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Which $80 to $160 birding binocular?

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#1 Adun

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Posted 12 March 2019 - 05:36 PM

... for a 41 year old kid

 

What I've learned is:

 

  • Definitely Bak4, not BK7
  • If roof, then it must have phase corrected prism coatings
  • Fully multi coated is a must
  • No less than 6x, nor more than 8.5x magnification
  • Close focus is important, 2 meters being the minimum

Of course there's variability in ergonomics, fields of view, eye relief (I can skip the glasses if needed), off-axis performance, depth of field... but at my budget ($80 to $160) I have to be flexible.

 

I don't mind the porro size/weight if that affords better optics than same budget roof, although roof compactness is of course desirable.

 

I'm undecided about aperture (42mm would be ideal, but some smaller models seem appealing), and also about Water/fog proof feature.

 

Please, help me

 

 



#2 39.1N84.5W

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Posted 12 March 2019 - 05:49 PM

I like the Nikon Action Extreme for older eyes and ppl with glasses. I LOVE the Nikon Monarch 3 series (and it's the most common binocular I see birders use), but that's out of your price range.


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#3 fishyee

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Posted 13 March 2019 - 08:18 AM

Your price range is a good starting point for binoculars.  What I have recommended to friends in the past are these two.  Both hit way above their price point and have lifetime warranties.

 

Leupold Yosemite 6x30 Porro

- kid-friendly IPD

- clear, sharp picture

- 5mm exit pupil (fewer blackouts)

- lightweight and compact

https://www.birdforu...ead.php?t=98430

 

Bushnell Legend M 8x42 Roof

- wide-field of view for the magnification

- clear, sharp picture

- 5mm exit pupil (fewer blackouts)

- heavy, built like a tank

- tripod adapter screw

https://www.outdoorl...test/binoculars

https://www.rogerssp...ries-binoculars

 

I own both after testing many in this range.  Good luck!


Edited by fishyee, 13 March 2019 - 09:37 AM.

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#4 39.1N84.5W

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Posted 13 March 2019 - 08:31 AM

IMHO a wide of field of view is important. Birds (especially warblers and nuthatches) like to flit around from branch to branch. Having a larger area keeps them in the line of sight.


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#5 Adun

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Posted 13 March 2019 - 02:41 PM

Thank you guys for the responses!
 

 

I like the Nikon Action Extreme for older eyes and ppl with glasses. I LOVE the Nikon Monarch 3 series (and it's the most common binocular I see birders use), but that's out of your price range.

 

For me everything depends upon the maximum birding distance.

.

.

.

Based upon your budget....(Field of View is not a biggie for me when viewing birds.)

 

https://www.bhphotov...EX_Extreme.html

 

Stan makes a good point about observing distance. My birding outings are normally walking inside tropical forests, so distance is not large. I've been using my cheapo 10x50 and they have just too much magnification for this. My wife's 7x35 work reasonably well, so I think 6x to 8.5x should be enough. For lakes or longer distances I can use my refractor or my C90.

 

The Nikon action extreme is interesting, but a close focus of 5m is just too much, if only for the (rather important) use case of observing hummingbirds at feeders. I have access to many places featuring tens of hummingbird species (plus my yard). 

 

The Pentax is intriguing. A porro with just 6.3° TfoV (because of just 50° AFOV), costing $140, where would you say is the value pitch for these?


Edited by Adun, 13 March 2019 - 02:42 PM.


#6 Adun

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Posted 13 March 2019 - 03:17 PM

Your price range is a good starting point for binoculars.  What I have recommended to friends in the past are these two.  Both hit way above their price point and have lifetime warranties.
 
Leupold Yosemite 6x30 Porro
- kid-friendly IPD
- clear, sharp picture
- 5mm exit pupil (fewer blackouts)
- lightweight and compact
https://www.birdforu...ead.php?t=98430
 
Bushnell Legend M 8x42 Roof
- wide-field of view for the magnification
- clear, sharp picture
- 5mm exit pupil (fewer blackouts)
- heavy, built like a tank
- tripod adapter screw
https://www.outdoorl...test/binoculars
https://www.rogerssp...ries-binoculars
 
I own both after testing many in this range.  Good luck!

 
Thank you!

 

That's a very informative thread about the yosemite. That bino is recommended by lots of people over at birdforum, and the price ($89) is very right. If it's good enough I could even stretch the budget to get two of them, to "upgrade" my wife's Celestron UpClose G2. The Leupold's 21mm eye lens gives me hope of good ergonomics, the only thing that makes me doubtful is the AfoV, which is stated to be just 48° at birdforum. That's rather narrow, and makes for "just" of 8° TFoV at 6x, when 8° is not unusual at 8x (take for example, the $80 Bushnell legacy 8x42 at 8.2°).
 
