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The Binocular Advisor

Birding Binoculars

Part 7

Comparing Binoculars

Indoors, where you can control lighting conditions, tape a dollar bill to a wall. Then compare how well various binoculars resolve the same details, both at the center and at the edges of the visual field. Test the binoculars without support, hand holding them as you would in normal use. Is one pair more comfortable to hold? Do you prefer looking through it? You can also test binoculars on a tripod or a beanbag support. You may obtain different results from what you find in the hand-held test.

If you get the opportunity, try a binocular you're considering in the field. Consider the weight. After an hour are they still comfortable around your neck? You may want to try using a replacement strap made of neoprene rubber. Wide and stretchy, it helps to absorb shock and protect the neck.

What to avoid in birding binoculars

Zoom binoculars are usually optically inferior to regular binoculars. Avoid fixed focus binoculars. They won't focus up close. And don't get binoculars that focus each eyepiece separately. Individual focus is appropriate for marine binoculars, which require complete waterproofing, but it's too slow on the draw for birding.

What are the best birding binoculars?

It's really a matter of your personal use. Different models are best for different purposes and different birders. The 10 power that's tops for distant shorebirds may be outperformed by a 7 power with a wider field of view when searching for warblers in dim light.

For some specific suggestions, for specific situations and needs, check out The Binocular Advisor.

—Michael and Diane Porter

birdwatching.com

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Need Specific
Recommendations?

If you're about to get some new binoculars but don't quite know where to start, check out the Binoculars Advisor for specific, name-naming recommendations.

Michael and Diane Porter, who have been reviewing binoculars for Bird Watcher's Digest for over a decade, suggest binoculars for particular needs and price ranges.