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Binoculars for Birders and Wildlife

Binoculars for Birders and Wildlife

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Published by msblsports
Chances are, you already own a pair of binoculars – a pair you inherited or bought without much thought; a pair that has served, but maybe did not excel. But now you are ready to move up to quality optics... binoculars that will make it easy to get into those hyperkinetic warblers and treetop vireos.
Chances are, you already own a pair of binoculars – a pair you inherited or bought without much thought; a pair that has served, but maybe did not excel. But now you are ready to move up to quality optics... binoculars that will make it easy to get into those hyperkinetic warblers and treetop vireos.

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Published by: msblsports on Jan 19, 2012
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01/19/2012

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Page 1A Plant's Home
©
WindStar Wildlife Institute
BinocularsFor Birders
 For more nature habitat informationVisit these helpful websites:
A Plant's HomeA Bird's HomeA Homesteader's Home
You are a person who enjoys watching birds and this puts you in good company. In the estimates of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, over 60 million North Americans have discovered the pleasure and challenge of birding.
C
hances are, you already owna pair of binoculars
 – 
a pairyou inherited or bought withoutmuch thought; a pair that hasserved, but maybe did not excel.But now you are ready tomove up to quality optics...binoculars that will make it easyto get into those hyperkineticwarblers and treetop vireos.You need binoculars that aresharp enough to resolve thedetails that separate look-alikeflycatchers and bright enoughto disclose the facial pattern of an
olive backed" thrush stalkingthe shadows. In short you areready to buy a pair of 
birdingbinoculars."
Won
t Just Any Binocular Do.
Binoculars are the primarytool for bird watching. Different
User Groups" (hunters,yachtsmen, backpackers,concert goers) use binocularsas an accessory to theiractivity or sport. But binocularsare not just an accessory tobirding.
Binoculars are theinstruments that definebirding
 – 
the functionalequivalent of the firstbaseman
s glove, themusician
s instrument, theplow in the hands of thefrontier farmer.
Every user group has its ownpeculiar needs and constraintsthat binocular manufacturerstranslate into binocular makesand models.Hunters, for example, demandrugged, durable, optically precisebinoculars that perform welleven in the low light conditionsof dawn and dusk. Yachtsmen
 
Page 2A Plant's Home
©
WindStar Wildlife Instituterequire optics that areimpervious to weather.Backpackers want optics thatare light and portable.But birders demand all theseattributes and more. Forbinoculars to be birder worthy,they must not only be durableand precise, but alsoweatherproof and portable.They must focus fast and focusclose. They must offer agenerous field of view andprovide exceptional depth of field even at close quarters.This article has one objective:to give you the information youneed to choose true birderworthy binoculars and spottingscopes.
Forewarned is Forearmed
There are several things youshould know even before talkingto a salesperson.
FIRST
 – 
As a bird watcher,
you represent the largest
usergroup" in the optics market.Over 30 percent of allbinoculars purchased are usedfor birding.
SECOND
 – 
The needs and
constraints of birding are wellknown to binocularmanufacturers, but they mightnot be known to the salesperson you deal with.Chances are, after readingthis article, you will know muchmore about birding binocularsthan any non-birdingsalesperson you will meet. Don
tlet them confuse you.
THIRD
 – 
All equipment,
including binoculars, is designedto compensate for a humanshort-coming. People shouldnever be forced to compensatefor their equipment.
If the binocular you areconsidering is flawed inperformance or design (i.e.,they do not focus closeenough
they do not fit yourhands
the ocular lensescannot be adjusted closeenough to offer a singleimage
) do not buy them! If you do buy them, you will onlyreplace them later.FOURTH
 – 
There are very
cheap binoculars and veryexpensive binoculars. There arebinoculars that are good forbirding, and binoculars that arenot good for birding.
There are no good cheapbirding binoculars. It takesquality materials andsophisticated engineering tocraft birder worthy binoculars.Expect to pay a commensurateprice
 – 
three to four hundreddollars at least.What Are Binoculars.
Binoculars are twin barreledtelescopes whose barrels arealigned to fall on the samespot. They are superior to atelescope insofar as they canbe used with both eyes open
 – 
making long-term viewing easier.Since binoculars are usuallyhand held, they are also moreportable and faster to use thantelescopes.Binoculars are divided intotwo basic design classes:
s
Porro prism; and
s
Roof prism.Porro prism or
traditionalbinoculars" are wide-bodied. Thebig lens in front (the objectivelenses) and the smaller one inthe back (the ocular lenses) areoffset
 – 
i.e., not aligned along avertical axis.Roof prisms, which becamepopular in the late
60s and
70s are longer and sleeker indesign, with the objective andocular lenses falling inalignment along the same tube.Both designs haveadvantages anddisadvantages. Because Porroprism binoculars have fewerinternal
elements" (lenses andprisms) and more generoustolerance specs, they aregenerally brighter, lessexpensive to manufacture, andless expensive to repair in theevent of a mishap.Roof prisms, though moreexpensive, also tend to be morerugged with elements morefirmly anchored within thebarrels. Many people also findRoof prism binoculars easier tohold steady for extendedperiods.
Binocular Shape
The important thing aboutbinocular shape is how they feelin your hands.
If you grasp a pair of binoculars and bring them toyour eyes and your finger doesnot fall comfortably upon thefocus wheel, or if you have toshift your grip to move thefocus wheel, then thebinoculars are poorly designedor too large for your hands.Put them back on the shelf.
Likewise, if you bring thebinoculars up to your eyes butfind that you cannot draw theeyepieces close enough to offera single image, put them back on the shelf. The minimum
interpupillary distance"offered by some models issimply not close enough toaccommodate people withclosely-set eyes.
 
