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Your turn: Binocular 101

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Screen Shot 2013-12-27 at 4.31.40 PMHaving a basic understanding of how binoculars work is a plus for anyone considering investing a few hundred dollars in a new one. Just what is “exit pupil”, and why should that concern you if you wear glasses? Does a bigger number in front of the X mean that the image is brighter? In this issue of Birder’s Guide to Gear, Ben Lizdas breaks down the basics for us in “Binocular 101″ by defining the parts of a binocular (at right) and then explaining how they work together to gather light, and then transmit it to your eyes.

To read Ben’s article, and the entire issue of Birder’s Guide to Gear online (and for free!), just click here. Please share any comments or questions you have for Ben in the comment section below.

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Michael Retter
Michael L. P. Retter is the editor of the ABA's newest magazine, Birder's Guide. He also wears his ABA cap while working as a Technical Reviewer for Birding magazine. When not at home, Michael is often leading tours in Middle America (Mexico through Panama). He currently lives with his fiancé, Matt, in Fort Worth, Texas. In his fleeting free time there, he pursues interests in horticulture (especially orchids), music, cooking, and numismatics. Michael also runs GBNA, the continent's informal club and email list for LGBT birders.
  • Michael Retter

    Lynette Leka of Newbury, MA writes (via email), “I was surprised that the author didn’t emphasize how important it is for the binocs to FEEL good – fits your hands, fits your face, etc.; whenever anyone asks me about the important features to look for, I always tell them that foremost is how comfortable a model is to hold, handle, and use – everything else in current specs is going to be just fine; I learned this the hard way by purchasing a pair of Swarovski 10x32s that had top-notch specs and reviews, but just didn’t fit my orbital bone structure, so had to re-sell them at a loss.”

  • Michael Retter

    Jan Peter Smith of Marblehead, MA writes (via email), “I frequently get asked questions about binoculars and people want to know what I recommend. Binoculars 101 really missed the mark in terms of what I hear people asking. Hardly anyone is interested in most of the technical details. They want to know what the difference is between a $79 pair and a $2800 Swarovision. I try to explain what I know, which is targeted to how well I know the person and what I think they want. Often it is a wild guess. But it depends on how much they will use them and what their skill level is. The article didn’t really address this key question. I tell people that the field of view is important because if it is wide, it is easier to spot a bird, since many people have trouble aiming binos. Higher poer means that you can see more of the bird. Close focusing can also be critical–some friends bought new Swarovisions 10 X50 and are disappointed to find that the close focusing is significantly longer than the 10 X 40. More expensive binos means that they should be better able to survive being dropped! An so forth, I think there were many practical pieces of information that are more important than the technical details. I recently got a table listing specs for something like 112 binos but there was no analysis given. I can use it to sort things out but most people can’t. So this article didn’t really address the key basic questions that most birders, especially newer ones, have.”

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