Bino buying - performance factors - long

Discussion in 'Long Range Scopes and Other Optics' started by jeffbird, Dec 2, 2005.

  1. jeffbird

    jeffbird Well-Known Member

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    I see some recurring questions and comments especially about binos, so I offer these comments for what they are worth to help and save you some headaches (literally). After birding for 15 years, doing bird census work, competing in tournaments, and leading groups of birders of many levels with every bino and spotting scope imaginable (and some that weren’t), here are some factors you might wish to consider in buying binos and spotting scopes.

    Clarity – The picture should be as clear as a glass of drinking water. Some optics will appear to have a very light “haze” or “fog” or slight (or worse) whiteness to the image. With good binos one should be able to read headlines on a newspaper at 75 - 100 yds., and with some top models even farther. Check for image quality up close within 15 yards, beyond a 1000 yards, and multiple points in between. Low light visualization is important for a quality check, but so is bright, hot and hazy. Top glass has the ability to “cut” through humidity and reflected light, especially at longer distances, and visualize images incredibly far away, just as it can “improve” low light conditions.

    Sharpness & Depth – compare image in the center of the field of view with the outer portions of the field of view. They should be equal or only of a slight difference. Also, consider the depth of the image. Does the image appear to have “depth” or is it “flat” in comparison to other models under consideration.

    Color – one of the more subjective components but important. Some glasses tend to have a more green and blue appearance and others have a more red and brown tone. Try focusing on something near that you can easily view with your unaided eye. Compare the image with and without the optic to check for trueness of color in the optical image. Try this test on several images of different colors.

    Ease on the eye – Look at an image continuously for 3 – 5 minutes, which is not unusual for a field use when really concentrating and observing something with binos or a spotting scope. Do your eyes tire or ache, or do your eyes feel like looking through the optics is enjoyable?

    Focus & Alignment – Critical, critical, critical in binos. First, focus the barrel with the fixed eyepiece (i.e. not the one with the twisty adjustment on the eyepiece) with the other barrel blocked with a bino cap. Now, WITHOUT ADJUSTING THE FOCUS WHEEL block the barrel/eye you just focused and look through the one with the twisty/adjustable eyepiece. Twist the eyepiece until the image is in focus. For both adjustments take the binos down let your eyes rest, and then double check each. Once both barrels have been adjusted for each eye, look through both barrels simultaneously. Is the image identical, sharp and crisp, or do you see a blurry or double image? Try alternating closing eyes back and forth and the image should remain stable in the field of view. If not, the barrels may not be well aligned. Do not buy a brand new pair of binos that are not well aligned. They will give you headaches and leave you feeling google-eyed. Top end binos can be realigned later in their life if they are dropped or damaged (typically by compression in luggage) but there is no reason to start off life out of alignment.

    Fit – How do the binos feel in your hand after holding them for 5 – 10 minutes continuously? Binos come in many shapes, sizes and exterior finishes. Which fit your hand? Which will feel good when your hands are hot and sweaty, it’s raining, or freezing cold and you need to use gloves? As an example, the top end Leicas of 10 years ago had a notorious hard, smooth plastic exterior case which was like grease when wet. Thankfully it has been corrected. Is the position of the focus wheel in an easy to use location that feels comfortable and natural to you? Is the focus wheel wide enough that you can focus with gloves on or if your fingers are cold and wet from rain?

    Speed of focus - An important, and often overlooked, quality to consider for wildlife viewing.

    Weight - Less is more especially later in the day.

    Waterproofness - Waterproof optics have become the standard for mid- and top-tier optics. Optics that are not waterproof will fog internally – for field use, it’s not an if, just a when. Waterproof models can fail, but your odds are dramatically improved with waterproofness.

    Price – There are three rough tiers of price. 50 – 150; 300 – 400; and 800+. The 50 – 150 tier are only for the most modest of uses – little league games and the like, and almost never of sufficient quality to endure long in field use. Poor barrel alignment is a frequent problem in this category. The mid-tier actually has some very well made, high quality products, which well serve the needs of most users even in some demanding field uses. The top tier is just that and there are some whose use requirements justify the price. The top tier usually will come with a warranty for the lifetime of the original purchaser. One pair of top tier binos will serve the user faithfully for many years of hard and the most demanding field use.

