Saturday, February 1, 2014

Top five alternative uses for binoculars


It is easy to think, especially somewhere like North Norfolk, that birdwatchers are the only people who use binoculars. In fact there are a whole world of applications that optics can be put to, enhancing almost any outdoor pursuit and even some indoor ones. Below are five of the more frequent uses our customers purchase binoculars for aside from birding.



1: Entomology

Many of the most beautiful insects are not easily approached, and so a good close-focusing binocular is very useful to fully appreciate them and aid identification. As a rule a minimum focusing distance under 2m (6'6”) is suitable, but the closer the better. 8x32s tend to be the best for this, and some particularly good examples are listed below.



Vortex Viper HD 8x32 with an outstanding minimum focusing distance of 0.9m (3').





2: Aircraft spotting

Here power is important, with 10-20x being a good range to consider. A very competent model for this purpose is the Opticron Oregon 15x70. This is no lightweight and needs a steady hand being so powerful, but with practice does the job well. As an alternative that is lighter and smaller is the Hawke Naturetrek 12x50, offering slightly less magnification but with better optical quality.



3: Sporting events

A day at the races or a cricket match can be really enhanced by seeing the action up close. Almost any specification will do for this, but probably the best bet is an eight or ten times magnification with a reasonably wide field of view. For the sake of size and weight, compact binoculars can be a good bet in these circumstances. Most sports take place in reasonably good lighting conditions so the light gathering can be sacrificed for portability.
A good all-rounder for most sport and races is the Swarovski CL 10x25 which is small, light, stylish and has great optics.  A budget alternative is the Hawke Frontier 10x25 which performs exceptionally well for its size and price.



4: Art, architecture and theatre

There are features of historic buildings and paintings in galleries that can only be fully appreciated by getting a bit closer. A small binocular is a very good way of doing this without attracting the attention of security guards or carrying a long ladder around with you. There are many mediaeval churches in Norfolk with intricate carving high in the roofs or at column capitals, the beauty of which can by seen with binoculars. We also occasionally supply surveyors with binoculars and scopes for inspecting hard to reach parts of buildings.

At the theatre a decent compact binocular is a great way to get the most out of a performance even from the cheap seats.  Fancy gold and mother of pearl opera glasses are, in fact, just low magnification compacts, so an 8x20 (e.g. the Leica Trinovid) would do the job very well.



5: Hiking and hill walking

Binoculars can be a real boon when out in the hills, not just for examining a spectacular view in greater detail, but also as an aid to navigation. Being able to positively identify landscape features indistinct to the naked eye can be a real boon to ascertaining your location on a map. In this environment weight is the most important factor, so a compact binocular with a lens diameter less than 30mm is the best bet. Typically compact binoculars are available in 8x and 10x magnification and the usual factors apply, i.e.10x brings objects closer than 8x, but produces a narrower field of view and a less bright image than 8x.
A good recommendation for a good image, low weight and a wide field of view is the Vortex Diamondback 8x28.

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