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Light Trap's beginning binocular suggestions

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#1 lighttrap

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 04:21 PM

What follows is a list of *ONE GUY'S* ideas on binoculars suitable for astronomy. In most cases, I have either owned or tried samples of each. I'll add comments as appropriate. This list is NOT a "best of" list. Nor is it all comprehensive. It's not even a list of all the binoculars I've owned, much less tried. This list IS an attempt to give people some idea of where they might want to begin their shopping. Primarily, this is strictly intended for folks that are bewildered by the seemingly vast array of binocular choices on the market. If you know enough to disagree with this list, you probably know enough not to need it.

Narrowing down the choices is not as daunting a task as it may at first seem. For instance, after owning all manner of different size binoculars, I find that the most useful for HANDHELD astronomy usually boil down to essentially one of 2 or 3 sizes. This surprises a lot of people, and many may choose to disagree with that blanket assessment. However, for the person just starting out, it's important to know that if you observe from an area with even a modest amount of light pollution, you'll probably want a binocular with a 5mm exit pupil or less. Only if you observe from a very dark site, will a larger exit pupil help, and only then, if your pupils really can still dilate to the extent that they could when you were a child.

There are, what at first, might seem like any number of binocular configurations that would be useful for astronomy. However, after owning and using 8x56, 9x63, 11x56, 12x60 and several other configurations, I've pretty much concluded that most beginners need not even worry with these somewhat obscure sizes as they really only show up at the very bottom and very top of the binocular market, and rarely offer the end user anything that can't be more readily achieved with more conventionally sized binoculars. For that reason, I'm confining the first 2 lists below, to only 8x40 & 10x50s. There is plenty to choose from just with those two sizes. I've also included some select 7x50s, even though most people would do MUCH better to choose either an 8x40 or 10x50 due to the better contrast afforded by a smaller exit pupil.
I've also left off 7x35s and 8x32s because I don't consider objectives below about 40mm to be anywhere near as desirable for astronomy as those of 40mm and above, even though I often favor the smaller sizes for birding.

Points to be taken from this post are:
1) Most manufacturers and importers have a tiered marketing system; offering low-end, medium grade sometimes high-end optics. Thus, brand means very little in today's marketplace.
2) The best bargains in binoculars are almost never found in the very lowest price offerings, no matter what the brand. In addition to optical and mechanical shortcomings, very low-end binoculars often do not hold up very long in the field. I've seen examples of low-end binoculars not lasting ONE season in the birding market. You say, "So what, I'll baby them and I don't bird in the jungle?" Well, many of the very low cost binoculars won't survive a few outings into the nighttime dew, either. For a very few dollars more, there are examples that will survive for quite a long while. Be careful how you spend your money and your caution will be rewarded for years, even if you spend quite a bit more than you'd originally bargained.
3) Good mid-range porro prism binoculars often represent the most optical and mechanical quality for the amount spent.
4)Binoculars are a highly subjective product, with people liking or disliking particular examples for what amounts to very personal reasons.
5) When at all possible, TRY BEFORE YOU BUY. If that's not possible, at least only deal with vendors that have a hassle-free return policy.
6) Binocular prices vary widely. Shop wisely. In some cases, I've found the markup on binoculars to be well over 100%
7) Even amongst what have in the past been well known, highly regarded brands, manufacturing locations and practices change frequently and often quality control varies accordingly. I've personally seen some pretty
shocking QC problems even with big name binoculars from Nikon, Pentax, Celestron and Orion, just to name a few. What's worse, is most of the listed importers and manufacturers have often changed binocular model
specifications while keeping the model name more or less the same. It's a very confusing marketplace out there. But, there are many good buys to be had for the careful shopper. This list is current as of July 2004.
8) Hopefully, by now, we all know to look only for Bak4 prism, *fully multicoated* binoculars.

