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The Scopes Advisor

 


Birding Optics

Michael and Diane Porter are avid birdwatchers. They've been reviewing binoculars and spotting scopes for over 20 years.

They've surveyed hundreds of binoculars and scopes, testing them for optical qualities and noting the fit-and-feel characteristics of each instrument. In each survey, a team of Iowa birders helped by trying out the optics and contributing their considered opinions.

Some of their articles and reviews are posted here.


SPOTTING SCOPES

Travel Scopes Review
(January, 2014, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
This review compares spotting scopes with objective lenses of 65mm or less. It aims to help you decide which small scope would work best for you.

Vortex Razor HD 50mm Review
Vortex Razor 50mm vs. Nikon Fieldscope 50mm
(Nov. 2013 Birdwatching Dot Com exclusive)
by Michael and Diane Porter
We make a detailed, hands-on study of new Vortex Razor 11-33 scope. We compare it closely with the Nikon 50mm Fieldscope, with which it directly competes.

Swarovski Reinvents the Spotting Scope
(January, 2013, a Birdwatching Dot Com exclusive)
by Michael and Diane Porter
We review Swarovski's completely new design in spotting scopes. The ATX Modular Eyepiece integrates the eyepiece and prisms into one unit. Available in 65mm, 85mm, or 95mm.

The Tripod Advisor
(March 2014)
A Birdwatching Dot Com exclusive
What do I need in the way of a tripod to support my new spotting scope? Michael and Diane make brand-naming recommendations for the best tripods to complete your scope outfit.

High-end Spotting Scopes Review
(Nov. 2009, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
For this review, we surveyed 12 full-sized birding scopes, sent to us by manufacturers as their top-of-the-line scopes. The five or six best scopes in the world are included in this survey.

Mid-priced Spotting Scopes Round Up
(May 2009, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
With the economic downturn, and with the price of top-end spotting scopes heading north of $3000, many birders are looking for something that fits a modest budget. This article reports our testing of 12 scopes priced under $900. Some were full sized and others were small scopes.

Zeiss DiascopeWhich Camera?
A reader writes: "I want to get into digiscoping. My problem is that I don't know which camera to get to go with a particular scope and digital camera adapter." Here are some suggestions.

Backpackable Spotting Scope (2007)
New miniature scope from Nikon gives full-size images of great clarity and brightness.

Birding Scopes: Angled or Straight (2005) lays out the advantages of angled scopes for birders. And it's still all true.

Scope Basics: How to Choose the Scope That's Right for You (2000) explains obective lens, eyepiece erecting prisms, aperture, magnification, eye relief, chromatic aberration, birding vs. astronomical scopes, and aiming devices. Scopes have changed since this peice was written, but the principles of picking a scope have not!

The First Telescope: a Historical Note tells how the telescope was invented, and what was the first thing anyone ever saw through a telescope.


GENERAL PRINCIPLES

Right AT the Bird!The Zen Art of Aiming points a birder in the right direction to find the bird in the binoculars.

Binocular Glossary defines binocular parts, and anti-phase-shifting coatings and explains "what does 7x42 mean?"

Warranties on Binoculars (2000) with the results of our informal survey of how well various manufacturers treated binocular owners when they sent their optics in for repair. Also explains what gray market goods are.


Some of these articles appear exclusively on the Birdwatching Dot Com webite. Others These are republished here with permission of Bird Watcher's Digest. Many have been updated since original publication.

ADVICE

The Binocular AdvisorBinocular Advisor
Questions from real people about which binoculars to buy, and Michael and Diane's suggestions.

Scopes Advisor
Michael and Diane answer questions and offer specific advice on which scope to buy.


MOST RECENT ARTICLE

Travel Scopes Review
(January, 2014, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
This review compares spotting scopes with objective lenses of 65mm or less. It aims to help you decide which small scope would work best for you.


