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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Best size for birding from boats and ships? (1 Viewer)

b-lilja

Well-known member
I'm finding my 8x32s jittery. It seems like 7x42 might be the ideal size for birding from boats, ferries, and ships?

I once took the ferries to the Outer Hebrides and back. There was a group of very serious, solemn birders aboard. I assumed they were all using 8x42s...but in retrospect, perhaps they actually were using 7x42s. They definitely knew their birds!
 

peter.jones

Former supporter. No longer active here.
Larger ferries are huge, and relatively steady.
You can be way above sea level.
I've done many surveys from the bridge of bigger ferries, and Duovids on 12x definitely gave me an edge in some respects. I'd tend to do less well with Cetaceans, but better with smaller seabirds, such as Petrels.
Nothing wrong with a scope and tripod on a ferry as well, depending on the circumstances.

Smaller boats, I guess the wider FOV would be beneficial, as you are often being thrown about in choppy conditions, and the birds can be very close. I doubt the binoculars being 7x or 8x were the difference. They may have just been familiar with the species.

Image stabilised would probably be an advantage on a boat.
 

[email protected]

Well-known member
Supporter
Either a waterproof 7x42, 7x50, 8x56, 10x56 or any binocular with a big exit pupil because it makes eye placement easier when the boat is rocking or waterproof IS binoculars are preferable for birding on boats. The magnification would depend on how far away or how close the birds you are trying to see are. A good model for long distance pelagic birding from a boat would be the waterproof Fujinon Techno Stabi TS1440-14x40 Image Stabilization Binocular because they have 5 degrees of stabilization which is more than the Canon IS and consequently they work better in rough seas.


https://www.amazon.com/Fujinon-Tech...t=&hvlocphy=1014529&hvtargid=pla-568628014782
 

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PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
A lot of boaters will use the higher power waterproof IS binoculars because they can read boat tags and buoy markers from a long distance.

But, the request is for birding, not marine use. It really is whatever you can hold the steadiest on a boat, be it calm or bouncing. Whatever you're most comfortable with.

I've done pelagics where x7, x 8 and x 10 were all evident.

I smiled at the OPs description of solemn, serious birders on the ferry.
 
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kabsetz

Well-known member
On a ferry a Canon 10x42 L IS is excellent. As long as the seas are not particularly rough, a 15x50 IS will also show you much more than any normal binocular.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Just like with any other type of birding, you'll find all types of "solutions" that work for different types of people.

Assuming we're talking about a smaller craft that will have some rocking / bouncing, the conventional wisdom is to maximize exit pupil and FOV (at the expense of magnification). The theory is that being on a moving platform will negate the advantages of higher magnification (can't hold it steady enough) and also make it harder to keep your eyes aligned to the smaller exit pupil. A wider field with greater depth of field is also helpful for picking out pelagic birds as you are scanning, and staying on them as they disappear/reappear behind waves and ripples on the ocean surface.

So, sounds like a 7x42 or 7x50 is in order! But I see people on pelagic trips with 10x42, 8x32, 10x50, 8x42... you name it. Heavier binoculars can also help keep the view steady, and you can develop certain techniques to minimize the movement as the boat bumps.

So, as always, there's too much room for personal factors to generalize. But I don't think it can be argued that a larger exit pupil and wider FOV are even more important than with other types of birding. There's no question that if I was heading on a pelagic trip, of the binoculars I have on hand currently I would be grabbing that Leica UVHD 7x42 every time.
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
This might sound stupid, but the kind of ferry (for example its age) makes quite a difference. I live in an island and use ferries quite often. In some cases the vibration of the motor would make the use of a tripod unthinkable. I've used 10x42 on the steadiest models, but I'm usually more comfortable with 8x or 7x. Anyway, when it gets rough and really windy they're a bit of a pain to use regardless of magnification
 

b-lilja

Well-known member
I was asking the question as a range. I live in Seattle and am on ferries a lot. Our ferries are pretty big, but they shake a decent amount, move fast, and I find even my 8xs challenging sometimes. Same goes for smaller craft that we're often on.

I am pretty intrigued by the IS binoculars. Awfully heavy and specialized though it seems.
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
I have used the ferries off the west of Scotland for 50 years. They are quite large vessels but not as huge as cruise liners. I used 10x for about 25 years but changed to 8x for a wider field of view and bigger depth of field. I found both of these magnifications perfectly usable but it was necessary to get some kind of shelter from the wind to reduce wind-driven bino shake and leaning one's elbows on a ship's rail or superstructure was useless due to vibration from the engines and from the state of the sea. I have also occasionally used 7x but in the end settled on 8x as being the best compromise.

Lee
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
As others have said, if the boat is large enough relative to the sea conditions, image stabilized bins are fantastic for pelagic birding. In my experience expedition ships (70-90m length) in big seas (5-8m swells), image stabilization is not going to make a massive difference, the boat is moving a ton already. The same goes for day-trip pelagics and small ferries when the water is anything other than flat. Lower magnification is your friend here, 7x or 8x with large exit pupil and large FOV being beneficial. But for expedition ships and large ferries in more moderate seas, IS bins can help a ton. The next long trip I go on, I'll take my 8x42 SFs and 12x32 IS Canons. Perfect combo for me.