Under $100
Honestly, I cannot recommend binoculars in this price range. Typically, binoculars in this category exhibit gross amounts of sperical and chromatic abberations. What's worse, is often binoculars in this range are nowhere near
as durable as their moderately more expensive counterparts. If absolutely constrained to this price range, I'd almost suggest bottom fishing for Dept.store Simmons Red-line 10x50s for $20-30USD or similarly priced Tascos or BSAs simply because you'll be more likely to upgrade from these low price samples sooner. In the under $100 category, Bushnell Legacy 10x50s, 8x40s and Nikon Action series 10x50s, and 7x50s get a lot of press. I've owned examples of both these lines, (in some cases several examples), and honestly cannot recommend them. This is what often irritates people, but I'll stand by that assessment. In this category, you're literally throwing your money away. That's not to say that binoculars in this category aren't capable of showing MUCH more than is available naked eye, but over the long term, binoculars in this category almost always prove to be disappointments. (I just know I'm going to hear flak about this one. <sigh>) OK, onto the interesting stuff.

$100-$200USD -- HANDHELD suggestions
The following are listed in rough alphabetical order and the prices are 7/24/04 USA street prices culled from several US vendors. This list IS biased. No way around that. OK, here we go in pseudo alphabetical order:

Leupold Wind River "Mesa"
8x42 WP 6.5*FOV $150
10x50 WP 5.5*FOV $175
[Comments: I own a 2nd generation Leupold WR 10x50 prior to the "Mesa" designation and it's remarkable for it's compact size and reasonably decent optics. This is one of the most compact 10x50s that I've seen, though I don't know if that trend continues in the more recent "Mesas". More than that, the sample I own is remarkably clear to the outer edges of about 80% of the 5.5* FOV. Again, whether this trend continues in the newer "Mesa" series is unknown. I consider these to be amongst the better bargains out there.

Minolta (aka Konica) Activa series:
8x40 WP 8.2* FOV $135
10x50 WP 6.5* FOV $150
I've never owned these, but have looked through a few sets. These, honestly
don't impress me quite as much, though I suspect they have common lineage to
other binos mentioned on this page. I've noticed pretty bad edge distortions on both sizes tried. However, numerous very experienced binofiles list these as choice, and so I present them here. Honestly, they're not bad, and you may just find yourself really liking them for the money.

Nikon Action Extreme:
7x50 WP 6.4* $130-$150
8x40 WP 8.2* $130-$150
10x50 WP 6.5* FOV $140-$200
This series really took me by surprise. I used to recomend the basic Nikon Action series for those on an extreme budget, but only with budget as primary consideration. Then along came several radical changes in design and configuration amongst the models in this line, and all of a sudden I couldn't recommend *anything* in this line, because it was like hitting an everchanging target. Then, along came the Extremes. If my 2003/2004 10x50 sample, serial number 400140 example is anything to go by, then this is one hot series to look out for. They are kind of bulky and blocky, and their screw up/fall down eyepiece cups are annoying, but overall I've never seen so many decent features and such pretty decent overall optical quality in a binocular that routinely sells in this price range. Still, these aren't for everybody. Birders will likely HATE their excessive weight and bulk. Stargazers may well hate the fact that the nominal screw-up eyecups often are screwups in their own right that collapse with little eyebrow pressure. However, these are currently bargain priced at something between $129-$169 depending on source. They're a very decent example of how far Chinese optics have recently come into the marketplace. NOTE: I have ONLY tried the 10x50 in this series, and only one sample of that size. The wide field of the 8x40s, makes me suspect that this size in this line would probably show spherical aberrations out of the center of the field of view. But, again, I've not tried any size other than 10x50. ***1/8/05 Update: Since writing this I've sold off the Nikon AE 10x50s primarily due to excessive spherical distortions outside the central viewing portion of the lens. This bothers some folks more than others.

