Getting up close!

Very often one needs to get up close to a bird or animal before being able to identify it, but most wild creatures are pretty shy and prefer to maintain a safe distance between us and them.

It can be a problem when trying to distinguish between similar species  or spot small distinguishing features that will positively identify the creature. This is when a good pair of binoculars is essential.

When buying a pair of binoculars, there are two numbers stamped somewhere into the metal parts, which will allow you to make a decision based upon your needs. (e.g. 7 x 50). The first number (7) is the magnification and the second (50) is the diameter (in mm) of the Objective or front lenses of the binoculars.

The magnification tells you how much closer the image will appear. In our example – 7 times closer.!

  • A magnification between 7 and 10 is ideal for general purpose viewing.
  • More than 10 will of course bring the image closer, but it will also magnify any unsteadiness of your hands and make viewing difficult.  You will need some sort of stand.
  • Increased magnification results in a smaller field of view which will mean difficulty in following rapid movement such as game running or a bird hopping from branch to branch.

Lens Diameter
The diameter of the Objective lens will determine two important criteria – image brightness as well as overall size and weight.

  • The greater the diameter, the brighter the image…
  • Greater diameter also means a heavier and more bulky pair of binoculars.

Personally, I have two pairs….

  • 8 x 21  – which are light, compact  and ideal for use in the car where they can be easily passed around and stored for quick accessibility. Their lower magnification means that the image remains reasonably steady even when the vehicle is moving, but they are pretty useless at the waterhole at sunset. The image is just not bright enough.
  • 10 x 50 – these are good for spotting detail at long range from a steady platform or picking out that stealthy movement in the shadows as the sun is going down, but they certainly will not fit in your pocket!.

beach1If you have to settle on one pair for all occasions, then I would suggest something in between. A good pair of 8×42 binoculars would probably be ideal to take on safari and when you return home, they will still be useful for any number of purposes….