Zeiss 7×42 BGAT Dialyt Classic WP Binoculars
I’ve had my 2 pairs of Zeiss binoculars since 1987, and the fact that they still work well after all the abuse they have taken is proof of how tough Zeiss optics are. My wife always said that I loved my binoculars more than her – how could she! See the newer version below.
Nikon ED Scope
A scope is one of those tools I don’t use so often these days, but there are times I can’t live without it. I recommend buying a more compact scope with a 60mm objective lens to make it lighter to carry and more maneuverable – particularly important in this era of the camera. I have been using a Nikon ED scope for years, and it is a great balance between performance, durability and price. They are a good bang for the buck and get the job done nicely without spending a fortune. Like with binoculars, I prefer lower magnifications (25x) than some because of the improved clarity, brightness, depth of field and field of view. It also does a nice job at digiscoping if that is your poison.
Buying Birding Optics
Optics always involve trade-offs. Higher magnification binoculars get a larger image, but they can be hard to hold steady. I have always preferred lower magnifications because of the improved clarity, depth of field, field of view and brightness. Simply put, I see more and better. In recent years this has also become the trend for other birders with 7 and 8 times magnification being the most popular. I stopped using 10x magnification when I was 22 years old.
Like most things in life you typically get what you pay for. More expensive optics incorporate the best technology and have the fewest compromises, and they tend to be more durable. However, in the last few years the mid to lower range binocular market has become very competitive. The result is some really excellent binoculars at a good price. It is sometimes hard to see much of a difference between these and the most expensive ones, particularly in good light. Today, you should never blame your binoculars for not being able to i.d. a bird.
Comparing binoculars on a beautiful day with excellent looks at the birds is not a good test of birding optics. For most birders, they won’t be able to tell the difference between a high-end pair of Zeiss Victory SF binoculars from the less expensive models below. Once the weather changes, the light gets worse, and the birds get further away, these precision optics begin to show why they cost so much. The image color on these baby’s are terrific. The weight is front-loaded so they feel lighter than their weight suggests. Great focusing wheel. Probably the gold standard today.
I recommend 7 or 8 power magnification to most birders because they are an excellent balance between magnification, clarity, depth of field and field of view. This is what I always use! Some prefer 10 power for hawk watching and sea watching. At the end of the day, it is what works best for you.
Zeiss has recently introduced a more affordable line of binoculars that share many of the characteristics that make their more expensive siblings so desirable. These binoculars are a terrific addition to the Zeiss lineup and give real bang for the buck. You can’t go wrong with these.
Some birders, particularly women and kids, find it uncomfortable to use a lot of binoculars that were designed to accomodate large interpupillary distances (IPD). This refers to the distance between the eyepieces in binoculars, and it can make a big impact on how well you can see through the lenses. These Celestron TrailSeekers are a hidden treasure as they are very comfortable on smaller faces in addition to being lightweight, rugged, and solid performers.
Celestron is a more recent entrant to the sport optics world, and they have done an excellent job building quality binoculars at competitive price points. These binoculars are well engineered at a good price point.
These binoculars are great for kids – and my wife. Small, a little less powerful, easy to focus they fit nicely to the eyes. Very easy to use! I believe these are very similar Leopold Yosemite – the first to make these excellent binoculars. They work for everyone. Can’t go wrong.
Nikon has spent decades perfecting their vibration reductions systems for their camera lenses, and they have finally brought them over to their field optics. This is an exciting advancement for optics, but it will be a while before these features make it into reasonably priced scopes. For now, the price point limits these optics to only the most serious of birders and hunters. If you have watched James Currie’s Birding Adventures TV show you should know all the bird footage is taken through one of these scopes. Very impressive!
Zeiss makes truly world-class optics, and their DiaScope series is no exception. With superior low-light performance and resolving power, these scopes are long-term investments that will last as long as my binoculars – since 1987 and still going strong.
Nikon has found a sweet spot between price and performance with their Prostaff scopes.
A friend of mine has been using the Celestron Regal line of scopes for a few years, and he has a very high opinion of them. This scope has a magnesium body that is light, strong, and well balanced, and the optics are very strong performers. The rubber coating makes it easy to use in wet weather, and it has strong light gathering power. In the sweet spot of the middle of the field of view, this scope is a very strong performer up to a high magnification. It doesn’t hold up at the edges or in very low light compared to more expensive optics, but it is a best-in-class performer at its price point.
This scope doesn’t have the most features or the best appearance, but it packs a lot of value in an inexpensive package. Whether you’re just getting into birding, have a limited budget, or are buying a scope for a young birder, this scope is worth your consideration. You will need to be careful with this scope as it doesn’t have the sturdiest construction, and you will want to buy a replacement tripod and tripod head before you take it into the field. For the price, these optics are hard to beat.
After using a number of tripods over the years, it wasn’t till I started used Gitzo that I fell in love. They are all great depending on your needs.
A four section aluminum tripod will allow you to collapse it small enough for a carry-on bag and extend it tall enough for comfortable use. I prefer twist locks on the legs because they are very durable and are more resistant to moisture and sand than flip locks.
Designed for big camera lens, a Whimberley head is a solid and smooth platform for a scope.
Scopes are best paired with fluid heads as they will allow you to smoothly pan across the horizon without jerky movements. Nice and compact.
If you’re looking for an entry level tripod that will handle moderate conditions, this Vortex tripod kit will get you started.