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Two rangers look for birds through binoculars

Bird Aware Solent’s Rangers’ top tips

Our rangers are often asked for advice about buying and using binoculars for getting a closer look at birds.

Here’s some suggestions from the team:

1: Try before you buy

Think about getting your binoculars from a retailer where you can try a few pairs for size, weight and comfort.

2: Bigger isn’t necessarily better

You’ll find binoculars are listed by size: 10×42, 8×42 or 8×32 are all good options. You’ll usually find the size marked on the binoculars’ central focus dial.

If you were wondering, the first digit refers to the magnification ie 10 times or 8 times magnification. The second number is the diameter of the lens nearest the object you’re looking at and will affect the amount of light that gets in.

Generally the larger the numbers, the chunkier the binoculars, so if you want a lighter, smaller pair, an 8×32 might be perfect. For a more close up view with a clearer image, go for larger.

Remember – an 8-power magnification will give you a slightly wider ‘field of view’ than a magnification of 10. This means you’ll see more area when you look through the lenses. And that might be extra helpful when you’re locating a moving bird.

Binocular sizes can be found on the central focus dial
Binocular size is marked on the central focus dial
3: Added extras

You might want to spend a bit extra and get protective features like rubber coating or a waterproof/fog-proof  Fortunately the vast majority of binoculars do now come with these features, meaning that the life span of your new binoculars will be vastly increased.

4: Thinking long-term

Consider getting a pair with a lifetime guarantee as they may need fixing from time to time.

5: Monocular versus binocular

Some people find monoculars much easier to use than binoculars. They also weigh much less so can be good for anyone who struggles holding up binoculars for a long period of time. With these you could get a good one for under £100 easily so it also makes for a good budget option.


Using a monocular
Ranger Natalie using a monocular
5: How much to spend

Budget-wise: it’s up to you! It’s possible to find a reasonable pair for under £80 but it’s worth spending at upwards of £100. And then the sky’s the limit: prices can go into thousands!

There is a reason why people spend more on optics. The image quality can vary and so can the durability. Once again, our rangers’ advice is to go to a shop where you can try them out for yourself and get a sense of what they feel like in your hand.

Using your binoculars

1: Practice makes perfect

Try them out at home to get familiar with how to focus – and then remember to bring them out with you. Some people keep a pair in their car (out of sight) to make sure they come out on trips automatically.

2: At the ready

When you’re out and about, wear them round your neck on a fairly short strap and remove the covers for the eyepieces so you’re ready to go.

3: Home comforts

If you find your binoculars give you a sore neck, you might consider a binocular harness which supports the weight through your shoulders and back instead.

A ranger using a binocular harness
A binocular harness carries the weight evenly
4: Keeping your eyes on the bird

Remember, if you spot a bird you want to see through your binoculars, keep your eyes on the bird while you lift your binoculars up to your eyes: that’s the best way to locate them.

5: Making a spectacle

If you wear glasses it usually helps to have the eye cups folded back/twisted down flat to make viewing easier.


We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Let us know if you’ve got any questions and we’ll do our best to answer them: you can contact us here.