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Bang for the buck vs premium binocular keeper

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#1 ngc 9999

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 06:10 PM

When you buy a binocular what of the two of the above conditions do you think about, spending not much money knowing that if you lost what you bought, you should not care, or being picky about optics and spending thousands of dollars to have the best optics that your money can buy and keep it?

In other words are you a serious observer that buys the best pinpoint stars, the best transmission in order to absorb the last photon of light of that faint nebula or galaxy or are you the one who gets aperture fever to see how that eyecandy object looks like with the bigger aperture and magnification?

#2 steve@37n83.9w

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 07:40 PM

I normally go for the premium binoculars but the "best" view isn't the only reason. I could easily sell some of my premium porros for what I paid for them originally or for even more, so in that sense the really premium binoculars are a better value. I just noticed that Nikon no longer offers their premium IF porros so I fully expect them to increase in price now that production has ceased as was the case with the Zeiss 15x60 and Takahashi 22x60.

I would also note that some of the "best bang for the buck" binoculars are getting very close to the alphas as far as optics....just not sure about the long term mechanical durability. I've been impressed with the Opticron Porros (SRGA and HR WP) and the Vortex Roofs (Viper HD).

Now days I buy all of my binoculars as keepers since I deeply regret my one and only binocular sale. It was a Zeiss 15x60 B GAT T* and I really didn't need it since I preferred the view in my regular 15x60 GAT T* (non B)....yet I still wish I hadn't let it go.

Steve

#3 Jawaid I. Abbasi

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 07:58 PM

For me the Bang for the buck is the one that is used the most. although, the premium will give you absolutely the best image. JUST A THOUGHT.

#4 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 08:56 PM

In other words are you a serious observer that buys the best pinpoint stars, the best transmission in order to absorb the last photon of light of that faint nebula or galaxy or are you the one who gets aperture fever to see how that eye candy object looks like with the bigger aperture and magnification?



Like most, I try to find a balance, acceptable quality balanced with the cost.

I consider myself a "serious" observer but I do not believe that equipment with pinpoint edge correction and the last bit of transmission is required to quality as a "serious" observer.

In my world at least, the thing about seeing the faintest, tiniest galaxies, the faintest nebulae, this is what telescopes are for. And I have made a considerable investment in high quality eyepieces, coma correctors, flat field, short focal length refractors, Newtonians of various apertures. I do have equipment that does provide about as perfect a field of view as is possible.

But, in many way, those nice pinpoint stars at the edge of the field, their eye candy too. Far better observers than me use far simpler equipment.

Jon

#5 Scott Beith

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:24 PM

I'm with Jon.

I try to strike a balance - buy quality gear so I won't feel a need to upgrade, but I don't need the best there is on the market.

#6 eklf

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 10:03 PM

I'd describe my current position as a four-phase process. In phase 1, I began with bang-for-the-buck class of binoculars and was satisfied with them. With time and experience I determined the BA-8 class binoculars as the ones that met my balance of qaulity vs price (phase 2). After gaining a firm footing of a couple of those keepers, I'd dabble in bang-for-the-buck class for the fun of it (I mean, some of these do provide fine views). Currently, phase 4, I just dont bother with the budget class any-more. The BA-8 class are it for me, and its just a matter of determining the right combination for my needs.

#7 *skyguy*

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 01:35 AM

I consider myself a "hard core" deep-sky binocular observer ... I actually use them and don't just display them to impress others. I'm more than happy to use my inexpensive (bang for the buck) bins over the couple of expensive (premium) bins I own. If carefully chosen ... the BFTB bins can provide 90% or more of the optical performance of the premium bins ... and let's face it ... 7X-15X isn't going stress out any optical system!

When I'm in an observing group, I'll hand them over to others ... even children ... without a second thought. If they get dropped and break ... I won't be crying and facing a $400 repair bill. Into the garbage and off goes the order for new ones.

I prefer to own the things I buy and not be owned by them.

#8 KennyJ

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 03:50 AM

I don't fall into either of the two fixed categories.

I'm primarily a frivolous observer who has only ever really bought two "premium"(i.e Zeiss)observing instruments outright but have even sold on both of those,due to a feeling of either needing or preferring to re-invest the proceeds in items of more urgent usefulness.

