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Old Friday 4th January 2008, 23:59   #1
kman
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Kowa 8x32 vs Minox BD BL 8x32 asph

Hello to all. I have been a lurker on the board for a few months now and want to thank all of you for the many helpful posts you have made on binos. I have been looking for a new pair after a trip to Wyoming this fall. My current binos are the Nikon Monarchs 10x42. My guide had a pair of Zeiss 8x42 Victory that finally drove home it was time for an upgrade.

Deep down inside I am a cheapskate and i am happy with 95% of the performance for 1/3 the cost. I just can't peel the cabbage for a pair of Swaros, Leicas, or high end Zeiss. So my search was on for a pair of binos that met my 95%/1/3 ratio. I wanted 8x32 for weight considerations as I do a fair amount of hiking and hunting in the mountains.

My initial budget was $500. I started searching on ebay and at Bass Pro Shops for binos. I saw Browning 8x32 (which are Bushnell Legends) for $129 on ebay!!! I was able to put my hands on a pair of Bushnell Legends at Bass Pro. They are really nice glass. Very comparable to the Nikon Monarchs in 8x36. The Nikons had a brighter view ( I am assuming due to their 4mm advantage in objective lenses) and sharpness was a dead heat. But for Half the cost the Brownings are a runaway winner!!!!

I then saw some posts on this forum for the Minox 8x32 BD BL Asph. They were in my price range ($510 retail). I also saw the Kowa 8x32's were reviewed here and they too were in my price range ($520 retail). After tons of shopping I landed at B&H Photo in New York City. Their web site is terrific and there are actually people you can talk to if you have questions!!!

The sales person told me to order both and then return the one I liked the least within 15 days and all I was on the hook for was return shipping. Very good deal. Now the deal gets even better!!! The Kowas were $339 and the Minox were $329!!!!

I ordered both and they arrived the day after Xmas...and the comparison was on!! I am not a bino expert but I do know the difference between great glass, good glass, OK glass, and junk. I am very tough on binos and I need to have armor and waterproofing. Specs on the two were alomst identical:7.5 deg view, waterproof, essentailly a lifetime warranty, twilight factor of 16,multi coated, etc.

Initial look and feel:

The Minox fit in my hands better and also have a silky smooth and precise focus wheel. They are also 65 grams lighter than the Kowas.
The Kowas are built like a tank!!!! The focus wheel is more "heavy" but it has a very precise feel to it.You could probably run over the Kowas with your car and they would still work. The Kowas have a "stepped" eye cup system which is very nice. You can adjust the eye relief with 3 distinct stops. The Minox are a more traditional "sliding mechanism". No clear winner just personal preference.

Optical performance:

This is where it gets really difficult to cite differences. I did close distance bird viewing (20-30 meters) and long distance across the lake (2-3 km) spotting on boats, signs, and houses. I also did extensive viewing on an art print inside my house at 10 meters.The first day it was overcast so it was hard to get a firm grasp on color rendering. But there was really no noticeable difference between the two. Focus and sharpness was no noticeable difference. Brightness was a toss up. Field of view was a tie as well. The only difference I could tell was that the Kowas seemed to have a little more "pop" to them when you first put them up to your eyes.

Days 2-6

The sun came out and the bird viewing at close range was great. Both binos did an amazing job on color rendering. These both made my Nikon Monarchs look dull and gray. I saw an amazing thing...a golden finch with a yellow head and an almost snow white body!!! It was with 4-5 more traditional golden finches and the difference was amazing!!! The white one has come back for 3 days in a row. Any way I digress. The Kowas seem to be able to render more of a shimmer on the cardinals and red finches sometimes but not all the time. It could be possible that the sunlight was hitting the feathers just right. Close in viewing these binos are a toss up. I could not really pick an outright winner.

I found a great test subject. There were some decorative snowflakes hanging on a porch across our cove 550 meters away. They were detailed and had a subtle color to them. In the bright sunlight the Minox had a tiny,tiny,tiny focus and sharpness advantage. They also had a very very slight advantage in a larger sweet spot. Could be due to the asph. lenses???? Color rendering on both binos was very very close. I really could not tell a discernable difference in color. There was also no difference that I could tell in the usable field of view. Both were miles ahead of my Monarchs.

I went down to Bass Pro with the Minox and compared them side by side with a pair of Swaro 8x30 SLC. I looked at objects all across the store from 20-120 meters. It took about 20 minutes of very hard looking and critiquing before I could really declare the Swaros the winner. Brightness was equal. Color rendering was equal. Sharpness and focus the Swaros had a tiny,tiny edge. The Minox and the Kowas both offer a legitimate 97% of performance to the top end binos for literally 1/3 the cost....amazing.

The Winner:

It is impossible for me to declare an outright winner. Optically these two binos are as close as one could imagine. Long range viewing and sharpness going ever so slightly to the Minox. Feel and comfort for me the Minox was better but that is strictly personal. The Kowas look tougher and my guess is that if you are going to put your binos through he!! these may be your best bet.

Both of these binos are super values. And for only $50 more than the Nikon Monarchs they both destroy the Monarchs in every catagory (brightness, color, sharpness, field of view, wow factor, you name it).

I could live with either one but in the end I am going to keep the Minox. The final deciding factor for me was my percieved very small edge in long range sharpness, the lighter weight, and the feel in my hand.

