Many sizes of binoculars can be held sufficiently steady just with your hands to get a clear enough image. This will save the extra effort of having to buy, carry and set up a tripod.
But there are some situations when using binoculars with a tripod can be advantageous. Briefly, these include:
When the binoculars need additional support to stay steady – for example, if the binoculars are large, of high magnification, or you have shaky hands
When birding for long period from the same position – for example, backyard birding or from a hide
In this article we will cover in more detail these situations:
- when binoculars do not need a tripod
- when the use of a tripod will make for significantly better birding.
Birding situations when a tripod is not necessary
The benefit of birding without a tripod is that you are more mobile. Birds can be very active and move around a lot.
The more quickly you can react, the more you will see. Not having to move or manipulate a tripod allows you to be more reactive.
So having a pair of binoculars that can just be held in your hand without needing a tripod is a big advantage. What kind of binoculars meet this requirement?
You can just hold 7x or 8x binoculars
When birding with binoculars of 7x or 8x magnification, a tripod is not generally necessary. Even 10x binoculars can be used without a tripod, though using one would improve the image.
Just moving yourself and your binoculars is simpler and easier than needing to move a tripod into position as well. It’s a more intuitive action.
That said, many tripods do have heads that are specifically designed to move smoothly and quickly. So if you can just follow the birds’ trajectory by moving just the tripod head, without needing to relocate the entire tripod, that would work well.
Birding situations when a tripod is advised
It’s best to bear these situations in mind in case you need to buy a brand or model of binoculars that can be adapted for use with a tripod. Most tripods can accept an adapter that allows for binoculars to be fitted.
What size binoculars require a tripod?
The point of a tripod is to add stability when viewing through an optical device. The addition of a tripod to binoculars will give you a more steady and therefore sharper view.
So, there are some situations when using a tripod can be advantageous. These include instances when you are using binoculars that are of a larger magnification, such as 10x or 12x.
Use a tripod for magnifications over 10x or 12x
Binoculars with a higher magnification, such as 10x or 12x really offer the sharpest, clearer images when mounted on a tripod.
It is still possible to hand hold these sizes, and many birders do, with great success. But if you have persevered and find it unsatisfactory then how about trying a tripod? Yes, it’s an extra piece of kit to carry, but there are some extremely light and packable options available.
Alternatively, monopods are a good compromise between support and portability. There are even models available that are a monopod combined with a tripod.
So you can adapt which you take depending on the situation or geographical location. If you are going backpacking or hiking, for instance, the monopod might be preferable. Whereas if you only have a short walk from your vehicle, then carrying the whole tripod would work.
Tripods work well for dual purpose binoculars
While 12x binoculars might be too much for general birding use, many people love using them for specific situations. We cover what those situations might be in this article.
One of the top reasons that people choose this size is to be able to use their 12x binoculars for purposes other than birding.
Bird watching might be just one of the hobbies that you enjoy, in addition to say stargazing or hunting. When the 12x magnification suits both purposes then that is great.
The use of binoculars with a tripod enhances these kinds of experiences especially when the binoculars benefit from being held still in a set position for a while.
When do I need to use binoculars with a tripod?
Let’s consider the variety of situations when it’s best to mount your binoculars onto a tripod for more stable views.
To avoid fatigue
Even though the weight of binoculars can be measured in ounces, and those little ounces might not sound much on paper, holding them up in an unnatural position for long periods gets tiring. And fatigue will sap your energy and enjoyment.
Supporting the binoculars with a tripod can avoid this issue by providing relief for your arms and neck muscles.
When you have shaky hands or tremors
When your hands are shaky, then achieving a steady view through your binoculars could be difficult whatever size binoculars you choose.
So if it is ordinarily difficult to hold your hands still, for whatever task, then supporting binoculars will be easier with a tripod.
Depending on what is easiest to handle, check the methods that each tripod requires to set it up and manipulate it. Setting up the tripod with shaky hands needn’t be a challenge if it has the kind of locks that best suit you.
