Nikon Action Extreme 8x40's: Any caveats?
Posted 18 April 2004 - 11:38 AM
Some of you folks may recall my recent odyssey into big binoculars (20x80 Oberwerks) encountered a few bumps with defective optics (2 pair) and one that was damaged during shipment. In spite of all of the friendly advice from you folks here on CN, I still have not settled on a big binocular. I'm currently "playing with" the broken pair of 20x80 Standards that I've epoxied together which I have to say are very impressive peformers! And I have to report the Kevin B. has been great to work with and remains committed to making me a happy customer in spite of my trials and tribulations.
So while I wrestle with the bigger side of binocular life, I am simultaneously focusing on the the lower power/wide field side of the hobby. I currently use a pair of Canon 10x30 IS for hand held viewing and am hoping some day to acquire a pair of 15x50 IS as well.
But for tripod mounted wide field viewing I was thinking about a pair of 10x50's. In fact yesterday I was playing with a pair of Nikon Action 10x50's in a camera store and was fairly impressed with the wide AFOV and FOV, although the edge was obviously very soft, even in the daytime.
I went home and started researching these reasonably priced binos when I came across a post by Barry Simon that struck a chord with me - that he personally had difficulty justifying 10x50's since he found 8x40-ish perform nearly as well from a practical standpoint. (My apologies Barry, if I've misinterpreted your comments.) But my limited experience supports this conclusion; that 8x40 performs nearly as well as 10x50, and I since I want the widest possible FOV (and AFOV), the 8.2° FOV and 65°AFOV of the 8x40 Action Extremes are very attractive.
I am not expecting the edge performance to be outstanding, but are there any other caveats that I should be aware of? Is there a better binocular for low power wide field viewing that I should consider? At this stage I don't want to invest big $$$ into a low power bino, so the Superior E's, for example, are out.
Gary in Ontario
Posted 18 April 2004 - 12:56 PM
I cannot provide specific advice advice on this model or that as being any better than the Extremes on a value for money basis. In fact I had a mental note of these being representative of about as good as it gets for the money.
But I CAN say that like Barry , I am firmly amongst what appears to be a minority in prefering 8 x 40 to 10 x 50 for wide -field viewing.
I tried to "get the best of both worlds" by acquiring a Swift Audubon Kestrel 10 x 50 extra -wide angle ( 7 degree TFOV ) but although I like this model for terrestrial use
( without glasses that is ) I find the edge performance unsatisfactory for astronomy , with or without glasses.
If that 8 degree range of true field is important to you , then I would think you have far more chance of reaching a compromise with a 8x bino than with a 10x.
Add to that for hand -holding , there is no comparison in my opinion. 8x ( and especially 7x ) is FAR easier to hold steady than 10x.
Hope this helps you , but from past experiences , what it more likely WILL do is attract a few posts contradicting my opinions :-)
Regards , Kenny.
Posted 18 April 2004 - 05:38 PM
I like wide FOV. Always have. But are you suggesting that I am crazy thinking I need 8° FOV? I've actually never sat down to analyse what you can see with 8° that you can't with a 6° FOV. I just figured more is better. Perhaps not?
I should be clear about one thing; I don't get upset about (moderately) soft edges - as long as the AFOV is at least 65°+, I don't really concentrate looking at the edges anyway.
So, that said, lets hope we garner some responses!
Posted 18 April 2004 - 05:43 PM
Posted 18 April 2004 - 09:37 PM
Not having used the 8x40 Action Extremes (or is it 8x42) I cannot comment on those specifically. Wide angle 8x binoculars I have used include the 8x42 Meade Safari Pro (did not like the overall quality and very soft edges), the 8x40 Minolta Activa (sloppy focuser and soft edges), the Eagle Raptor 8x42 (with 8.8 degree field, extremely sharp center, but soft edges with distortion) and the 8.5x44 Swift Audubon ED (with very sharp center and mediocre edges and a 8.2 degree field). I think you can see the pattern, there are some good binoculars at least as far as field center goes but to achieve wide fields requires special eyepiece types which as a trade off for the wide field will give you various distortions/softness at the edge. You pretty much have to live with the fact that you will sacrifice a good 20% of your total field to softness/aberrations. The outer field may be sufficiently ok to help you find something, but not ok for pleasing views. This will reduce the good field of 8.2 degree field binoculars to something like 6.5 degrees. This is still larger than more "standard angle binoculars which may give you a 6.5 degree total field, but one which the truly good field is something like 5.8 degrees.
Based upon what John Cota has written, I believe the 8x40/42 Action Extremes by Nikon will be a good casual use binocular that will give you the field you want at a reasonable price in a well built binocular.
Posted 19 April 2004 - 08:54 PM
Interestingly, the sales guy said that they used to have 70+ pair of binoculars on hand all the time, but in the last few years sales have dropped off so much they now only stock around 2 dozen different models. Apparently internet sales and the digital camera market has taken a big chunk out of their binocular sales.
Posted 19 April 2004 - 09:44 PM
Posted 20 April 2004 - 01:31 AM
For several years I used (handheld) 10x50 with 65-degree apparent field of view, with a lot of enjoyment. In January I bought Orion Ultraview 8x42, which have about the same AFOV (8.2-degree true). I was after the larger true field of view and reduced shaking. The 8x42 is very nice. I think that I'm seeing close to the same magnitudes with them as with the 10x50, although I'm not sure to what extent that's due to different optics. I'm 99% sure the 10x50 (Bushnell "GlassesOn" -- no longer made and whose complete specs I can't find) has BK-7 prisms, while the 8x42 is definitely BaK-4 and fully multi-coated.