Pentax PCF WP
7x50 6.2* FOV $170
8x40 6.3* FOV $170
10x50 5* FOV $184
Like Nikon, Pentax has really confused a lot of people with all the changes they've made to their PCF line over the years. Typically, this line is known for narrow, but crisp FOVs that are sharp almost to the edge. I have not owned or used the newer WP series PCFs, primarily because I don't like where they put the strap lugs on this newer series. I have owned 2 examples of older PCFs, but will keep my comments for another section, since they were both larger sizes. Overall, I'm not a huge fan of Pentax PCF series binoculars. In one direct comparison, the older Pentax PCF V 10x50s I tried were the dimmest of several similar 10x50s that I compared them to. However, these binoculars are so popular amongst amateur astronomers that value them for generally good flat field views that I feel compelled to list them as a viable option for folks to try for themselves.

Swift
As much as I like Swift's original 8.5x44 Audubons, and 2nd generation 10x50 Kestrels for terrestrial use, I cannot recommend either for astronomy, as both suffer from severe sperical edge distortions due to their wide angle eyepieces.


$200-$300USD --- HANDHELD suggestions

Carton Adlerblick
7x42 $215-$250
7x50 $240-$273
8x42 $225-$262
10x50 $250-$288
This is a German sounding brand that is actually Japanese. They got a good boost in popularity by getting mentioned by Dickinson & Dyer in "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide". To my knowledge, these are only offered in North America by 2 Canadian firms. (Keep in mind the above prices are in USD.) This brand is unusual for at least two reasons. One is that this is one of the only firms I know of that offers a reasonably priced standard 7x42. The other thing is that by today's standards, these models might be considered by some to be bit pricey not to be waterproof. But what really sets them apart, is that they are generally quite lightweight for their respective sizes. My older, leatherette covered Carton Adlerblick 10x50 is the lightest 10x50 that I've ever held. I believe this older unit is actually a couple ounces lighter than the newer rubber coated ones that are listed at 26.8oz. But, the real reason these sometimes hard to obtain binoculars are sought after is the optical clarity on them is superb. The FOV of the 10x50 in this series is quite narrow, but the view is undistorted almost to the edge of the FOV. Personally, I prefer a slightly heavier binocular, with a bit wider FOV in a 10x50, but the optics in these is so good that I may eventually get a 7x42 in this series. (I believe that Barry Simon was a bit less impressed by the optics in the 7x42 C.A. as compared to the 8x40 C.A.) One word of caution, eye relief is quite tight on these, and that coupled with an already narrow FOV means that folks that wear glasses to observe, would probably be better served picking something else.

Celestron Ultima
10x50 5* FOV long eye relief $225-$300
Celestron's Ultima series is somewhat unique in that they offer an 8x56 and a 9x63. One friend has the 10x50s and another has the 8x56s. I find that I greatly prefer the 10x50s for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this list. The 10x50s offer generous eye relief and are clear almost to the edge of their FOV. They are also fairly lightweight. These might be just the thing for eyeglass wearers wanting a lightweight, fairly good quality binocular.
***1/8/05 Update -- Since writing this I've purchased a used, older set of leatherette covered Celestron Ultimas in 10x50. It's my unsubstantiated opinion that these are made by the same folks that made the older Carton Adlerblick 10x50s mentioned above. They suffer the same tight eye relief, but offer up almost identical crystal clear, narrow FOVs. How these compare to whatever is being currently offered by either brand is anybody's guess. I'll go out on a limb and guess that both brands may actually be Vixen sourced. I do NOT know that for a fact. But, now that Vixen binos are available branded Vixen in the USA, they might also be a choice worth looking at. Supposedly, the current Celestron Ultimas & Vixen Genomas have longer eyerelief, but at the time of this update, I've not personally verified that. If you're buying used, you might want to get the seller to confirm whether the item being discussed has the newer long eye relief, or the older short eye relief. (That's just one of many reasons why I don't generally reccommend buying binoculars used, unseen, unless you REALLY know the market and the seller.)

