Of all the people who use binoculars and spotting scopes, birders are probably the
most demanding. Birders bird in environments that include deserts at temperatures
above 125º, high mountains, dense forests, windy plains, beaches, mudflats, rolling
oceans, and the arctic and Antarctic, in sun, rain, fog, and overcast. Birders bird
from dawn to dusk, then go out at night to look for owls. Through all of this, birders
demand good views of the finest feather details to determine not only the species
of the bird, but its age and gender as well. Much of the time, the birds are moving.
The Optics4Birding.com Buying Guide is a discussion of the factors birders need
to consider in choosing binoculars, scopes, and tripods, but these same factors
can be applied to using optics for any other pursuit. If you're not a birder, examine
the conditions under which you use your optics and apply the factors to maximize
The suggestions in this guide are based on the information we present in our
All About Optics pages. The choices you make based on our suggestions depend
on your understanding of the terminology, and an appreciation of the distinctions
made between the parameters and designs. If you have not read these pages yet, they
will help you apply the suggestions we present here.
So now that you're familiar with how optics equipment is designed and what the numbers
mean, how do you decide what to get?
The simple answer is to get the best equipment you can afford that fit your birding
style and feel right when you use them. Of course, finding all that out takes some
research as well. Fortunately, we've already done a lot of that for you. On every
binocular product page on this site, you will find a button for the
O4B Scorecard. Clicking on this button will take you to a page with all
the relevant specifications for that specific binocular. At that page, you can select
importance factors for each of the specs and the page will compute a relative score
for that binocular based on your preferences. Comparing those scores will help you
find the binocular that is best for you.
While we have evaluated many binoculars, scopes, and tripods, there isn't time to
evaluate them all, and there are some decisions we can't make for you. You will
need to decide how important these various factors are to you.
If you're an experienced birder, you probably have tried several binoculars or scopes
by borrowing them from friends, checking them in a store, or going to optics fairs.
You also know what you like and dislike about your current optics.
If you're new to birding and already have a starter pair, you might want to take
some time to do the above testing. You should realize that unlike prolonged usage,
quick tests in a store or with friends' binoculars in the field would not really
tell you what you need to know. You won't be able to tell whether a binocular would
cause you too much fatigue at the end of a long birding day, if you can hold 10x
binoculars steady enough, or even if you prefer 7x, 8x, or 10x. It also won't tell
you whether you'll prefer a straight or angled scope.
If you're brand new to birding, you have a few options. You can get an inexpensive
binocular, borrow a pair from a friend, and look through other scopes, or you can
read our reviews, decide what you might like, and go for top glass right away.
View the discussions in the following pages under the assumption that all other
factors are equal. They rarely will be, but this will help with the importance factor
you assign to each spec in the O4B Scorecard.
Next Article - Choosing Binoculars