For people who are accustomed to using the typical full size binoculars for bird watching, adjusting to using compact binoculars for the same exercise can be a little tricky especially at the beginning. There is no doubt that the full size binoculars are able to gather light even from some deep shadows where a bird could be perched, especially on a bright day and they also become quite handy when you are birding in low light conditions. However, this doesn’t mean that will easily write off all compact binoculars; distance, and not brightness, is really the main issue when you are using compact binoculars simply because they have smaller objective lenses.
There are a few compact binoculars in the market that can give you the kind of optical performance you will get with a regular binocular when birding. Most bird watching activities happen within the range of 50 to 100 feet away; in such cases the difference between the regular and such compact binoculars will be indistinguishable. However, when you are doing anything beyond the 100 feet mark, you will start having challenges with most compact binoculars; you will start missing some details that would be clear with a typical full sized binocular. While you will still be able to see the bird in question, you will however miss some important distinguishing marks and colors. Even having said that, compact binoculars are still good for birding in several situations:
Beginners: There are numerous porro prism compact binoculars that will go for an average $100 which can give anyone just starting out on birdwatching a taste of what the hobby is all about. If you want to spend the smallest amount of money, you want to make sure that you get something that will give you a nice view. You don’t want to get something that is too large and heavy that will make you carry it less and therefore end up seeing fewer birds.
Close in birders: If you live in a place where you can be sure to see birds not too far away, compact binoculars will definitely be good for you. This is especially for people who don’t insist on checking on birds that are over 100 feet away. Compact binoculars will serve you well and you won’t have to struggle with some bulky and heavy pair hanging painfully around your neck.
Back up or pick up binoculars: Compact binoculars are the right thing to carry when you are travelling to a different area for something else such as a workshop or a conference and you are sure you may get some free time. Compacts are a good bet because you won’t need to look for too much extra space that will make your luggage too bulky.