest: Choosing Binoculars

Detailed article about choosing binoculars.

Birding Binoculars and How they Work

Good article by Michael and Diane Porter about how binoculars work and what a birder need for birdwatching.

Video on How to Choose Binoculars

Be aware that this video starts playing with sound immediately when you bring up the website.

Binoculars for Birding from Eagle Optics

From the optic company.

Boston Globe Article about Choosing Binoculars


Tucson Audubon: Binoculars for Birding

Good information.

Binocular Manufacturers--Direct Links to Optics or Binocular Page


Made by Vortex



Eagle Optics






They even have a series of questions you can answer to get a list of recommended Pentax binoculars that fit your needs.


Whole website designed for birding binoculars and birding information.


Made by Vortex Click on the "Stokes" tab.




Click on "Birding and Nature."

See OC Birder Girl Store on Amazon.

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1 comment:

Ashley Corss said...

Thank you for all the important links :)