For the sort of wildlife filming that I do most of the time a pair of good binoculars is absolutely essential.  In describing binoculars the word ‘good’ is rather ambiguous, so this explains why I have the ones that I have.

A few years ago I had a pair of binoculars by Swift that had lasted for donkey’s years, until finally they took a massive hit on a rock which detached a prism inside: I decided that it was time to replace them.  This coincided with a birthday, and my wife said she would get my next pair as a gift.  Now, take a look through the RSPB magazine or any of the bird watching magazines and you will come across well known birders and TV people extolling the virtues of Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski.  There is a very good reason for this – they are optically superb.  Go to the Bird Watching Fair or any place where you can compare binoculars and you will notice the difference between these and cheaper binoculars.  There is precious little between these brands, and as with many items of kit it will come down to personal preference.

As for me, I do not want something costing between £1500 and £2000 hanging around my neck, bouncing off rocks, getting tangled in fences and clunking against the tripod.  It would break my heart to break them.

Opticron Explorer 8×42

This is what my wife bought me.  Coming in at about £180 the Opticron Explorer is optically very good, it is chunky, robust, and crucially can focus to less than 2 metres, which is incredibly useful.  In a bench test alongside Zeiss, Leica or Swarovski the Opticron will be a little down on sharpness and will display a smidgeon of edge blooming, but there really is not that much in it.  Wildlife cameraman binoculars, if I may use that phrase, are usually used for spotting.  In a crew situation someone will have seen, say, an otter in the distance while I have been concentrating on something else, so I then have to re-find it based on their directions.  A Camera viewfinder is not the best tool for finding anything.  These bins have a pretty good viewing angle and image brightness making them very good for scanning, even in relatively dull conditions.

Burrowing parrot colony on the coast of Argentina

As it is it would break my heart to break this pair.  Being a gift from my wife they are a nice item to take away with you, almost always hanging around your neck and close to your heart.  Yes – I know – big softie.