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Binoculars anyone?

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Andrewteee, Jun 1, 2011.

  1. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    We have quite a few birds around our new'ish house and I'm interested in viewing them closer and learning what they are. It is also sparking an interest in knowing more about the wildlife in Norther California (saw some harbor seal pups a couple of weekends ago), particularly since our kids keep asking questions about the animals. I'm planning on getting some binoculars.

    Anyone hear know much about them?

    I've done quite a bit of research and I know that like all things optical you get what you pay for. But my questions are more about magnification. For me, and as someone who might start to wear glasses soon, it seems that 7x42 might be my best option, though I wonder if 8x or 10x would be better.

    These are for backyard and local use so portability is not a key criteria, not yet anyway.

    Any advice?
     
  2. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group

    Jul 13, 2010
    South Brent, south Devon (UK)
    Barrie
    As a bird watcher for over 50 years I've always used 10x, for the last 40 years 10x40 (or 42). It might be that if you restrict your use to the garden that 8x would suit you better, I would suggest that magnification to anyone you does a lot in woodland, they are likely to focus slight quicker, ie with less turns of the focus wheel and since you won't be using them for long distance the 8x magnification shouldn't be too restrictive.

    Barrie
     
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  3. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Thanks Barrie. It seems a lot of birders prefer 10x in order to get closer in for more detail. Just not sure it's the right thing for my first pair. But I would like to avoid a merry go round of trying to find the right pair. We don't seem to have a lot of local options for trying them out. But B&H just extended their return period to 30 days so I might try a couple of different ones.
     
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  4. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Bins are a matter of much debate ... have a look at the optics forums at birdforum.net, the debates there make the debates on camera forums look a bit tame sometimes ...
    If you have strong wrists and a steady pair of hands 10x will be fine ... but if you are like me, and have a struggle to hold things very still, then 8x are better because they are generally lighter; and if your garden is pretty woody I'd even go down to 7x (wider angle of view and usually a bit brighter); I use 8x and sometimes find them a bit narrow when I'm in my local woodland.
    There's no substitute for trying a few pairs, in my opinion. If you're going to spend a decent amount of time with them stuck to your face, you want to be sure they are comfortable ...
     
  5. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    I use my 10x for both birding and astronomy. They are porros but I'm sure roof prisma would be fine for birding.
     
  6. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    That's funny. Never would have imagined birders inciting such debate. But I suppose any interest involving "gear" will raise opinions about said gear!
     
  7. Bugleone

    Bugleone SC Regular

    113
    Jun 1, 2011
    England
    The best glass is a 7x35. This is the best because it's more or less the size/weight of the common 8x30, but with much more light gathering power. Anything over 8x will be very hard to hold steady by hand without having to lean against a support. Thats why the military perfers glasses under 8x mag,..or did until the advent of electronically stabilised models.

    If you divide the object lens diameter by the mag you get the size of light cone that a glass transmits,...this is important because the irises in our eyes open wider in low light. A fit young person can have a max iris aperture of 7mm diameter. As we get older our irises are less able to open. An 8x30 only transmits a light cone less than 3.5mm,...but a similar size 7x35 traqnsmits a 5mm cone which helps a lot in low light,..so, althoiugh slightly less powerful (7x rather than 8x) you are able to resolve much more detail.
     
  8. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Thank you Bugleone! Very informative. And welcome to the forums.
     
  9. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Jason
    Our pupils in the darkest conditions get to 6 to 7mm. I've actually measured mine in a light polluted city at 4.5mm after adaptation. Anything larger is a wast of aperature for me. My 10x50s are overkill for birding but I use them for astronomy too.
     
  10. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    I love my Swarovsk EL 8.5X42 binoculars, great for birding very bright and sharp, close focus, light but built like a tank, waterproof only downside is they are not cheap, but they will last forever.
     
  11. Grant

    Grant SC Veteran

    249
    Nov 12, 2010
    Lunenburg Nova Scotia
    A few things about binocular, In no particular order.

    The first number is the aperture the second number is the magnification.

    If you divide the aperture by the magnification you will get the exit pupil of the binocular. If the exit pupil matched a fully dilated pupil of your eye (7mm) then you will get maximum brightness. This being said a 35 x 5, 50 x 7 and 70 x 10 will all appear to be the same brightness. If you are going to view when light gathering is important this is what you should look for.

    Wide angle binoculars are generally easier to use to find birds that are on the move. The downside is wide angle binoculars tend to be soft at the edges. So wide angle are the best bet for finding small birds that are on the fly.

    Consider how close the binoculars will focus if you intend to observe birds at a feeder. You will need binoculars that will focus at the feeder distances. I find close focusing good for observing bug.

    Once you reach a certain dollar value in binocular you don’t get much better image quality with any more money but you get binoculars that are more comfortable to use over longer periods of time.

    There are generally two typed of binoculars the more common is Porro Prism Binoculars and they come full sealed or not sealed. These are the binocular that have the bumps on them. The second type are Roof Prism Binoculars. They look like two telescopes joined together. They are more stylish and more expensive.

    You should be able to focus from far to near with ease and not have to spin that center wheel a billion turns. One eyepiece should be adjustable independent of the other.

    Eye relief is the distance you hold the binoculars away from your eye and still get full view. This should be sufficient enough to place glasses between you and the binoculars, You may not now need glasses now but what is in the future is unknown. I you don’t have astigmatism you won’t have to wear glasses with your binoculars but you may choose to.

    All binoculars are not the same and they must be tested before buying. I picked up a pair of Nikons for my wife and drove the salesman batty as I testing all twelve he had in stock. Nine were good, two were marginal and one was superior. Remember these were all the same model, same price, and same manufacturer.

    The first thing to look for is good collimation. That is do both tubes look at the same object equally? Take the outside and look at a very distant bird, on that is a spot. If you look at this bird and see two spots they are not collimated

    Next is barrel and pincushion distortion. All binocular have one of these. Take it on you want to buy outside and look a distant straight line. While telephone or power lines are not truly straight you can find an area where they are not bad. Look at they through the binoculars so they are parallel to the ground. In the middle you should see not distortion but a straight line. As you move the line up and down in the binocular field of view it will distort near the edges. It is the degree of distortion that determines the which binocular to buy. Less if good. A wide angle binocular will generally show more distortion that a normal binocular but this is to be expected.

    Finally make sure they are multi coated.
     
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  12. deirdre

    deirdre SC Top Veteran

    652
    Sep 26, 2010
    Dang. I paid less for my Leica M8.
     
  13. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Those binoculars are pricier than most.
     
  14. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    Actually most of the binoculars in this class cost a lot, but as I said earlier they are a lifetime investment, just do not lose them. Leica 8x42 Ultravid HD, Nikon EDG 8x42, and Zeiss 8x42 Victory T* FL .

    There are also a whole bunch of very good but cheaper glass out there too
     
  15. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    See ... the answer to Andrewteee's post is straightforward ... suitable binoculars are 7x8x10x40x42x50 Zeicarowskikons
     
  16. dixeyk

    dixeyk Guest

    I worked for two years on a grant funded seabird count in my state and I used a set of Panasonic 10x40 binoculars. They worked great for a variety of situations (and we had to be able to identify bird species at a distance).