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Does a good birding bino mean a good astro bino?

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#1 moynihan

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 09:55 AM

I decided to post this question after thinking about my last two posts.
Above 40mm in size, I have found that excellent birding binos = excellent astro binos. Bird watcher/listers talk about the same stuff on their forums as we do.
A good example is raptor migration counters and fans. When counting, you are often looking at a small form against a bright background.
For this you want:
Wide field of view
As little softness on edge as possible (for large # of high targets)
Good color correction
high level of resolution and contrast (for identification and counting very high "specks")
Light grasp, or "brightness". (This is important for say, distinguishing under-wing coloration differences to distinguish similar appearing specie)
Ease/smooth of focus

10x50 roof prisms from Leica etc are all the rage now amoung counters. Next come the 10x42 leica etc. The Swift 8.5x44 Swifts (porro)are popular among counters on a tighter budget.
Warbler/woods folks love the zeiss 7x42 classics. They and the swifts are my favorites, when not counting.
A good site for bino reviews in the birding world is www.betterviewdesired.com But you should know he does ads for Nikon and Wind River brands, but he seems to know his stuff.
Cornell puts out a comparison test of dozens of binos every few years, in there "living bird Quarterly".
Another good way to try lots of binos at once is if you go to a major raptor migration site. For instance, on the fall "hawk weekend" in Duluth MN, National Camera sets up tables and tripods with binos and spotting scopes. (small Televue scopes are often on hand?!)This happens at some other sites also.
jay

#2 KennyJ

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 01:48 PM

When one SERIOUSLY considers ALL the different optical , mechanical , practical and aesthetical aspects that could possibly be ascribed to binocular desireability , bearing in mind that every person is different and even individual definitions of what is meant by "binocular astronomy" can vary considerably , not just from person to person , but depending on what KIND of night -sky objects any one person is intending to enjoy at any particular time,there simply is NO SUCH THING as the PERFECT BINOCULAR , either in existence or fantasy.

Exactly the same applies to daylight viewing , specifics of which can vary greatly from type to type ,conditions to conditions ,distance of desired object(s) etc etc.

Whilst even a 6 x 18 might be the very best choice if very close focus of a butterfly on a bright clear day is the object , for trying to identify the name of a ship 6 miles out to sea in indifferent lighting , such a tiny instrument would be all but useless , whereas a tripod mounted 40 x 100 might be just the ticket.

When watching a football match from the stands or trying to immediately pick up and track the often meandering movements of a bird in flight or a passing helicopter I really need a TFOV in excess of 8 degrees , and the ability to hold the image relatively steady.

For most situations in between I am usually best served by
my wide -field ( 7 degree ) 10 x 50s but for a closer look at fixed medium distance objects my 15 x 70 is sometimes my preferred instrument.

These are the main kind of reasons I have several pairs of binoculars of varying specifications.

Of course I am still far from completely satisfied.

To try to link all this waffle to the thread itself , what I am trying to say is that for SOME people , with restricted kinds of both terrestrial and astro uses , yes I agree that something such as a Swarovski 8.5 x 42 EL or 10 x 50 SLC or even 8 x 32 EL , Zeiss 7 x 42 classic or10 x 40 Victory, Nikon 8 x 32 ,10 x 42 or 12 x 50 Superior E or Leica 10 x 42 Ultravid or 8-12 x 42 Duovid may well come VERY close to being the "perfect" binocular for both purposes , but even any of these outstanding examples of very fine hand -holdable optics would not compare with a Fujinon 16 x 70 FMT SX or Zeiss 15 x 60 BGAT for a serious tripod mounted study of Orion's Sword or the Pleaides cluster.

As with most things in life , it's all a matter of horses for courses.

Clear skies -- Kenny.





#3 moynihan

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 05:12 PM

Very true.
Binocular choice for any use is very subjective. Then of course, with variation between different folks eye characteristics/flaws...
I have geez, lets see...8 pairs of binoculars I have somehow collected :foreheadslap:

jay

#4 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 09:02 PM

Jay,

I would have to say a resounding YES to the question "Does a good birding bino mean a good astro bino?"... Why? Because for "a particular astronomical purpose" they can provide a very hand holdable wide field view of the heavens (IF... as Kenny has alluded too on many occasions, that is what you want).

Kenny... I finally get it! (I think I got it a while ago, but didn't really realise it, but just hoped I could ignore it anyway...) - And don't worry I'm not going mad :crazy:... Yet!

