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What to use when your 8x binoculars aren't powerful enough? (1 Viewer)

Mother_of_birds

Active member
United Kingdom
I'm a new birder and have a pair of 8x binoculars which have been really great for most situations. But every now and then there's a bird that's just too far away to see properly let alone attempt to identify. I don't want to be carrying around a tonne of gear so a spotting scope is not an option. I was thinking of getting a monocular at about 20x magnification. I know at that zoom the image will be somewhat wobbly, I wish I could go in a store and physically try them out to get an idea of just how wobbly it would be, but I don't know when that'll be possible. I was wondering what more experienced bird watchers use in addition to their regular binoculars?
 

Ivydwg

Well-known member
United Kingdom
A x20 monocular would provide a very wobbly image, a narrow field of view and probably a lot of uncomfortable eye strain. I don't think it would make ID any easier.

As Mono said, there will always be a bird that is too far away to ID no matter what equipment you have.

Most of the time it is quality of optics that make the difference in respect of ID, not magnification.
 

jch10400

Member
I usually carry one of the smaller "super zoom" digital cameras like the Canon SX540. I can usually hold it steady up to about 20X long enough to take a picture. Added bonus is that in the event of a rare bird or an ID you're not sure of you can take a few pictures of the bird.
 

Mother_of_birds

Active member
United Kingdom
Thank you all for your responses. And jch10400 I was actually thinking of getting a compact high zoom camera for that exact reason but in the past I've not had very good luck with cameras.

I don't know any other bird watchers, how many actually carry around a spotting scope?
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
If I going to a reserve with the specific aim of spotting birds I will always carry a scope, 80mm with a 20-60x zoom, all assembled slung over my shoulder for quick draw. . If I am just going for a walk in the countryside I just carry some 8x or 7x binoculars, and occasionally an extra 60mm drawscope in my rucksack.
 

Gerry D

New member
United Kingdom
I'm a new birder and have a pair of 8x binoculars which have been really great for most situations. But every now and then there's a bird that's just too far away to see properly let alone attempt to identify. I don't want to be carrying around a tonne of gear so a spotting scope is not an option. I was thinking of getting a monocular at about 20x magnification. I know at that zoom the image will be somewhat wobbly, I wish I could go in a store and physically try them out to get an idea of just how wobbly it would be, but I don't know when that'll be possible. I was wondering what more experienced bird watchers use in addition to their regular binoculars?
I used to have a Nikon ED50, before upgrading add this to a reasonable compact tripod and you are hooked. Give it a couple of years and you will be wanting something bigger. The image clarity and ease of carriage was great and in some ways I wish I had kept. This is not the only make but this size is great for putting in a backpack if out on a bike and a handy back-up. If you travel overseas it is also handy, if you were flying somewhere for a short break, as you can wrap it in your hand luggage.
I'm a new birder and have a pair of 8x binoculars which have been really great for most situations. But every now and then there's a bird that's just too far away to see properly let alone attempt to identify. I don't want to be carrying around a tonne of gear so a spotting scope is not an option. I was thinking of getting a monocular at about 20x magnification. I know at that zoom the image will be somewhat wobbly, I wish I could go in a store and physically try them out to get an idea of just how wobbly it would be, but I don't know when that'll be possible. I was wondering what more experienced bird watchers use in addition to their regular binoculars?

I'm a new birder and have a pair of 8x binoculars which have been really great for most situations. But every now and then there's a bird that's just too far away to see properly let alone attempt to identify. I don't want to be carrying around a tonne of gear so a spotting scope is not an option. I was thinking of getting a monocular at about 20x magnification. I know at that zoom the image will be somewhat wobbly, I wish I could go in a store and physically try them out to get an idea of just how wobbly it would be, but I don't know when that'll be possible. I was wondering what more experienced bird watchers use in addition to their regular binoculars?
 

Mother_of_birds

Active member
United Kingdom
I used to have a Nikon ED50, before upgrading add this to a reasonable compact tripod and you are hooked. Give it a couple of years and you will be wanting something bigger. The image clarity and ease of carriage was great and in some ways I wish I had kept. This is not the only make but this size is great for putting in a backpack if out on a bike and a handy back-up. If you travel overseas it is also handy, if you were flying somewhere for a short break, as you can wrap it in your hand luggage.
Thanks Gerry. That's the second time I've been recommended the Nikon ED50 but it is a lot more than I'd like to spend. I have only been doing this a month and I absolutely love it so I'm sure I will eventually be happy to pay that much for a bit of kit but I'm not there yet especially since it will only be used on the few birds that my binoculars can't reach. Is it worth buying a spotting scope on the cheaper end like around £100?
 

