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Absolute Best of the Best in Binoculars

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#1 agmoonsolns

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 07:41 PM

While the Zeiss binoculars with the phase correction coatings are stunning in terms of transparency/brightness/contrast, they just don't seem to be as well-corrected across the FOV or as sharp in the center as other types of binoculars I have tried. This started me wondering about what are the absolute best of the best in binoculars for astronomy and terrestrial observing?

 

I am looking for a really top-notch pair of binoculars with the light transmission of the Zeiss binoculars with the P* phase coatings, the sharpness of the Leica/Leitz equipment, and superb correction across the FOV. Here's my want list, I doubt I'll find something with all of these criteria, but I thought I would ask the brilliant minds here on CN to see what binoculars you all think are the absolute best of the best?

 

-Approximately 40mm to 50mm in aperture

-Highest light transmission and contrast

-Least amount of scattered light and glare

-Least amount of other aberrations

-Exceptional sharpness in the center and really good sharpness and correction across the FOV to the very edges

-Preferably around 7x42 which seems to work really well for astronomy and sweeping the Milky Way

-Image stabilization if possible

-Highest construction quality and well thought out mechanical designs - built to last without needing servicing

-Oversized/large prisms

-Comfortable to use

-Center focus

-Outstanding warranty from a company that really stands behind its products (preferably with US service locations)

-Durable/tough optical coatings and body construction

 

Please only recommend binoculars you have actually used. I am not interested in "best buys", that would be better for a different thread. If price wasn't a factor and you were going to buy the absolute best binoculars available on the new market or are easy to find used, which binoculars would you get? Thanks!



#2 Jim Waters

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 07:58 PM

I have these and like them - 10x50 and also 16x70.  40mm is a bit small.  Why do you need IS?

 

https://www.fujifilm...aris/index.html


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#3 agmoonsolns

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 08:04 PM

I like the IS because I am getting old and it's getting harder to hold binoculars stable/steady for longer periods of time. 



#4 Jim Waters

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 08:10 PM

I like the IS because I am getting old and it's getting harder to hold binoculars stable/steady for longer periods of time. 

Even for 50mm bino's?  This will limit your selection.  Canon, Nikon and Fijinon make some.  Don't know about image quality for Canon.

 

https://www.bhphotov...ed binoculars/0

http://www.birdwatch...binoculars.html


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#5 Rich V.

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 08:12 PM

Wow, that's a tall order; nobody makes it yet, if ever...   popcorn.gif


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#6 agmoonsolns

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 08:14 PM

Of those that *are* made, which are the best?



#7 agmoonsolns

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 08:20 PM

They don't have to have IS. It would be nice to have, but not a deal-breaker. The above items in the list were just things it would be nice to have if possible. 

 

The important ones were sharpness, overall correction, and light transmission. In other words - real world performance. 

 

Even for 50mm bino's?  This will limit your selection.  Canon, Nikon and Fijinon make some.  Don't know about image quality for Canon.

 

https://www.bhphotov...ed binoculars/0

http://www.birdwatch...binoculars.html



#8 SMark

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 08:51 PM

If you choose to go with IS, then the Canon 10x42L IS is probably going to be the most recommended choice. The biggest drawback will be the weight. But IS is a game changer if you want to observe details. 


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#9 PJ Anway

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 09:01 PM

hmm, my Zeiss are fine. scratchhead2.gif scratchhead2.gif 


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#10 agmoonsolns

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 09:18 PM

Which Zeiss do you have? 

 

Which are better/sharper Zeiss or Leica?



#11 noisejammer

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 09:25 PM

OP, it seems your requirements are conflicting. In particular, I don't think you'll find 7x and IS in the same offering.

 

I have a set of 10x42 IS Canons. Canon does not make any IS binos that have magnification lower than 10x. You can hand hold them and it's dead easy to see the Galilean moons. Resting my elbows, I can just see Titan (from a city apartment balcony.) For completeness, this set is quite rugged - it's waterproof and has sacrificial protective lenses to prevent damage to the optics. They accept 52mm filters and lens hoods - I believe these improve the performance significantly.

