Camera stores have offered binoculars forever. It’s a natural fit, camera lenses and sport optics use much the same language and require the same expertise. In use binoculars and cameras tend to travel in pairs; people have always wanted to photograph what they have been viewing through their binoculars.
What most folks think of, if binoculars ever cross their minds, are dad’s heavy old 7X35 binoculars that were stored in that ratty leather case up in the closet. Or maybe they have a pair of 8X23 pocket sized binoculars rolling around in the car’s glove box. Fortunately there’s a lot more to binoculars than that.
In the store I suggest binoculars every time someone purchases a long telephoto lens. It seems like the natural thing to do since the photographer is obviously interested in subjects that are at a distance. Bird feeders, deer in the woods, or kids playing soccer they just can’t get close enough to get the view that they want.
And there is a very practical side to the paring of telephoto lenses and binoculars – How do you improve at capturing images of your distant subjects if you don’t take some time to study them in action?
Successful wildlife and sports photographers thoroughly understand their subjects. Their outstanding images are the result of time spent learning and observing. It stands to reason that if a long lens is needed to shoot pictures of sports or wildlife, binoculars will be helpful to study and observe too.
“But wait!” you say, “I’ll just look through my telephoto lens instead of buying binoculars too.” You certainly could, and you’d miss out on some of the most revealing details. Binoculars offer a stereo view that a camera lens can’t duplicate. At similar magnification, binoculars offer a wider field of view when compared to a telephoto lens. Binoculars are also more tolerant of bumps, bangs and the occasional rain storm.
Professionals can afford to invest a great deal of time in observation and study, but for the average photographer that isn’t possible. However even investing a modest amount of time in understanding and observing a subject improves the pictures captured. The photographer will be better at anticipating decisive moments on the playing field, better at identifying birds at the feeder, better at understanding how a deer moves through the brush.
The time investment pays off with an increase of decisive moments captured in the camera rather than a collection of images that are all half a beat before or after the moment.
If you shoot through a telephoto lens, take a moment to find a pair of binoculars that fit your style and favorite subject to view. Don’t be random in your selection, consider what you shoot and how you do it. If you would like some guidance check out our downloadable PDF on binocular selection HERE. Or select one of the three binoculars I’ve listed below – in my opinion they represent the best choices at three different price points.
Three suggested binoculars, all have 8X magnification and wide angle view. Seven or eight power is close to the magnification seen through a 300mm lens.
Nikon Action 8X40.. Affordable, reliable and a 25 year warranty.
Nikon Monarch 8X42 – a favored birding binocular. Premium coatings to improve color and contrast. Waterproof and fog proof.
Infinity Elite 8X42 – top performance for demanding users. Fully multi-coated optics that transmit 99.3% of all light – simply the brightest view with the highest color fidelity available.