Thursday, December 27, 2012

I Can See Clearly Now, I Have Binocs

Hello! I hope you are doing well. Unfortunately, I do not have a video for you, and it will probably be another couple of weeks before I do have one. To make a video I need an immense amount of footage. I just have not had enough time to get that many clips, what with school and college applications. I apologize for the wait.

In the meantime, however, I can talk about other things! For example, let's consider the hypothetical situation in which I have actually convinced you to try birding. (wink wink nudge nudge) What are some of the basics that you need to know/have?

First of all, let's talk optics. You could start with either a pair of binoculars or a camera. Binoculars are the classic birder tool, of course. I actually started with a camera, though. This was helpful for a couple of reasons. When I first started birding I had literally no idea what I needed to do to identify a bird. By looking at the pictures at home, I was able to start picking out which field marks were important, and I could compare the shapes and colors of different birds I had seen. Plus, if you have a photo, you can submit it to the WhatBird "Help Me Identify a Bird" forum. (To participate in this forum you need to make an account, but that's a free and easy process.)

However, you probably don't have a super good camera, unless you are already an avid photographer. So you may want to try binoculars instead. Funnily enough, you may already have a pair of binocs in your house somewhere. I'm currently using a pair that were gifted to my brother, but which he never used. Perhaps your parents or a friend of yours has a pair that they would be happy to lend you. If not, you could try doing some online shopping.

I am not well-versed in the ways of shopping online for optics, but let's explore together. There are quite a lot of companies that make binoculars specifically for birders. Some of these companies are Leica, Zeiss, Eagle Optics, and Swarovski. I personally have Barska binoculars. Obviously the cost of the binoculars varies from company to company, but you should be able to get good quality optics from any of them. You could buy the binocs from the companies' websites, except they get awfully expensive. Swarovski optics can cost over $2,000.

So, yes, if you have a lot of money that you are willing to splurge on optics, go for it! It is true that a new, more expensive pair of binocs will probably be better quality than a used, cheaper pair. But if you're just starting out, I doubt that you want to drop a couple grand on some binoculars. That's why I suggest you turn to Ebay, or Craigslist. In these Ebay results for Zeiss binoculars and Eagle Optics binoculars, some of the offerings cost only a hundred dollars.

Before you buy any pair of binoculars, you should see if you can get your hands on it. It's hard to tell how heavy or big a particular pair is without picking it up. If you order something online, make sure the vendor has a return policy, just in case you don't like it... It's hard for me to help you with your shopping beyond this point, because everyone has unique needs. For example, some of you might want a large, sturdy pair, while others might want a small pair that can fit in your pocket. You're just going to have to find a pair that works for you.

There is only one more topic on which I can coach you. Something that you should consider while buying your binoculars is whether they have a magnification of 8x or 10x. Both tiers are useful, but for different reasons. Tens magnify more than eights, obviously. What you need to keep in mind is that the more your field of sight is magnified, the more your own motions are magnified as well. If your hands are shaking even slightly, your field of sight is going to be shaky, and that shakiness is going to be much more apparent with a pair of tens than with a pair of eights. It's up to you whether you would prefer eights or tens.

That's basically all I can tell you about binoculars. I hope this was helpful! If you decide to buy a pair online, drop me a comment about your experience, so that we can help other interested people make a good choice.

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