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Everything You Need to Know About Buying Binoculars for Birdwatching

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Binoculars, often referred to as binocs/ bins/ nocs are the birders best ally in the field helping them spot, identify, and fully appreciate the beauty of the birds. Like a superior tool enhances the craft of an artisan, so does a good pair of binocs enhance the ability and overall experience of the birder.

Binoculars come in all shapes, sizes and more importantly prices, which can get shockingly high. So the ability to pick the right pair for oneself is very crucial. While the more expensive binocs tend to have higher image quality and durability, we cannot use this as the only yardstick as there are cheaper models with decent quality that are durable.

The amount of technical specifications wrapped in jargon one has to sift through when reading the manufacturers’ marketing spiel is astounding for what one would have considered simple devices. So a little education would go a long way in helping you in making an informed decision to pick a piece most suitable for you.

Before you start the hunt for your perfect bins, you need to fix your budget. While you should not get pushed to spend more, put aside as much as you can afford. Trust me, you will thank yourself countless times for this in the field. Next, you need to figure out how much weight you can carry comfortably, especially if you are birding in the field for long.

Remember, you tend to leave it behind if the weight crosses your threshold or worse still; you end up with literally a pain in the neck. These two steps would now have given you a manageable set of viable options. Now to separate the chaff from the grain.

nikon monarch m5 Nikon

Photo Credit: The Nikon Monarch M5 comes in 8×42, 10×42, and 12×42 models
Nikon

Let’s dive into the specifications. You would notice all bins come with numbers like 8×32 or 10×42. The first number signifies the magnification, obviously the greater the magnification the better, but it comes at a price. The higher the magnification, the heavier the bins and more difficult it is to hold steady for reasonable amounts of time.

Also, the higher magnification would make the shakes more apparent. The second number is the size of the objective lens (the one away from you) the bigger it is the more light it gathers and the brighter is your view.

Again, the bigger the number, the heavier the bins. Normally 8×42 or the 10×42 is considered a sweet spot for birding bins with good magnification, brightness and field of view. While both these models from the same manufacturer would look, weigh and even be priced very close to each other, there are nuanced differences between the two.

The 8×32 would generally feel brighter than its 10×42 stablemate in low light conditions and offer a wider field of view at the obvious cost of magnification. So if you are looking for a bird in forests in the late evening, where you can’t see too far anyway, an 8×42 might feel advantageous while in situations with a distant bird you might crave for the magnification of the 10×42.

The glass used in construction is a major factor in the quality of the view. BK7, Bak4, HD and ED would be the types you would read, with each successive cipher denoting a higher quality. The coatings used on the glass have another set of acronyms. ‘C’- denoting single coating on some glass, ‘FC’ – all lens surfaces coated, ‘MC’ — some lens surfaces have multilayer coatings, ‘FMC’ – all lenses have multiple layers of coatings. As you would expect, as you move up on the scale of coatings, so do you move up the price ladder.

Then there is the form factor to consider, with the traditional bulkier Porro prisms where the objective lens is offset from the eyepiece, while in the newer roof prisms the barrels of the binoculars are straight making them more compact. Porro prism bins nowadays are cheaper, but also bunched in the lower end of the scale.

nikon prisms Nikon

How different types of prisms in binoculars are arranged
Photo Credit: Nikon.com/ Composited screenshots

Another specification you need to watch out for is eye relief. For proper viewing, the eyepiece of the bins needs to be at a comfortable distance from your eyes. So always look out for bins with eyecups that extend so that the bins seat comfortably over your eye and if you use glasses, you can retract the eyecups so they rest over your glasses while maintaining eye relief.

Then there are boxes you should ensure are ticked if you want your investment to serve you for a long time. They should be rugged and durable. Many come with a rubberised coating to protect them from bumps and also give a good grip. They should be waterproof so that a little inclement weather does not put a spoke in your plans and finally they should be fog proof so that your viewing is unhindered.

Now that you have arrived at your final list of candidates, the concluding step is beyond specifications. Get to a store and pick up the pair of bins and ask yourself; How do they feel in your hand, how well do they seat on your eyes, which produces the image that you find most pleasing?

All these will be answered only when you try them. If you don’t have a store close by, you could check your birding buddy’s bins on a birding trip. Birders are more than eager to show off their optics. This will give you real world answers to pick the winner.

Buying guide for the ‘value for money’ binoculars listed by price. We selected these from models easily available in India. 8×42 and 10×42 are listed alternately and usually we can find a corresponding model for the same brand.

Olympus 8 x 40 DPS I

The entry level birding bins. Most birders would have started with this.

  • Pros – Price (cheapest, most affordable usable bins), field of view (by the virtue of being an 8x)
  • Cons – Size, weight, lack of waterproofing, oldest model in the list

Nikon Aculon A211 8×42 Binocular

Nikon’s entry level model, suitable for birding, is very popular.

