Choosing Binoculars PictureBinocular Guidelines for Bird Watching

Size and Weight

The bird watcher should avoid selecting binoculars based on their size and weight.  Beginners tend to make the mistake of choosing binoculars that are light weight and small enough to put in their pocket.  This should be avoided because they usually do not have enough magnification power and do not let in an adequate amount of light for proper bird watching.

A good pair of bird watching binoculars will normally weigh 20 to 28 ounces.

Magnification and Light

Binoculars are rated by two numbers.  Look for something like 7x35 or 8.5x42 for bird watching.  The first number (7) or (8.5) indicates the power of magnification.  If it is a "7", then the object being viewed will appear to be 7 times closer.  Binoculars with a stronger magnification of 7 or 8.5 tend to be difficult for the user to hold the image steady.  Anything less powerful means that you will have difficulty seeing the birds close enough to identify them properly.

The second number (35) or (42) represents the diameter of the lens in millimeters at the far end of the binoculars.  A large opening admits more light and the image will be clearer, and this can be important on a very cloudy day or towards evening viewing.  Stay within the 35 to 42 range.

Additional Features

Birds tend to move about from tree to tree quickly, so look for binoculars with central focusing coated lenses.  They are worth the additional cost because they limit glare and the halo effect that uncoated lenses are known for.  A cleaning kit is a good investment towards protecting the coated lenses and to insure that your bird watching experience remains an enjoyable one.

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Last Updated May, 2010