Fujinon BFL
8x42 WP 6.5* FOV $250
10x42 WP 6.5* FOV $260
These are Fujinon's entry into the birding market. I've borrowed a 2003 model 8x42 and birded and stargazed with it for a week. I'm quite impressed by this model. If it was offered in a 10x50, I'd buy one without hesitation. I'm curious if these don't come from the same source as the Leupold Wind River 2nd generation binoculars. However, the Fujinons seem to have much better coatings. For the person looking for a really good 8x42 in this price range these seem to me to be a good value in an ergonomic package. ***1/8/05 Update -- Since writing this, I bought a used set of the Fujinon BFL 8x42s primarily for birding from a canoe or other boats. Eye relief appears to be slightly longer than the published 15mm. These might be a choice for eyeglass wearers who wished for a smaller, lighter set of binoculars for dual duty.

Nikon Sports Marine (without compass)
7x50 WP 7.5* FOV individual eyepiece focus $235
For the person who desires a rugged 7mm exit pupil binocular, who isn't bothered by individual eyepiece focus, this one is a real find. These have a good wide FOV, and surprisingly, it's remarkably clear over most of the area. I compared these to some top of the line Steiner Night Hunter 7x50s that cost over $600, and to some top of the line Swarovski SLC Habicht 8x56 low light binoculars, and found that the views through these mid-priced Nikons was almost as good as through their much more expensive competitors. In this price range, these are fantastic performers. But, they are hampered by having the contrast robbing 7mm exit pupils. For somebody wanting a good boating or low light surveillance binocular, these would be very high on my short list.

Orion Vista
8x42 6.5* FOV $220
10x50 5.3* FOV $230
A friend bought the 10x50s in early 2003 for stargazing. This is a good quality Japanese binocular, that FAR exceeds the image quality in Orion's lesser Scenix line. I'm not sure that these represent the most value or the most robust package, now that waterproof Leupolds and Nikons are available for less money. These *may* be a little better optically, but without having done a side-by-side comparison, it's hard to say. Optically, I do not believe that these are quite on the same level as the Carton Adlerblicks, (though it wouldn't surprise me if they don't have very similar origins).

Orion Savanah
8x42 6.5* FOV $240
10x50 5.3* FOV $260
I haven't seen these, but if they are in fact, a waterproof version of the Vistas, then they ought to be decent. But, see my comments about the relative value of the Vistas.

$100-$300 Higher Power Binoculars These can be used handheld for brief periods but are MUCH better when mounted. (That's true of all the 10x50s listed above, as well.)

Nikon Action Extreme
12x50 WP 5.5* $190
16x50 WP 4.1* $200
I haven't tried either of these. Yet, IF they live up to the quality level of the Extreme 10x50s, these should give the more famous Pentax PCF higher power models a real run for their money. With their wider FOVs, I would expect some edge of FOV distortion. But one of my complaints about the Pentax PCF series is their overall narrow FOVs. So, perhaps these will offer a good option to those.

Oberwerk
15x70s new version 4.3* FOV $149
I did some of the original reviews on the orginal Oberwerk 15x70s. In stark contrast to what seems to be the trend with other importers, the newer Oberwerk 15x70s are improved, with better coatings and mechanical improvements. To my mind, the Oberwerk 15x70s are the BEST value in binocular astronomy today. These can be handheld, but obviously, do MUCH better from a good mount. It's worth pointing out that I'm not as enthusiastic about some of the other Oberwerk sizes and configurations. I've had other sizes in this brand, both larger and smaller, and none has come close to the performance standards set by the 15x70s. It's also worth pointing out that there are many, many imitators of these binoculars at reduced prices, and none offer the same good level of quality coatings, prisms, etc. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Pentax PCF WP
12x50 4.2* FOV $190
16x60 2.8* FOV $250
I have not used the WP version of these. I used to own an older (2002?) model of the 16x60s, which I sold because of it's very narrow FOV. And I currently own a 2003 PCF V model 12x50. These are known for offering narrow FOVs but are generally quite good to near the edges of the FOVs. In my opinion, Pentax binoculars and spotting scopes have some QC issues. This is evident in my PCF V 12x50s in the form of a large, light colored spec of dust that was factory sealed into one of the objectives. It doesn't hamper the view at all, but it kills their resale value. (I've seen similar problems with Pentax spotting scopes.) Nonetheless, these offer a blend of optical quality in a package that a lot of folks find agreeable.


