There are three newbie mistakes often made by novice birders when choosing binoculars. You can learn from the mistakes of others and choose the best binoculars for birdwatching the first time. You’ll have more fun with your new hobby and save money at the same time.
Mistake Number One – buying the most powerful binoculars you can afford. There are two problems with very powerful binoculars. First, they’re usually pretty large. Remember those old “Victory at Sea” films with the giant binoculars mounted on the railings of ships? Don’t forget, you’re going to be carrying these around all day. More than that, very powerful binoculars are hard to use. It’s difficult to hold them still without jiggling and the field of view is very narrow. That makes it hard to find the bird you’re observing, especially if it’s flying or even hopping around on the ground. The best binoculars for bird watching will be around eight to ten power.
Mistake Number Two – buying binoculars that are not waterproof. You say you’ll never go birding in the rain? That may be true, but even water vapor from humidity in the air can be a problem. If your binoculars get any amount of moisture inside them they can fog up inside when that moisture condenses due to a change in temperature just like your mirror gets fogged up when you take a hot shower. Even if they dry out later, that day of birding was spoiled. Good, waterproof binoculars are filled with nitrogen to keep out moisture and even these can be found in a relatively inexpensive pair.
Mistake Number Three – believing the most expensive binoculars are the best. While there is a relationship between price and quality, the average bird watching enthusiast doesn’t need to spend a huge amount of money on binoculars. A fifteen dollar pair will not have anywhere near the optical quality of a $100 pair and it will show in the sharpness of the image, especially around the edges. But the difference between a $100 pair and a $500 pair will be much less noticeable. As binoculars get into the upper price ranges, the quality in general still might get better, but in much smaller, even imperceptible increments. It’s the old idea of diminishing returns. The good news is you don’t have to spend several hundred dollars for good birding binoculars.
Avoid these three mistakes when choosing your binoculars for birdwatching and you’ll do just fine. Look for a pair that is waterproof and around eight to ten power. You can find a great pair of birding binoculars in the one to three hundred dollar range. If your budget won’t let you go over fifty dollars or so, don’t worry. You can still have a lot of fun and perhaps upgrade in the future.