Here we want to give you some helpful tips and fun information so you can get the most out of your binoculars and scopes. We'll also be adding articles on how to get down with nature and plant your yard for the birds, butterflies and wildlife. Several of these articles can also be found in the left column of the Home Page for quicker review.
SOME IMPORTANT BINOCULAR TERMS
Get to know these terms when choosing your binos,
then weigh the pros and cons. Are you watching slow moving big game, or
fast moving, smaller animals? Getting a smaller, lighter binocular may
force you to give up some of the advantages of a larger one and visa
versa. A binocular that is too light can be hard to keep steady, as
would be too heavy of a binocular; too much coffee will do the same
thing! Last, but certainly not least! Spend as much as your budget
allows, you can upgrade later. F.Y.I. Your old binos can be sold or,
better yet, donated to BIRDERS' EXCHANGE,
they will take your old binos and other birding equipment (that's still
in good shape) and send it to Latin America and the Caribbean for
studies being done in those countries where equipment is greatly needed
and happily appreciated.
In Layman's terms:
means the two barrels are seeing the same thing. They can be knocked
out of alignment if they are dropped or generally misused. If your
binoculars are out of alignment you will have a disturbed view and just
will not get enjoyment out of the experience. To check if your
binoculars are out of alignment, put them up to your eyes and sight on
a horizontal plane such as a roof line or power line. Slowly pull them
away from your eyes watching that line. If the line stays continuous
the binos are fine but if the line breaks (one higher than the other)
you have a problem. Some less expensive binoculars are not worth the
repair fee so are doomed but many will have a warranty that will cover
or atleast help with the repair. Call the manufacturer.
is the distance from where you are standing to the closest object you
can focus on. Some bino's close-focus can be as far as 15 feet away so
that bird in the bush right in front of you can't be focused on, nor
that hummingbird just outside your window. They are now making
binoculars with a close-focus of 3 feet so you can see a butterfly if
it lands on your toes!
EXIT PUPIL For the best light
(also called Exit Pupil), you should be able to divide the big number
by the little number at least 5 times: i.e. 8x42 (42 divided by 8=
5.25) versus 8x25 (25 divided by 8= 3.125). If you like to watch nature
at dawn or dusk, anything less than a 5 might make viewing a little
harder; details won't be as clear. See Objective Lens below.
EYE RELIEF Eye
relief is the distance between your eye and the eyepiece. If you don't
wear glasses the eye cups on your binos should be turned down, eye
relief can be from 8-13mm. For those who do wear glasses, choose binos
with "long eye relief" or 14-20mm, eye cups should be turned or rolled
FIELD OF VIEW If
you want to watch fast moving animals such as birds, choose a binocular
with a wider field of view (or F.O.V.). F.O.V. is the number of feet
you see per 1000 feet of distance. Sometimes you have to give up good
F.O.V. for a stronger power bino. 340 or more would be good, 375 or
more will make you sing.
INTERPUPILLARY DISTANCE Make
sure they fit your face, which is called Interpupillary Distance (also
called IPD). Many binoculars don't fit a person with narrow set eyes or
a child's face. If you can't bring the two eyepieces together enough to
get one viewing circle, you won't enjoy the experience.
LENS COATINGS Check
the coatings on the glass, good optics have coatings that keep the lens
from reflecting light. BAK4 prism glass is good, make sure your binos
are atleast that. There are numerous types of coatings, here's
an idea of how it works: "coated" just means some outer glass surfaces
are coated; "fully coated" means all outer glass has been coated with
atleast one layer; "fully multi-coated" is best, meaning that all outer glass has been coated with multiple layers. With poor glass, you may also see a light flare at the outer borders of your viewing field.
OBJECTIVE LENS The
Objective Lens is the lens on the far end of the binocular, it is the
second and larger number on the binocular (ie: 8x42). The bigger this
lens is, the more light reaches your eye, the sharper and brighter the
image. But keep in mind that the bigger this lens is, the more the
binocular will weigh meaning more stress on your neck and possibly more
shake in your view.
POWER OF LENS The first and
smaller number on the binocular (ie: 8x42) is the power of the lens
next to your eye. An 8 power would mean that what you are viewing is 8
times larger than what you would normally see (like a hawk!). Much more
than an 8 power and you have to be a pretty steady person.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT BINOCULAR FOR YOU The Pros and Cons
and I all watch the birds in our back yards, one sister kept complaining that
she just didn’t like her binoculars; couldn’t get a good view and that it was
probably just her bad eyesight (she’s pretty much legally blind). I had already
taught her how to sight her binoculars to her eyes so I was beginning to
believe her too; until the next time I was at her house and took a look through
those binos. They were out of alignment! Two things will spoil your wildlife
viewing and enjoyment quicker than anything. Not having your binos sighted to
your own eyes and having them be out of alignment.
note; if you want to get the best out of wildlife viewing, here are a few tips.