Crème de la crème
OK, I said I wasn't going to make this a BEST OF list. However, if you have money to burn, and you really want the very best out there, here's my short list.
Fujinon FMT-SX 7x50 7.5* FOV -- $530
Fujinon FMT-SX 16x70 4* FOV -- $600
Nikon SE 10x42 6* FOV -- $800
Nikon SE 12x50 5* FOV -- $850 (my favorite binos of all time!)
Swarovski W Habicht 10x40 6.2* FOV $750

Now, careful readers are going to notice that not once have I mentioned a single roof prism binocular. That's because they're not optimal for astronomy. While prices on properly phase coated models keep coming down, they're still more expensive than same quality porro prism binoculars, and to my mind, they offer no advantages to the amateur astronomer. If you find that you greatly favor the closer hand position of a well made roof prism binocular, plan to spend a bare minimum of $500 to get a roof prism binocular that is the optical equal of any of the porro prism binos listed in the $100-$200 category. For a really good roof prism, expect to pay closer to $1000.

Mike Swaim

#2 KennyJ

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 05:27 PM

Mike,

For several years now , your binocular reviews and associated comments have been one of the most significant and influencial features of "internet bino info" for countless numbers of folks , including myself.

This is one truly GREAT post , right up there with some of your all -time classics.

I trust many other people will appreciate the tremendous effort and no lack of "bottle" it takes for anyone to compose such an "article" , and for it to actually make such great sense in the bargain.

Congratulations on a job well done.

When EdZ is back from his annual sojourn , I will be the first to recommend your post be diverted to the " Best Of" section.

Kind regards , Kenny.

#3 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 05:56 PM

Great post Mike, very informative. On the sub $100 dollar line: I do not disagree with you, you obviously have a good deal of experience.
However I had a couple of thoughts on the subject, check out my recent "$20 Bino" post.

1: The fit and finish of the 2 binos I talk about in my post is quite good...only time will tell on long term durabilty but they appear to be built/finished every bit as well as my Oberwerks. The Barskas sport a 3 year warranty, not shabby for a $15 bino.

2: I say in my post to which ill stand by...its all about expectations and intended use. I may have got a "good" pair, but the optics arent bad for the cost. I still feel there is a place for a cheap pair of binos, many scenarios come to mind, teaching, giving away, sparking the interest of those who have never observed the night sky with binos(or otherwise). Or a need for a bino(or binos) that one doesnt have to fret over because of cost (I would never be able to relax and enjoy a night with my nieces and nephews all passing around/handling my $150 Obies let alone a $700 pair of Fujinons).
The flip side, to which you may be referring, is the poor quality my turn some completely off the hobby whereas a higher quality can hook them. Guitars are the same way...this I do know something about and have seen first hand many times.

I do get your point, these two low-buck pair suffer from many optical problems. Which to some are the nail in the coffin, but to others (those uninitiated) these problems are not bothersome or completely unnoticed (my son for example) It is all relative.

My motivation for commenting on your post is this:
The Meades I reviewed recieve ooohs and ahhhs from everyone who looks at the night sky through them. These people fall into the above category. Once again, I feel its all relative.

Your point is well taken, I just wanted to comment.
I appreciate the time you took to post this, very informative.

#4 Tom L

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 07:44 PM

I'll give you an earful, Mike! :grin:

I have the older 8x40 Nikon Actions for $65. Great finder binoculars! 'nuff said... :D

#5 werewolf6977

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 08:59 PM

OK, Celestron 15X70's for 74.95. Not too bad! Pete

#6 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 09:08 PM

Wow. Outstanding, comprehensive review of binoculars Mike. This should definitely be archived.

I was glad you mentioned the 10x50. Although I have the 7x50, not the 10x50 per se, I can say that the japanese glass quality and craftmanship is excellent. The 10x50 are probably very overlooked.