    Hope this helps a bit.
     
  2. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    [ QUOTE ]
    The 50 – 150 tier are only for the most modest of uses – little league games and the like, and almost never of sufficient quality to endure long in field use. Poor barrel alignment is a frequent problem in this category.

    [/ QUOTE ]


    [ QUOTE ]
    or slight (or worse) whiteness to the image

    [/ QUOTE ]


    [ QUOTE ]
    “flat”

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    [ QUOTE ]
    First, focus

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    I don't beleive you missed any of the problems associated with my binoculars

    Thanks, nothing like having an expert point out your flaws and mistakes. The difference between you and the dental hygienist is I have to pay her $100 to be insulted. At least you do it for free. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif
     

  3. sniper2

    sniper2 Well-Known Member

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    My 10X50's from wally world work great! <font color="red"> </font> Roll Tide!
     
  4. jeffbird

    jeffbird Well-Known Member

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    Yikes! Not my intent at all. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shocked.gif Just trying to help folks here avoid the mistakes I and others have made and learned the hard (and expensive) way.

    My first pair were some all plastic Nikons. I don't know if they were out of alignment when I bought them for $49 or after they started warping on a hot afternoon.

    The most unexpected binos I've ever seen someone show up with was a field trip participant with some things reportedly used on Russian subs. They were about the size of two spotting scopes bolted together. I swear, they must have weighed almost ten pounds. The image was like looking through wax paper. The guy was shocked when I let him look through a spare set I keep on hand for just such situations. I thinked he probably took the beasts and used them to beat whoever sold them to him.
     
  5. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    Sniper2

    Looks like the Cotton Bowl vs Texas Tech.

    Jeff Bird.

    Plastic Nikons, how did you know?

    My highest compliment to someone is when I copy and paste their post into a word document and save it in my longrange hunting file on my hard drive. Not many make it there.

    Kirby, ABINOK, Darryl Cassel, Dave King and now you have made it to the hard drive.
     
  6. jeffbird

    jeffbird Well-Known Member

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    Plastic Nikons (except for the lens) - well in hindsight it was readily and painfully apparent once they sat on a hot dashboard and started warping and I looked at them very closely. For $49, I should have known better. Who knows, perhaps they were copycats. Anyway, this was 15 or 20 years ago and I would hope nothing like that is on the market now. In the last several years, Nikon has radically improved the quality of their binos as has Pentax for that matter.

    The best of the best in binos, at the moment and it changes every couple of years, are Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski. Recently Nikon and Pentax are up there in many birders' opinion.

    Thanks for the compliment. Have a good weekend.
     
  7. sniper2

    sniper2 Well-Known Member

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    It's a shame we got so many people injured, the team we stopped with is not the same team we started with! The 10X50 Nikons I purchased at wally world are good optics. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tongue.gif
     
  8. Mysticplayer

    Mysticplayer Writers Guild

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    Give the Nikon EX action extreme porro binos a try. I have a pair of 12X50's and they fit all your high end stuff at least out to 1000m. Now check the price!!!

    We may no longer have jobs but the overseas labour sure lets us live well on welfare.

    Jerry
     
  9. jkrische

    jkrische Active Member

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    Jeffbird,
    Did you leave out Steiner binoculars on purpose? I have two pair, 8X30 military marine(about 20yrs old) and a new pair of 10X50 Predators that I like very much. I also have a pair of Swarovski SLC 8X42 that are just excellent.
     
  10. jeffbird

    jeffbird Well-Known Member

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    No, not at all. As I tried to point out, once into the mid and upper tiers tiers there are many fine choices. My purpose was to to provide factors for each person to evaluate and make an informed and objective decision for themself based on actual performance rather than just based on a brand name.
     
  11. uncleB

    uncleB Well-Known Member

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    jeffbird,
    the first binos that I ever bought were Pentax, the reason that I purchased them was that they used ASAHI glass (I am in the glass buisness and ASAHI is the largest glass distributor in the world, so I figured they must be good. WRONG they were a pile of crap) I looked through every set of binos made and for me I Love my SWAROVSKIS. yes they cost a bit more but you only need one pair of bino's so why not have the best.???
    UB
     
  12. Boman

    Boman Well-Known Member

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    jeffbird,
    I thought this was very well written and very informative. I Thank You for writing it.