I thought I had read that the Nikon Action Extremes WP have better edge performance, and I'd like to look through some, as I have leared about edge softness with the 8x42. (The 10x50 definitely has sharper stars nearer the edges.)
Incidentally, I've found that I have almost identical shaking with the 8x42 as with the 10x50, which has really surprised me. But you're talking about using them on a mount, so that's not at issue in your case.
Ed Cannon - Austin, Texas, USA
Posted 20 April 2004 - 07:41 AM
I have a distinct dislike hand-holding any bino's even at 7x. (One reason I like my 10x30 IS). I plan on using a mount for all other binoculars. Besides, I tend to consult star charts frequently and it's nice to be able to leave the bino and come back to the same spot or show others exactly what you are looking at.
Posted 20 April 2004 - 08:36 AM
There are several decent 7x50s that offer acceptable to good 7 degree performance. Like all binoculars, these too, will have some degree of edge performance loss. But, generally, if the orig. spec is kept to around 7*, then it won't be quite as noticeable as some of the 8x binos that are using distortion inducing eyepieces to achieve a wider nominal FOV. One contender in 7x would be the Nikon Sports Marine 7x50 individual eyepiece focus binocular with a 7.5* FOV that is usable out to most of the glass. However, it's nowhere near as good at cutting through light pollution as most nearly any 10x50. Decent quality 10x50s can be had with a 5 degree FOV that is often fairly good over most of the FOV. Maybe I've just not had the right 8x40s, but I've never yet seen a set that could really wring out the details, and cut through light pollution as well as a decent set of 10x50s. The Carton Adlerblick 10x50s are just one example of a model that comes very close to giving images useful towards the outer egdes of the 5* FOV. (I mention those not only because I like them, but because they're available in Canada.) So, really, the first question to ask is whether you'd rather have a nominal wide FOV, or a smaller FOV that was in fact usable out closer to the edges. Surprisingly, I notice very little difference in what I can actually see between a 5* FOV and a 6* FOV assuming the magnifications are the same and the quality is the same. In fact, if anything, I find that mounted binoculars tend to draw one's eyes to explore the very edges of the FOV, meaning that any distortion there will be noticed more readily than when handheld.
Secondly, you've said you're going to mount them anyway, so why hobble yourself to a smaller magnification? Seriously, with the idea of mounting them for astronomical use, I wouldn't even bother with anything less than 10x or 12x. The whole reason for going to the lesser powers is for handholding convience. True, as powers go down, the FOV can be bigger without distortion. But, how much is enough? One of the nicer aspects of having a really wide FOV is that it tends to mitigate handshake at low power. If you're mounting them, that, in turn indicates that the difference between having a 7* or 5* FOV might not make as much of a difference as simply having more horsepower (power) available to cut through light pollution and bring out details. I've pretty much given up on binos less than 10x for astronomy.
Well, that's my contrarian view of it all.
Posted 20 April 2004 - 09:37 AM
In general - less than 10x is handheld most of the time, over 10x is mounted most of the time, 10x likely should be mounted, but most do handhold.
Another axiom would be, if the apparent field is about 55 degrees or less, expect reasonably good edge performance; and if the apparent field is over 55 degrees expect relatively poor edge performance. It's a design trade-off with Erfle type eyepieces. (Note that there are exceptions such as the Nikon Superior E series, and Fujinon and Nikon premium 70 mm binoculars. They have more sophisticated eyepieces with better edge performance correction. However those exceptions come at a price.)
The Oberwerk 12x60 are reasonably well corrected and while my testing of the pair I had did not yield the 5.7 degree field advertised, I would say it was better than 5 degrees. These should be mounted anyway, and as such would be a good mid-power pair between 8x handheld and 15x mounted. The Pentax 12x50 are nice too and the Nikon Extreme 12x50 are also good, with a wider field. All will offer a good view when mounted with a wide field.
Posted 21 April 2004 - 12:06 PM
To begin with, I've never liked hand-holding binos for astronomy. Period. What I enjoy is just panning around and studying star patterns that I find interesting. Although I can hold low power binos reasonably steady, I find it much too uncomfortable/tiring to hand-hold for any length of time or view near zenith. I find it much more comfortable with the binos mounted - even on a fluid-pan head.
Also, I frequently observe around my light-polluted suburban home. Once I find something of interest and check a star chart, it can be problematic to re-locate the area because of the lack of reference stars.
Bottom line is I plan on mounting the binos most of the time - no matter what the power. I also plan on using at least two sets of binos simultaneously on a regular basis - one low power wide field to locate objects and a second larger pair to study details. (The Miyauchi 20x100 or a clone look to be strong contenders). I may even arrange to mount both pairs on the same mount.
I appreciate your comments about the problems of using low power binos in light pollution. That is something that I will have to carefully consider. But I do find my 10x30 IS Canons perform reasonably well (for locating things), as did a pair of 7x50 Adlerblicks that I recently sold because I dispised their narrow AFOV. Due to the light pollution, however, I may have to consider a pair with moderly higher power - say around 10x or so - as long as they have a very wide FOV/AFOV and are going to be mounted anyway.
As long as the AFOV is very wide (65°+) I can live with soft edges because I never really look at the edge that far off axis - the wide AFOV is used to frame objects.
My current thinking FWIW.
Posted 21 April 2004 - 12:55 PM
In any event, this new series will now cost you more. Current prices at Adorama and I assume most other places are:
7x35 - $129.95
8x40 - $149.95
7x50 - $149.95
10x50 - $179.95 (these were $139.95 in March)
12x50 - $189.95
16x50 - $199.95
Still good prices, but not quite the bargain they were.