  • Pros – Price, Brand
  • Cons – Size, weight (heaviest of the lot), lack of waterproofing

Celestron 10×42 Outland X

Good performer with no major flaws

  • Pros – Weight (lightest), Waterproof
  • Cons – Field of View

Vanguard Veo ED 1042

Its specifications match or exceed all in this list while not being expensive. The most value proposition purchase

  • Pros – Weight, size, Waterproof, eye-relief (best), Min. focus distance
  • Cons – None at this price point

Nikon Prostaff 5 8×42

Balanced performer, a value for money model if you consider the brand

  • Pros – Weight, Waterproof, eye-relief, Brand
  • Cons – Field of View

Carl Zeiss 10×42 Terra ED

This is the entry level model for Carl Zeiss. It has a very good FoV and exceedingly short min. focusing distance which makes it great to view butterflies and insects.

  • Pros – Brand, Min. focus distance, Waterproof, Field of view
  • Cons – Weight, Price

Rajneesh Suvarna has been a  compulsive birder since his younger days, more likely to forget packing this toothbrush than his pair of binoculars for a trip. Among other things he currently runs a birding tour company, Wayfarer, that runs birding trips around the world. A well published photographer you can find some of his work on NatureChronicles.com. You can follow him in Insta, Facebook twitter


This series is an initiative by the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), under their programme ‘Nature Communications’ to encourage nature content in all Indian languages. To know more about birds and nature, Join The Flock.


Is JioPhone Next the 4G phone for everyone that Reliance promises? We discuss this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on SpotifyGaana, JioSaavnGoogle PodcastsApple PodcastsAmazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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How to Enable Apple’s Legacy Contact on iOS 15.2

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Apple will introduce Legacy Contact feature with iOS 15.2. The feature helps loved ones of an iOS user to gain access to the user’s iPhone. The Legacy Contact will gain access to the user’s messages, photos, notes, and other sensitive data. Given the criticality of the feature, it should be reserved for the most trusted contacts. Furthermore, the Legacy Contact feature also gives the contact the ability to remove Activation Lock from other devices. iOS 15.2 is currently available in beta mode and will be released for the public later this year.

The Legacy Contact feature is a part of the upcoming iOS 15.2 update. As mentioned, this feature lets the set contact access the deceased iPhone user’s handset along with gaining access to their personal data. Apple mentions that the person set as the Legacy Contact would be given a special access code that they need to provide Apple along with a death certificate to unlock the device. Here’s how to add a Legacy Contact.

How to add a Legacy Contact

Adding a Legacy Contact is fairly simple, but a paramount requisite for this feature to work is that both — user and Legacy Contact — need to be running at least iOS 15.2.

  1. Click on profile picture and open Apple ID settings.

  2. Open Password & Security.

  3. Click Add Legacy Contact.

  4. Again click on Add Legacy Contact, once the disclaimer screen pops-up.

  5. If users have enabled Family Sharing, they can select a family member. Else, they can select Someone Else from their contact list.

  6. Once the Legacy Contact is selected, tap Next.

  7. Click on Continue on the screen that describes how the feature works.

  8. Users then have the option to choose how they would want to share the Access Key. It can either be shared through iMessage or a copy can be printed.

  9. Once the sharing method is selected, the selected contact is set as the Legacy Contact.

  10. Users can have multiple Legacy Contacts, so the process can be repeated for other Legacy Contacts.

Apple reviews all requests from Legacy Contacts before providing them with the user’s data. In order to gain access to a user’s data, the Legacy Contact would need to know their date of birth, death certificate, and the access key. The access key is a huge multi-digit key and is a mix of letters and numbers as well as a QR code.

Users should make sure their date of birth is accurately set in their device’s settings as it is used as an authentication during the process of unlocking their iPhone after they have passed away.

Legacy Contact would need to gather the deceased user’s access key as well as the death certificate. They would then need to visit the Digital Legacy website to begin the authentication process. The website would then require the Legacy Contact to login using their own credentials and provide the necessary information to Apple. If, by any chance, the access key is lost, the deceased user’s family members can still gain access to their iPhone but all data and the logged in account would be removed first. Even for this, the family would need to provide a death certificate.

How to remove Legacy Contact

Apple also gives users the ability to remove a Legacy Contact, if they wish to do so.

  1. Click on profile picture and open Apple ID settings.

  2. Open Password & Security.

  3. Tap on the name of the person to be removed.

  4. On the disclaimer pop-up page, once again click on Remove Contact.

Once these steps are followed, the Legacy Contact would be removed and the access key that was generated would become void.


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Satvik Khare is a sub-editor at Gadgets 360. His proficiency lies in educating how technology makes life easier for everyone. Gadgets have always been a passion with him and he’s frequently found finding his way around new technologies. In his free time he loves tinkering with his car, participating in motorsports, and if the weather is bad, he can be found doing laps on Forza Horizon on his Xbox or reading a nice piece of fiction. He can be reached through his Twitter
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