The view from FOCUS OPTICS
Here, the owner of supplement sponsor, Focus Optics, talks about how equipment has developed since the 1980s
AROUND THE late 1970s, farming was changing, and we were not prepared to follow the new methods, so the idea of selling birdwatching instruments grew out of my personal interest and the need to make a living. Since then, our few acres of land have become a nature reserve. It is placed on high ground, so we have migration fly-overs at times, and we have been able to develop various habitats in our small space – a pool, mixed woodland, a wildflower meadow and an area that we are allowing to regenerate into a natural oak woodland. This has led to natural colonisation of many species, proving that if you make space, they will occupy it! We developed Focus Optics within this reserve to offer unrivalled viewing facilities to visiting customers. The range of instruments grew as suppliers gained confidence in our business model, and as our expertise increased.
Optics in 1986
Advertising was essential, and around this time Bird Watching magazine was first published. We were in the first issue, and have been there in every edition since – we think we’re the only company to be able to claim that. The optical instruments of that era were mainly Porro prism binoculars. They weren’t waterproof, they had fold-down eyecups, and the dioptre setting was on the eyepiece. An expensive pair, at the time, cost around £100. The development of waterproofing was important, as using binoculars outdoors has obvious risks. As most Porro prisms focus externally, though, this was difficult to achieve. In addition, at that time binoculars were quite large, and these combined problems led to the development of more roof prism binoculars. These offered internal focusing, which made waterproofing possible, and they were of slimmer, generally lighter construction, all obvious advantages for the birdwatcher. The dioptre setting collar was also transferred from the eyepiece, where it could be moved accidentally, to other lockable positions such as behind the focus wheel, and increasingly the eyecups themselves could be twisted or pulled up to achieve good eye relief for spectacle-wearers.
While these mainly mechanical changes were occurring, gradually, optical quality was also being improved. Close focus was increasingly required as birders also wanted to watch dragonflies, butterflies and the like, and this is generally easier to achieve in a roof prism style binocular. Lenses became more accurately ground, and lens coatings, both internal and external, improved greatly. This led to brighter, sharper images, to the point now where one has to wonder where we can go next.
When light transmission is over 90% anyway, the human eye would struggle to see any gain. Similar developments were also applied to spotting scopes. Bodies became lighter, subject to the weight of large amounts of glass. Lenses developed in quality, thanks to HD, ED and Fluorite glass variations. Fixed magnification eyepieces have given way to zoom eyepieces, with much wider angles than the original types of variable magnification (early zooms gave notoriously narrow images), and the latest move is a modular system to enable alternative objective sizes to be fitted.
So, do we go electronic in some way, perhaps adding recognition software within the binocular or scope for bird ID. Or do we use hi-tech materials for construction, to save weight? We already have range-finder instruments that use laser measuring mechanisms, so built-in cameras with data upload technology, to save messing about with phones, cameras or digiscoping set-ups, might be a way forward. I think, though, that would take a lot of fun out of the hobby. And it is fun. It is about going to wild and beautiful country at home or abroad, and taking an interest in and responsibility for the wildlife that we depend on and take so easily for granted. Watch it while you can, and support it while you can, to make sure it survives for the future. It is really important! Focus Optics is based at Church Lane, Corley, Coventry CV7 8BA. Website: focusoptics.eu/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The development of waterproofing was important, as using binoculars outdoors has obvious risks
Focus Optics' location allows customers to indulge in their birdwatching hobby when visiting its premises