First and foremost…once you’ve chosen the right binocular for you, learn to
sight your binoculars and then practice using them. Many binos today come with those instructions but you
can also learn how here.
When looking for the perfect pair of binoculars,
decide what you will be using them for most of the time. If you are going out
looking for big game you can get away with a smaller field of view.
typically doesn’t move so fast therefore won’t leave the field of view
too quickly. On the other
hand, a little warbler could be gone in a second so it’s easier for you
them with a larger field of view. Binoculars come in full-size,
mid-size and compact; the compacts are great for throwing in your pack
and carrying light or keeping in your glovebox for emergencies.
Monoculars (a single lens piece) can do the same thing but take a bit
more practice as they are small. There are also binoculars with
levelors for those rolly, rocky times you are out in the water.
far as choosing Roof or Porro Prism (meaning how the mirrors are set up
inside the barrels), it's just a matter of choice. Roof Prism seems
more popular, they have a straight body while Porro Prisms have offset
(zigzag) barrels and can seem bulkier. They both get great looks.
of day will you be using your binoculars? Often when viewing big game, the best
time is early in the morning or late in the evening. In this case a bigger lens
would be important. The bigger the objective lens (ie x42 or x45 etc) the more light is
brought in, being able to divide the smaller number into the larger number at
least 5 times is a good thing (8x42= 42 divided by 8 = 5.25), this is also known as "exit pupil". You will pay for
it in weight though. Lens coatings on the glass or very important also, the more coatings
the brighter the view.
If you are shopping for a child or you have a
narrow face, you need to make sure the binocular fits. This is called “interpupillary
distance” or the distance between your pupils; the two eye pieces pull together
giving you the ability to see just one circle of view (otherwise you could get
what’s called “black-out” with one eye). Trying binos at a store can help you
decide if you need to get narrower
Finally, you need to honestly think about how steady you are. The first tendency, when looking at binocular power,
is to think bigger is better. If an 8x power is good then surely, a 10x
or 12x would be even better...right? Well...yes, BUT, the higher the
power is the more jiggle you get. Like even from your heartbeat or that
third cup of coffee! If you do need a lower power binocular, then
perhaps think about a spotting scope also.
speaking of spotting scopes; take a look at the body of the scope. A
straight lens scope would have the eye piece running straight with the
barrel of the scope whereas an angled lens would be at a 45 degree
angle to the barrel. The straight lens is good if you use your scope
alone and works well with window mounts (your vehicle can make a great
blind). The angled lens is nice if you are sharing your scope with
others; you can set the tripod to the lowest height of viewers and the
taller viewers can easily bend over to get great looks too. The angled
lens, unfortunately, doesn't work well with a window mount unless the
body has a rotating collar. As far as the power goes on scopes, it's
easier to get a higher power but bare in mind that a cheap tripod will
create the same jiggle; it will just be created by the wind and not
coffee intake. If you are looking at equipment because you are a
birder, start saving now for a scope; you can count the feathers...you
seriously won't believe what you've been missing!
said all this, your homework is almost done! Ask your friends how they
like their binos and if you can try them. Try different varieties at a
local sporting goods store. Bottom line as it's been said for years,
"spend as much as your budget allows, you can upgrade later". But don't
be dismayed. It could be argued, these days, that because the
competition has increased that "glass" is getting much better for less
cost. The best is still the best but you can now get great looks in a
nice little starter binocular or spotting scope too.
HOW TO SIGHT YOUR BINOCULARS TO YOUR OWN EYES
You can get much more enjoyment out of your outdoor adventure by getting to know your binoculars. Run a copy of this information and put it in your pack, next time you're out, if you've already sighted your own binos, you can teach your companions too. If you are getting new binos you may get directions like this but if you have hand-me-downs or used binos you will come to appreciate this info.
First notice that the two eyepieces pull apart from each other, and in turn can be pulled closer together; this is the interpupillary distance. Next notice the markings on the right eyepiece,usually to the inside (which would be closest to your nose when held to your face), there will be + and - signs on either side of a dot or an 0 or just tick marks and another single dot to align with; the eyepiece itself may twist or there will be a ring that will twist. This eyepiece, once set ,should always remain in this spot for you. If sharing your binos put a mark on your spot with fingernail polish and mark your partners with another color, then each time you pick them up or notice you're having trouble viewing, just check to make sure this mark is correct for you. Finally, notice the top center focus wheel, you will always be using this one to focus near and far.
