Use your eyes to the fullest
By: John Martino
With Christmas looming on the horizon and you’re searching for a great gift, here’s something to consider.
“Look at what I got for my birthday,” said Michelle Cooper proudly as I stepped through the door of their Howard County home last month. Dangling from her neck was a new pair of Nikon binoculars. “You’d thought I got her a fine diamond necklace,” chided her husband Mark. Speaking to someone who has multiple pairs, where one set has a permanent place on our own kitchen counter, I appreciated her enthusiasm.
As Mark and I sipped coffee and talked about this year’s deer season and an upcoming Hunter Education class, Michelle took her seat in front of their picture window. It was funny watching her scour the landscape, her head slowly turning from side-to-side. “I even bought a bird identification book and actually seen quite a few different species,” she said. “And I can’t wait for the Colts game when I can really check out those guys in their tight pants!” she added, her husband of many years looking on in embarrassment.
A quality pair of binoculars is a small piece of outdoor equipment many can benefit from. They have their place in the field, concerts, sporting events and at home, even if you live in town. There is always something to get a closer look at.
Whether you are purchasing your first pair or want to upgrade, it doesn’t take long to become confused with optical jargon. Really it’s all fairly simple.
Naturally, the first thing to consider is their intended use. Optics used for bird watching from your kitchen window doesn’t need to be as top shelf as a pair used by wilderness guides. Prices range from just under $100 to the cost of a nice, used pickup truck.
Unless you know specifically what you want, the best is to visit a store that sells several varieties where you can physically try them out. One of the most important is to make sure they feel good.
Don’t get confused by the jargon. All binoculars are identified by a simple code. Two numbers separated by an “X”. For example, 7X32, 8X42 or 10X50. The first number is magnification which means the object you are viewing appears to be 7, 8 or 10 times closer. A word to the wise, more magnification is not always better. Try to stay away from anything greater than 10 power as they are hard to hold steady without some type of stable rest.
Following the “X” is the size of the objective lenses, the one farthest from your eyes. The larger the number the more light it will gather making the image brighter.
It’s easy when purchasing binoculars to become overwhelmed and confused. We can also describe things like, exit pupil, prism types, depth of field and field of view, but for the vast majority they are not overly important.
One of the most vital with any pair of binoculars is to separately adjust the focus on one eye, (usually the right one) with the diopter adjustment. This feature lets you compensate for vision differences between your eyes to obtain the clearest image possible.
To make this adjustment look through your binoculars and pick out a distinct object. Now close your right eye and looking through your left eye only make the object as clear as possible using the center focus knob. Once you have that eye focused, repeat using the right eye but this time use the diopter adjustment.
Something else to consider has nothing to do with optics but equally important. The strap that allows you to conveniently and comfortably carry your bino’s. If they will only be used in the home for bird watching then a carrying strap becomes less important. But if they will have a place around your neck for any length of time, a good strap becomes essential.
Stay away from small shoestring types. Wide, elastic styles provide a noticeable increase in comfort. Even if you have to purchase separately, its money well spent. For long term users, there is nothing better than a binocular harness. Take it from someone who lives in them every fall. These types of harnesses pass over your shoulders in an “X” pattern and away from your neck. Their weight is supported by your back and shoulders providing better support and comfort. It also keeps them from slamming your chest during strenuous activity.
They say our most relied on sense is that of sight, so why not use them to the fullest. Anyone with an interest in viewing birds, wildlife, bands, or like Michelle, your favorite athletes, an affordable set of binoculars can provide us with added enjoyment.