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Birding Binoculars - Are They Really Any Different?

Discounting the obvious difference in name, is there anything special about birding binoculars as opposed to "normal" binoculars?  Specifically, are the optics somehow unique and therefore superior to birding?  After all, companies call some pants khakis although they serve the same function as any other pair of discount pants. Aren't bird watching binoculars really just a normal pair of binoculars with a fancier name?  The answer is simply no: bird watching is a unique activity that has different optical requirements than other activities that you use binoculars for.

Birding binocular requirements are definitely different because of the size of the subject matter and the location where most birds are found:  namely, trees.  Even a discount pair of bird watching binoculars will provide a superior image than a modestly priced pair of standard binoculars due to the differences in the optics.

Bird Watching Binoculars - Why Do They Need Specialized Optics?

Without discounting the fact that birds are generally pretty small, just think about where birds are found:  trees.  A tree canopy is fairly dark which means that the optics for bird watching binoculars need to be specialized so that there is sufficient light for viewing.  To this end, the best birding binoculars are those with a large objective lens diameter as any decent bird watching binoculars review will tell you.

Two numbers are found on any pair of binoculars that help buyers understand how effective they will be:  the magnification number, and the objective lens diameter.  So, for a pair of discount binoculars with the numbers 8 X 25, the magnification is 8 (that is, objects are 8 times larger than they would be if viewed through the naked eye), and the objective lens diameter is 25 (this is the size of the lens on the big end of a pair of binoculars).  A larger objective lens diameter permits more light to enter the binoculars and thus produces brighter images.  The optics on bird watching binoculars, even the discount types, are optimized to provide viewers with a bright image so that they can see the birds in the darkened tree canopies.

The Best Birding Binoculars - What Am I Looking For?

To begin with, you want a large objective lens diameter.  While you want to be careful not to discount other factors, starting with a large objective diameter like 42 mm is a great start when choosing a pair of bird watching binoculars.  A magnification factor of 8 is generally sufficient and you want to be careful going above this number as larger magnifications will make it more difficult to find a small bird in a tree.

Binocularity, using a discounted and somewhat generic definition, is what happens when both of our eyes focus on one object and a single image is produced.  Binoculars, from the discount variety all the way up to the high end models, have a diopter setting.  This allows you to adjust the focus for the left and right eyes.  The cheaper birding binoculars will have a diopter setting that is somewhat loose and will easily move if you bump the binoculars at all.  This causes one side to fall out of focus and by the time you get things straightened out again, your bird can be long gone.  The best birding binoculars have a firm diopter setting that does not move when the binoculars are bumped.

Eye cups are also important for any serious bird watching enthusiast.  The discount binoculars may have folding eye cups that can be awkward and difficult to move.  By the time you get them in place, the bird can be gone.  Now some discount binoculars have fine eye cups but try to find those with those that slide in and out or even twist up as these are the easiest to maneuver. 

In the end, bird watching binoculars are unique and they do have specialized optical qualities that make them ideal for bird watching.  Online merchants are probably the best place to look for both discount and the best bird watching binoculars.  They offer a great selection and have the expertise to help you find the best binoculars to match both your needs and budget.  Plus, since they do not have the same overhead concerns as traditional retail stores, they are often the less expensive alternative.  If you are shopping for some bird watching binoculars, then consider online merchants to be your first and best option.

 

 

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