The answer to the ultimate binocular question is YOU!

What do YOU want?
What do YOU like?
What don't YOU like?
What will YOU be using them for?
What conditions will YOU be using them in?
What will YOU be looking at?
Can YOU handhold 8x or 10x or 12x?
Can YOU afford a Tasco or a Leica?
Right down to the simple things like what shape is YOUR head?

As Kenny and many others have explained, it is a VERY personal choice that only YOU (each one of us) can and must make, based on so many personal variables that noone is qualified to answer the "what is best" question.

Weigh up the variables, read the reviews, get feedback on what is good and bad about various binos, personally try as many as you can before you buy to understand what works and what doesn't (this is where I am very limited), and then armed with all of this information, go forth, weigh up the pros and cons, and COMPROMISE with the best choice in your given budget :applause:

Every binocular is OK, some are great, others are fantastic, but fantastic for what?

A top of the line Formula One car albeit the best money can buy and state of the art vehicle technology is of little use if all I want to do is drive to the post office once a week along a suburban street! But put it on a racetrack and the two complement each other to produce a speactacle that is worth seeing!

To put this in context, I am seeking exactly what Jay is talking about... A birding binocular that is good for astronomy! A wide FOV, hand holdability, and portability are significant factors for me in this decision making process... 10x or more power and I start to loose these desirable traits and despite suggestions of higher power being better (12-16x) for observing deep sky objects, this is not what I am looking for.

It's funny how "conditioned" retail outlets are (and consumers as well for that matter) to set "categories" when it comes to binoculars. If I am a birder I must not go beyond 8x... If I want to use a bino for astronomy I must get a minimum of 10x and perferably more... etc. Let's start a trend and break the mould... EVERY binocular has a unique niche for someone somewhere and there is no right or wrong answer...

The problem I have is that locally there is a very limited range of binoculars (other than small compacts that abound as a result of pure retain demand) and as such I am unable to "try" many to see what works and what doesn't. So my process is (like some) more difficult as a result, but certainly not impossible...

I look forward to the big day when all this gathering of information will come together in a way that highlights the "best buy" for my unique requirements (just as every binocular purchase is unique)...

Hows that for a pile of philosophical mumbo jumbo... :crazy:

Frilby :winky:

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 09:09 PM

I enjoyed it! I look forward to the day you find YOUR binocs also, Frilby! It'll happen and don't rush it. My binocs have to do double duty (triple if I ever go kayaking again!). Small enough to go hiking and big enough to use as the ultimate finder scope for my 8" Dob. Waterproof because I want to take them kayaking and I live in the great North Wet!

Hang in there, mate! You'll find 'em!

#6 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 09:28 PM

If I cd offer my tuppence....generally a good bino is a good bino, regardless of whether you're watching birds,comets or horses...the only thing I've noticed that kinda puts a caveat on that is the often-present flaring in the roof glasses when looking at very bright pinpoint objects (Sirius,Mars,etc). Now I haven't tried all the models of the Leica, Zeiss, Swarov, Nikon, B&L, et al. But even in the very hi-end ones I have tried, very often that annoying little flare is there, most generally on the bottom half of the object (the roofs have the images split top/bottom thru the ep, but careful assy makes it invisible. But when the lite beam goes thru the prism, even on the phase-corrected models, which nearly all are now, the mimiscule difference in the path angles, top & bottom, cn cause this). The only roof glass I have, a late-model B&L 7x42D w/p3 coatings, shows it, as does a 7x42 Zeiss I tried. So I generally stick w/porros for night use, tho even some of them show the flaring on, like, streetlites, etc. But if you have a good hi-end RP glass, you can certainly get some satisfying cosmos viewing done. I mostly use my Swift 820 and Canon 15x50 IS for bino astronomy, and once in a while, a 12x50 SE, in addn to a Pentax PF80.
All work amazingly well....spyglass


#7 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 09:29 PM

P.s. Frilby....what did u end up getting for your astro glass?


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Posted 06 January 2004 - 09:34 PM

Haven't yet Doug... Borrowed a pair of old 10x50 Hanimex (7* FOV) but the focus is so loose that it keeps drifting even with slight pressure on the eyecups (frustrating!).

How do you find the Swift for astro viewing?
Of the 8.2* FOV, how much would you say is clear (i.e how far out from centre axis do you thinks it is sharp before it starts to degrade too much)?