#7 spaceydee

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 09:35 PM

Thanks alot Mike! I would like to get a new pair of binoculars (I was totally impressed with what one can see with them under a dark,clear sky), and your suggestions will defintely come in handy!

-dee

#8 Rusty

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 10:04 PM

And I'd have to disagree (respectfully, of course) about sub-$100 binocs - I think the Oberwerk 8x56 are a decent bargain. I haven't owned the extensive collection you have, but when I was boating and ocean racing, I went through a bunch, including Minolta, Nikon, Zeiss, Canon and several other of The Names. While the Obers aren't in the same league with most of those, someone walled in by $100 can expect reasonable service from the little Obers.

#9 lighttrap

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 11:23 AM

I'm glad some folks are finding that listing useful. As to sub-$100 binos, it's quite true that with careful shopping, particularly in the used market, that one can come up with the odd bargain. But, that is pretty much a market for the well seasoned, and the chances of someone just starting out stumbling upon a real bargain in that category are nowhere near as good as if they go with a new, known quality item. That's really the point. I'm not going to comment on specific budget binos that folks have suggested this far, other than to say that I've owned 3 of the one's mentioned so far, and they did not make the list. There are reasons for that. Well, OK, I will comment on one of them, and that's the Nikon Action line, specifically the Egret 8x40s. If yo go to Excelsis and look up reviews of that model, you'll find a glowing review of that model that I did some time ago. However, since then, I've seen 1/2 dozen more specimens of that specific model and the QC has been all over the map. I've seen Nikon Action series in 7x35, 8x40, and 10x50 with all kinds of different problems. Some weren't even close to collimation out of the box. Some were decent. Some had an astounding amount of spherical abberation. One had a focuser that was so difficult to turn to infinity that it required force. This is why I don't recommend budget binoculars, and was what I mentioned in the previous post about specifically having problems continuing to recomend the basic Action line. Some folks get good ones, and some don't. That can be said of a lot of budget optics.

Also, keep well in mind the problems with a sample size of one, when reading the above article. Several times, I've stuck my neck out recommending optics based on a sample of one, or worse yet, lines where I've only tried one size in a model line. That's dangerous. But, it was the only way I could come up with some sort of meaningful starting point for those that are simply baffled by this everchanging market.

Mike Swaim

#10 KennyJ

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Posted 27 July 2004 - 12:45 PM

I agree that with "sub $100 new" binoculars , Quality Control seems to be at it's most variable,but I would certainly not restrict regular QC problems to binoculars in THAT lowest- price bracket.

It seems to me that QC varies almost in direct proportion to unit cost.

I've certainly noticed some variation in both optical and mechanical aspects of Pentax , Canon and Swift models which can be safely classified as "mid -priced" , and in one case " high priced".

I own and regularly use binoculars of varying monetary value and whenever I can, I do try to take a peek through any models I've never tried before , and without wishing to sound like a " bino snob" in any way , I must say that from what I've seen ,although actual improvement in image quality can be subtle to say the least between the most expensive models and the "mid -priced", there seems to be far greater consistancy in the high -end models from the BIG FOUR than there is even in the "mid -priced" section.

It is one of the reasons why I would always recommend to anyone to "buy the best you can afford".

On the " el cheapo" front , I will repeat for the umpteenth time that I got lucky with a Bushnell 8 x 42 H20 Porro , and have seen similar models from Olympus and Minolta costing little more that I would be quite happy to use all day long.

Regards , Kenny.

#11 lighttrap

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Posted 02 August 2004 - 06:30 AM

In the sub-$100 category, it's true that it IS possible to occasionally luck out and find bargains. But, the problem is that I feel that it's often a matter of luck to find such deals, and that's why I have trouble recommending that beginners even consider this category. Sure, I've got a set of $40 Tentos 7x50s that are optically really good, but mechanically they're typical of other older Russian binos, which is to say, not great. What's more, I don't even know where to tell folks to start looking for a similar set.

