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The Binocular Advisor

Birding Binoculars

Part 8

Choosing a Binocular

Buy the best. Superior optics really pay off for birders in the quality of experience they provide. They will stand up to heavy use and keep their resale value. It's a false economy to buy less.

Try before you buy. Binoculars that are perfect for somebody else may not be the right binoculars for you. See if you can borrow a model you are interested in from a friend and bird with it for a day. Or ask the dealer if you can take two or more models into the field for comparison. If you haven't pretested a particular binocular, don't buy it without the assurance that you can trade it in for a different one.

The human eye has a great ability to compensate temporarily for slight misalignment or focus problems. For the few minutes spent evaluating models in a store, a pair of binoculars may look fine. But after an hour in the field you may begin to experience eye fatigue or even a headache. Subtle differences between binoculars may take some time to show up.

The best binoculars will disappear from your awareness while you're using them, so that your attention is on the bird, not the binoculars. The mark of good binoculars is that they make you feel as if you are simply seeing through your own eyes, only closer. You can look through good optics all day long with no sense of strain. With inferior optics, you feel a subtle sense of relief when you stop looking through them.

It pays to invest in the instrument you really want. You will never be sorry you bought the best binoculars.

—Michael and Diane Porter

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Need Specific

If you're about to get some new binoculars but don't quite know where to start, check out the Binoculars Advisor for specific, name-naming recommendations.

Michael and Diane Porter, who have been reviewing binoculars for Bird Watcher's Digest for over a decade, suggest binoculars for particular needs and price ranges.