This is the million dollar question with these binos. I have had feedback ranging from good to about 80% down to bad from 50%, so without viewing (which I can't do) it's difficult to make a choice...

Frilby :winky:

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 10:09 AM

Well, of course w/a fov that wide in that mag range, there will be some edge softness (probably the last 15% or so) but to totally eliminate it would require a field-flattening lens (aspheric element). That adds cost, complexity and even takes away ever-so-slightly from the resolution (one more glass element for the light to pass thru). In a past issue of Astronomy, Ed Ting rated several 7 to 10x binos, and the two Swift Audobons (8.5 & 10x) were at the very top of his list. I've owned both and he's right...unbeatable, especially for <$300. Oh, and Jay, as regards BVD's reviews by Steve Ingraham....trust what he sez. His reports come from extensive, hands-on testing and use, and he is straight-arrow, whether he is a paid endorser or not. He often disputes what the maker of a particular bino or scope lists as spec, especially on eye relief. I've found also that on Astronomics' website, the specs listed are what they have measured for themselves, not necessarily the mfrs numbers. Hope this was helpful


#10 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 11:04 PM

Doug,

:thinking: I'm just struggling with two distinct features; Image quality and FOV...

The Swift Audubon 820 8.5x44 binos are said to have fantastic centre field resolution, reportedly equal to (or slightly better than) the Nikon SE, but as with all wide angle binos, suffer from noticable edge distortion. But, as an overall "wow" view, they seem to always appear near or on the top of the list!

The Pentax DCF SP 10x43 binos are also reported as very sharp and have the added bonus of aspherical elements in the eyepiece design giving them a very flat field of view. The result is a very sharp image right to the edge (almost). They too have been reported as "best buy" roofs in their price range and of similar quality to some top of the line porro binos.

I currently have a pair of Nikon Travellite 10x25's (5* FOV, 50* AFOV) and a loan pair of Hanimex 10x50's (7* FOV, 70* AFOV). I spent about 3 hours outside on my back last night comparing the two, and always came back to the Nikon simply because it gave a sharper image (pinpoint stars almost to the edge). The wider FOV of the 10x50 is great but they are very poor quality binos (no multicoatings, sloppy focus, and cannot get a clear pinpoint star (nearly, but not quite) even in the centre of the field). So although I can see a noticeable difference in the number of stars through the 10x50 in comparison to the 8x25, I can actualy see more detail and have a much more enjoyable view through the 8x25 (this would also be in part due to the darker background provided by the 2.5mm exit pupil of the Nikon's on my light polluted sky).

This is probably not a good way to compare though, as the 10x50 image quality is pretty poor.

I guess my point is that if the image quality is not there, it doesn't matter how wide the FOV is, you still won't be able to see clearly and be able to enjoy the finer details of the night sky.

This is my dilemma... I cannot try the Swift! I can't see first hand how the image quality degrades, nor experience the overall "feel" of the view in comparison to the Pentax.

I recently read this great article on the "Better View Desired" website (which I understand to be a very reputable site for honest advice on binos): http://betterviewdes....com/BirdW.html

It's a fantastic article that does not concentrate on any particular binocular, but instead discusses the various aspects that affect overall binocular performance.

In this article, one of the significant contributors to improved overall image quality (and subsequent quality of "view") is the introduction of aspherical lenses, providing significantly sharper image quality to the edge of the FOV.

The Pentax DCF SP range use aspherical lenses for this purpose, whereas the Swift (as far as I am aware) do not... Does this mean that the Swift has inferior optical performance? ... Probably not, but it does mean that the Pentax is likely to have a flatter field and consequently a sharper image across the majority of the FOV (albeit a narrower FOV than the Swift).

So... which will provide the better view of the night sky? Noone can really answer this question, and I am no longer seeking this answer from others as I realise it is impossible to answer. But, what I hope to gain is as much feedback on these binoculars as I can to try and determine in my own mind which may perform best under these "general sky gazing" conditions (as apposed to specific object observation).

If the Pentax binos had a 7* FOV I would have bought them weeks ago, but I still struggle with the possible view I may miss out on with the Swift... After all, 8.2* (with a 70* AFOV) will visually be a whole lot different that 6* (60* AFOV)!