Ivydwg

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Thanks Gerry. That's the second time I've been recommended the Nikon ED50 but it is a lot more than I'd like to spend. I have only been doing this a month and I absolutely love it so I'm sure I will eventually be happy to pay that much for a bit of kit but I'm not there yet especially since it will only be used on the few birds that my binoculars can't reach. Is it worth buying a spotting scope on the cheaper end like around £100?
I would just accept that there will always be birds you can't ID due to distance, poor viewing conditions and brief glimpses. That's just the way it is.

Even a high end scope can have its limitations up to x20/x30 if the atmospheric conditions aren't great.
 

John In Ireland

Well-known member
Ireland
Well I tend to use 8x50s for use in the field or 10x50s for places like sea watching. Very useful is something like a 50x bridge camera for identification. Some of the images are not too great at full zoom but great for record shots and identification as you can zoom in to the image after you have taken it. Something like a Canon SX50 is really good for this and you can now pick one up very cheaply on eBay. Close images are very good and there is then always HD video in your armoury. Most of the images and videos on my site were taken with a SX50. I generally carry a bridge camera with a DSLR and bins. But for early starting out I would certainly recommend the SX50. It helped me identify a lot for little pay out. I did own a spotting scope mounted on a tripod but this wasn't for me.
 

Keith Dickinson

Well-known member
Opus Editor
Thank you all for your replies. For now I'll accept that some birds are too far away to get a good look and maybe in the future I might get a small scope!
You have just learned one of the main 'rules' of birding - there are some birds that you have to accept that you cannot ID. I have 10x and 8x bins and the ones that get used the most are the 8x, the increased field of view more than makes up for the lack of magnification.
 

JTweedie

Well-known member
In some locations you might find yourself somewhere, like a hide, that if you wait long enough, the birds might come closer for a better view anyway, sometimes even without the need of binoculars.
 

McHeath

Well-known member
I don't know any other bird watchers, how many actually carry around a spotting scope?
I actuall started with a scope, because I was regularly visiting a large nature reserve where the water birds were often 100m or more away. I bought a simple one on offer (20x-60x magnification) + cheap tripod (essential!) for under 200€, together with a plastic contraption (7€) which allowed me to take photos with it using my smartphone camera.
The first attempt was very frustrating. Apart from the fact that it's hard to actually get the bird you want in your frame at those distances, wobble is a tremendous problem. Even breathing on any part of the setup seemed to start the image jumping up and down, so releasing the shutter was just about impossible without blurring the image. A quick Google gave me the answer, and I invested a further 5€ in a remote Bluetooth button which solved the problem.
I realised over the next couple of trips that I'd have to change my birding tactics if I wanted decent photos. You can't wander around and take quick shots; it's much better to hunker down for a couple of hours and target a specific individual or species. It's good to find a naturally camouflaged spot, set up the equipment, focus on the place where you hope the bird will sit, and just wait. I've come to love this waiting however; you're not disturbing the habitat, so you'll also get loads of other birds and animals passing by. After a few outings I started getting the results I was wanting; here two examples:

Bullfinch Friedlos.jpg

I'd seen three Bullfinches here the day before, so I came back the next day, approached carefully and set up the scope on the tripod about 30m away from the fence where the birds had been regularly sitting. This guy came along after about 30 minutes and very accomodatingly sat perfectly still while I tried to get the focus perfect.

Wood Warbler Seulinger Wald.jpg

This Wood Warbler took a lot of patience! It would sit on a perch and sing for a couple of minutes, then fly to the next one and start over again. At first I was trying to follow it with the scope, but it never gave me enough time to focus. So after about an hour I changed position slightly and simply focussed on a branch on which it had already landed 4-5 times. It took another hour before it suddenly landed right in the centre of the viewfinder, and I was able to fire off about 20 shots before it moved on.

This sounds like a lot of faffing around with clumsy apparatus for low-quality pictures, and it is. But it can also provide great satisfaction!

I've since invested in a bridge camera (Panasonic Lumix FZ300) which I'm still getting to know. It's much handier for "normal" birding, and the picture quality is much higher; but I still take my scope if I'm going anywhere where the birds are likely to be at some distance, and it's definitely been worth the investment.
 
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rpg51

Well-known member
Supporter
I have 8x12 binos that are my go to main binos. I had a scope 20 years ago but I sold it because my life got real busy and I wasn't using it. I am about to retire and I will have MUCH more time for birding and various other observational activities. So, recently I decided to get another scope. My feeling is there there are certain situations where a scope make a major difference in my birding and wildlife observing joy. But, they are a bit fussy for sure. Also, I think the best thing is to get a good amount of experience with your binos, around your home and at other places. Get to the point where you can id most if not all birds around your home by sight and by call. Then, after you have that experience, maybe go for some more optics if you can afford it. Also, if you buy a scope for use mostly out of your car and on short day hikes, spend every dime you can afford, and get a very beefy tripod and a good head. That makes a world of difference. Stability is key for high magnification.
 

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