I believe user "39.1N84.5W" (Cincinnati?) is right about a wide field of view being important for chasing birds. I don't expect two ES82 eyepieces on a $90 bino, but isn't 48° like really narrow?. I have kellners that are wider!

 

That's my only qualm against it, but I might be misjudging it.

 

That Bushnell Legend M in the other hand is very well priced at $159, considering the "inferior" Legend L (non dielectric) costs $165 at B&H. ¿Is this Roger sporting goods store trustable?



#7 fjnlsa11

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Posted 13 March 2019 - 04:14 PM

I never tried the Bushnell Legend M, they look like a decent choice based on the reviews.

 

For bird watching I use Nikon Prostaff 7s 8x42, and they are one of my favorites. Th full price is around $200, but I got them on sale from REI for $159, last year.   I would highly recommend spending the extra money to get the 7s, over the Prostaff 3 or Prostaff 5.   Overall the Prostaffs are one of the most comfortable to hold binoculars I ever tried, and for the price they give crisp views.

 

I also got the Vanguard 8.5x45 Endeavor ED Binocular used (in mint condition) for $170 on ebay.

They are another great binocular.  I use for astronomy as well.  The only critique I have of the Vanguard,  is the eye cups are sensitive to focus when extending.   When extended I have to slightly twist to align properly otherwise I get the blackout effect when viewing. At first I thought it was a defect, until I was able to realize it was just the alignment of the eyecups.  

 

For Porro prisms,  a decent porro binocular will offer improved performance, but in my experience with astronomy only. I much prefer roof prism for bird watching, because they are lighter and easy to hold for an extended period.  


Edited by fjnlsa11, 13 March 2019 - 04:17 PM.

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#8 fishyee

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Posted 13 March 2019 - 04:41 PM

 
Thank you!

 

That's a very informative thread about the yosemite. That bino is recommended by lots of people over at birdforum, and the price ($89) is very right. If it's good enough I could even stretch the budget to get two of them, to "upgrade" my wife's Celestron UpClose G2. The Leupold's 21mm eye lens gives me hope of good ergonomics, the only thing that makes me doubtful is the AfoV, which is stated to be just 48° at birdforum. That's rather narrow, and makes for "just" of 8° TFoV at 6x, when 8° is not unusual at 8x (take for example, the $80 Bushnell legacy 8x42 at 8.2°).
 
I believe user "39.1N84.5W" (Cincinnati?) is right about a wide field of view being important for chasing birds. I don't expect two ES82 eyepieces on a $90 bino, but isn't 48° like really narrow?. I have kellners that are wider!

 

That's my only qualm against it, but I might be misjudging it.

 

That Bushnell Legend M in the other hand is very well priced at $159, considering the "inferior" Legend L (non dielectric) costs $165 at B&H. ¿Is this Roger sporting goods store trustable?

A decently "wide" 6x30 such as my Maven B3 is 446 ft at 1000 yds.  The Yosemite is 420 ft at 1000 yds.  You will have to try them out yourself to see if the extra 26 feet will bother you.  For me, it does not feel like tunnel vision at all. 

 

The only issue I see with the Yosemite is there may be QA issues with the focuser being a little sticky, as I have read.  Any store with a return/replacement policy should solve that problem.

 

Rogers is a good store.  I got mine from them and they also sell on eBay if you want eBay to handle any problems.  https://www.ebay.com...&frcectupt=true

 

Hope that helps and good luck!


Edited by fishyee, 13 March 2019 - 04:49 PM.

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#9 Binojunky

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 01:18 PM

An 8x40-42  porro , Bushnell Legacy, Nikon action Extreme,a fairly wide field of view is better for spotting birds so the Pentax SPWP in the 8x40 size struggles a bit, D.


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#10 Antonio R.G

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 02:27 PM

I don't remember quality roof prism in that price range. The Nikon Monarch 5 with ED lenses, exceed that price range ... I think that in that low price porro prisms tend to give more quality than the roof prism. Perhaps you should try the Nikon Aculon 7x35 or Action EX, this dearer (both with large field of vision and excellent central resolution, excellent contrast and very little chromatic aberration), it is larger than an Monarch 5 8x42 roof prism but it is not much heavier (only 100g difference) ..


Edited by Antonio R.G, 14 March 2019 - 02:31 PM.