Throw into the mix issues with the Swift of warranty, shipping (with its associated risks of damage), and the unknown factors of ergonomics, and the whole decision making process becomes a balancing act based on a whole range of unknowns that noone can predict :confused:

So... Do I risk it all, pay my $400, ship the Swift to Australia, hope the ergonomics work for me, pray the view is as fantastic as I hope it might be, and just go for it!... Or do I play it safer, go local, and get the Pentax which has great features all bar its narrower 6* FOV (and nearly double the cost at $750)?

Overall from a durability point of view, longer term investment, future proofing (Pentax has longer eye relief if I ever need glasses - I'm 34 now!), etc, the Pentax wins out... But I keep coming back to that possible "wow" wide FOV everyone raves about with the Swift :bigshock:

Add to all of this the debate between 8x or 10x being the better hand holdable view and the scales wobble even more! :crazy:

Well... there it is! I think I've been pondering this situation long enough to give it a name... Perhaps the "Frilby Phenominon" :grin: Is there a cure? ... Probably not, but hopefully I can make a choice and learn to live with it!

Anyway... Howdy to all!

#11 edcannon

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 11:40 PM

How about turning this around, more or less? Does a good 7x to 10x astro bino make a good birding bino? (Can't just say unqualified "astro bino" because I doubt that many birders would go for 20x80 or 20x90 or 22x100 or 25x100!)

Ed Cannon - ecannon@mail.utexas.edu - Austin, Texas, USA


#12 brocknroller

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 01:03 AM

I once saw a photo of a guy holding a Fujinon 150! How's that for a big birding bin?! Good for spotting Teradactyls (Rodan, Rodan!).

I was just "talking" about the issue you mentioned above in another thread see post #37871 under "Performance of 8.5X44 vs. 9X63...".

There's another issue I didn't mention, namely the virtues of field curvature. Yes, it's late, but you read that right. What I've noticed when using flat field bins (8X32 SE, 6X30 Polaris) is that the views on terrestrial objects do not look "natural." My neighbor's car parked at an angle looks 2-dimensional, my cat looks shorter than he really is, the side of my house at an oblique angle looks like one of those fake store fronts in "B" Westerns, and trees look kid's drawings.

Comparing those same objects in the Audubon, they look more natural, rounder, more 3-D. I attribute this to the field curvature in the Audubon. My SE is more versatile in that it has better edges for astronomy and also gives great views of birds, but I prefer the Audubon for birding for it's more natural, realistic views. I think companies like Swift and Leica purposely build in field curvature in their birding bins for this very reason (at the price point of Leicas, they could certainly design flatter fields IF they wanted). So the downside of astro bins that are praised for their flat field and good edges is when they are applied to terrestrial use, the world can take on the perspective of the Flatlanders in Edwin Abbott's famous book.

What fools some amateur astronomers into thinking that field curvature = poorly designed bins is that many cheap bins have curved fields. With the introduction of aspherical lenses into inexpensive series such as Nikon Action and Minolta Activa this trend is changing, but the stigma lives on.

The fact remains, some high end bins have field curvature, and it is there by design. It makes for more pleasing and natural views on the ground, but not always the most pleasing views in the sky.

Hence, what I have come to affectionately call "FRILBY's DILEMMA." :question:

Brock

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 01:56 AM

Now that Brock points it out... I must say I hadn't really though about it, but he is right :thewave:

I have just got back from a camping store after having a look through a pair of Bosch & Lomb Elite 8x42's ($2580:grin:). They where... in a word... FANTASTIC! But... they where extremely flat and now that I think about it, it is a very unreal perspective!

So back to Ed's reverse query about "Does an astro Bino therefore make a good birding binocular?", Who knows? It depends on what you like about the view! Ahaaaa... The "YOU" factor again! :shocked:

I started on this exercise of discovery with a simple question... "What is the best binocular I can get for my money?"... Since then I have discovered that there is far more to this question than meets the eye...

Is a birding binocular a good astro binocular? Yes... if you happen to like the particular "features" of the birding binocular, be they flat or curved field, wide or narrow AFOV, eye relief, weight, magnification, price, ergonomics, etc. Does the same set of critera hold for the reverse? Definitely!

The specifics of chosing a binocular are far more related to personal preference than specification. If I gave a birder a 7x or 8x or 10x binocular in a roof or a prism design with a FOV anywhere between 6* and 8*, any of these combinations would be more than suitable for general birding... BUT... can they hold a 10x steady? Is the 8x roof prism bino well balanced in their small hands? Does the 7x have popup eyecups to allow for glasses... and so the "ergonomic list" of personal preferences goes on!

