Binoculars are marvelous tools, but the more you want to learn about them, the more technical and confusing they seem to get. They are an absolute must for some activities so, without being overly technical, here is a brief and simple guide to what types may be considered best for certain tasks:
Most people are aware of the standard types of binoculars known as ‘opera glasses’ specifically designed for theatre use. However, if you want something a bit more robust, or are watching an outdoor performance, then standard binoculars of about 6×30 may be a good bet.
If you are watching bird-life in woods, a wide view and a strong image is very important, especially from compact binoculars. 6×30 is good for looking around woods, 7×35 is good for ‘all-round field use’, and 8×35 or 9×35 is the best bet for looking at birds of prey over a longer distance. Bird-watchers may also want to consider the binoculars‘ ability in reduced light.
Astronomy traditionally is done with telescopes placed on tripods. However, when using binoculars, no tripod is necessary, so it is important to choose binoculars with a magnification that can easily be held steady, typically 8x or below. Also, as much light as possible is needed, so choose the largest objective lens diameter that you can comfortably carry; 7×50 to 9×63 may be just the job.
For more advice and a look at a comprehensive range of binoculars, such as pocket binoculars and other compact varieties, visit Sherwoods Photographic, a family owned company who specialise in telescopes and binoculars.
Stargazers and those who enjoy spending time outdoors looking at the flora and fauna may like to invest in a pair of astronomical binoculars.
Many shoppers mistakenly believe that instruments of this kind are ineffective when viewing the night sky. However, improvements in design have lead to the development of powerful devices that can be used to give images of planets. The views may not be as clear as those caught by telescopes designed especially for this activity, but aspects of the skies can be appreciated through them, such as comets. In addition, they can double up as terrestrial viewing instrument, for catching clear sight of land-based objects.
Binoculars also have the advantage they are more portable than larger devices created solely for stargazing. There are a host of models available that can meet these requirements, meaning shoppers are free to invest in one instrument rather than purchasing one for the night sky and another for land images, if they wish. We are well-stocked in astronomical binoculars, which are the choice of many who are just starting to learn about the night sky as they do not need much knowledge to use them.
It is simply a case of choosing the preferred aperture for the kind of activities they are to be used for. Devices with larger apertures tend to let in more light, which may suit those using them mainly for night viewing. If apertures are too low they may not reveal much detail of objects in low-light conditions, but they will provide images with greater all-round clarity.
For viewing activities, whether bird-watching or astronomy, there is such a wealth of equipment available that it can be difficult working out exactly what you’re going to need. When it comes to telescopes and binoculars, although they are both viewing apparatus, they are actually quite distinct bits of kit – so which should you choose?
Well, the answer is actually entirely dependent on what you’ll be using it for. The obvious advantages of binoculars, for example, is their portability, which makes the ideal choice for “field” activities such as bird-watching or marine watching. In fact, such is the range of binoculars available that it is possible to achieve great magnification as well as extreme portability.
It might surprise you that binoculars also offer some certain advantages in terms of astronomy, and particularly beginner’s and “field” astronomy. Again this is in part due to their portability, meaning that they can be used quickly to observe transitory celestial events, such as meteor showers or eclipses and also due to the fact that they have a larger field of view than telescopes, making it easier to survey the sky, or view large sections of the moon, for example.
Despite these certain advantages, however, the supreme choice for astronomical viewing is surely astronomical telescopes. These are perfectly engineered to locating deep-space objects or observing the fine detail of the moon that a pair of binoculars just can’t rival. You might assume that such potent viewing capability comes at a premium, but over the last few years, top quality telescopes have become available for less than £200.
If you find that you take more than a passing interest in the birds in your garden, wonder what the Latin name for a robin is, and fight to get the remote control from your partner when a documentary about birds is on, the chances are that there is a bird watcher in you dying to get out!
You’ve done a bit of research and decided you need to invest in a good pair of binoculars. So you’ve been to the shop and chosen a good power range and a comfortable weight.
Now you have to make the compact binoculars work for you – and don’t be swayed by what your friends tell you or what the salesperson tells you. Get the fittings right for your eyes and get the focus nice and clear. Make sure you have a good clear view and your eyes feel comfortable.
Do they feel ok hung around your neck? Is the strap too thin or not strong enough? You’ll be carrying them around your neck like this, remember, so they need to feel comfortable.
Try them up against your eyes. Check that they feel balanced in your hands and that you can reach the central focusing wheel.
A good tip for glasses wearers is to choose binoculars that have fold-down eye-cups.
Once you have found the right pair, paid up and gone home, it’s worth remembering a few pointers for everyday care of your bird watching binoculars:
1. Keep them clean and dry
2. Treat them gently – they are often more delicate than they look
3. Look out (excuse the pun) for health problems such as eye strain or headaches.
You may be surprised to hear that binoculars can be a very effective tool for the aspiring or accomplished astronomer.
Buying an expensive piece of kit when you are just beginning with a new hobby can make people apprehensive. This is understandable. For parents with children taking up astronomy as a hobby, they may have seen this interest in other things before and then watched in dismay as the interest dies and the ballet shoes, guitar or pony is forgotten.
While astronomical telescopes aren’t usually as expensive as ponies, they are still a formidable outlay of money. This is where binoculars come in.
Far cheaper than astronomical telescopes yet just as effective – even more so in some cases – binoculars should be the first optical tool embraced by would-be astronomers (and their parents) whatever their age.
It isn’t just the price that makes compact binoculars a good starting point for novices. They are usually lighter than telescopes and easier to use – telescopes usually require assembling before they can be used and then disassembling before they are put away again.
Binoculars are actually superior to astronomical telescopes in that they offer a wider field of vision. And of course, they can be used to view a variety of other things, not just planet and shooting stars.
Once a commitment has been made to the study of astronomy, the time will come where a telescope is a required purchase.
Even then, a pair of binoculars will be a good piece of any astronomer’s viewing kit and will complement a telescope nicely.