Page 3A Plant's Home
©
WindStar Wildlife InstituteShape directly relates to howeasily and steadily binocularsmay be held, and this directlyaffects image quality.
Mini" binoculars, favored bybackpackers because of theirreduced size and weight, offerlittle to anchor a shake-freegrip so birders generally avoidthem.Large, bulky or
Marine"binoculars force users to holdtheir elbows high and widelyspaced, decreasing stabilityand increasing muscle fatigue.Birders avoid these, too.
Binocular Weight
Binoculars are literally aweight around your neck. Howmuch you want to bear is up toyou, but in general, 20-30 oz. isabout as much as most peoplecare to consider.The elements contributing tothe overall weight in a pair of binoculars include:
s
the optical elements;
s
the body; and
s
the outer covering.High quality optics, made of barium crown glass (BAK-4),are denser and heavier thanoptics made of the cheaperboro-silicate glass (BK-7). Thequality of the image you see isdirectly related to the quality of the optics.To reduce overall weight,quality binocular bodiesarecast out of aluminum or ruggedspace age synthetics.To help protect the internalelements many binoculars are
armored"
 – 
covered with shock absorbing rubber orpolyurethane shell instead of aleather-type or guttaperchacovering.
Focusing
Birding demands binocularsthat focus quickly. Whenattention is diverted from aclose-at-hand warbler, to adistant, fast disappearinghawk, time spent spinning thefocus wheel to go the range of focus is, well, time spentspinning your wheels.
A binocular that can gofrom close focus to infinityquickly and smoothly isinvaluable in the birding arena.
Birding binoculars should becenter focusing binoculars. Thismeans that by moving a wellpositioned wheel, both barrelsof a binocular are adjustedquickly and simultaneously.An individual eyepieceadjustment ring (or knob) isavailable to compensate forthe small differences thatexist between an individual
seyes. It is set once
 – 
thennever again.Some military or marinebinoculars offer individualeyepiece focusing
 – 
a systemthat employs adjustable ringsthat encircle both ocularlenses. This system is slow,cumbersome, and therefore, illsuited for birding.Some binoculars offer leversinstead of wheels for
quick focus." These are appealing intheory but in fact require atwo-handed grip and a bit of dickering to get a sharp image.They also tend to not be verydurable.Some manufacturers alsooffer permanent focus or non-focusing binoculars. These wouldbe fine, if birds neverapproached closer than 50 feet
 – 
which is about as close aspermanent focusing binocularscan offer a clear image.But as birders know, birds doappear closer than 50 feet. Infact, sometimes
 – 
in cattailmarsh, dense woodlands, ortropical forest, a bird might beno more than ten feet away,and because of poor light orobstructing vegetation, anidentification cannot be madewith the naked eye.
At times like these abinocular that offers super-close focus may make thedifference between a Life Birdor a shoulder shrug
 – 
which isto say, all the difference in theworld.
Birding binoculars should beable to focus down to 15 feet.Binoculars that offer a closefocus down to nine or ten feetare prized.If you do a great deal of woodland birding, or watchbirders coming to your feedersat very close quarters, closefocusing binoculars are a must.
Magnification
Binoculars come in differentpowers designated by the firstnumber of the binomial legendetched on all binoculars(examples: 8x30, 7x42, 10x42).The second number refers tothe diameter of the objectivelens in millimeters and will bediscussed in the section dealingwith
Light and Brightness."Simply put, a 8x binocular(eight power) makes distantobjects appear eight times

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