Finding the right specification binocular is the easy part... Wading through the long list to find the right ergonomics, visual image, and feel... is the ultimate challenge! :waytogo:

#14 moynihan

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 10:31 AM

For birding, close focus is also very important. For astronomy close focus is not a high priority
There are a few folks that have used giant binos instead of spotting scopes for birding, but not many.

#15 brocknroller

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 10:58 AM

Frilby,

Congratulations! You have succinctly summed up megbytes of replies to your numerous inquries, thereby demonstrating that you have absorbed the collective wisdom and hard-won experience of the binocular enthusiasts on this site, and I hereby recommend you for a virtual Certificate of Completion in Binoculars 101 from the Cloudy Nights Internet School of Hard Knocks Optics. (However, the certificate cannot be officially awarded until you have applied what you have learned by buying a binocular and posting a review on the site).

Brock
"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance."
-Confucius

#16 Tom L

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 12:33 PM

Brock, great post about curvature. I hadn't really thought of it in that way either but it certainly makes sense.

Frilby, my friend, I think we need a pair for terristrial and one for astronomy (and one for kayaking! :D )! Have you ever wondered why our Cloudy Nights professors have so many different pairs of binoculars?

I think at this point I would like the 15x70 obies for astronomy, a nice pair of roofs for my hiking and kayaking needs and a pair of swift audubons just because!!! :D

#17 KennyJ

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 02:04 PM

I'm not sure whether THIS is the relevent thread on which to post THIS particular post -- but I'm getting a little dizzy from going round in circles trying to follow each and every thread --and in most cases it seems to be the same old "hardcore" reading and responding , regardless of thread title :-)

This is primarily for FRILBY -- but also to add to my previous comments on THIS actual thread , although if it succeeds in it's real intended aim --it would possibly be served better by it being re -categorised under a separate thread heading.

The article we were recently directed to on another thread ( I think ! ) -- but in any case written by Barry Simon with regard to the much mentioned Swift Audubon ED 8.5 x 44
I think expresses better than anything I could say ,or have read anywhere else, both about the answer this specific thread question ( i.e birding v astro bins ) and to Frilby's long running dilemna.

Any comments I may make about MY Swift Audubon Kestrel 10 x 50 Porro Prisms binos would be all but totally irrelevent as any sort of guideline as to making any sort of decision about the 8.5 EDs.

I think Barry has done a great job of telling it how it is and I think Frilby in particular ought to read it over and over again and draw his own conclusions from it.

Very sadly , if this ( most frustrating and restrictive ) budget limit of Frilby's MUST be strictly adhered -to regardless , then it would seem that what he REALLY wants/ needs is probably out of his price range.

However -- a slightly different question springs to mind now
which is -- let's all pretend that the budget was UNLIMITED -- that out of sympathy for the sheer enthusiasm , determination and financial predicament Frilby finds himself in , by virtue of some grand gesture -- the Cloudy Nights' "Committee" had kindly decided to provide an open cheque with which Frilby could buy ANY ONE binocular he so desired -- up to a maximum of 10x magnification -- precisely for the kind of " hand-held astro-use" that he has clearly specified as being his intention.

Which model would YOU advise him to buy --and why ?

I'll save MY choice for later :-)

Regards to all --Kenny.

#18 moynihan

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 02:58 PM

Hmmm...$$$ no object. :thinking:

Leica 10x50mm BN or the newer model which is lighter. 6.5 degree fov, excellent optics, VERY well built.

If i could pick two pair :money: (hey, its fantasy) I would also keep my Zeiss 7x42 classics. It is hard to explain how good these are to someone who has not looked through them, day or night. It is one handheld bino that few who have looked through it do not agree on its excellence. They simply feel good on the eyes. FOV is wide and well corrected.

#19 Tom L

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 03:30 PM

Kenny, I can't play this game because I haven't looked through any really nice glasses, only my little Nikon 8x25 travelites and 8x40 Actions. My previous post was meant tongue and cheek for our friend Frilby because I understand his delimma.

I will comment on the quality of posts lately, though.

They have been outstanding! If you are a binoc purchaser 6 months from now trying to decide what to get, these threads will be immensely helpful in fleshing out the intricacies of binoc buying and viewing.


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