Monday 24 October 2011

Binocular Confessional

I have a Binocular obsession. There, I’ve said it. Like most people I have two eyes. They are, again like most people, nicely positioned either side of the top of my nose. In other words my face, other than being a bit fat, is perfectly normal. With my two evenly-spaced eyes, I can use precisely one pair of binoculars. Any more than one, and I get into all sorts of difficulty.

Why then do I currently have six pairs of binoculars? Ok, so one of these was a freebie with a magazine subscription and lives in the car, and is about as technologically advanced as two smarty tubes with the lids popped off (and about as useful for seeing birds with) but the other ones are all proper ones, and at any one time, four of them are likely to be gathering dust. I could argue that I have one pair for each member of the family, but I put them all off birds years ago, and with the exception of muffin, they’re about as likely to pick up a pair of bins as they are to take Duivendijk to bed for some light perusing.

Once upon a time, I had one pair of binoculars. I’d saved up for them, they were my first really nice pair. I’d thought that the ones I’d inherited from my grandfather were amazing, then I picked up some Leica Ultravids and I saw the light. I watched out for my pennies, they turned into pounds, and after what seemed like an age I gathered them into a huge pile and dragged them to a Leica dealer in central London, emerging some time later with a very nice and shiny pair of my dream bins.

Do you know what happened to them? I’ve almost certainly mentioned it before, and it still chokes me up. On my way back home after a long, hard day of honest toil, four less-honest people jumped on me in Bush Wood because they wanted my mobile phone. Needless to say they took my mobile phone, and as an afterthought, my bag too. With it went my prized binoculars. What happened to them, who can say? Outwardly they look like a pair of bins, with nothing to suggest they were worth twenty times what my phone was worth. The ready currency of thugs and petty criminals generally being portable electronics with things like Nokia and Sony written on them, I suspect that my bins, with their quaint little red scripted dot on, ended up in a bin. Or a bush perhaps.  It doesn’t matter. They were gone, and from that point on binoculars ceased to be something special. With the insurance payout fortunately coinciding with the dealers looking to clear old stock in preparation for an updated model, I bought two replacement pairs, a 7x for general birding, and 10x for when I would be without a scope. And then for good measure, I bought a cheap(ish) pair of small second-hand roof-prisms to use on the patch that wouldn’t cause me much angst if I was robbed again. Needless to say I always used one of the other pairs instead.

For a year or two, this new status quo was maintained. To Mrs L, one pair of bins looks much like another, and no subterfuge was needed. Recently though, I bought a pair of porros out of curiosity, and they are so good that I can’t possibly sell them again, but unfortunately I can’t possibly go birding with them because they look so antiquated and rubbish. I have an image to maintain, dontchaknow? Not really. Though they are optically sensational, wide and bright, they are not waterproof, and as such, useless for birding. They now live on a windowsill at home, ready for the day when a distant raptor needs resolving into a Short-toed Eagle with an abysmally poor sense of direction. I’ve used them twice I think, and they were both Crows.

All was going well, and then for no reason at all other than that they were a “bargain”, I bought another pair last week. I really really like them. They could easily turn into the bins I use every day. So now I have a problem, a stupid problem entirely of my own making. What I really need to do is pull myself together, select one pair, two tops, that I will keep, and get rid of the rest. Any one of them will last a lifetime, and I only have about half of one of those to go. I can perhaps justify keeping one of the cheaper ones for the kids to use when they come out with me, or as a backup in case something bad should happen, but beyond that it is just plain stupid, not to mention greedy, to have any more than one pair. So I am going to man up, and get rid of some. It pains me, but I know it is the right thing to do and that I will feel better for it. Question is, which ones.....


  1. The absolute bare minimum number you need is three, surely: your main everyday pair, a spare pair, preferably of a similar quality, for use when your main pair and something solid collide in an unpleasant fashion and that cheaper pair either for children to use, or for those times when you absolutely have to twitch something in Tilbury/Grays/etc.

    That said, the maximum, some might argue the optimum number you need is a pair for every window in the house, plus the main pair, and a cheaper pair for the kids. And possibly another cheaper pair for the shed/greenhouse. I don't know what your house is like, but I expect it has more than six windows. I speak from experience when I say a binocular-to-window ratio of 2:5, as I am currently suffering with, is not ideal.

    I think you may need to buy more binoculars.

  2. Hello there Jonathan,
    Unfortunately I can top that number.
    I am writing this from one of the colonies (Canada) and I am the proud owner of 16 good quality pairs of Binoculars.
    Yes, that number is correct, that is 16 pairs minimum.
    They are both Porro and Roof designs dating back to the early 1980's.
    Today I just purchased a new pair of Bushnell Elites, 8 X 42. They are promising ED glass, Dielectric prisms, etc, etc.
    We do not have that MANY birds here in Canada. As my English cousins tell me, it's all madness, I am quite daft.
    It's just that they all have their own unique image view and handling ergonomics......
    It's a very good thing that none of them are comprised of the German Alphas, or I would be living somewhere on the streets of Toronto.
    Fellow Birders in my Nature Club are constantly amazed at the number and variety that I bring along on each of our outings.
    I guess as per the previous comment from Parus, I soon plan to be living in Buckingham Palace to ensure that there is proper window coverage there.
    I once read the following quote that has kind of put it all in perspective for me:
    "For the love of the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, they're only binoculars, and if they didn't exist, we'd just have to stand closer to stuff!" --Sancho