Binoculars for the enthusiast
Binoculars in the UK
At least one pair of binoculars is essential in any family. I am sure most people's first encounter with binoculars is when they find their parents pair stuck up on the top shelf of the bedroom cupboard. That is certainly where I found mine. I recall they were very heavy for a nine year old and I had to twist they lenses down to fit my eyes but they were great for getting a (ahem) birds eye view of the birds on the garden feeder. My Uncle Peter was a dedicated twitcher who would often arrange holidays around seeing some bird that he had not seen before. I eventually inherited my Uncle Leslie's pair and they are with me to this day. But as with everything today, technology is catching up with this hobby and there are some amazing binoculars available. Nevertheless binoculars are long lasting and provide a lifetime's use so most end up in the second hand shop or car boot sale rather than the dustbin and this makes good pickings for anyone looking for a reasonably priced pair.
Top Ten UK Binoculars
Start at the personal level
I will start with a review of my own binoculars, one used for scenic viewing and the other more for travel and theatre. The large set is a Janik Delux that I inherited from my brother in law's father. They are no longer made and there is no reference to them on Wikipeadia but they are excellent binoculars that I treasure. Our other pair is a Tasco Platinum series which is great for travelling and taking to the a kind of show or theatre. Amazingly there is no difference in magnification but the larger set does give a larger viewing area. My binoculars do illustrate a point though: as long as they are looked after, binoculars last forever.
Top Three UK Binoculars
Binoculars available at good prices
Here are some of my favourite binoculars, a nice selection and reasonably priced. Please be aware that the actual price range is a lot bigger as this is a well established market and there are cheap and cheerful as well as expensive makes available. It is also worth pointing out that as with all technologies, binoculars can be found in charity shops, car boot sales, garage sales and second hand shops for amazingly low prices. Their robustness usually means they survive in good condition but do be careful. Check for loose lenses, make sure the motion works and focuses properly and that the glass is not scratched. What goes around comes around and an old fashioned, good quality pair of binoculars can now be quite trendy.
A History of Binoculars
An education in optics.
Binoculars are based on two types. Galileo and Prism binoculars.
Galileo designs were the earliest types and used a concave eyepiece. The design was simple and the image upright but the field of view was narrow and only low magnification was possible. Today binoculars like these are most commonly used as cheap theatre binoculars.
Johannes Kepler designed the modern eyepiece with a convex lens. this allowed a wide field of view and greater magnification because the light from a convex lens converges on the eye. But there was one big disadvantage, the image was upside down and had to be corrected by prisms. Most binoculars today use the Porro Prism that is set in a Z formation to keep the binoculars compact but give most binoculars their chunky appearance.
UK Compact Binoculars
Handy Binoculars to fit in your backpack
There is no question that field binoculars are a heavy item to carry around so here are some that are light and compact. Great for the backpack on that trek over the hills or even a walk over the local common or park. Many will fit into a reasonably sized handbag. They are the binoculars of choice for all theatre goers which is my own personal reason to own a set of these.
Olympus opera binoculars
Dangers of the sun
It is very dangerous to look directly at the sun through binoculars. The light WILL damage your retinae. Young people should use binoculars only under adult supervision
Good Binoculars on a budget - You don't have to spend a fortune
Some binoculars are very stylish and not at all expensive but very effective so don't feel you have to shell out a fortune. These binoculars will give a lot of pleasure at a reasonable price. The important thing is to decide what you want the binoculars for, if its just to see general things up close then a low power will do but if you want to see the rare kestrel on the chimney top or look at jupiter then you will need to invest in a higher power.
Celestron Compact Binoculars
High End Binoculars
Binoculars for the serious twitcher
I nice selection of high quality binoculars for those who want to seriously invest in the hobby. I have tried out similar binoculars to these and the quality is amazing. Birdwatching is an amazing hobby and my uncle was a dedicated fan. I have a vision of him standing on a hilltop behind the farm we were staying at in Anglesey. He would spend hours watching the skies and when he retired he travelled the world in pursuit of his hobby. A twitcher indeed!
Olympus field binoculars
A personal view
There are several important hobbies that require binoculars. The two most important are star gazing and bird watching. But there are also those who just love to see nature up close. I live on the coast of Wales and I can clearly make out both St Davids head in the south and the Lleyn Peninsular in the north. I use my binoculars mostly for viewing the magnificent scenery around my home and identifying the occasional unusual bird that has flown nearby. We have quite a fancy pair that we use for this but we also have several compact binoculars that we can slip into a bag or pocket for using at surprise situations.
Recently I have had the fortune to see two of my favourite artists in concert, Kate Bush and Kylie Minogue. Kate was at the Eventim Apollo in London and she requested that the audience did not film or take photos of her performance. Most people complied but it proved how important binoculars can be. We were able to buy advance tickets, even so we were back in row P and I was glad to have my handy binoculars with me. Kylie came to Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, I was unaware that there was an exclusion zone near the stage for people who had paid a premium, nevertheless I managed to reach the railings just outside. At this concert I was able to make a short video but for much of the time, it was my compact binoculars that I used the most.
Kylie Minogue in Concert
Well I hope this article has encouraged you to look at binoculars through a new light. They have been with us for centuries and technology has made some big improvements in binoculars especially at the high end. But at its heart, it is a simple apparatus that allows the eye to see things closer than they actually are. If you buy a pair then I hope they give you as much pleasure as mine have for me. Happy viewing.....