I've probably done more dabbling in the cheap binocular category than all others combined, and my conclusion, after buying and giving away a lot of binoculars is that folks would generally be better advised to start looking at better binoculars, costing a bit more. That's not at all to say that I think everybody is best served looking only at highend stuff. Quite the opposite. Actually, I believe the best binocular bargains out there are porro prism units in the rough $150-$300 range. But, that is just one guy's opinion.

#12 KennyJ

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Posted 02 August 2004 - 12:07 PM

< Actually, I believe the best binocular bargains out there are porro prism units in the rough $150-$300 range. But, that is just one guy's opinion >

Mike -- that is at least TWO guys' opinions !

Although I rarely mention this , I have no doubt that for £139 BRAND NEW in the UK -- the Japanese made porro -prism Helios 15 x 70 represent by far the best value for money binoculars I've ever owned.

As I've said before , the main drawbacks with this model is the 8mm eye -relief and sometimes troublesome chromatic aberration in daylight.

As you know , this model also retails under the name Orion Little Giant 2 -- and I'm amazed that still no-one seems to have ever carried out a direct comparison between it and the Oberwerk 15 x 70.

Regards , Kenny.

#13 Brian B.

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Posted 02 August 2004 - 07:20 PM

How about consideration of eye relief for eyeglass wearers? I noticed the two most interesting hand-held binocculars for me (Nikon Action Extreme and Leupold 10x50s) have 18mm eye relief. What do you think about the Orion Ultra View 10x50, which supposedly has eye relief of 22mm?

Brian B.

#14 KennyJ

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 01:45 AM

Brian,

You are very wise to highlight the importance of eye relief.

A major problem with this sometimes crucial factor has been reported in previous posts to this forum ,and which is that STATED manufacturers' figures for eye relief CANNOT be trusted for many models.

Again , reading between the lines, these inconsistencies would appear more commonplace in less expensive models , or at least shall we say , less common in the MOST expensive models.

Regards , Kenny.

#15 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 01:51 AM

An interesting and helpful list of suggestions.

In the hand held 8x range, and the up market price bracket, I would add the Nikon 8x32 SE. I know most people here seem to dismiss it due to the 'small objectives' but not only is it small and light, it has superb image quality and it performs beyond its size in terms of brightness. It has a wide field of view, wonderful point like star images almost to the field edge, and excellent brightness due to high transmission and high contrast. It is also a first rate binocular for day time use. (To my eyes the brightness is on a par with a Swarovski 8.5x42 EL though most people here seem not to believe that statement. I've read some supporting comments on the UK Bird Forum from people who have done the same comparison.) Interestingly the 8x32 SE is sometimes available second hand at a bargain price.

One point I think worth making is that these days at the top end of the performance scale most manufacturers focus (sic) their efforts on roof prism binoculars rather than porros. Thus if you want the overall best image quality in an ~8x42 instrument (wide FOV, good DOF, good edge sharpness, high contrast) a roof prism is pretty much the way to go, but at a price.

#16 btschumy

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 09:30 AM

Mickey Mouse wrote:

In the hand held 8x range, and the up market price bracket, I would add the Nikon 8x32 SE. I know most people here seem to dismiss it due to the 'small objectives' but not only is it small and light, it has superb image quality and it performs beyond its size in terms of brightness. It has a wide field of view, wonderful point like star images almost to the field edge, and excellent brightness due to high transmission and high contrast.



I agree with this. Sometimes small quality binoculars can perform well above where you would expect. I have a pair of 8x32 Leitz Trinovids that I used to use quite a bit. Several times I've done the Texas Star Party's Binocular List using these. They give exceptionally bright and contrasty images for their size. They are roof prisms also.

#17 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 03 August 2004 - 04:17 PM

Very nice work Mike. It would be excellent reading for anyone that post a request for bino recommendations. ;)

#18 Greybeard

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 01:32 PM

Nikon Action Extreme
12x50 WP 5.5* $190
16x50 WP 4.1* $200
I haven't tried either of these. Yet, IF they live up to the quality level of the Extreme 10x50s, these should give the more famous Pentax PCF higher power models a real run for their money. With their wider FOVs, I would expect some edge of FOV distortion. But one of my complaints about the Pentax PCF series is their overall narrow FOVs. So, perhaps these will offer a good option to those.



