One of the most important things you will need when you take up the hobby of bird watching is a pair of binoculars. Bird watching binoculars can make the difference between seeing a flurry of movement and identifying a rare species to add to your list. The best equipment can be a costly item, but you don’t need a lot of other equipment to fully enjoy your hobby, so finding the right binoculars is worth the price.
If you’re unfamiliar with the numbers that are used in descriptions of binoculars, they are quite simple. The numbers will look something like 8×42 or 7×35. The first number indicates the amount of magnification. A 7x lens makes items look seven times closer. 10x binoculars make birds appear ten times closer. Many birders, particularly those who use the tool in varied conditions will choose an 8x set.
The second part of the number indicates the diameter of the larger lens expressed in millimeters. Larger lens allow more light to enter the instrument so that you can see detail more clearly. Choosing a much larger lens means a heavier and bulkier set of binoculars, so they may not be as desirable for a backpacking trip. The preferred range is between 35mm and 50mm.
Two main types of prism design are used in bird watching binoculars. The porro prism has the outer lens offset from the eyepieces, so the light path follows a z-shaped pattern. These binoculars are wider but less durable than the roof prism type. Roof prisms are placed so that the binoculars are very streamlined. They are also significantly more expensive. Veteran birders usually recommend buying the roof prism design if your budget allows.
Ease of focusing the binoculars is very important when you are changing viewing distances. Birds can move very quickly and you want to be able to follow a flight path without the necessity of turning the focus more than one full revolution. The focusing screw should be located between the eyepieces so that it can be operated with the one index finger
Advanced technology has made it possible to find quality, lightweight binoculars. Generally a few ounces won’t make much difference in the comfort of using them. Be sure that the binoculars you choose are well balanced front to back or you will notice wrist strain after lengthy use.
These are just a few of the main features to look for in a good pair of bird watching binoculars. You should also check the lens coating and the comfort of the eye cups. If you have special vision needs, you may need a higher priced model that includes features that will make the hobby of bird watching more enjoyable.