 

I compared the 10x42 IS with my 10x58 Minox set. I'd say the Canon's image quality is marginally better but the Minox offers a much brighter image in which Titan is quite easy. Overall, I think my visual acuity (usually better than about 25 arcsec) is the limiting factor.

 

If you're really after the best 7x42 available, I'd look hard at the Zeiss 8x42 Victory SF, the Leica 8x42 Noctivid and the Swarovski 8.5x42 WB. Each of these will set you back a couple of kilodollars.

 

Ultimately, you will run into physics. A 42mm optic cannot resolve better than 3 arcsec, no matter how much one spends on it. At 8x, you have a visual resolution of about 24 arcsec which is better than almost everyone's vision. In other words, these optics will probably out resolve the user.


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#12 agmoonsolns

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 09:56 PM

Thanks noisejammer, that's exactly why I was asking all of you wonderful people for advice, I need to learn more and everyone's information is really helping, thank you!

 

Like so much of my collecting, it isn't about the size, it's about looking through them and seeing beautiful images lacking in distortion. Kind of like a 63mm Zeiss refractor is only 63mm, but the images are so exceptionally sharp it's delicious to view through. Or, kind of like what one would get if Questar made small binoculars - jewel-like perfection.

 

I love hunting down and viewing the open star clusters and brighter nebulae in the summer Milky Way. I would like to see brilliant pinprick like stars across the FOV to the very edge if possible.

 

How do the Zeiss, Leica, and the Swarovski compare? How's the edge performance? Which is the sharpest? Does Leica offer coatings as good as the Zeiss p* phase correction coatings? Zeiss binoculars with their special coatings are really something else.


Edited by agmoonsolns, 17 September 2019 - 09:58 PM.


#13 noisejammer

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 10:31 PM

I've only used two sets of Swarovski's - one was superb and the other was diabolical. All my Zeiss optics (eyepieces and camera lenses) are superb but I've never used Zeiss binos. I've only once used Leica optics - they were good but not representative of the price.

 

Don't forget there are plenty of alternatives - I bought my Minox 10x58 and 15x56 sets because they are excellent value for money.

 

Ultimately, you do need to go to a store that stocks these and try them. Tell the staff you want to try them under the stars and see what works for you. At this price point you can reasonably expect service.


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#14 agmoonsolns

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 10:39 PM

Where are the Minox made and what are they like?

 

I have tried the Canon IS binoculars and was very impressed with them. I just wish I could get a pair with the Zeiss coatings. 

 

As another wonderful poster pointed out above, I doubt I'll be able to find everything I am looking for in just one pair of binoculars. Does one use this as rationalization to get more than one pair? :-)


Edited by agmoonsolns, 17 September 2019 - 10:40 PM.


#15 noisejammer

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Posted 17 September 2019 - 10:46 PM

Minox is a German company that outsources its manufacturing. My 10x58's were made in Japan (going by the serial number label).

 

This is fairly standard practice - Zeiss' consumer optics are made in Japan too. I don't know about the others.

 

What are they like - they're large modern binos with excellent haptics and a rubber protective coating. They're probably heavier than the Zeiss equivalent but I paid $700 for them (new) - the equivalent Zeiss model is the 10x56 Conquest at more than $1600.


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#16 Corcaroli78

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 01:17 AM

Please only recommend binoculars you have actually used. I am not interested in "best buys", that would be better for a different thread. If price wasn't a factor and you were going to buy the absolute best binoculars available on the new market or are easy to find used, which binoculars would you get? Thanks!

Hi agmoonsolns,

 

I am a big fan of Zeiss and I have used several of its models and borrowed other binos from friends (hunters) with far deeper pockets than me :-(  I have strict requirements as i have some issues with my eyes, so i always look for the binos which provide the most pleasant and relaxed views.