I purchased a set of extreme 12x50 from London Drugs in Canada.
Returned them in fairly short order:

1) not hand holdable for astronomy, marginal when well braced. No tripod mounting available.

2) iffy quality I thought. Some form of optical aberation in the left barrel which left a permanent flare on stars in that barrel only. "Crunchy" center focus.

3) poor edge of field performance. My Dad's ancient 10X50 Sears look better at the edge than these do. I never tried the 10x50 or 8x50, but if the fish bowl effect/edge distortion gets worse as the FOV goes up, it would be intolerable for me.

All in all, the poorest quality Nikon product I've ever seen or used. Very disappointing.

GB

#19 lighttrap

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 05:58 PM

Graybeard wrote:"I purchased a set of extreme 12x50 from London Drugs in Canada.
Returned them in fairly short order:

1) not hand holdable for astronomy, marginal when well braced. No tripod mounting available.

2) iffy quality I thought. Some form of optical aberation in the left barrel which left a permanent flare on stars in that barrel only. "Crunchy" center focus.

3) poor edge of field performance. My Dad's ancient 10X50 Sears look better at the edge than these do. I never tried the 10x50 or 8x50, but if the fish bowl effect/edge distortion gets worse as the FOV goes up, it would be intolerable for me.

All in all, the poorest quality Nikon product I've ever seen or used. Very disappointing.

GB "


This is the very first negative review of the Nikon Extremes I've ever heard of. Given the previous exceptionally spotty quality control of Nikon's Action line, I'm not terribly surprised. However, one correction, the Nikon Extremes do indeed have the standard 1/4x20 mounting hole under the standard plastic cap on the end of the hinge for facilitating tripod mounting via a standard "L" bracket. The other thing is that in the US, at least, they are covered by Nikon's 25 year "No Fault" warantee, so if you do get a bum set, or even if you inadvertently mess them up yourself, having them fixed or replaced is supposedly no big deal. I don't know how that works in other countries, though.

#20 Brian B.

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 08:17 PM

I guess I wasn't specific enough earlier - I wonder if anyone has any experience using the Nikon Action extremes (Or Leupold Wind River Mesa) 10x50s with eyeglasses. How is the effective eye relief? I've read a detailed review of the Orion Ultraviews on the site, and I know from that that they will work well with eyeglasses, even though their stated eye relief (22mm) turns out to be less when actuually measured. I like the Nikon Action extremes, but I wouldn't want to order them and find that my eyeglasses interfered with seeing the whole FOV.

Thanks!
Brian B.

#21 Greybeard

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Posted 04 August 2004 - 10:41 PM

However, one correction, the Nikon Extremes do indeed have the standard 1/4x20 mounting hole under the standard plastic cap on the end of the hinge for facilitating tripod mounting via a standard "L" bracket.



I stand corrected :)

Although... the manual (an abbreviated multilingual affair) says absolutely nothing about the tripod mounting hole, at least that I could find and I looked because the salesman had told me they were tripod mountable. Cursory and light-handed attempts to pry the cover off failed (bearing in mind I'd made my mind up by this point to return them due to the crunchy focus and poor performing left barrel, so I wasn't really trying too hard).

Perhaps I just had a bad set... I've owed a several Nikon camera products and lenses and been utterly pleased with them. This product came as a disagreeable surprise.

If I've learned anything from this... make sure you buy binos from a place that makes it easy to return them. I was fortunate as London Drugs has a "2 week no questions asked money back policy".

GB

#22 lighttrap

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 06:11 AM

If I've learned anything from this... make sure you buy binos from a place that makes it easy to return them.


This is probably the very best single bit of advice there is when it comes to binoculars. Try before you buy, if at all possible, but only ever buy from places that offer an easy return policy.


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