Birdwatching requires binoculars that are not only powerful but also comfortable to use for extended periods. While higher magnifications and bigger lenses will optimize your birding experience, you also need to balance these elements with a set of binoculars that won’t give you a back ache just by using them. Flexible focus so you can get a wide field of view across a large area of the forest, then zoom in on that rare bird, is absolutely necessary, along with superior image quality so you can get a good look at features and coloring. Here are some of the most important things to consider.
Birdwatching takes you far and wide, through a multitude of environments and experiences to spot and identify birds of all kinds.
These particular elements of birdwatching can guide your choice to find the best binoculars possible. Here binoculars must be portable and flexible along with offering image quality.
Because you will be birdwatching in so many environments, it is important to find a pair of binoculars that are comfortable and easy enough to use anywhere.
While you could choose higher magnifications and wider optical lenses for best viewing, these will significantly change the weight of your binoculars.
While choosing binoculars be sure to give yourself some time to handle them, so you are able to judge how balanced they feel and how the weight is distributed through your arms. Keep in mind that harnesses and special straps can be used to help you comfortably carry your binoculars; however consider that the highest quality binoculars will be of no use if you can’t carry them with you.
Beyond balance and weight you will need a pair of binoculars that can survive movement through forest and rough areas as well. Weatherproofing is a necessity, so look for sets that are clearly labeled waterproof or weather-proof, and if possible choose binoculars with internal focusing.
As carefully designed as external focusing can be, there is always the chance that dust or moisture might get in, ruining your binoculars. Still, if your set is clearly listed as waterproof or weather-proof the manufacturer may repair them if they get damaged during normal use (ie. in fogs or light showers).
Check your binoculars for the rubber armoring provided as well – this can help protect them from small bumps and drops, scrapes and nicks. You don’t want to worry about delicate equipment when you’re about to spot that bird you’ve been looking for.
Flexible focus is another important element while birdwatching; you just never know if that bird is going to appear across the meadow or directly above you, so it’s important to know you can quickly and easily adjust your focus. This feature is one you will need to explore by actually using the binoculars, since every set has its own dials and number of revolutions for accurate adjustment.
Sharper focus through finer adjusting must be balanced with being able to focus quickly in that pivotal moment. Some binoculars offer two separate focus controls – one fine and one coarse – whereas others offer a touch-sensitive control that offers coarse adjustment when turned quickly, and fine adjustment when turned slowly.
Another element to consider here is magnification. Although it would seem that higher magnification should always be preferable, having an 8x magnification means less adjustments to your focus then with a 10x magnification, especially at a distance and with moving creatures such as birds. You may find that you are more comfortable with a lower magnification because it offers sharper images with less focus adjustment. If viewing birds casually this may suit your needs, and you may prefer it to having to adjust your focusing controls constantly.
Image quality is the result of many factors in binoculars. While higher magnifications and larger lenses will improve quality, these incur their own cost in weight and balance. It can be worth the added expense, however, to choose binoculars that are manufactured with higher quality parts that can withstand a lot movement yet provide sharp images with strong contrast.
The curvature and quality of glass used within the binoculars, along with its careful alignment and lack of defects and aberrations will make all the difference without sacrificing so much portability or flexibility.
Roof prism binoculars are the favorite for birdwatchers, as they are more compact and usually use internal focusing, along with being more durable and less likely to suffer alignment problems. Porro prisms, however, are less expensive and certainly effective for the casual birdwatcher.
Some also like the heavier size of the Porro prisms and find them more comfortable in terms of weight and balance. Even compact binoculars can be stowed in your backpack or glove compartment for quick, easy, inexpensive birdwatching.
Choosing the right binoculars for birdwatching allows you to spend your time enjoying nature rather than worrying about sensitive equipment or blurry images. A little investment here to find the set that feels most comfortable and usable to you is well worth it for life-long birdwatching expeditions.
It is worth the effort to consider portability, flexibility, and image quality to ensure a really great experience.