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How important is binocular weight?

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#1 BobinKy



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Posted 30 November 2008 - 11:18 AM

How big of an issue is weight when selecting binoculars?

. . .

Three years ago when I became interested in binoculars I told myself that 30 oz binoculars would be the maximum I would consider for hand holding.

Now, weight is not as important when I select which binocular I am going to use--more and more I find myself grabbing monopods (finn sticks), tripods, and rests--less and less I find myself hand holding. Is it my age (I am 59)? Is it my quest for optical performance? Is it my desire to sketch and take notes as I observe?

. . .

How important is weight when you select a binocular?

Do you have a weight limit for hand holding?

Do you have a weight limit for tripod mounting?

Do you have a weight limit for transporting?

Does your weight limit vary by type of observing?

What does the growth of binoculars on both ends of the scale (compacts and giants) say about the weight factor?

#2 Mark9473



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Posted 30 November 2008 - 01:09 PM

I think weight is important, but it goes together with shape and balance as well. Ideally, for me, a hand-held 10-12x binocular weighs about 1 to 1.5 kg (about 2-3 lbs). Too light is a problem as well, my 8x42 (0.7 kg) for their size should not be any lighter- nor should they be heavier, as I like taking them along on trips in a small backpack.

For tripod mounting, on my current Slik tripod, about 2-2.5 kg is the max. I tilt the tripod back on two legs and hate it when the feet (with round rubberized tips) slip, sending the binocular crashing into my face. With spiked feet this would be easily resolved of course.

#3 Mark9473



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Posted 30 November 2008 - 01:12 PM

Another point to add: a 2.5 kg 15x80, being front-heavy, is less comfortable to hand-hold than a 2.5 kg 15x70 which is better balanced.

#4 Erik D

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 01:46 PM


I do not have a strict wt limit for hand holding. Many factors besides wt influence my choice. Magnification, binocular housing design, length of the bino body all make a difference.

I also need to make distinctions between hold held observing while standing, seated, seated with elbows braced or laying flat on my back with my head and neck supported and the binos pressing straight down.

Let me use target shooting with a 22 LR rifle as an example. Every shooter experiences shakes and jitters if they are holding a 5 lb rifle offhand and looking thru a 4X scope. Beginners can barely keep the cross hairs in the black. Kneeling and supporting one elbow will cut the shakes in half. Give the novice a nicely padded jacket, a rifle sling and show him how to support the rifle properly in the prone position and he will soon be shooting 90+/100. With a bit more training many can handle an 11 lb rifle and 16 X scope without much difficulty. I can probably teach someone to shoot in the high 90s prone within a week if they are motivated. Sitting is more difficult, kneeling more still. Getting to the 90s standing is a life long effort for many.

I don't mind holding a 3.6 lb 20X80 LW if I am seated in a arm chair with my elbows supported and the eye cups resting against my eye sockets. I wouldn't pack the same bino if I am going on an 24 hrs trip across the Pacific & making two connections in between.

My only limit for mounted observing is the capacity of my fluid head. My Bogen 501 head is rated for 13 lbs. Makes little difference to me if I am mounting a 1.5 lb 12X50 or a 10 lb 25X100. I don't usually mount binos 12 X or lower except when I am doing critical side by side comparison. 15X or 20X 80 LW handheld is doable for daytime viewing but takes much more concentration for astronomy. Some nights I don't want to hold my 26 oz 12X50s.

I almost never hand hold my 8.5 lb 25X100s but just read a report on CN from someone doing that with his 10 lb Orion 25X100 yesterday!

Binocular viewing is for pleasure, not competition. We don't have to follow any rules. Just do what works best for you.

Oh yea, I tried holding the 13 lb Miyauchi 54X100mm F7.5 in the kneeling position once. I can keep objects in the FOV but only works for terrestrial viewing. Too much purple fringing for my liking anyway....;-))

ERik D

#5 Rich N

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 02:10 PM

For astronomical observing weight doesn't seem to be much of an issue. It just depends on how much you feel like holding for a few minutes. My astro binos are usually sitting on a table of the tail gate of my truck.

However, when birding, weight is a big factor. The best way deal with a heavy binocular is a bino harness.


#6 rookie


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Posted 30 November 2008 - 02:48 PM

Quality viewing through binoculars to study the sky for extended periods of time requires mounting and weight is not really an issue. Because of that I mount my binoculars almost every time I'm out. However, if I have a choice of heavier vs lighter, I will always choose the lighter, as long as quality is not compromised. Handling, packing and carrying are important too. :x

#7 KennyJ


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Posted 30 November 2008 - 03:59 PM

I think it's important that binoculars have SOME weight otherwise they would float upwards and fly away if we tried to place them down on a table !

