I have recently been looking into getting a pair of binoculars specifically for bird watching. Just wondering if any of you fine folks do any bird watching or at least can recommend a good pair of binoculars or have any experience with binoculars. I have been looking at Nikon and Leupold binoculars.
We have a pair that we got for bird watching. Nothing fancy, nor expensive and certainly not for birds at a great distance. That being said, we like them for our purposes and are happy with them. On occasion, I’ll bring them with me when I go fishing. I really want to like bird watching, but it’s just not my thing. Fishing is what I do.
We’ve got these Nikon’s. I want to say that we got them on sale for about $85 USD.
Thanks Peder, I am by no means a die hard bird watcher, but I do enjoy it when out hiking with the family, my boys seem to real enjoy it so I thought it was time to get a decent pair.
I’m not a bird watcher and cannot recommend any specific model for that use.
But I have purchased several different designs of magnifying optics over the years and from my experience I would recommend these general guide lines for making your choice.
a. 10x or higher has a narrow field of view, making it difficult to hold them steady, and keep your target object in view. I would look for a pair that is 6x to 8x.
b. exit pupil of the optics is the next most important thing to look at. In dim light the pupil of the eye can open 5 - 7mm. Toward the lower end as you get older. The larger the exit pupil of the optics the easier it will be to see targets in dark areas. The quick way to check the exit pupil of the optics is to look through the binoculars while holding them at arms’ length aimed at a bright area. You will see a bright circle of light in the middle of the lens. If it is small, say 2mm, they wont work very well in dim light. If the circle is very large, say 8mm, they will work very well in dim light, but the binoculars will be emitting more light than the eye can use. If the circle is about the same size as your eyes’ pupil (or the eyes’ aperture) then your eyes will be able to take full advantage of the light the binoculars can deliver to the eye.
The exit pupil of the optics can be calculated by dividing the size of the objective lens by the magnification power. For example binocular with 40mm objective lens is a nice size. 8x40 would have an exit pupil of 5mm. The larger the objective size the more light the optics can gather. A 50mm objective would collect even more light. About 1.56x more than the 40mm lens. (by pi x r^2). But binoculars with 50mm lens will he heavier than a pair with 40mm lens. Going the other way, comparing 40mm lens to 25mm lens. The 25mm lens binoculars would be lighter but only gather about 30% as much light as the 40mm lens binoculars.
In summary for the basics: pick binoculars with as large objective lens as you would want to carry, and hold to look through for extended periods. 6x ~ 8x. With an exit pupil size that will provide sufficient light output to view objects in the light levels you will be observing. Around 6mm for viewing low light areas. Or maybe 3 ~4mm would be ok if viewing brighter areas. 8x25=3.12, 6x25=4.16. Actually I a prefer monocular of 6x30 which provide a 5mm exit pupil. That’s about as much light as my eye can use, and the 30mm size of the objective lens is not to heavy, yet gathers more light than a smaller size. Oh, and my personal preference is for water proof optics. A good choice if you expect to use them around water, kayaking or fishing. Maybe not so important if you can just tuck them away in a dry place if it rains.
Once you’ve decided on the best magnification and objective lens size to meet your needs the next choice comes down to selecting a pair of binoculars with good quality glass, and coatings. Comparing two different models of the same specifications, say 6x30, the pair with higher quality glass will provide a brighter more pleasing image. And you will want to check for chromatic aberration, the ability of the lens system to focus all colors of light to the same point. If they have poor chromatic aberration you will see little rainbows of light around the edges of observed objects.
The Nikon or Leupold you mentioned should be good. Ziess is also good. But don’t buy by brand name alone. Take them outside on a bright day and look at distant objects. A mountain ridge line, a distant radio tower, something with sharp contrast lines between different colors, etc. Look for little bands of rainbow colors. Or colors that look not quite right. None are perfect. Just pick a pair that has minimal chromatic aberration.
This short video nicely explains the first points.
This video nicely explains chromatic aberration, and other things about glass quality, that will be a major difference between binoculars that otherwise appear to have the same specifications.
Is there anything that you don’t know about David? Again, another amazing post regardless of how related to tenkara that it is! I’m glad that you’re here.
I have some low end Nikons that are 10x50 I think. They were like $75.
The image looks great but they are a little heavy.
I am going to get a monocular soon for hiking and backpacking… Vortex 8x35 is only like $48 through Amazon.
I have 7x35’s that work great, and aren’t too bad to carry. I think they are Jason brand. I like that they are focus free, so whatever you look at is in focus. I also have some compact Nikon 8x25’s that are nice, but not as great for birding; however, they are small and package. The 7x glasses have a wider view that is easier to spot birds with. The Nikons are ok in bright light, but not so great in the shade (like walking in the woods).
Wow thanks dwalker, so much valuable info, you answered more then the 2 sales men I talked could answer. Also thanks everyone else for the feedback greatly appreciate it.
You’re welcome. After I posted my reply I realized that I had had written that Exit Pupil was “next” in importance. When actually that is the first thing I check. The first thing I do is hold the binoculars or monocular at arms’ length and look at the size of the bright disk of light. If it is very small, the size of the eye’s iris in bright sunlight, I put it back. But if mail ordering them knowing Exit pupil size = diameter of objective lens ÷ mag X power, you can at least know if it will be 2mm or closer to 6mm. Getting a pair with good optical specs cost a lot of money, you have to find the balance that matches your budget. The last pair I purchased were Celestron Skymaster dx 8 x 56 from a vendor at Starquest last summer. The 7mm exit pupil is probably more than my 64 y.o. eyes can use.
I chose them over binoculars with the same 8x56 specs, made by a different manufacturer, Swarovski I think, that cost a lot more. Maybe they had slightly better optical quality, and slight improvements cost more to make, but not enough for me to spend the extra money. From the visitor center I could compare them side by side looking at distant mountain ridges, at details on radio telescopes near and far, aim at deer roaming the grounds and I was pleased with the images. I’m not recommending them for birding. At 2.2# there may be better choices for birding. However, Watching this video review of them might highlight other things you might want to consider in making your choice.
In my car and in my grab and go bag I mostly carry a Brunton Eterna 6x30 monocular. I got the first one for kayaking. One hand for the glass, one hand for the paddle. Liked it and got another. Good luck with your search, binoculars of the same size can range in price from $100 ~ $2500.
Whenever you are ready to buy check out B&H in NYC for prices. I got a pair of nikons there many yeas ago. Small, good value/performance specs. I take them everywhere I travel they’ve lasted forever.
Another place to checkout is STP, sometimes they have good deals on German made Steiner which are I think some of the best.
So I did some shopping over the weekend, and did some comparisons ( also found a lack of variety for binoculars in my area ). I ended up buying Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 the felt the best in my hands, where comfortable and to me had the best features for the price. The have a really large field of view 425 feet at 1000yrds which I really liked.
thank you dwalker for all your help and information, I really appreciated it.
Cool. Looks like a good choice, mag body too, at that price. I purchased to many poor choices over the years, seemed good in the store, only disappoint with use, till I learned what to look for. D
Thanks again for all your help and feedback, I am in Canada so they cost me $274.00 + taxes, but still a good deal compared to other binoculars I looked at.