OK, you've decided you absolutely love bird watching and need to buy new binoculars for your new found hobby. How did this happen? Maybe you were invited to join a friend on an all-day field trip and came back just knowing this was a hobby for you as well. Or maybe you started dabbling with some back yard birding on your own with a $25 pair of old compacts and gradually became hooked over time. In either case, your enthusiasm and exuberance get the better of you and say "If I'm going to do this right, I need to go get myself a REAL pair of binoculars". You then do some research and find that the best birding binoculars are priced at $500. Some are even priced at $1,000 and higher. Uh-oh.
Don't get me wrong, you still need to learn the many technical attributes and features of binoculars first. These items alone can create stress for first time buyers. Magnification, Field of View, Close Distance, etc. There's enough information available to get frustrated over, trust me. Take your time with the research, and you will be able to narrow your choices just fine. But the REAL stress comes from asking yourself: "How much should I spend?"
Most everyone will feel stress about spending this kind of money for a hobby that they have only begun to love. What if I really don't like birding as much as I thought? What if I spend $500 dollars and end up hardly using them? If you're asking these questions, that's a good thing. And if you're not, you should be. It's easy to understand the fascination and passion birding hobbyist share. Those that don't feel stress over what is considered by most to be a fairly significant purchase are fortunate in my opinion.
There are nearly 75 million birding hobbyists in North America alone (I'm one of them). But remember, most of them started at or close to zero, i.e., without any binoculars at all or with an old, inexpensive pair that was lying around somewhere collecting dust. Also keep in mind that of those 75 million enthusiasts, most of them did NOT EVER spend $1,000 for a pair of binoculars, even those that have been birding for many years.
My introduction to birding came via my back yard. I happen to live in a wooded community in Northern New Jersey and became fascinated with the Northern Cardinals that regularly convene in my back yard each spring. I pulled out my 20 year old 8X25mm Bushnell Compacts one day and started to get a closer look. It took me six years to figure out that I really needed higher magnification and a bigger objective lens to really gain a better appreciation of not only the Cardinals, but also the Robins, Blue Jays, American Goldfinch, Red Bellied Woodpecker, and Wood Thrush that hang out in my trees and feeders.
The sheer will and force of American advertising will at the very least attempt to make you feel inadequate if you don't drive a Mercedes or a Lexus. When I began the research for my first pair of binoculars, I found the marketing objective of sport optics retailers to be no different. I was immediately pointed to Swarovski, Leica and the other heavy weights of the sports optics world. Obviously these brands, and a couple of elite others, provide the very best in sports optics performance. I am NOT telling you that you shouldn't buy these products. I am suggesting, however, that you have PLENTY of other quality brands to select from that don't offer product listings that START at $500. In fact, you probably will want to spend under $300, knowing you canALWAYS graduate to another level of binocular in time.
The best advice I have to offer is to remember that this is your FIRST binocular, and that you should be pursuing your passion, and NOT competing with your birding peers for best looking or best performing binocular! If you truly have the birding bug, you will enjoy doing it with a binocular that costs $200 or even one that costs less than $100. I do admit that when I finally did upgrade from the old Bushnell compacts to a 10X42MM Carson model, I was able to appreciate birding even more. Maybe I will upgrade again somewhere down the road, but in the mean time, I will focus more on the birds I have yet to see, and the birding venues I want to visit, knowing that the pair I have is more than good enough to help me enjoy one of my favorite hobbies.
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