Trying to sketch what one is observing whilst still holding and looking through binoculars at the same time sounds like a tricky business to me , so I can understand why mounting the binoculars would be prudent in that situation .

One can always ADD weight to a binocular if one feels it too light for their preference , but reducing the weight of any specific model could well prove more damaging to the instrument than increasing it .

As I mentioned in another thread recently , I am of the opinion that even for mounted binoculars , 25 pounds is adequate for large ones and any more weight ought to be reduced by altering the choice of materials from which they are constructed .

Although I was lifting a few hundred sacks every day , each weighing up to 112 pounds , when I was a 13 year old boy working in my school holidays , in these more enlightened and more politically correct days the Health and Safety Executive and most employers would not be very sympathetic to any manual workers in the UK who caused damage to themselves by deliberately lifting weights in excess of 25 pounds if and when assistance , be it human or mechanical , were readily available .

I also find that when hand - holding binoculars weighing over around 5 pounds , my arms begin to tire ( MABTT ) sooner than my appetite to view ( MATV ) has been lost .

I prefer to lose MATV before MABTT .


#8 rushintuit


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Posted 30 November 2008 - 05:47 PM

Binocular weight is very important for me because I like to alternate views with a telescope. The Nikon 12x50 SE weighs in at just 2 pounds!

#9 Tony Flanders

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 05:57 AM

How big of an issue is weight when selecting binoculars?

That all depends on your individual needs and tastes, of course. For me, weight is pretty important.

My favorite position for using binoculars is lying on my back -- either on the ground or in a lounge chair -- resting the bino eyepieces on my eyeglasses. That's completely stress-free with 2-lb binoculars, and begins to get uncomfortable with my 15x70s, which weigh a bit over 3 lbs. I don't think I'd want to do it for long with 5-lb binos.

For hand-holding from a standing position, which I only do for quick looks, 3 lbs. is pretty unproblematic, and I bet I could handle 5 lbs. fairly easily.

Some people find lightweight binos hard to hold steady, but I've never had that problem. Both with binos and cameras, as far as I'm concerned, the lighter the better.

On a mount, the weight of the binos is relevant only insofar as heavier binos need heavier mounts. It's this multiplier effect that matters, since the mount will outweigh the binos hugely in any case.

Image-stabilized binoculars are my instruments of choice for multi-night backpacking trips, where every ounce counts.

#10 ronharper



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Posted 01 December 2008 - 08:22 AM

For me, satisfying binocular astronomy at ANY magnification requires either a mechanical mount, or a supportive chair or something that takes the load off your arms, so weight doesn't matter much. Lucky thing, since well built porros are often pretty heavy.

For trapseing about the countryside looking for birds and what have you, weight is more of an issue. For me, its not holding it up to view, near so much as carrying it. I have recently discovered the "strap over the shoulder and across the chest, bino dangling near the opposite hip" carry style. A shoulder is much better suited to weight carry than the neck, and this method keeps the bino close to the body when you have to bend over to get through rough places. I use a flexible $5 fabric 2-inch wide modified guitar strap, which is smooth enough to bring around easily. My 51-ounce Fujinon carried this way bothers me less than my 31-ounce Trinovid around my neck.

This is sometimes called "bandolier style". Out here in New Mexico however, where pictures of a bullet laden Pancho Villa adorn most restaurants, I hesitate to use that term. I am, however, in the market for a suitable antique leather model, still bristling with Mexican bullets. Now my Fujinon would look good on one of those. Then I will call it a bandolier.

#11 Obx


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Posted 01 December 2008 - 09:23 AM

Like most things, it depends. Most of my daytime viewing at the beach or in the marshlands is distant observations using my Navy IF binoculars--heavy. But I am used to them and I can hold them steady for long periods. For birding, lighter weight center focus binoculars are better. For astronomy I use a pair of Orion 15x63 that are light enough to be hand-held but are better mounted.

#12 BobinKy



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Posted 01 December 2008 - 01:34 PM

I thought some of you may enjoy seeing what U.S. Military binoculars weigh. U.S. Military Binocular Fact Sheet

Binocular Update article in ARMY magazine (February 2007) I have posted these links before. However, I thought they might be interesting for those interested in binocular weight.

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