A Complete Guide to Birding With Binoculars

What can be more relaxing than enjoying beautiful birds’ activities closely? If you love to enjoy the activities of birds closely, a binocular will be your best companion. But all binoculars do not work well for bird watching. At the same time, you need to know some basic techniques and operating methods of the binoculars to enjoy the activities of birds perfectly.

In 2011, a report by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) says more than 47,000,000 Americans are birders. You may wonder, birding is the 15th most popular outdoor activity among Americans.

So is there any rule to using binoculars for a birder? If yes, then what are the considerations to buy as well as the setup procedures? Here we are going to present a guide to birding with binoculars.

A complete guide to birding with binoculars

We have divided this section into 2 parts. 1st of all, you need to buy a binocular which is suitable for birding. For this, the binoculars must have some specifications. And second is to use the pair properly by testing and adjusting to get better and high-resolution images every time.

However, for those who already have binoculars, first, you should ensure it’s appropriate for birding or not, then follow the further procedures. So here we go:

Required specifications for birding binoculars

Your birding time will be more enjoyable and you can perfectly handle the bino pair if you use a suitable binocular. When you are deciding to purchase a binocular for birding, you have to be concerned about some factors to get the best one. Make sure your chosen bino pair has the following properties –

1. A complete guide to birding with binoculars

1. Magnification power

When purchasing binoculars, the first decision a birder must make is which magnification they will get from them. The main objective of using a binocular is to see birds or any distant objects on a larger scale and closer.

Most people who are new to binoculars have a desire to buy the most powerful binoculars. As a result, they can watch the birds as closely as possible. This idea is quite true but highly magnified binoculars have some distinct drawbacks. There is a possibility of image shaking in the high magnified binoculars. Again, they decrease the minimum focus distance which is very essential for bird watching. Furthermore, high-power binoculars provide a narrow field of view which causes less area coverage and you may miss several things that are covered by comparatively lower magnified binoculars.

For these causes, 7x, 8x, and 10x magnification are considered perfect for bird watchers. Magnification range between 7x to 10x provides you with a closer and more detailed view of birds and their activities. Also, they have sufficient focus distance. They can balance with the eye pupil comfort. Again you will get a large area coverage for the wider field of view. Whether you watch from your house window or in an open place, a wide field of view is a must.

So for birding, we would recommend picking 7x, 8x, or 10x binoculars. More than 10x magnification will not be much efficient for birding.

2. Objective lens diameter

Along with the magnification power, you can see the value of the objective lens diameter on the binoculars. For example, 8×42 refers to the 8x magnification and the size of the objective lens is 42 mm.

The size of the objective lens is also known as the aperture of the binocular. The aperture indicates the light gathering capacity of the binoculars. A bigger size objective lens means it can gather maximum lights to produce bright and clear images of the birds or other targeted objects.

To get a brighter view, we recommend choosing between a 40mm to 44mm objective lens. Mostly 40mm, 42mm, and 44mm aperture is considered quite good for birding. It will allow you to render bright images in low light conditions while making the binocular portable and lightweight.

A tiny light objective will be sufficient if you are a fair-weather birder. Stick to a 42 if you’re after owls, woodcocks, or nightjars.

However, the objective lens smaller than 35mm is good if you watch birds on sunny bright days. You can choose 50mm or more aperture to get the most bright and detailed images. But the only drawback is larger objective lenses make the binoculars heavier. Though it’s just a few ounces that won’t bother you until you watch continuously for hours and hours.

3. Eye relief & eye pupil

Eye relief and eye pupil distance are 2 important factors before choosing a birding binocular. Firstly, talk about the eye relief distance. It refers to the distance between the eyepiece lens and the outer surface. The value should be 15mm or greater than that. For the glass wearer, the eye relief distance should be more than 16mm.

Again the eye pupil distance should be more than 4mm. It provides comfortable viewing experiences. The value of eye pupil distance can be measured easily by the 2 prominent values of the binoculars- the magnification and the aperture.

You need to divide the aperture value by the magnification value. By this, you will get the eye pupil value of your selected binocular. For example, an 8×42 binocular eye pupil distance will be (42/8 = 5.25mm). In this way, you can calculate any binocular eye pupil distance. Make sure the value is not less than 4 mm to get a smoother viewing experience.

So we would like to recommend 8×32, 8×42, 10×42, 10×50, etc to choose for birding.

4. Field of view

The field of view of a binocular is the area coverage you get at a time. The field of view is also related to the magnification power. The more magnification power, the objects will move closer to you and provide a larger view. As a result, you will get a narrow field of view as well as you won’t be able to see more areas at a time.

330 feet at 1,000 yards is perfect for birding. It should be a minimum of 6.3 degrees of arc. The range of 330 to 375 feet at 1000 yards is preferable for birders.

5. Minimum Focus

Close focusing ability is a crucial factor of appropriate birding binoculars that is frequently overlooked by manufacturers. The minimum focus distance of around 10-12 feet or less is perfect while more than 15 feet should be avoided if at all possible.

Again binoculars with a fixed focus or have a “zoom” feature should be also avoided. These may work well for athletic events, but when birding, it may cause headaches and eyestrain. Also, you can choose the center-focus binoculars, which have the feature to focus both eyes at the same time.

2. A complete guide to birding with binoculars

6. Optical Quality

If you love birding for casual activities or any significant fieldwork, the optical quality should be your consideration. Quality optics can deliver subtle color patterns as well as color-corrected images. Premium optics ensure the best view as well as improve the overall birding experience. The image will be bright, crisp, and clear.