Hence,I cannot be classified as a"premium binocular keeper".

I happen to think the expression"best bang for the buck"is overly simplistic.With at least three hundred different models to choose from at any given time,in varying price brackets,it seems ludicrous to suggest any given ONE represents"the best bang for the buck".

It's interesting to obtain one or two"entry level" models,if only to see how good,bad or indifferent they really are,compared with more expensive models.Doing that helps to provide and maintain a true perspective on the subject,rather than be tempted to shout from the rooftops that such and such is a GREAT binocular,yet can be obtained for $25 from the Amazon,Nile or Yangtze websites.

For serious uses,and this applies not only to optical instruments,but to any real estate,motor vehicles,musical equipment or whatever,my basic philosophy is "buy the best you can AFFORD",providing you actually NEED the item and intend to USE it and of course that you really CAN afford it.

I've been incredibly,almost outrageously fortunate with binoculars and telescopes,insomuch as more than half of those still in my possession have been donated to me as most generous gifts of friendship and appreciation for my determined efforts in trying to help and support two or three of the most grossly under-appreciated and misunderstood members of our virtual community.

Kenny

#9 edwincjones

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 05:58 AM

I think that one should get the best optics they they can "reasonably" afford.
Viewing time is limited, and get the best view possible.

edj

#10 Tony Flanders

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 06:25 AM

When you buy a binocular what of the two of the above conditions do you think about, spending not much money knowing that if you lost what you bought, you should not care, or being picky about optics and spending thousands of dollars to have the best optics that your money can buy and keep it?


In practice, almost all of us end up making some kind of compromise between price and performance.

I generally prefer to spend less, for three reasons. First, I don't have a huge amount of disposable income. I need to optimize how I spend it. And when I compare the relative values of (say) a premium eyepiece versus a trip to a dark-sky site, the latter tends to win.

Second, because I do a lot of traveling and do most of my observing in public areas where crime is at least conceivable, I don't want to own equipment that's so expensive that I'm reluctant to use it for fear of having it damaged or stolen.

Finally, I'm philosophically opposed to spending 5 times as much to getting that extra 5% of performance. That's always trending toward conspicuous consumption.

Of course, it depends who you compare me to. For typical hand-holdable binoculars, in the 7x35 to 12x60 range, I would probably aim between $200 and $300 if I were buying another pair. Maybe a bit more on the 12x60 end.

However, I need another pair of binoculars in that range like I need a hole in the head. So far I've been able to resist the temptation ...

In other words are you a serious observer that buys the best pinpoint stars, the best transmission in order to absorb the last photon of light of that faint nebula or galaxy or are you the one who gets aperture fever to see how that eyecandy object looks like with the bigger aperture and magnification?


Hunh? I honestly don't understand what you're stating or implying. I do understand the difference between serious observing and eye candy, but I can't for the life of me understand what it has to do with the original question.

For what it's worth, I tend to associate the premium-equipment snobs with the eyecandy camp. After all, those pinpoint stars are much more about aesthestics than practical value; you will see just as much if the stars near the edge of the field of view are a little smeared. Just center them up!

But that's not fair, either. How serious you are as an observer is orthogonal to your place on the price/performance preference. The two things have no relation to each other.

Are you implying that the eye-candy users get bigger but cheaper binoculars? I don't think that's true, either. The obstacles for my owning big binoculars have much more to do with mounting than with optical quality or price.

#11 City Kid

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 09:46 AM

All three pairs of my binoculars would fall into the cheaper range, $200 give or take. Although I use at least one pair of my binoculars almost everytime I go out to observe I don't consider myself a "binocular observer". If binoculars were my primary interest I would probably have some high end ones. Honestly I've never even looked through any other binoculars than the ones I own so I don't even know what expensive binoculars bring to the table. That might be a good thing for my wallet. :lol:

#12 hallelujah

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 01:45 PM

FWIW, all of my binoculars, whether purchased new or purchased used, are the best bang for the buck. :like:
That's why I purchased them.

To each his own. (Every person is entitled to his or her personal preferences and tastes.)

