Old school is still cool

Old school is still cool

A good friend who is an avid birder offered to take us through Delta Park, Owlets had hatched at the environmental centre and numerous other species were evident. We gathered at a local eatery and over coffee got to know each other. Everyone had a day pack with snacks, water, cameras, bird books and binoculars and a few also had trekking poles to help on the uneven terrain.

After coffee, we made our way across the spruit via the “blue bridge” and then explored a section of the spruit to look for water birds before making our way to the trees adjacent to the bird sanctuary. Despite being in the middle of an urban landscape birds and small animals are prolific. I have even released terrapins into the various dams near the top of the park.

Then we had a stop to check everyone’s equipment. Bird books tended to be a variety with many opting for the smaller lighter variety a few folks had packed small first aid kits but the merriment came when the guide asked to see our binoculars and bird books. Most of us came armed with the trusty “Roberts” bird book which is still after all these years a great book albeit a bit on the heavy side.

The binoculars caused some laughter, one couple had bought a pair that looked like opera glasses, they were so small. Possibly useful in a small garden. Mine were archaic, I had bought them around 35 years ago. At the time they were a good buy and still do the job. a comment was made to the effect that they looked like something a naval Captain would have used during World War Two. We skipped the bird sanctuary as it has been deemed to be unsafe so only briefly used one of the hides to get into the spirit of things. We followed a route and the guide pointed out many species but the only problem was the fact that no one had thought of bringing a bird checklist, by the end of the trip most of us had forgotten what we saw.

We then departed from the fields to the environmental centre and used the adjacent tables to rest and have a snack and something to drink.

As we still had some time our guide shared some facts about binoculars which were extremely interesting. Remember that they enhance your outdoor experience by making it easier to see things. So if you are going to purchase a pair the best is to go to a specialist photographic dealer and evaluate the options on hand that fit your budget. Then you can make your final choice. There are a few key things to look for when doing your evaluation.

  • Try to get an understanding of the numbers. They indicate strength ( magnification )  and the size ( diameter of the objective lens ), for example, 8×40 indicates that 8 is the magnification power 40 is the diameter in millimetres of the objective lenses ( those closest to the subject that you are viewing ). The objective lens number also gives an indication of the size of the binoculars and how much light they can take in. This is important for poor light conditions.
  • Consider things like a decent carrying case, rubber coating as well fog proof construction which has become a feature on most decent binoculars.
  • The intended use is also a factor, for backpacking and hiking size and weight are a factor so you will want compact binoculars say an 8×25 would do the job. Water-resistant rubber coatings are also important.
  • For birding and general game viewing size and weight are less important so most people opt for an 8×32 or 8×42. You can opt for 10 power magnification but that will reduce your field of view which is a key factor when scanning the trees or bush. 10 power magnification is important if your main purpose is wildlife viewing so you can go for a 10×32 or 42. Water resistance is important if you are on foot or near water sources or the sea ( think whale watching ).
  • Size and weight come into play as well so you get the compact variety, mid-size and full-size. Evaluate this against your intended use.
  • Remember the magnification, with an 8 you will get a wider view while a 10 gives a tighter more detailed look. Just remember that anything over 10 power will make it difficult to keep the binoculars steady and in a car, you may need a window rest and outside a tripod or monopod comes in handy.
  • Ask questions as the salespeople are generally up to speed and they may even have a specialist in the shop.
  • If you wear glasses make sure that the eyepiece is suitable and comfortable.
  • Discuss the lens construction and coatings as they will influence clarity and brightness as well as the reduction of reflection.
  • Understand the focusing procedures and adjust the diopter control (your salesperson will explain this setting) and if you are happy you will only need the rotating centre control to focus on an object, animal or bird.
  • A good retailer may have a test chart to test focusing which is primarily there for photographic lenses but can be used to test the focusing of a pair of binoculars.

At the end of the day, it is all about budget and the intended purpose. So don’t rush your purchase. A wise choice will give you years of pleasure.

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