As Lee commented as well, wind buffeting is a real issue to manage. At least with the Canons, IS doesn't help much against brutal winds - getting on the lee side of the ship is mandatory. However the IS can help a LOT with the engine vibration.
 

tenex

reality-based
I've spent weeks at a time on smallish ships and even zodiacs/naiads (though it's been a while) where at least 75% of birders present were using 8x42... but not I think chosen for this purpose, just what they already had and were accustomed to. Next up were 10x42, while I was using my customary 10x32 and not having any unusual difficulty. I don't think this application requires a specialized bino myself, but it may depend on what you mean by "jittery". For steadiness 7 vs 8x is a very modest difference. If maintaining eye alignment is your issue, a (significantly!) larger EP would help.
.
 
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chill6x6

Well-known member
I think you just get an 8X and don't worry about it. I think 7X50s are used mostly for navigation. I've used a 8X something mostly. If the seas are smooth you'll wish for more but 8X as in most cases 8X has you covered. Usually if I'm on a ferry I used whatever is in the car which is usually a 8X32.
 

WJC

Well-known member
I think you just get an 8X and don't worry about it. I think 7X50s are used mostly for navigation. I've used a 8X something mostly. If the seas are smooth you'll wish for more but 8X as in most cases 8X has you covered. Usually if I'm on a ferry I used whatever is in the car which is usually a 8X32.

Like everything else in optics, IS, too, has its myths. The following is from a 2004 article I did for Dockside magazine.

PITCH AND ROLL

The first thing most boaters do once an image-stabilized binocular is placed into their hands is to start wobbling back and forth and from side to side to see how well the instrument works and if all the stories they’ve heard are true. Unfortunately, they’re not.

Some manufacturers claim their products alleviate long-period motions such as produced by a vessel’s pitch and roll. Yet, while some may perform better than others—correcting up to about 3 degrees of motion—it should be noted that none of these instruments were designed for this type of damping action and none can thoroughly cancel the effects of pitch and roll. If this were so, once the instrument was activated it would somehow become nailed to one spot and not allow the user to move it about. Consider though that the alleviation of short-period vibrations such as body tremors, vibrations from an engine or a stiff breeze will make compensating for slower actions, like pitch and roll, much more manageable.
 

bockos

Well-known member
Either a waterproof 7x42, 7x50, 8x56, 10x56 or any binocular with a big exit pupil because it makes eye placement easier when the boat is rocking or waterproof IS binoculars are preferable for birding on boats. The magnification would depend on how far away or how close the birds you are trying to see are. A good model for long distance pelagic birding from a boat would be the waterproof Fujinon Techno Stabi TS1440-14x40 Image Stabilization Binocular because they have 5 degrees of stabilization which is more than the Canon IS and consequently they work better in rough seas.


https://www.amazon.com/Fujinon-Tech...t=&hvlocphy=1014529&hvtargid=pla-568628014782

The new Swarovski NL Pure 8x42 I think will do well ..
 

Patudo

Well-known member
I've spent a good amount of time from boats in the 25 to 46 foot range (sport fishing where finding birds can lead you to your quarry, and on cetacean watching trips) and have also used binoculars from large ferries. My quick thoughts:

7x50 - the classic marine format. Ease of view of the extra-large exit pupil makes them a pleasure to use, and their main disadvantage (size/weight) is less of an issue when you are on board. 7x mag is definitely more stable than 8x let alone 10 (the latter is not a realistic option from a smaller vessel unless stabilized), but is a little underpowered, especially if you're trying to identify individual smaller seabirds at some distance. Trying to pinpoint plumage or other features on a single bird, especially a smaller bird like a storm petrel, is a totally different proposition to trying to spot a big flock of birds over a school of tuna. If you are chumming and bringing them closer to your vessel, obviously it's less of an issue. The point chill6x6 makes about the primary use for this format being navigation is quite sound - other vessels and even marker buoys are much larger than birds, and normally not too much of an issue unless you're close enough to risk hitting them!

Field of view of most 7x50s is quite limited on paper compared to other formats, but in practice I didn't find it was such an issue.

7x42 - I've used my 7x42 Dialyt, P model, at sea and found it similar to the 7x50s. Larger field of view could be an advantage. You'll need to make sure any non-marine binocular used at sea is carefully cleaned as salt water is notoriously corrosive - even fishing reels need to be sprayed off with freshwater.

8.5x42 (Swarovski Fieldpro) - I've used my brother's from a 40-footer and also from a large fast ferry. Definitely more shaky than the 7x models but the flat field helps with ease of use and the extra magnification also helps. Would not use from a smaller vessel. I've tried 8x30 from boats in the 25 to 30 foot range and found them very difficult to use.

IS would be the game changer here. The Fujinon model denco linked to seems to be highly rated by those who spend large sums of money (including participation in tournaments with even larger sums of money at stake) trying to find marlin tails protruding about six inches above the surface. These folks are absolute experts at that game, but the 4 degree field of view seems very limiting to me (I suppose the tournament captain's recommendation would be to hire more spotters!). I'd like to try something like a Canon 10x42 IS as my experience of its IS feature (albeit on land - have not tried that one at sea) is very positive and I think the wider field of view would come in handy.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
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