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#11 Howard Lester

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 03:53 PM

I have three of these Pentax 8 x 30's that I think are great, especially for the $99 price:

 

https://www.bhphotov..._binocular.html

 

My review (the only one!) of them is on the site. The close focus is about 11 feet, and a true field of 7 degrees (367 ft?) 

 

I once tried the Leupold Yosemite version of the 8 x 30, and I got dizzy. Though they typically get rave reviews, I didn't like them at all. 

 

Howard


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#12 tmichaelbanks

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 03:57 PM

One roof model you might consider which meets most of your criteria is the Oberwerk Sport 8x32 HD:

 

 

https://oberwerk.com...-series-8x32mm/

 

 

The close focus is 3m (~ 9 ft.) versus 2m (~ 6 ft.), it has BAK4 prisms, is waterproof, is fully multicoated, and Kevin Busarow tests each unit before shipping.  It's also lightweight (important for hiking), easy to handle, and CA is modest.  FOV is specified at 7.8 deg., but I found the FOV a little less than that when I'm wearing eyeglasses.  Total price shipped was about $150.  Oberwerk phone and email product support is very good and they have a 30-day return policy.

 

 

I recently purchased these for travel and hiking/birding and wrote a short review:

 

 

https://www.cloudyni...32#entry9176835


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#13 fjnlsa11

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 11:25 PM

At the store I compared the Nikon Monarch 5 vs Nikon Prostaff 7s, I didn't think the extra weight and cost was worth it for doing bird watching, that is why I chose the Prostaff. 

Also, I had for a short period the Vanguard Orros 8x32,  they were decent for the cost, but much too small for my taste.  It's really a personal choice, how they feel in your hands, the eyecup size/comfort, weight, etc. Optics/prism is an important factor, but not the only one to consider. 


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#14 pregulla

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 08:09 AM

I wonder why BaK4 over BK7? I would think it's less of an issue for birding.



#15 Adun

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 11:29 AM

The only issue I see with the Yosemite is there may be QA issues with the focuser being a little sticky, as I have read.  Any store with a return/replacement policy should solve that problem.

 
Well, the yosemites are out of the race then. The (two way international shipping) cost of returns means I'm more likely to be stuck with a defective product.
 
 

I wonder why BaK4 over BK7? I would think it's less of an issue for birding.

 
Basically, value: I want to avoid the "diminishing returns" of cost cutting at the bottom. I already own $35 Celestron UpClose G2 which are BK7.
 
So far the tally is:
Nikon 7x35 Acculon A211: $70, with 9.3° TFoV (59° apparent) is out of the race because it's 5m minimum focus distance makes it unsuitable for "feeder observing"

Pentax 8x40 SP-WP, waterproof, $139, 6.3° TfoV, (50° apparent), 3m close focus: Might be an option but is not appealing because of its narrow field of view.
 
Pentax 8x40 SP: $69, 8.2° TFoV (65° apparent), 6m close focus: despite it's wide field + cost being so attractive, the close focus is too much. I'm starting to see a triangle with "choose any two" situation here. 
 
Nikon Prostaff 7s 8x42: $187, 6.8° TfoV (19mm ER), 4m close focus: if it had better close focus or better FoV or a better price it'd stay on the race, but so far it's out.
 
This bino get me thinking: it seems a long eye relief at a fixed price shrinks the field of view. Since I don't have astigmatism, I'm ok removing my prescription glasses to use binos (just like at the telescope), but for birding the removing of glasses and putting them back on (because spotting is done at 1x and I'm myopic), this makes me wonder whether I should give more value to long ER, hoping to g from eyes to binos much more easily, or whether a long ER bino is a risk, considering I  don't like very long ER eyepieces at the telescope (around 12mm is my happy point) and I'd have sacrificed FoV to get a long ER I may end up disliking. Food for thought.
 
Yosemite 6x30: out
 
Bushnell 8x42 Legacy: $79, 8.2° TfoV (65° apparent), 3.6m close focus. Fog and waterproof. Plenty of good reviews, with the one drawback often cited being "heavy/large". Most likely the outer third of the 65° AFoV is not sharp, but for locating/following a bird it still counts. These seem to be raising the bar for all other binos, unless there's something I'm not seeing.
 
Bushnell 8x42 Legend M: $160, 8.1° TFoV (65° apparent), 2m close focus distance, ED glass, water/fog proof, 18mm ER, roof (compact) with phase corrected + dielectric prism. This looks like the winner so far. What casts doubts around it are two things: #1 it's reduced availability: not at B&H, and Roger sporting goods is the sole Amazon vendor having it. Almost looks like a discontinued product (which would have reasons). #2 The complaints one can find about poor CA correction in sub-$400 binos sporting "ED glass". The $160 price could end up feeling quite high if "ED" ends up being more of a marketing gimmick than a performance indicator. Which would kill sales, making point #1 all the more suspicious.