 

As you are aiming for the very best, my personal conclusion is reduced to two models: Swarowski EL 8,5x42 and Meopta 10x50. The Zeiss are superb too, (Leica is nice but can not catch my attention yet), but these Swaro and Meopta models provided me better ergonomics and ease of use, and of course, optical excellence among the competitors.

 

The Swarowski consolidate many of the requirements you mentioned, and there will be regrets with them, excellent service, solid brand, expertise, innovation, materials, performance at a cost of course. I used them for a whole winter, in the forests during hiking and for astro. I wish to own one one day, but today are far from my budget.

 

Have you considered Porro binos like the Nobilem series from Zeiss Jena / Docter?

 

 

Like so much of my collecting, it isn't about the size, it's about looking through them and seeing beautiful images lacking in distortion. Kind of like a 63mm Zeiss refractor is only 63mm, but the images are so exceptionally sharp it's delicious to view through.

Agree. Telementor. :-)

 

Carlos


Edited by Corcaroli78, 18 September 2019 - 01:18 AM.

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#17 Pinac

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 07:46 AM

While the Zeiss binoculars with the phase correction coatings are stunning in terms of transparency/brightness/contrast, they just don't seem to be as well-corrected across the FOV or as sharp in the center as other types of binoculars I have tried. This started me wondering about what are the absolute best of the best in binoculars for astronomy and terrestrial observing?

 

I am looking for a really top-notch pair of binoculars with the light transmission of the Zeiss binoculars with the P* phase coatings, the sharpness of the Leica/Leitz equipment, and superb correction across the FOV. Here's my want list, I doubt I'll find something with all of these criteria, but I thought I would ask the brilliant minds here on CN to see what binoculars you all think are the absolute best of the best?

 

-Approximately 40mm to 50mm in aperture

-Highest light transmission and contrast

-Least amount of scattered light and glare

-Least amount of other aberrations

-Exceptional sharpness in the center and really good sharpness and correction across the FOV to the very edges

-Preferably around 7x42 which seems to work really well for astronomy and sweeping the Milky Way

-Image stabilization if possible

-Highest construction quality and well thought out mechanical designs - built to last without needing servicing

-Oversized/large prisms

-Comfortable to use

-Center focus

-Outstanding warranty from a company that really stands behind its products (preferably with US service locations)

-Durable/tough optical coatings and body construction

 

Please only recommend binoculars you have actually used. I am not interested in "best buys", that would be better for a different thread. If price wasn't a factor and you were going to buy the absolute best binoculars available on the new market or are easy to find used, which binoculars would you get? Thanks!

The binocular you are looking for does not exist and never will.

 

First of all, no binocular beats all the others in every category.

 

Then, even seemingly simple criteria such as „sharpness“ are debated forever (just cf the endless discussion in internet forums whether the Swaro EL or the Zeiss SF are sharper), because everybody‘s eyes are different.

 

Moreover, you have added criteria which are quite personal, such as „comfortable to use“ (I think the UV is more comfortable than the NV, but many will disagree).

 

So you could only ever find the „Absolute Best of the Best“ FOR YOU. If such a marvel that excels in every respect were to exist.

 

Unfortunately, it doesn‘t. And never will.

 

Pinac


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#18 Grimnir

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 08:54 AM

The binocular you are looking for does not exist and never will.

 

First of all, no binocular beats all the others in every category.

 

Then, even seemingly simple criteria such as „sharpness“ are debated forever (just cf the endless discussion in internet forums whether the Swaro EL or the Zeiss SF are sharper), because everybody‘s eyes are different.

 

Moreover, you have added criteria which are quite personal, such as „comfortable to use“ (I think the UV is more comfortable than the NV, but many will disagree).

 

So you could only ever find the „Absolute Best of the Best“ FOR YOU. If such a marvel that excels in every respect were to exist.

 

Unfortunately, it doesn‘t. And never will.

 

Pinac

Good post! All design is compromise.

 

The OP should try the Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42 (which I've tried) and the Zeiss Victory SF 8x42 (which I've not tried) - I think they would be two of the leading candidates for his cash.

