Binoculars Enhance What You See and Feel

Barred Owl
Barred Owl perched above a creek. Photo by Tripti Suwal.

There are two numbers that are associated with every pair of binoculars. These numbers may appear as 7×50, 8×42, 10×50, etc. The first of these numbers indicates the magnification. So, if the first number is 5 then the binocular will magnify an image times 5, making it appear 5 times closer to us than normal eyesight. The second number refers to the objective lens diameter, or aperture, this number indicates the size of the area in which you are viewing. A smaller aperture will give you a narrow view, whereas a larger aperture will give you a wider view. Likewise, a sizeable aperture will allow more light to pass through the lens, making colors more vivid and clear.

The most recommended specs for binoculars is 8×42. This range allows birders enough magnification and aperture to view birds clearly and with a steady hand. Higher magnifications or lower apertures can result in a shaky scene.

A good pair of binoculars will enhance your ability to see things that are far away. This is clear–but we take this simple fact for granted. To see the world up close is to see the world differently. Birds are a perfect example of this.

For many, spotting a bird is like seeing a shadow in your periphery. It is barely noticed and when it is, it’s easily dismissed.

“It’s just a bird,” we say.

And so it is. But with the ability to see the bird up close, there is so much more. If you’re an experienced birder, just hand your binocs over to someone who’s never used any. They’ll peer through the lenses, frustrated at first trying to find exactly what you’ve told them to look for–a barred owl you’ve spotted perched on a branch just over a creek.

The person will scan the trees searching for the bird, wandering through the many leaves and branches, until finally they’ve spotted it. Almost always they’ll pause and a smile will spread across their face.

Through their new eyes, they see the world anew. They see the colors and the tones and the textures that make up the bird. They see the movements and the subtleties of the forest and the creatures that live within it.

If you note it, the person is usually shocked, dumbstruck by the details that were hidden in front of their face. There is great joy that can come from the simple act of noticing, and binoculars allow you to do just that on a more magnified scale.