For example, many tripods have legs that can use a twist motion to unlock, extend and lock into position. Others have levels that flip out to unlock, then press down to secure the legs.
There can also be different methods to move the tripod head, with your binoculars attached, to track birds. So it will be possible to find handles and levers that are easier to grip.
When viewing from a stationary position
If a lot of your birding is done at shore lines or lakesides, where birds are most stationary (and you are too!) then a tripod could be a wise inclusion to your kit.
It’s common that in these types of locations, the birds remain some distance away. So possibly you are already using higher power binoculars.
Perhaps you are often able to set yourself up for a session of bird watching from a hide to view the surrounding habitats. In this case, a table-top tripod is a very practical and space-saving solution. Smaller to carry as well!
Keep a tripod set up at home for backyard birding
In some cases, backyard birding can benefit from the use of a tripod too.
While it is not advisable to leave binoculars, or any optics, out for long periods in sunlight or extreme temperatures, there is also an advantage to having them ready to hand when an interesting or entertaining bird stops by your garden. The simple psychology of having a tripod set up already to receive those binoculars cannot be underestimated!
Some homes might have enough room for a full-size tripod, whereas in other cases, a table-top tripod is a better fit. These can sit on a window sill or kitchen work top for fast and easy access.
When the weather is windy
Using a tripod when the weather is windy can be a good idea for several reasons.
Firstly it can help you to stay as comfortable as possible. Having the binoculars mounted on a tripod can avoid early fatigue from trying to hold both yourself and the binoculars still when it’s windy.
Secondly, a tripod will help to dampen any vibration through the binoculars. High winds can play havoc with steadiness. To get the best of the day, setting up a tripod and doing your best to add extra stability to it will pay off in clearer images.
In this post, we have some simple tips to maximize the stability of your tripod.
Use a tripod for positions low to the ground
Sometimes you might want to stay low to the ground to keep out of sight as much as possible. Or you might have an opportunity to view some ground-nesting birds such as puffins, larks, and some kinds of thrushes and sparrows.
Propping yourself up in a low position can be rather uncomfortable for longer periods, even without the added complication of having to hold your binoculars steady and in position.
The legs of many full-sized tripods can splay right out at wide angles. This allows them to be set up very low.
Or there are also table-top or shooters’ tripods, which have shorter legs. Either of these tripod options could be worth considering when viewing birds from a very low angle.
Use a tripod for digiscoping and taking photos through binoculars
If you are taking photos through your binoculars then it’s advisable to use a tripod to hold the whole set-up steady. The more stable the binoculars, the less blur in the pictures.
Many cameras will be equipped with image stabilization, but this might not be the case if you are using your phone with an adapter for digiscoping.
When it’s best to use a tripod with birding binoculars: summary
The sizes of binoculars commonly recommended for general purpose birding are 7x or 8x magnification. These are most versatile and easy to use as they can be held steady enough in your hands.
These sizes, and sometimes up to 10x magnification, do not need to be mounted on a tripod. That’s a benefit for people reluctant to add the expense, weight and effort of a tripod to their birding kit.
While carrying a tripod does not seem convenient, there are quite a few situations when mounting binoculars on a tripod will yield far more impressive images.
- When the binoculars are of a larger magnification, such as 10x or 12x
- When you have shaky hands
- When birding for long period from the same position
- In windy conditions
With these clarification about when it is best to use binoculars with a tripod, if you are ready to learn more about the different sorts of tripods for birding, feel free to check out another of our articles on this topic.
- 1 Birding situations when a tripod is not necessary
- 2 Birding situations when a tripod is advised
- 3 When do I need to use binoculars with a tripod?
- 3.1 To avoid fatigue
- 3.2 When you have shaky hands or tremors
- 3.3 When viewing from a stationary position
- 3.4 Keep a tripod set up at home for backyard birding
- 3.5 When the weather is windy
- 3.6 Use a tripod for positions low to the ground
- 3.7 Use a tripod for digiscoping and taking photos through binoculars
- 4 When it’s best to use a tripod with birding binoculars: summary