Interestingly enough the Minox are made in China. The Kowas made in Japan.

I hope this helps. In summary if you are looking for $300 binos you will absolutely not do any better than these two. Considering they both retail for over $500 US you literally can steal them from B&H Photo and you can try them out yourself for two weeks with only return shipping as your out of pocket cost.

Thanks again to all the birders who took the time to post up their experiences and expertise on binos. Your help enabled me to make a really solid decision on my bino purchase.

I'd also like to know if any of you have ever seen a snow white bodied Golden Finch with a starkly yellow head.


Best of luck and Happy New Year

Kyle
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Old Saturday 5th January 2008, 00:52   #2
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Good you liked them. 8x32 is an entirely different beast than 8x42, and though I like the 8x42 Monarch, I do not like the 8x36. The Kowa have a FOV of 430ft, as do many 8x32s.

The Swaro 8x30 SLC are attractive, I almost went for them, but was not all that committed to 8x then.
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Old Saturday 5th January 2008, 01:08   #3
APSmith
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Hi Kyle. Nice post.

You have drawn similar conclusions to mine with the Minox. They kept me from justifying $1K plus on a pair of SLCs or Trinovids. In a way, they hurt my heart for the same reason. My heart really wanted to justify a high-end pair. My head held me back. It took the Minox @$329 (Cameraland NY) to do it for me (many others were ruled out). I will probably always use them alot for their value/utililty.

But, I'm still craving a pair that has a totally easy view and wide sweet-spot - something like my beloved EIIs in a trimmer waterproof package. If the craving remains over time, I will eventually take the plunge for a Super-Mega-Ultra glass.

APS
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Old Saturday 5th January 2008, 02:11   #4
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Great post, a very interesting, informative and reasoned study. I respect your conclusions and choice, and it is the birds and wildlife we see and learn about--study, really--that counts. So much to learn out there! I'm seeing that as the goal more and more, and looking forward to watching some amazing resident eagles this weekend.

I'm not sure what that bird is you saw. Have you tried to look it up in a field guide? If it comes back can you take a photograph? BTW, I use both 8x32 and 10x32 as my standard field glasses and love the weight and FOV advantages over the 42 options. Congratulations on your purchase and many happy seasons of birding with them!
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Old Saturday 5th January 2008, 14:44   #5
kman
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Jaquot,

I'll try to get a photo of the snow white Golden Finch. I am keeping a digital camera next to the window in case he comes back.

AP - I feel the same about the Swaro EL's, or the super high end Leicas. From a pride of ownership standpoint there is nothing like having the best with no apologies needed. But the cheapskate that lives deep down in me just can't do it. I always do admire a pair of Swaros, Leicas, or Zeiss, hanging around someone's neck. It shows me that person is truly committed to his craft.

what this exercise has really has done for me is shown that competition has really driven the bino industry in favor of the consumer. The price/value ratio on binos even at $150 is suprisingly good (Browning 8x32). And the level of quality at $500 is really getting close to the Alpha glass.
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Old Tuesday 18th March 2008, 09:15   #6
keithdrengen
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I sit here and wonder if its the Minox BD 8x32 BL Asph. or if its the Minox BL 8x32 BR you are talking about KMAN?
Because the data, such as weight (525g) you are referring to is the data of the Minox BL 8x32 BR (According to www.minox.com)
On www.bhphotovideo.com, when I read specifications on the Minox BD 8x32 BL Asph., I get the the wrong specs., that is the specs. of Minox BL 8x32 BR (The cheaper of the two).
So can you somehow confirm somehow that it is the Minox BD 8x32 BL Asph. OR the Minox BL 8x32 BR that you have tested?
Thanks,
Carsten
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Old Wednesday 19th March 2008, 10:47   #7
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Just a couple of hopefully helpful pointers...

BD 8x32 BL Asph is a nice mix (!) but doesn't exist... On all Minox binos you can pretty much ignore the BR when quoting the model - it simply means they are a roof prism.

The 8x32 BD Asph (box code 62122) weigh 620g and are now discontinued. The 8x32 BL (box code 62149) weigh 525g and are very much still in the product range along with the 8x42 and 10x42 BLs.

HTH

Dave.
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Old Wednesday 19th March 2008, 18:22   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem View Post
Just a couple of hopefully helpful pointers...

BD 8x32 BL Asph is a nice mix (!) but doesn't exist... On all Minox binos you can pretty much ignore the BR when quoting the model - it simply means they are a roof prism.

The 8x32 BD Asph (box code 62122) weigh 620g and are now discontinued. The 8x32 BL (box code 62149) weigh 525g and are very much still in the product range along with the 8x42 and 10x42 BLs.

HTH

Dave.

OK, then, from this website, which is the binocular that kman has? I'm really confused!

http://www.minox.com/index.php?id=175&L=1
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Old Sunday 4th May 2008, 15:30   #9
keithdrengen
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The Minox, Kman has reviewed are either Minox BL 8x32 BR OR BD 8x32 BR Asph/ALT
He himself writes BD BL Asph. Wich does not exist, but at a price of 329 $, and the light weight of 525 g. I guess it must be Minox BL 8x32 BR :

http://minox.com/index.php?id=450&L=1

Its their second cheapest line and they have 2 or 3 lines above them. So its well done that they are a hair better than the Kowa BD 8x32.
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