Choosing Bird Watching Binoculars For Every Situation

Birding binoculars are all about high resolution optics, for brightness and color clarity in every bird watching situation.

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Bird Watching Binoculars

Strolling around urban parks to glimpse songbirds in the trees is one thing. Traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to add a rare shore bird to your life list is something else entirely. Both activities are part of birding, but chances are you wouldn't use the same instrument for both.

Getting High Quality Optics. The first consideration for birding binoculars is quality optics. You want undistorted colors. You want the brightest possible image. You want exquisite resolution. That's your baseline, and you have to decide how good is good enough based on your budget.

birding binoculars

Birding Binoculars - Key Buyer Considerations

  • Weight
    The weight of binoculars hanging around your neck is probably not critical, as you can find a way to comfortably carry even the heaviest pair. But if you are holding the binoculars in your hands and watching for long periods to catch an interesting behavior or to wait for a bird to turn another direction, say, then every ounce counts. Weight is not much of a factor if the sort of birding you do involves a tripod, of course.
  • Magnification
    Where do you do your birding? If you spend most of your time in wooded areas, you are not looking at targets that are very distant, and high–power magnification may be more of a hindrance than a help. But if you are mostly in open desert looking at raptors high in the sky or mostly at the fence line of protected seashore looking at distant wading birds, then power is important. If you find yourself in a variety of environments, consider zoom binoculars . If you are certain you need maximum power, consider spotting scopes.
  • Field of view
    A wide field of view is helpful for locating a target initially, but in birding the target itself is small. Again, zoom binoculars can be useful if you are tracking birds in flight; but if you are mostly peeking between branches at stationary birds, you may prefer something simpler and lighter in weight. One compromise is to select binoculars with conventional Porro prisms. These have a wider field of view at any given size than comparable compact design (roof prism) binoculars.
  • Waterproofing
    Are you a fair weather birder? You just need binoculars that can get caught in the rain occasionally. Do you do your birding in the middle of whitewater canoe trips? Then you need something that can withstand a serious dunking. Many binoculars are waterproof to a goodly depth, but many others are not. Do you specializse in seashore birds? The marine environment requires special protection for the whole instrument, including the lenses. Check the specifications of any pair you buy for suitability to the environment where you will be using them.
  • Photography
    Are you a photographer as well as a birder? Will you be satisfied with digital snapshots suitable for emailing to a friend? Digital camera binoculars are available from Barska, Bushnell, Carso , Celestron, Meade, Simmons, and Vivitar, among others. Vivitar offers resolutions up to 1,280 x 1,024, higher than most. Still, this is only marginally suitable if you are taking professional photographs for color printing. In that case, you may want a camera adapter for your film camera. These are available on spotting scopes from Nikon and Vivitar, among others.


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