BINOCULAR REVIEWS

CardinalBinocular Picks for Every Price Range
(Updated May 26, 2014)
by Michael and Diane Porter. Looking for an optical gift?
Generally, the better the binocular, the more it costs. But there are good values in every price range. Here are Michael and Diane Porter's picks for the best binoculars at various prices.

Pocket Binoculars Reviews Here are links to our reviews of compact binoculars of a variety of prices, and an overview of what a birder hopes to find in a good pocket binocular. (November, 2013, a Birdwatching Dot Com exclusive.)

Best of the Best Binoculars Review
(May. 2012, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
We review high-end binoculars in the 8x42 size class, selling for $600 and up. Review includes exciting new 2nd-tier binoculars by Zeiss, Swarovski, and Leica.

Mid-priced Binoculars Review
(Jan. 2012, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
We review moderately priced binoculars in the 8x42 size class. All the binoculars are street priced between $200 and $600 and have 8-power eyepieces and 42mm or slightly larger objective lenses.

Mid-sized Binoculars Review
(Nov. 2011, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
We evaluated 34 mid-sized binoculars, all 8 power and with approximately 32mm objective lenses. The prices varied from very inexpensive to top-end models. There were both roof- and Porro-prism styles. Here are our findings and the Best Buys we identified.

Binocular-cameras Review
(Sept. 2011, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
We discusse the necessary design principles of a binocular-camera. It also gives an in-depth look at the Bushnell Image-View SyncFocus binocular-camera.


HOW TO USE BINOCULARS

A Question of Alignment
(A Birdwatching Dot Com special)
by Michael and Diane Porter
If your binoculars are not fun to look through, if they give you a feeling of strain or a headache, they may be out of alignment. Here's how you can test your binoculars for alignment.

Field of View
(A Birdwatching Dot Com special)
You usually get a wider field of view with an 8-power binocular than you do with the same model in 10 power. Read more details.

Eye Relief
(A Birdwatching Dot Com special)
Getting to see the big picture ...People who wear glasses can get cheated out of part of the image they should be seeing through their binoculars

Adjusting Your Binoculars (Oct. 2006)
If you don't know about the diopter adjustment on your binocular, read this short article. It will show you how to see more clearly with the binocular you already own.

Diopter Locking Mechanisms (Nov. 2006)
If you don't know about the diopter adjustment on your binocular, read this short article. It will show you how to see more clearly with the binocular you already own.

10 Myths of Birding Optics (Sept. 2006)
by Michael and Diane Porter. Every subject has its myths, misconceptions, and urban legends. They spread and persist like gossip but are even more unreliable. Here's a little light on the the subject
.


FROM THE ARCHIVES

High-end Binocular Round Up
(Sept. 2008, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
What is the best birding binocular in the world? We studied 31 high-end binoculars, with prices btween $750 and $2095. Here's what we found out.

Midpriced Binocular Round Up
(Nov. 2007, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest)
by Michael and Diane Porter
If you are a birder with between $300 and $800 to spend on a new binocular, what can you get? Our team evaluated 56 mid-priced binoculars, from $300 to $80o. Here are the team's findings.

Mid-sized Binoculars (2005)
by Michael and Diane Porter. An overview of the new mid-sized (32mm) binoculars. Who they work well for. Which manufacturers are giving their mid-sized binoculars enough eye relief. Hand-on reviews. From January, 2005, Bird Watcher's Digest.

Advances in Full-sized Binoculars (2000) covers improvements in eyecups, skin-friendly coverings, lens caps, locking diopter adjustments, the weighty matater of weight, and close focus.

Birding Binoculars and How They Work explains Porro prism vs. roof prisms, coatings, binocular power and light, field of view, eye relief, comparing and choosing binoculars, and the future of birding optics.

Comparing Birding Binoculars (1995), one of Michael and Diane's earliest optical reviews for Bird Watcher's Digest, contains still-useful advice about how to pick the binocular that is right for you.


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