Birding with a Novice Part 2: Not Quite Ready to Fall Off the Perch
Last week at work, we were chatting over where I am with my desire to go birding and what my next step should be. Having had a couple of weeks entertaining a new strain of covid, I had time to consider lashing out my hard earned cash on a pair of binoculars of my own. We were discussing the options within my price range when my boss (40 years younger than me) suggested that I get a move on as starting a new hobby at my age (70) doesn’t leave me much time. Now, I'm sure it was said in jest but it got me thinking...
Personally, I’m of the opinion that for a man of my age with stunning youthful good looks and charm to spare, I’m in reasonable health and fairly able to get about but I’m also aware that I do suffer from age related aches and pains that come to us all in the end. However, despite what my colleagues might think, to use a birding idiom, I’m not quite ready to shuffle off the perch just yet.
Coming to terms with reality, it's fair to say that the days of karate training and hours in the gym are now behind me. I do enjoy being out and about with my dogs and the idea of birding and nature watching in general is greatly appealing.
Some 25 years ago, I developed an interest in playing traditional Irish music on banjo and mandolin. At the time, I didn’t have the funds to buy a top end instrument but found a good quality entry level mandolin to get me started. When the time came to upgrade, I decided to make my own rather than pay the kind of money that a bespoke mandolin would cost. I like to think I’m fairly good with my hands and I knocked up the one in the picture from an old antique mahogany cupboard and some quarter sawn Douglas Fir from a local timber yard. 25 years later, it's still going strong and in the hands of a competent musician (which I'm not). It still plays and sounds pretty good.
Working at South West Optics has its benefits. We have access to most of major brands in our showroom and I’ve been lucky enough to have had some binoculars on loan to try for a few weeks here and there from generous friends and pre owned stock that comes to us in part exchange. Sadly for me, my attempt at DIY binoculars wasn’t as successful as my mandolin so now I’m forced to bite the bullet and by a pair of my own.
Incidentally, did you know that its possible to book an appointment at our showroom to come and see what we have to offer? Just give us a call and you’ll get straight through to a human (well, near enough).
At present, I have a budget of around £400 so I’ve been looking at various options within that price range. To give me what I’m looking for they would need to be strong, well made, water and fog proof and of course optically clear and sharp. It's also important that they feel good in the hand and are comfortable when you’re looking through them. Not all designs fit everyone comfortably; some folks have a big head! I have a whopper (massive brain).
For two reasons, I’m reluctant to purchase one of our top end brands. Reason one is that I’m not quite 100% convinced that at this stage I'll get the use out of them to justify a major outlay. Reason two (the real one, don’t tell the wife), at this moment, I don’t have the funds as there are other “toys” that I need/want for my other interests. As I’ve been told on many an occasion, “a man can’t have everything!” One thing I do know though is that I do need a pair of my own that I can take out with me as I’m getting more and more interested in birds and other wildlife and its very frustrating not being able to get a better look when you spot something that catches your attention.
After some careful consideration, I settled for a pair of Opticron Verano BGA VHD 10x42. My reason for choosing these is as follows: They’re made in Japan and after Austrian and German glass, Japan comes next for quality. Rather than go through all of the technical specifications (which are available on our website swoptics.co.uk) I’ll just give you a quick run down on the things that I was looking for and how this pair fitted my criteria.
All the Opticron range are well built. They have good rubber armoured coating that is not only strong but feels good to the touch. They had to be water proof and gas filled so they don’t fog up when there's a sudden change in temperature (that happens occasionally, when my wife’s in a mood things can get frosty very quickly). They fit nicely into my rather porky hands and, despite being fairly compact, they don’t feel to small. It might surprise you to learn (as I did very quickly) that not all binocular designs are comfortable for everyone. I'm a big Leica fan (I have one of their cameras) but I found that one or two models in their binocular range were just not comfy for me despite being optically brilliant. I was originally looking at 8x42 as I was told that there's less likelihood of “shake” but, to be honest, these seem so well balanced that I didn’t think there was much difference so I went for the 10x42’s as the extra magnification is a bonus. The adjustable eye cups are good too, they have a nice positive feel about them and they are comfortable with my glasses, should I choose to wear them. As birding won’t necessarily be the only thing I use these binoculars for, I need certain features. As with the lenses for my cameras, they need to be multi-coated to reduce flare etc. I'm often out early with my dogs when the sun is low so quality coatings are essential to reduce flare, add definition and protect the lenses.
These Opticron binoculars have a full VHD multi coated system and their own Oasis Prism coating. Oh, you don’t know what that is? Nor did I but my colleague Josh, an all round binocular guru, tells me its flipping good! I didn’t want a heavy pair either. When I’m out I’m usually carrying a heavy bag of cameras so a good compact pair that will sit around my neck without severing my head is a must. One of the most important things for me is close focusing. I’m interested in wildlife in general and so I’m often out looking for dragonflies, lizards, butterflies and snakes etc. so the ability to focus closely is a must for me, should an Osprey land on my shoe I’ll be able to look it straight in the eye!
Right, that just about sums it up. I’m off out to walk Freddie, my ginger Labrador, armed, of course, with my new purchase. I’ll be back at some point to let you know how things went, if I spotted anything of interest and, of course, to report on how the Opticron binoculars performed in the hands of someone that has little or no idea what he’s doing. Feel free to give us a call anytime, its always nice to chat and remember to visit our website www.swoptics.co.uk. We have some great offers at the moment while stocks last!