Global Big Day – 8th May 2021

Following on from the fantastic success of the inaugural Global Bird Weekend, we, as the Viking Flyway Birding Team are very happy to announce our participation in the latest worldwide conservation fund raising event brought to you by the indefatigable team of Tim Appleton and Penny Robinson.

This and the October 2020 event, really chimes with Viking Optical as the Global Big Day is so much more than a fundraising vehicle. It is inclusive – anyone can take part from anywhere in the world and any level of interest and experience. No longer the preserve of elite birders and globetrotters, this event is low carbon too and we can get fully behind that!

On Saturday 8th May join us and thousands of others as we celebrate the miracle of bird migration by recording as many species as we can whilst raising funds and awareness to protect vulnerable migrating birds as they undertake their epic and perilous journeys.

We are proud to be able to count on the help and support of our partners, ambassadors, customers and friends to not only participate but spread the word and share the love of migration.

If you feel inspired to take part or help us raise money for the cause you can find out more at globalbirding.org where you will find out everything you need to know about the big day and how to sign up.

Please join us – we value all contributions!

Please follow our social media @vikingoptical to keep up to date!

Binoculars for bird watching

The Best Binoculars for Birdwatching

It is fair to say that most binocular models tend to conform to a fairly narrow set of specifications.

Magnifications are, for the most part, either 8x or 10x. Which magnification chosen is largely dependent on the ability of the user to hold the binocular steady as any increase in our own shake will be magnified.

In order to allow enough light to enter the user’s eye in most daylight conditions, the choice of objective lens diameter (literally the lens closest to the object being observed) is kept as large as possible without making the binocular too heavy or bulky. 42mm is the commonest objective diameter as this equates to a relatively large exit pupil (or aperture) ensuring a bright image even in duller conditions.

The physical dimensions of 8×42 models are very similar as are the average weights. Brightness is highly desirable and weight can be mitigated to some extent by wider, comfort straps and harnesses which help with both carrying and comfort.

Although modern instruments are relatively compact and lightweight, if the user desires a smaller and lighter weight binocular, 32mm objective lens models offer a reasonable compromise. Most binocular models come in 8×32, 8×42 and 10×42 versions. (Less commonly, some manufacturers have 10×32 as an option which is perfectly acceptable for those who can hold 10x steady but desire a smaller unit).

Having said this, by far the most popular specification for birdwatching (and indeed general wildlife observation) is the 8×42 as it offers the best stability, light gathering whilst still being reasonably lightweight and compact and powerful enough for most observations.

When looking to purchase for the first time (or upgrade), the choice can appear overwhelming with a very wide range of brands, models and prices.

It is fair to say that, due to the massive increase in interest in natural history, that very high quality binoculars are becoming available at much lower price points.

Most binoculars are now completely waterproof and the prevalent design is the roof prism which is more compact than any equivalent specification porro prism (or ‘traditional’) binocular.

Our advice is to factor in any criteria important to you and we can help find the best fit.

Viking Optical Centres offers a range of high quality, affordable binoculars to nature enthusiasts for over 30 years and our aim is to help people to find the right fit in terms of both image quality, ease of use and budget.

From beginners to enthusiasts, we have something for you. Browse our range today or call a member of our team for further advice at 01986 875315.

Choosing a Binocular for Birdwatching

It can be argued that a binocular is the one piece of absolutely essential kit for birdwatching.

A good binocular at the very least enhances the enjoyment of watching birds, allowing more detailed observations at distances less likely to disturb the birds from their natural behaviours.

The array of models and the wide range of prices can present a very difficult choice for someone looking to either purchase their first binocular or upgrade from an existing one.

When advising people, we very much put the customers needs first. Applying any criteria the customer flags up as important and trying to provide the best fit from there has been a successful formula.

What do the numbers mean?

The first number quoted is the magnification e.g. 8 or 10. 8 & 10 are the most common magnifications as they provide enough power to make out details at a reasonable distance whilst still being hand-holdable.

We are often asked if there is any complicated arithmetic in relation to magnification. The simple answer is no! The birds will appear either 8 or 10 times closer!

The second number commonly seen is the diameter of the objective lens (literally the lens nearest the object). The bigger this lens is in relation to the magnification, the brighter the image will be in duller light conditions.

For example an 8×42 binocular will be brighter than an 8×32. We have found an easy way to understand this is by relating it to the size of your own pupil in given light conditions.

Dividing the objective lens diameter by the magnification gives us the diameter of the exit pupil (literally the size of the hole the light is coming through to your eye). As our own pupils expand in lower light, we need a corresponding size of exit pupil to allow enough light into our eyes to resolve the greatest detail.

This is also determined by other factors such as the quality of the glass and coatings on the lenses which will be discussed below.

Hence the commonest specifications being 8×32, 8×42 and 10×42 as our own pupils will be less than 4 or 5mm in most daylight conditions – allowing enough light without resorting to a big, heavy, cumbersome and more expensive unit. (Other common specifications are 8×25 & 10×25 which, although letting in less light, are much more compact and lightweight if these are major considerations e.g. for walking or travel).

The other number most commonly quoted is the field of view, or width, of the resulting image.

This is, somewhat counterintuitively, determined largely by the magnification and NOT the diameter of the objective lens!

The higher the magnification, the narrower the field of view.

As field of view can be thought of as a sector (or slice of cake), it is relatively easy to find distant subjects as the view is opening out. Relatively close subjects can be harder to find with a narrower field as they are at the ‘thin end of the wedge’.

As a rule, a wider field of view is helpful rather than essential.

How to choose from such a wide range of prices?

The question ‘why do the prices vary so widely’ is answered by the fact that glass, coating, and build quality varies widely.

Our advice is to:

  1. Decide which specification is most suitable by trying 8x v 10x and feeling the weight to help narrow the choice.
  2. Once a specification is decided upon, we recommend trying a few within your budget to see if you can see any differences in the image quality, ease of use and general comfort.
  3. It is useful to compare models by looking at distant objects to determine the level of detail which can be resolved, looking against the light to see if contrast is good (a better binocular will allow some colour and detail to be discerned where a basic one may render birds as silhouettes).
  4. Check for colour fringing where there may be a wide band of colour around a bird, spherical aberration (noticeable curvature to straight lines), colour (cheaper binoculars may have a ‘warm’ cast or tinge to the image) and the overall ease on the eye. Does the image ‘snap’ into focus quickly – after all, wildlife doesn’t generally wait for us to organise ourselves!
  5. Is the binocular comfortable to hold?

Can you compare online?

Yes, our Compare tool on the website allows you to see your preferred choices side by side so you can compare prices, specifications and look of the binocular. To add your favourites to this tool, select the criss crossing arrow icon that is available on every product.

Spending a bit of time when choosing really helps to settle on the right instrument for the individual and a much more enjoyable field experience.