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 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 your viewing.
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
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
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
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
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