Choose a tree, sign or other object 50 to 75 feet away. Pull the eyepieces all the way apart, sight on the object (don't worry about focusing just yet) and pull the eyepieces together until you see only one circle. Men may not have to pull them together, women and children should check this to make sure the binos will fit their face (check interpupillary distance on the terms page). Once you have one viewing circle cover the right outter lens with your right hand and, while keeping both eyes open, focus the top center focus on your object till it is crisp and sharp. Next, cover the left outter lens with your left hand and, again with both eyes open, focus the right eye piece until your object is crisp and sharp. Now notice where that mark is for you on the right eye piece. Again, remember that mark is for you only, it won't change unless your eyes change. At this point you should have perfect viewing on your object, check something in the distance and focus with the top center focus and it should be clear also.
Now for the hard part, let your binos hang to your chest, get used to where they hang. When you see an object you'd like to view, keep your eye on that object and reach for you binos without looking at them. If you have kept your eyes on the object, when you raise your binos you should be on that object or very close to it and quickly focus the top center focus. It takes practice, try to follow birds in flight to help also. If you still have trouble, start again at step one. Once your binoculars are sighted to your own eyes you won't believe what you've been missing. So get out there!
As an added note: if you are having trouble sighting your binos no matter what you do, they could be out of alignment. To check this, focus on a power line or other horizontal line (such as a roof line), as you slowly pull the binos away from you face you will notice a break in the horizontal line. If this is so you will need to have your binoculars repaired. Check with the manufacturer first though, sometimes it is costly and could be just as easy to replace your binos. And it could be just the excuse you need for a new pair!
XERISCAPING AND NATIVE LANDSCAPING
My yard is rather willy-nilly with shrubs and flowers that the birds planted. Gifts, I think. I figure those plants know best where they should be growing, what water they need and what soil they like. The rest of my yard has plants where I've put them. They don't always do so well. So I started paying attention to light and water needs and made a list of the four things I wanted most in a plant. In order they are 1. Drought tolerant 2. Bird friendly 3. Native, and 4. Good fall color. On some I got all four, but mostly, if it wasn't drought tolerant and bird friendly, it didn't go in. And, after years of trying to get my lawn in, I was now starting to take it out! Through this whole process I began to learn about native landscaping and Xeriscaping.
Native landscaping is one way to conserve water in our yards and gardens. Take a walk out into a local meadow or hillside and see its beauty for the small amount of water we get each year. Combined with Xeriscaping we can cut our water use by more than 50%. Xeriscape, which comes from xeri, meaning dry, and scape, meaning vista; is a water-efficient approach to landscaping by using the appropriate plants and zoning them to their water needs. It's also wise to learn what little micro-climates exist in your yard and plant accordingly. In fact most of the books say to go ahead and plant your favorites in gardens near the house and let things get a little wilder the further out you go.
To establish these types of gardens, you do need patience and a good plan. Try a yard with less turf and more gardens. Design a watering system that is efficient and water them as if we had a good spring and summer for the first few years, eventually you'll be watering once every week or two depending on the weather. Use mulches to keep in the water and maintain the landscape with mowing, pruning and fertilizing. As for fertilizers, the primary rule is to take it easy. Too much can actually make plants weaker; arid and semiarid plants don't need supplemental fertilizing in most soils.
Take the time to learn and plan a yard with native landscape and xeriscape. Instead of breaking our backs to pull weeds, we could be "puttering" in our yards with more time to sit back and enjoy the birds, butterflies, wildlife.
Scroll down to see all our FAVORITE ITEMS of the Month
Field Optics Research EyeShields Triple PackThe EYESHIELD is is a flexible molded rubber material that connects to the eye piece of the binocular. The EYESHIELD cradles your eye and prevents ambient light from entering into the space between your eye and the binocular eyepiece that causes lens glare.
Zen-Ray ED2 7x36It's your sports, no matter if it's birding, hunting, or nature observation at large. If you are demanding nothing but the best optics for your budget to pursue your passion, our Zen-Ray ED2 7x36 is the perfect fit for you.
Zen-Ray ED2 Spotting Scope 20-60x82Zen-Ray ZEN ED2™ spotting scope is designed and manufactured to deliver the performance that is normally available from products 1.5x-3x more expensive. Featured with extra low dispersion glass, oversized prism system, fully broadband multi-coated optics, ZEN ED2 spotter is for the most serious birders and hunters who expect nothing but the best image resolution, extreme low light brightness, and edge-edge sharpness without distortion. The ZEN ED2 is lightweight thanks to the rugged compact magnesium alloy body