Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Choose perfect Binoculars for Birdwatching

 One of the most important things required for bird watching are a good pair of Binoculars or a camera. The reason is simple - both of these modern devices tend to keep that moment that you see close to your heart - Close to your heart but in a different way altogether. The first one - The Binoculars makes you appreciate the bird like holding one in your hand, the colours, the intricate patterns, the movement - name it and you will enjoy it. The Camera one the other hand goes a step forward and keeps the birds as your memories - the “Modern Day Trophy Hunting.” I will cover camera some other day...

I will try to guide you as to how one can go on to choose the perfect Binocular and some time later perhaps how to choose a camera for Bird watching / photography.

Before I dwell into the details that you should see for the binoculars please know that there are basically two types of Binoculars, Porro prism and the Roof prism. Roof prism is the later technology wise and they are identified with straight cylinders. These are more compact, have less internal parts and more dust and water proof. Roof prism binoculars suffer slightly from aligned prisms so do not compromise on money as only topnotch end of mid range binoculars can compete with Porro Prism binoculars. Promo binoculars on the other hand are identified with eyepiece and objective lens offset from each other. The advantages are they are cheaper, have slightly better stereoscopic lens. The disadvantages are less compact, more moving parts and difficult to make them dust proof etc.

First things first - I will divide the buying of the Binoculars in easy steps so that we can take systematic decisions to buying one. The steps are: -
After Deciding on the price range.
Porro Prism       Vs        Roof Prism
  1. Pick a magnification that you prefer
  2. Test and see models for your self
    1. Check eye relief
    2. Look out for bright and crisp colours
    3. Look out for reviews and warranties.
The Price Range:
For our classification based on price we will try to divide the Binoculars into a lower end upto say ₹ 10,000/- or so. Do not set them off just because they are cheap, you do get good glass in this range also. Next is from 10,000/ upto about ₹ 30,000/-, they are the mid range one. I presently have one in this and they will see you through fairly serious birding too. Next on the higher spectrum they go anywhere upto ₹ 1,50,000/- don’t ask me I have never reached that level of spending money.

Pick up the magnification:
All binoculars have figures written like 8X42 or 10X42 etc. (to seem like a pro when you talk about binoculars you speak like… ‘I have Nikon 8 42 glass’) The first figure is the magnification. So in other words if it is 8 then the image you will see is magnified 8 times, if it 10 then the image you see is magnified 10 times. Second part refers to indicates the diameter objective lens. Okay now how do I use these numbers to choose binoculars. Well firstly the magnification. Specifically for birding the more magnification may not be necessarily better. As the magnification increases the field of view reduces and you will find it difficult to readily point the binoculars to that particular bird and focus. Also higher magnification will require more and more steady hands and in extreme magnifications you will require a tripod etc. Second number - the bigger the better. 42 is good 50 is better. what it means that more light is being passed so the image you will see is brighter and low light capability is better seeing the colours etc in birds is better. Generally I have seen birders preferring binoculars 8X42 or 10X42. Brands, the best are Nikon, Bushnell, Olympus and such. I will leave the preference to you and your research.

Test the Models your self:
Well well well… this is but an ideal way down the line. The best way perhaps in India is - if you have a friend who has that particular model to borrow and see it from him. Otherwise perhaps trust advise of someone you know - the real problem is that you will not have so many Binoculars on display at the same time to choose. In Delhi, Mumbai perhaps - but definitely not in smaller towns for sure. When you do get your hands on a pair that you  decided and shortlisted -
Sight through ideal or correct eye relief
Sight through Less than ideal or low eye relief

1.  Check out the ‘Eye Relief’ : For any binoculars there is an ideal distance that your eye should be from the eyepiece. This distance is called eye relief. If your eye is farther away from the eyepiece than the eye relief distance then the outer part of the image is lost. The farther away your eye is the smaller portion of the picture you see. So you would want a binocular with eye relief long enough to accommodate your eyeglasses. Otherwise you will pay for a box but see the birds through a hole. A binocular with long eye relief is okay even for a person not wearing eye  glasses as the eye cups can be extended to the correct distance by pulling them out or rotating them.


2.  Bright and Crisp Colours: Many a times the quality of glass is not good and colours are distorted due to the prism effect. This will make it difficult to see the exact colours and patterns on the wings. So do be vary of the uncoated lenses.

3.  Next is that you look out for reviews and warranties on the net. The internet has become a Messiah of sorts - thousands of people reviewing products. Do not get overwhelmed by that but do check it out. But as a ball mark - the more you pay you should be able to tick out more of the undermentioned qualities in a Binoculars listed from 1 to 8
    1. Porro Prism
    2. Lens quality
    3. Single piece focus ring
    4. Roof Prism
    5. Coated Lens (Single or Double)
    6. Fog proof (nitrogen filled)
    7. Water resistant
    8. Water proof.

4.  I am sure that by end of this reading you would be wiser to buy a good pair of Binoculars for birding. Try SnapDeal, Flipkart and Amazon are the good places to explore. Happy Birdwatching. This is the copy of the Article I wrote for Chandigarh Bird Club


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