My Fujinon 12x60 HB, purchased new, in 2012, cost me $300; the list price was $1,140.00. :waytogo:

My older, used, Fujinon 7x50 FMTR-SX was priced at only $250. :grin:

I guess that makes me a Best Bang Bargain Hunter. :money:

Stan

#13 Jarrod

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 09:11 PM

For items I use daily and/or to further my profession, I have little problem justifying the extra cost and diminishing returns involved in owning a premium product. But my current lifestyle does not place binoculars anywhere near that category. For me, "good enough", is. I prefer to invest $100-200 each in a handful of average to above-average binoculars that provide different capabilities (magnification, FOV) vs. taking that sum and investing it in one premium binocular that is a "compromise" in terms of capability.

#14 hallelujah

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 09:18 PM

For me, "good enough", is.
I prefer to invest $100-200 each in a handful of average to above-average binoculars that provide different capabilities (magnification, FOV) vs. taking that sum and investing it in one premium binocular that is a "compromise" in terms of capability.


You expressed yourself very well.

I find myself in that very same mind set. :goodjob:

Thanks,

Stan

#15 Stacy

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 11:46 PM

Living in Western Washington, I must consider how limited my observing opportunities are when buying equipment.

So I, like most around here, buy good quality, great quality when it's affordable and "the best" when the next new best thing comes out.

For example, I lusted after the pinpoint stars and wide fields of the Nagler line of Eyepieces. I could never afford those though. However, when the Ethos came out, the used market flooded with perfectly like new Nagler's at great prices. I purchased a complete set and I must say, they are spectacular performers, as well as being beautiful. So, not the "best" but certainly good enough for me and a reasonable price to pay.

I get the best I can reasonably afford, and look for bargains. However it's my belief that the step up from "entry level " binoculars to some high quality binoculars is MUCH more dramatic than the difference between high quality and "the best" binos.

Common sense stuff I guess. If I had more expendable income, I'd own some of everything! :)

#16 ronharper

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:47 AM

I am 62 years old and bought my first binocular in 1973 for $50. It was sort of the dark ages then, at least for me: no forums, no information, no binocular using friends. A couple of decades and several binoculars later, I still didn't have one with two sides even properly lined up. I'd take it back to the camera store, the guy looking at me like I'm an idiot, "Whaaaat?", never heard of "collimation", defeat. I didn't spend a whole lot of money but it took something out of me that I will never have back. The hand held magnified image held a magic for me or I would have given up, but I just could not get no satisfaction.

Seven years ago I discovered this forum and bought a used 7x50 Fujinon FMT-SX for a princely $300. My head kicked by the mule now, I admitted how important this amplified view thing is to me: I like binoculars better than pie, ice cream, or hamburgers even, in fact more than any of the other proverbial "things of Baal". I saw a path forward, and never looked back. I since have consistently erred on the side of perhaps too expensive and perhaps unnecessarily good. With this philosophy, the pursuit and realization of my optical dreams has been the most incredible fun! I have spent a lot of money this way, but emotional dues have been next to zero.

Times have changed of course. Now, information is abundant, free trial periods are the norm, and cheaper binoculars are often said to be good enough. I don't doubt it, but I'll probably stick with what works for me.
Ron

#17 RichD

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 04:00 AM

I love quality and am willing to pay for it, but alas I was raised by a very thrifty mother who rammed home the message that "money doesn't grow on trees". So I typically go for the high quality, bulky, old fashioned porros that give great views and will last a while, but don't break the bank like an alpha roof might. Ideally second hand too. Even if I do find a gem on the used market, i'll still feel guilty about it for a few weeks after.

Don't regret a single bino purchase however. I did get some cheaper stuff years ago but they were sold to finance the quality stuff later on when I learnt more about the hobby. I am pleased with the gear I have now, it's a fair investment but every time I use them I think "wow, these are good. I'm glad I spent the cash".

As mentioned above, the good quality stuff like Fujinon FMT line, Nikon se etc hold their value so well that you stand to lose quite little on resale. Particularly if you buy used and sell on later. I once made a modest profit this way on a pair of old style 7x50 FMT-sx.

Bang for the buck can be a misleading term - I consider the bang that the Fuji 10x50 or 16x70 FMT gives you for the price, around $400 used, to be amazing.