 

Pentax Papilio II 6x21: $97, 7.5° TFoV (50° apparent), 0.5m close focus (a field microscope!!!). Not water/fog proof, porro (reverse) but very small light. It's main con is the small 3.2mm exit pupil and 21mm aperture which in low light / woods is bound to suffer. It does have so many hard core fans amongst nature lovers, who swear it "opens a whole new world" up for observing. Some people in birdforum even said in a thread about "if you could only keep one pair of binos" that for them the Papilio would be the one (despite the Zeiss and Swarovski on their signatures). The people who like it don't just like it, they love it. I can't help but want this bino, as I'm a nature freak. It is more of a "specialist" bino though.

 

It's relevance right now is that it makes me ask myself: ¿What does a $200 Vortex/Nikon/XX_ED bring to the table, that makes it preferable to buying the $97 Papilio + a $103 Pentax/Bushnell?

 

 

This feels like when I was chosing my first telescope (and now I have 5!). I need to be careful with my choices.


Edited by Adun, 15 March 2019 - 02:12 PM.

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#16 jaraxx

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 08:27 AM

One of the things that Vortex and Nikon bring to the table is the extent they are willing to stand behind their products. Don't dismiss it lightly.

I bought Vortex Viper 6x30s when they were discontinued. They have a three foot close focus and an 8 degree FOV. They are great for birding in the bush or forest; not so good for the plains, desert, or raptors on the wing. They are an absolute joy to take into a museum or just for a walk in the woods - the close focus does open up a whole new world. Pretty entertaining for astro with dark skies but in the city the low magnification suffers some with light pollution. They cost me about $250 - money well spent.

Speaking of the "new world" - Last summer I watched a four inch praying mantis stalk then leap about 10 inches to capture (and quickly devour) a cricket. I was about five feet away. All I could think was:

1) WOW!

2) It's a really good thing mantises are four inches long and not four feet long.

 

I think there's much to be said for 2 pairs of binocs. The Papilio's can be carried anywhere - just stick them on a belt or in a jacket pocket. That means you will use they often. Meanwhile, if you go out under the stars or for a walk to watch the birds a pair of 8x40 on your chest is a good idea.

 

Above all, I would urge you to go to a Cabbellas or a Bass Pro Shop or some such and spend some time playing with binoculars. You can only tell so much from specs.


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#17 Binojunky

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 10:10 AM

Another to consider that I missed in my earlier post are the Nikon Action Extremes in the 7x35 size, they have a very large FOV and work well for birding, as for warranties , this is what I have found over the years when having issues and inquiries from Canada , Swarovoski, a small accessory needed, they sent one free of charge, Nikon, a replacement lens cap, again FOC., Celestron,binocular case tore at the stitching, a new one sent FOC, Vortex , eyecup fixed , FOC and they covered return postage from the USA, Leupold , a floppy center hinge on a Yosemite, new binocular sent to me though I had to cover the postage both ways. This made a cheap binocular rather expensive, Eagle Optics were great to deal with over the years,though gone  I believe they now handle Vortex stuff?, D.


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#18 Adun

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 12:54 PM

Thanks binojunky, it's good to know your experience with the support/warranty provided by each company. The leupold case confirms they are a very poor choice for me.
 
I wonder if anyone can share experience with warranties with these companies (vortex, Swarovski, Nikon, etc) from South America (where I live). Somehow I'm highly doubtful about postage being covered (and it is expensive, specially return-to-the-USA postage). This kind of shapes the equation for me: if a big part of the cost of higher end binos is due to excellent support, and from my location, access to it would be costly,  then I might be better off gambling on a value Bushnell/Pentax than gambling on a Swarovski/vortex.
 
 

Above all, I would urge you to go to a Cabbellas or a Bass Pro Shop or some such and spend some time playing with binoculars. You can only tell so much from specs.

 
If only I could.
 
 
I think I'm narrowing down my choice to two options:
 
A) Two binos: (~$180 total)
 * Papilio 6x21, for close focus (feeder observing, butterflies, garden, etc) and for portability
 * Bushnell Legacy 8x40 porro, for low light capable (early morning in the woods) + waterproof use case.

B) One better bino, Probably the Bushnell Legend M 8x42 ($160?), to get a roof, ED of better optical performance


Edited by Adun, 16 March 2019 - 01:18 PM.

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#19 alpha_centauri

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 03:08 PM

I have case A.

