The view from FO­CUS OP­TICS

Here, the owner of sup­ple­ment spon­sor, Fo­cus Op­tics, talks about how equip­ment has de­vel­oped since the 1980s

Bird Watching (UK) - - 30 Years Of Birdwatching - WORDS: TIM FAL­LOW­ELL

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.

Op­ti­cal qual­ity

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.

The fu­ture

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: en­quiries@fo­cu­sop­tics.eu 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

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