 

Graham


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#19 harbinjer

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 09:09 AM

If your requirements are top down by priority, maybe the Nikon WX is for you. Unfortunately not many people have tried it(including me). It's price is beyond most budgets. But if you want the least compromises in the optical parts, that might be it. 


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#20 tmichaelbanks

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 10:29 AM

For relative merits of the top tier of "alpha" binoculars, see the website with reviews by Roger Vine:

 

https://scopeviews.co.uk

 

The units reviewed are primarily 10x and higher, but you can get a feel for the relative sharpness, field flatness, mechanicals, and ergonomics of the top models from Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski.  Among the most highly recommended non-Zeiss models are the SW 10x50 EL and SW 10x56 WB.

 

I have used the SW 10x56 for a few weeks and I found it sharp and very bright, day or night.  Excellent for binocular astronomy, but it's a tad heavy to cart around all day for birding on the hoof.  According to Roger Vine's reviews, the 10x50 EL is top-notch as well, lighter and more compact, but at almost $3K is quite pricey.


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#21 Binojunky

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 11:14 AM

I like the IS because I am getting old and it's getting harder to hold binoculars stable/steady for longer periods of time. 

I have the 10x30 IS and did have the 12x36, now gone, the problem with the bigger Canons can be the weight, you need the IS to compensate for the weight yet the IS helps make them heavier in the first place, I,m in the same boat age wise and found that even with IS I had a hekova time holding the 12x36 steady, yes the smaller jiggles were removed however any bigger shakes still tended to be there, also like any binocular your wrists and arms can eventually tire,D.


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#22 Mark9473

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 11:32 AM

If price was no consideration for me, I probably would have bought the Swarovski EL 10x50 and the Nikon WX 10x50.

But since price is a consideration for me, I recently bought a new-old-stock Zeiss Victory HT 10x42 for just over half the price of the EL, and it is, IMHO, a stunning binocular both to look through and to look at. I couldn't wish for more. It is not a flat field design, but the sweet spot is large, the edge fall-off is small, and to really look directly at the edge of that wide FOV is anyway uncomfortable so not something I do in normal use.


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#23 Tamiji Homma

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 11:49 AM

Here is rundown of 40-50mm-ish binoculars that I've tried and still own and enjoy.

 

Canon 10x42 IS

Canon 18x50 IS

Nikon Prostar 7x50

Nikon WX 7x50

Nikon WX 10x50

Miyauchi Binon 7x50

Pentax 10x50 ED

Swarovski 10x50 EL

 

None of above is used daily, I mean literally everyday (night).

 

I use Kowa Genesis Prominar 8x22 most.  I carry with me everywhere I go.

So I use everyday.

 

I also carry Nikon 5x15 monocular everywhere.  

I just upgraded to Goto 5x18 monocular, excellent 10 degrees TFOV, by the way.

 

Recent months, I use Oberwerk 70mm binoculars most for astronomy and long distance daytime viewing.

 

I use ZenRay 7x36 and Canon 12x36 when I go anywhere by car.  They are in my backseat.

 

What I am getting at is that there is no single best instrument that I can say "It is the best."

 

I choose one (or two) for observing session/occasion that I think I can enjoy most out of it. 

They are there for a reason to minimize "I wish I had binoculars in my hands." It is for serendipity.

 

So I ended up with so many of them...  :)

 

Tammy


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#24 Grimnir

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 12:25 PM

I use Oberwerk 70mm binoculars most for astronomy and long distance daytime viewing.

 

...and you have a Nikon 10x50 WX? scratchhead2.gif

 

Graham


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#25 PEterW

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 01:38 PM

The new 70mm ED (Oberwerk/APM) with 12.5mm Doctor/Morpheus eyepieces would take some beating. You need a tripod, so the views are rock steady. Enjoying ultra wide, sharp views makes mediocre bins like the 8x30E2 look narrow with very soft edged in comparison.
There is no perfect binocular... the evidence is clear from the number of binoculars owned by the people round here.

Peter
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