Binoculars are an indispensable item for the real outdoor enthusiast. There are many different brands, models and sizes of binoculars. So if you are ready to buy (new) binoculars, you can make the right choice with the following tips. If you already have binoculars (that’s what a birdwatcher calls his or her binoculars), read on. Who knows, you might soon meet someone who is looking for a new viewer. Then you can help him or her with these tips. I have listed seven tips that can help you.
Tip #1 – Determine your budget
There is a lot of variation in price. You can make it as expensive as you want. There are binoculars from a few tens to € 3,000 and even more expensive. That is why it is important to consider what you are willing to pay for it. Don’t look at a few tens, but choose one that fits your budget. Good binoculars are not available for less than €150. But you don’t have to spend thousands of euros right away.
What you can always do is check Marktplaats or other websites to see if there are good second-hand binoculars for sale. Or make a call on social media. Who knows, there are bird watchers who have just bought another viewer and want to get rid of their ‘old’ for a good price.
Tip #2 – Think carefully about the type of binoculars that suit your needs
Do you want binoculars that you can easily take with you everywhere? Or one that has the highest magnification? That makes quite a difference. Because the first is small and compact and the second is bigger and heavier. Everything is possible. So think carefully about what you are looking for and how you want to use your binoculars.
Tip #3 – Think carefully about what magnification you want
This is an important choice. It’s really about how close you want to get to everything. The magnification determines how much closer the binoculars get to the birds. A magnification of 8 or 10 times are the most common. Think about it carefully. If, like me, you almost always have your telescope with you, a magnification of 8 is fine. You can then scan the area with your binoculars and zoom in further with your telescope. Are you often found in the woods? Then 8 times is also fine. If you are often in the field where you can look further, a magnification of 10 can be more practical.
If you are going to test, you will see 2 numbers on the binoculars. The first is magnification. The second number is the diameter of the lens in millimeters. Thus, 10 x 42 binoculars magnify 10 times and the diameter of the lens is 42 mm. In general, the larger the lens, the more light the binoculars have. This is especially important in poor lighting conditions. I myself have the KOWA Genesis Prominar XD44 (8.5×44). This viewer has a magnification of 8.5 and a diameter of 44 mm. Lots of light, so that even at dusk and in the dark you can see more than with your naked eye.
Tip #4 – Take a good look at how wide the field of view is
The field of view is usually expressed in how wide your image is at a distance of 1,000 meters. The field of view should not be too small. This is especially important in areas where you can see far. Because if you are scanning an area, it is nice if you have a wide field of view. Then you simply see more flies. With a narrower field of view, you are more likely to miss birds that fly away just outside the frame. And it will just be a Sea Eagle that you miss. For this it applies (again in general :-)) that the more expensive the binoculars, the wider the field of view at 1,000 meters.
Tip #5 – Go test, of which at least once in gloomy weather
On the internet you only see a photo or image of binoculars. Sometimes also reviews from others, but I still advise you to test it yourself. It is always different when you hold binoculars yourself. That’s why my advice is to test well. Throughout the country there are shops where you can test binoculars and where you get good advice. So first check the internet to see if there is a good store near you.
If you are going to try it out, it is important that you pay attention to the weather conditions. If the weather is radiant then all viewers are actually good. When the sun is shining, you have a pretty good image even with binoculars of 50 euros. It is precisely in gloomy, typically Dutch gray weather that the difference between binoculars becomes very clear. Then you can see how the brightness of your binoculars is. So go test at least once with gloomy weather. Then you can see the difference between reasonable and good binoculars.
What you can also do is join me on a field trip. I always bring different binoculars that you can test. Take a look at my website for the excursion overview.
Tip #6 – Don’t rush things overnight
If you buy binoculars, it is often for years. Then it’s nice if you make a good choice. You can order one on the internet, but then you don’t know how the viewer feels in your hand, how it focuses or how heavy it feels. I did my own research on the internet first. Then I went to a store that had several binoculars that I could test.
In any case, it is useful to call or email first to see if they have enough viewers to test. That can differ per store and it is a shame if you come for nothing. I had already made a shortlist based on the tips above (and my years of experience as a bird watcher, of course), so I knew which viewers I wanted to test.
Only one of my shortlist remained and that was it. If things go a little less smoothly for you, that’s not a problem at all, because you have to do what feels best for you. It is better to think a little longer than to buy a viewer for a considerable amount that you will regret.
Tip #7 – Do what feels best for you
You can ask 10 birdwatchers which binoculars they recommend and they will all name a different one. One finds pocket binoculars ideal, the other wants a specific brand. As an ambassador of KOWA, I can certainly recommend you to test the binoculars of the KOWA brand. Definitely do that, but ultimately make the choice yourself. Remember: it will be your binoculars. So pay close attention to what YOU like best and choose the binoculars that suit you best.
Bonus tip: also ask about the possibilities for digiscoping. That is taking photos or videos with your smartphone through the binoculars. KOWA has a handy adapter for that. You can take really cool photos with it.
One more thing. It is really great fun to choose a new pair of binoculars. Reading reviews, testing and finally purchasing. But that’s when it really starts, because you buy it to watch birds. So enjoy the process, but make a choice once, otherwise you will miss a lot of beautiful birds. If you think a pair of binoculars is good enough for you, buy it, forget about the other binoculars and the opinions of others and enjoy all the beauty outside.
Read my other bird columns here
I have found that birdwatching and watching birds is extremely good for you. Good for your mental and physical health. For your resilience and your ability to deal with stress. As humans, we can also learn a lot from birds. Thanks to birdwatching and birdwatching you can get through difficult periods in your life. As I said, I know that from my own experience. And bird watching is just super fun!
That is why I organize bird excursions, lectures and courses. I share my love and passion for birds and people want to marvel at the magical world of birds. About their special qualities, about daring and confidence in their own abilities.