Really, I want only the Not-So-Great Binoculars
May 4, 2010 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Binoculars for watching birds on my feeder? What magnification is most appropriate for 30 feet?

(After reviewing other, similar AskMe posts, my own question feels extraordinarily unadventurous, but, well, what can I say? I'm indoorsy.)

We get a lot of lovely birds visiting our bird/squirrel feeder, but my eyesight isn't that great and I'd like to get a better look at them for identification purposes. Although I think I could use previous AskMe posts to find a set of great, high-quality, distance binoculars, I think most would be too high-powered to see my feeder, which is about 30 or 40 feet from my kitchen window. Does anyone have either:
- a recommendation for a specific set of binoculars that have good clarity and are inexpensive (less than $50); or
- a recommendation for the appropriate magnification I should shop for

Thanks in advance.
posted by dreamphone to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
I have some similar to these cheapies and they work great for 30 feet.
I bought mine at the sporting goods store (in the hunting and fishing section) for about $15.
posted by at the crossroads at 11:50 AM on May 4, 2010

At that short range, cheap and small.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:59 AM on May 4, 2010

Birders generally use binoculars with magnification from 7-10X. More expensive binoculars are not necessarily pricey because of higher magnification; often the objective size (how much light is let in) and optical coating are more important.

When you go to the store, try out the binoculars by picking out an object that is 30-40 feet away, and be sure you can focus on it quickly and easily.
posted by tr0ubley at 12:32 PM on May 4, 2010

Quick suggestion- whatever you buy, make sure to read the instructions.

Not that it's hard, but a lot of people assume they simply "know" how to operate a pair of binoculars when they don't.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:16 PM on May 4, 2010

Look for 7 or 8 times magnification. Greater magnification than that, and hand shake can be a problem.

If you sometime wear eyeglasses, you should also consider the eye relief (how far/close your pupils can be from the lens).

I have no affiliation with them, but I've had good experiences purchasing from Eagle Optics. Take a look at their 8x21 binoculars. If you can go up to $60, though, I'd recommend these Nikon 7x35 binoculars. Nikon makes good glass, and the 35mm objective lens will let in much more light (giving better viewing overall, but especially at dusk and dawn). Also, their understanding optics page give you enough information to be be a smart optics shopper.
posted by paulg at 1:28 PM on May 4, 2010

I've previously had Nikon binoculars, and currently have Eagle, and would heartily recommend both. You definitely do not want to go with a higher magnification than 10X. A big objective lens will give you better light with which to distinguish some of the finer features of what you're looking at. Don't be tricked into thinking that a zoom will do you any good; it won't. Basically, what paulg said.
posted by Gilbert at 1:46 PM on May 4, 2010

What ever binoculars you choose, make sure that they have a hole for attaching a tripod adapter. The steadier view will allow you to see a lot more detail.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:58 PM on May 4, 2010

Ugh, I do not recommend the cheapie Bushnell's. I had a pair growing up, and I could never focus on anything, or find what I was trying to look at. I thought I hated all binoculars, until I borrowed a decent pair--they were like magic! Now I have a nice pair of Nikons (8x40) and I can see EVERYTHING! Looking at the world is awesome when you have good binocs!
posted by gueneverey at 5:15 PM on May 4, 2010

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