 

Papilio 6x (not the second version) is very handy day glass. Compared both 8x and 6x when buying. 6x felt marginally more comfortable. Close focus is a super big plus when visiting museums. You will use the close focus more often than you think. I don't know if the Papilio II has multicoatings, but mine does not. Multiple reflections when viewing moon. Anyway with the other aberrations, it cannot be a astro glass anyway. For daytime viewing, it doesn't matter. You will not see any difference. Also stop worrying about the glass type, it is irrelevant in this price class.

 

Pentax PCF WP II 8x40 for city visits. Nice view from tall towers. Waterproof, nitrogen filled, sturdy. Where you think the Papilio is vulnerable (moist, rainy days), you can take the second bigger one. It is still bulky and can't be ignored like papilio in long uphill walks.

 

Don't worry much about service. If you are careful, you don't need any. All the service is reflected in the price, so you can't have both.

 

If you look at case B, also consider an image stabilized bino. Even the smallest one. Nice when following birds in flight and to cancel tiny vibrations from even heart beats. But the variation in their performance seems to differ from model to model, it seems.

 

 

Elan


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#20 Adun

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 07:05 PM

Thank you alpha-centauri!

 

Papilio 6x (not the second version) is very handy day glass. Compared both 8x and 6x when buying. 6x felt marginally more comfortable. Close focus is a super big plus when visiting museums. You will use the close focus more often than you think. I don't know if the Papilio II has multicoatings, but mine does not. Multiple reflections when viewing moon. 

 

According to a thread at Birdforum and to the B&H listing, the the current Papilio II are FMC, and also adds a claim of "Aspherical Lens Elements" that probably just means the eyepieces improved a little off axis compared to the Papilio I.

 

 

If you look at case B, also consider an image stabilized bino. Even the smallest one. Nice when following birds in flight and to cancel tiny vibrations from even heart beats. But the variation in their performance seems to differ from model to model, it seems.

 

I just got optical image stabilization for my new "bridge/superzoom" camera, an inexpensive Kodak AZ401. I'm quite liking the results I get with it, and yes: OIS seems to help, especially at max zoom (40x).

 

Edit: in a way, the camera is being a big driver for my desire to change the binos, see: my wife is using the 7x35, leaving me the 10x50 which are big, and heavy. But I'm the cameraman, so I carry the binos in a proper birding thingy and the camera next to them (hanging from a strap). The big binos and the small camera don't get along well, hence the need for something smaller.


Edited by Adun, 16 March 2019 - 07:10 PM.


#21 dries1

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Posted 16 March 2019 - 10:29 PM

Adun

 

Take a look at The Sightron Blue sky 8X32 or the Fujinon 8X32 KF, both can be procured for $140 - $170.00. These are a nice light glass with very sharp optics for the $$. There are a few reviews on Birdforum.

 

Good Luck

 

Andy W.


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#22 rogan

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 12:25 PM

If you don’t mind buying used I can most highly recommend Bushnell Legend 8x42 porros. While I generally prefer roofs these binoculars are outstanding.  Bright and crisp with an 8.2 degree FOV. They are built like a tank with excellent ergonomics. For me, a lifelong birder, a wide FOV is very, very desirable. 

 

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#23 dd61999

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Posted 18 March 2019 - 01:44 PM

Adun

 

Take a look at The Sightron Blue sky 8X32 or the Fujinon 8X32 KF, both can be procured for $140 - $170.00. These are a nice light glass with very sharp optics for the $$. There are a few reviews on Birdforum.

 

Good Luck

 

Andy W.

These seem to get lots of positive comments from birders over the years

 

People absolutely love those things


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#24 dries1

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Posted 18 March 2019 - 02:25 PM

I keep the Fujinon KF 8X32 in my truck, well built for the $$ and it does provide some very sharp views. They are the same as the sightron Blue sky, different armor, possibly different coatings, but overall the same glass/specs etc. I have found these to be the best 8x32 for the money, so a good value.

 

Andy W.


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#25 Adun

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Posted 05 April 2019 - 02:06 PM

Rogers is a good store.  I got mine from them and they also sell on eBay if you want eBay to handle any problems.  https://www.ebay.com...&frcectupt=true
 
Hope that helps and good luck!

 

I placed an order last Friday March 29th at Rogers for the "In Stock" Bushnell Legend M 8x42.

 

It's been a week now, and my order still says "Pending Shipment" at their website. The only word from them was an automated email when I first placed the order, but nothing more. My bank (as usual) called me to validate a transaction from a new / first time store called "roger sporting", so I know the payment went through.

 
I'm starting to get worried.

 

I just opened a support ticket in their site, let's hope they say something.




CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


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