#18 StarStuff1

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 04:09 AM

In 1980 I started "binocular astronomy" with an inexpensive pair of 7x35 Sears wide angle jobs. Immediately I discovered two new open star clusters near the Scorpion's tail. Oops, some guy named Messier had beat me to it by a couple of hundred years. Drat!!

Back then the sky was much darker. In my yard I could barely see my hand in front of me on a Moonless night. My how times have changed and I find the need for more magnification in binos to eek out more details.

With that said and back to the OP I had an interesting experience with a serious birder. He was (now retired) a local newspaper writer with an additional wildlife column each week. The subject was almost always about birds. One week he was distressed about his Leicas being stolen from his car when it was being washed. These were the only binos he had. Since I have at least two dozen binos I had no problem offering a 7.5x32 roofie to him for temporary use until he had the funds to replace the Leicas with a new pair. He offered to pay me but I refused. I told him I just wanted to see what the view through a premo $1200+ bino was like.

Sure enough, in a couple of months he got his insurance check, IRS refund and his new Leicas. I met him outside his office and we did some daytime bird watching. Actually I did some more critical observing of CA, field curvature, image sharpness, etc between this brand new piece of alpha glass and my 4 year old <$120 Chinese roofie. Of course the Leica was the better performer but certainly not 10 times better, not even twice better.

So, we all find our comfort level between price and performance with our optics, binos or...? 25 Years ago I bought an almost new 14x70 Fuji for (IIRC) $350. A lot of money for those days. A Chinese 15x70 I bought for 1/3 that price 5 years ago gives it a very close run for the money and weighs half as much. I just can't bring myself to sell the Fuji. Guess my estate will have to deal with that someday.

OTOH, a few years ago I was at a star party and a vendor had an absolutely mint condition pair of Fuji 7x50 FMT or FMX or something. All I knew the fov was absolutely flat and sharp and crisp everywhere I looked. I fell in love with them and bought 'em. A year later I sold them. Just too heavy.

So, what I have learned is if you are happy with a bino and you can afford to keep it, DO SO! Everyone eventually finds their own bang for the buck level.

I still have my Sears 7x35...ohh and some other nice glass, just not in the Alpha range.

#19 DarkDisplay

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:33 AM

Some people are not satisfied with anything less than what they consider the very best. I'd much rather have two or three "good enough" binoculars that provide nice views of the night sky. The different sizes for particular uses and the fact that I'm not as concerned about damage are a big plus. Besides, there are many moderately priced binos that give views almost as good as the more expensive ones.

Best wishes,
Frank

#20 RichD

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:50 AM

I've never looked through the very best, as long as the observer is satisfied with the image that's all that matters.

#21 hallelujah

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:16 AM

When it comes to the very best binoculars some of them are 'rated' very close to one another. :thinking:

Here's just one example:

http://www.optyczne....etek-10x50.html

Based upon price, which one would you buy?

Stan

#22 kcolter

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:28 AM

Ron's words above really resonate for me. That feeling one gets from a splendid look at the night sky, be it with the 1X7s, a good binocular, or through the telescope goes much higher on my list than most of the "things of Baal." One doesn't have to spend a lot of money (although I have) to experience the feeling. Whitman's phrases, "broad, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe" and "I am he that walks with the tender and growing night" come to mind. As to the things of Baal, I once had a small college football coach tell me how fortunate I was to have a chance to play "the great game", which he placed third on the list behind watermelon and "that other stuff." I would move the view of a great sky through good optics far ahead of watermelon.

#23 DarkDisplay

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:43 AM

Personally, if I had the money to buy any of those listed, I'd choose the Nikon AE 10x50 (13th on the list). The rest of the money could be used for gas to travel to dark sky sites.

Best wishes,
Frank

#24 Jarrod

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:52 AM

Personally, if I had the money to buy any of those listed, I'd choose the Nikon AE 10x50 (13th on the list).


It certainly is an outlier compared to its neighbors as you scan down the price column (as is the Fuji). I agree with you - my AE 12x50s arrive today.

#25 Mr. Bill

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:52 AM

When it comes to the very best binoculars some of them are 'rated' very close to one another. :thinking:

Here's just one example:

http://www.optyczne....etek-10x50.html

Based upon price, which one would you buy?

Stan



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