Again the coating on the optics is also important. You should pick fully multi-coated optics for birding as well as hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, sports, and other activities. The fully multi-coated optics will provide sharper images reducing the glare of the images. Though premium optics binocular cost is a little bit expensive, it is worth the money by providing outstanding performance.

7. Prism

Generally, 2 types of prism are used for binocular constructions – The roof prism and the Porro prism. The roof prism binoculars are the lighter as well as provide an external appearance to the binocular pair.

Only a few binocular models were assembled using roof prisms a few years ago. And their price range was so high as well. But nowadays the manufacturers can reduce the cost using several modern technologies and make roof prism binoculars affordable.

On the other hand, the Porro prism also provides better performance but it’s quite heavier. The zigzag pattern of the Porro prism provides superior clarity, a wider field of view as well as better depth perception. But for the weight issues, we would recommend the roof prism binoculars are perfect for birding.

8. Size & weight

As binoculars are held by your hands maximum times, they should be small and light-weighted. Though the size and weight are dependent on the objective lens, ruggedness, prism, materials, the entire design, and quality.

For birdwatching, you should go for palm-size binoculars. Usually, typical birding binoculars come around 22oz to 30oz. So your selected binocular weight should be less than 30 oz. So that you can carry and hold it perfectly without any pain or discomfort.

9. Materials

Binoculars are made of several materials like plastic, rubber, aluminum, and other metals, and blended materials sometimes. Before choosing the materials, they should be durable and stable as well. As the materials play a vital role in the weight and size of the binoculars, you can go for plastic or rubber-made binoculars. Aluminum binoculars are a little bit heavy but they will last longer. Also covered by premium rubber armor.

So you can choose based on your preferences but make sure it will be durable and can handle rough trails and shocks.

10. Withstand capacity

A birding binocular should have the water, moisture, fog, heat, and dirt withstand capacity. Whether you watch birds from your house or outside, there is a possibility of getting water and moisture into it. That damages the binocular lens, prism, and entire functionalities. Also, produce algae and fungus inside the lens. So make sure the binocular pair is o-sealed as well as nitrogen or argon purged. As a result, it will be waterproof and fog proof.

Again make sure the lenses are UV protected. So it can withstand heat. Again, the lens cleaning cloths are included with the packaging to keep the lens clean after every use.

11. Warranty & Price

Warranty means the brand has confidence in their product as well as provides services to their customer. So you should choose which binocular comes with a warranty and customer service.

Again the price range is a great factor before choosing birding binoculars. With the performance and necessary features, you will get birding binoculars from $30 to $500. You should make decisions based on your preferences, choices as well as budget. But make sure you choose the best value binoculars according to the price range.

3. A complete guide to birding with binoculars

12. Other features

With the above features, the birding binoculars will perform excellently. Some additional features will add bonus and smoother your bird watching journey like –

High definition or HD binoculars maximize the light transmission, reducing glare reduction. So you will get bright and sharp images.

On the other hand, the ED refers to extra-low dispersion binoculars which can eliminate chromatic aberration. That results in a razor-sharp and color-corrected output of the targeted birds, nests, or other objects. Also helps to watch clearly in low light conditions like during sunrise or sunset.

  • Eyecups

The eyecups should be covered by rubber armor. Also, it should be twisted up. As a result, the glass wearers can also adjust according to their eyes like non-wearers.

  • Accessories attachment

Birding binoculars which come with a full set of accessories like a neck strap for handling, tripod adapter for a place on the tripod, glasPak harness to hold with your chest, smartphone adapter to take photographs, lens cloth, carrying case, etc will help you to watch and carry the binoculars effortlessly. Also, you don’t need to spend money to buy them separately.

Testing the Binoculars

After buying a birding binocular, you need to test the pair whether it works perfectly or not. For the very first time, it may take time to focus and adjust the binoculars. After a few times of use, you can easily handle the binoculars.

Here are a few things you may do to get an idea of how well you’re aligned.

  • Place the binoculars on a level table and adjust the focus to a far horizontal line. Look through each lens in turn from a few inches behind the binoculars. Each lens’ horizontal line should appear horizontal and be in roughly the same positions as vertically in both lenses.
  • Repeat the procedure above, but this time look at a vertical line. Again, both lines in the lenses should be vertical and in the same position.

Adjusting the Binoculars

You need to adjust the pair of binoculars while watching the birds. For focusing purposes, there is a central focus wheel, which you can adjust by turning easily.

Again for the diopter adjustment, you can follow the following techniques. On the right side, the gaze can use the center-focus mechanism and gaze via the viewer’s left eye. So that you can focus on the birds perfectly while getting a detailed view.

If you use only the right eye for adjusting the diopter, you will get a sharp focus on the birds too. This time the central focus system won’t be disturbed.

Final Verdict

A good binocular is necessary for birding. Here we have tried to provide you with a complete guideline for birding with a binocular. If you keep in mind the following, you can buy the best pair of binoculars as well as you can watch birds without having any trouble. Hopefully, this guideline will help you to enjoy birding with a binocular companion perfectly.

About Nathan Mattingly

Nathan Mattingly, our head of writer section. He has completed his graduation in Computer Science from the University of California. He loves to collect vintage binoculars from his childhood. And his hobby is bird watching with binoculars. As a computer science student, he works in many technical fields and did several experiments on them. Before writing a review, he always buys the binoculars, uses them for several purposes then writes reviews for their features and functionalities. So, there is no chance of deceiving!

Leave a Comment