Bird Watching Binoculars: Getting a Better View
Nearly all bird watchers would agree: owning a well-built, high-quality pair of binoculars is essential to viewing and appreciating birds in their natural environment. With the right equipment at hand, binoculars can help identify the vibrant markings of a songbird, the impressive wingspan of an eagle or the insects fed to a group of hungry, rambunctious little hatchlings.
Whether you’re revamping your current equipment, or buying a pair of “bins” for the first time, having a clear understanding of your needs will make for a more enjoyable, productive and memorable bird watching experience. Read on for our helpful guide below, detailing the features to keep in mind when browsing for your next pair.
Assessing Your Needs
Before diving in, take a moment to consider what type of bird watching you enjoy most. Do you prefer spotting slower-moving, larger birds that tend to reside in wide open spaces? Or do you envision yourself in more forested, covered areas, where you’ll likely be scanning for quick-moving subjects? Your answer will play a large role in helping you determine the type of features best-suited for your bird watching adventures.
Magnification Power & Field of View
First things first: All binoculars are identified by a set of numbers, such as 8 x 25, 10 x 30 and 14 x 32. The first number refers to the binocular’s magnification power, which means you’ll view objects eight times closer with an 8 x 25 pair. A lower magnification number will allow for a wider, more expansive field of view, making these binoculars easier to use when tracking faster-moving, harder-to-locate subjects. A lower magnification number will also make your image brighter and your binoculars lighter to carry for longer stretches of time.
A higher magnification number, such as 14 x 32, means you’ll observe objects 14 times closer. A more magnified view is ideal for catching a detailed glimpse of a bird’s markings, feathers and other unique features. While higher magnification binoculars will add slightly more weight to your shoulders or hands, they offer a narrower field of view, making them easier to use when gazing at larger, slower-moving birds that may not necessarily take to the sky, or for those in more open, expansive terrains.
Objective Lens Effective Diameter
The second number in a binocular’s identification refers to its “objective lens effective diameter,” or simply, its effective diameter. Going back to our example above, a pair of 8 x 25 binoculars will help you observe a feathered friend eight times closer, with lenses that are 25 millimeters in diameter. The larger the effective diameter number, the wider your field of view, the more light will be gathered and, consequently, the brighter your image will be.
Bird watching binoculars with effective diameters greater than 42 millimeters are typically larger in size and weight than their lower-numbered counterparts, so it’s important to consider where your birding adventures might take you and how often — and how long — you’ll be carrying your pair of bins.
For the steadiest view, search for binoculars that offer Image Stabilization (IS) technology. Since higher magnification models are more likely to emphasize hand motions and vibrations, IS technology will help counteract sudden, quick-changing movements, allowing you to retain a more stable image without the use of a tripod. This is especially important when tracking the motion of birds in flight, where a clear, sharp image is essential for smooth panning support. IS technology also comes in handy for bird watchers looking to observe seagulls, cormorants, pelicans and other aquatic wildlife on rocky or unstable bodies of water.
For eyeglass wearers, pay close attention to binoculars that feature long eye relief. Eye relief refers to the distance your eyes can be from the binocular’s eyepiece to comfortably see the entire field of view. Birding binoculars with an eye relief of at least 15 millimeters or greater tends to be a sweet spot among enthusiasts, offering eyeglass wearers enough room to adjust the binocular’s eye caps, without losing the depth or clarity of the image.
Waterproof & All Weather Protection
Rain, wind, fog — you name it — if braving the great outdoors is the type of thrill you’re seeking, scout out a pair of binoculars that feature waterproof or all weather protection. Select models are constructed to endure varying weather conditions, including ocean mist spraying off the back of a boat, a sudden rainstorm or a rapid change in temperature leading to fog or condensation. Look for certain words such as “WP” (for waterproof), “Anti-Fog” or “All Weather” to determine the most durable equipment for your nature-loving ventures.
Interested in carrying bins for more than your bird watching needs? Take a look at our impressive line-up, with binoculars that boast outstanding image quality, sharp detail and sturdy, made-to-last construction — perfect for concerts, sporting events, travel excursions and other long distance viewing activities. Shop Image Stabilizer Binoculars >