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Old Monday 11th April 2005, 23:36   #1
AlanFrench
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Pentax Papilio

I just noticed an ad for Pentax Papilio binoculars - "first binos designed for watching butterflies - .... , or anything else needing an extreme closeup." They close focus to 20", and have special converging lenses to allow this feat. They are 6.5x21 and sell for about $130 U.S. here.

They sound like a nice toy for us nature lovers. I hope Pentax has a pair at the Northeast Astronomy Forum. They usually bring all their stuff.

Clear skies, Alan
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Old Saturday 16th April 2005, 00:32   #2
Alexis Powell
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They really work!

I just wanted to let everyone know that the Pentax Papilio 6.5x21 performs as advertised! I've never posted a binocular testimonial, but I think I'm about to do so! This is a fantastic product in many respects--the engineering and build quality are superb, handling is excellent, and image quality is excellent (sharp, quite flat field, very free of distortion at the edges, excellent contrast, nearly free of chromatic abberations, but not very bright of course), making it in all respects a really nice binocular. When you add in the extraordinary close focus ability (down to 20 inches or less!) and the $130 price, it just seem too good to be true! I own quite a few (or should I say embarassingly many) top of the line birding binoculars, but I have to say that I haven't ever been as excited about any one particular model of binocular as I am this one. I think it is the greatest addition to binoculardom since phase-correction coatings were incorporated into roof prisms. Pete Dunne's comment "you could found a religion around these binoculars" could be equally, if not more appropriately, applied to this binocular than to the Nikon Superior E, which he was speaking of.

What is so extraordinary about this model is not just how closely it can be focused, but how trouble-free it is to use and easy it is to see through when looking at objects at close range. As a butterfly watcher, I have several very close-focusing binoculars, but this one is in a class by itself. The objectives are small and (at the closest focus setting) as close-set as they can be, so that at the closest focusing distance, the right and left visual fields overlap nearly perfectly/completely. It is simply amazing to be able to set the interpupillary distance to be comfortable for infinity and not have to adjust it in order to look at an object a couple of feet away! (This feature is especially noticable since binoculars with small exit pupils require that the interpupillary distance be set especially precisely, which in all other models, means it must be adjusted frequently when viewing objects at different distances). What is also amazing is how comfortably and smoothly one can focus back and forth from near to far--the focus ratio seems to be perfect at all distances (most binos that focus quickly enough at close distances have too fast a ratio at greater ones). One more thing--the depth of field is sufficiently deep at the closest focus setting that viewing objects is, again, quite comfortable (I had thought it might be too shallow to be very usable).

My _only_ complaint? I wish that the minimum interpupillary setting were less than 56 mm. There are some adults (such as my wife) with a smaller interpupillary distance than 56 mm, and more importantly, this is, in all other respects, the PERFECT binocular for children, who are forever wanting to be able to look at close-by objects when they try/use binoculars, so it would be nice if it better accomodated close-set eyes.

--AP
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Old Saturday 16th April 2005, 11:06   #3
Atomic Chicken
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Greetings!

Just a quick question... are these waterproof?

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Bawko
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Old Saturday 16th April 2005, 23:14   #4
Alexis Powell
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No, the Pentax Papilio are not waterproof. --AP
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Old Sunday 17th April 2005, 02:25   #5
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I'll get one anyway!

Very nice review Alexis. Many thanks,

Elkcub
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Old Monday 18th April 2005, 00:41   #6
AlanFrench
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I got to try both the 6.5x21 and the 8.5x21 Papilios yesterday. I agree that they are very, very nice, and an excellent value for the money. I thought going from infinity to 20" took too much turning of the focus knob. This may be unavoidable, however, with such a range of focus.

I might wind up with a pair - but am still trying to figure out if I have a good response to my wife's "What are you going to look at a distance of 20 inches?" I normally can't get that close to a butterfly in the first place, and anything I can get that close to I can usually move in closer to. Somthing like the Minox 8x32s might be a better choice for me.

Clear skies, Alan
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Old Tuesday 19th April 2005, 18:23   #7
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With regard to the choice between a close-focusing 8x32 and the Pentax Papilio (as brought up by Alan), I find the image quality and comfort of use at distances under 8 feet or so to be much better with the Papilio than with my Eagle Optics 8x32 Platinum Ranger (which focus to under 3.5 feet), Zeiss 8x32 FL (which focus to 5 feet), or Bausch & Lomb 8x42 Elite (older style, which focus to 4.5 feet). That said, with some adjustment of the interpulillary distance, the Zeiss and B&L are quite good at their closest focus. I don't like the EO Rangers despite their excellent close focus--their image quality outside the center of the field is so lacking that at close distances (in which case only the inner edge portions of the left and right fields overlap), the binocular image is not easy on the eyes, and I would have the same concern with the Minox 8x32.

What is there to look at with the Papilio at 20, or, for me, 18 inches? All sorts of things of course, but I admit that it is a very different universe than the domain of traditional binoculars. The Papilio is almost a categorically new device that meets a different set of needs when used at its closest focus distance--it is a sort of long-distance, binocular loupe. When it comes to butterflies, its great innovation isn't so much the 18 inch close focus, but the very comfortable 6, 5, 4, 3 etc foot close focus operation. Many hairstreaks and small skippers are difficult to identify with certainty or to appreciate fully with binoculars at 6 feet. I find that when I have found such a butterfly and I am carrying binos that can only focus down to 6 feet that I want a closer view/larger image (even if I can make the ID at 6 feet), which necessitates getting MUCH closer (a foot or less away) using my naked eyes before the image is superior to what I achieved using the binos at 6 feet. I other words, there is no payoff in terms of a better view of approaching a butterfly to closer than 6 feet until I am approaching the close-focusing limit of my eyes. Since many butterflies can be approached easily to within 6, 5, 4, 3 feet, it is annoying to have them fly off before I have successfully approached to 1 foot, at which point I might have had a better look. With the Papilio, one doesn't have to set down the binoculars to attempt the super-close approach, and at distances of 2-4 feet (which many butterflies tolerate), it offers a view that can only be matched by looking at a captured/pinned butterfly with a hand lens.

Since this is a birding discussion group, let me add that I much prefer full and 2/3 size binos for birding and other demanding viewing at moderate to great distances, so for combination serious birding with serious butterflying, I would choose the Zeiss 8x32 FL over the Papilio, or I would use a full size binocular and carry the Papilio without its strap in a case on my belt (One nice feature of the Papilio is that the neckstrap can be removed/attached in a few seconds).

--AP

P.S. With respect to the Papilio's focus knob, yes, it does make 3 complete revolutions between 18 inch and infinity focus, but it is a small circumference knob which operates very smoothly (yet with no play), so I can spin it quite quickly with my first or second finger. I find focusing from one focus limit to the other to be faster and less aggravating than I do with my (old focus ratio) Swarovski 8.5x42 EL (with 7 foot close focus).

Last edited by Alexis Powell : Tuesday 19th April 2005 at 18:57. Reason: add comment on focus knob travel
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Old Tuesday 19th April 2005, 19:10   #8
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I am debating getting myself a pair. I am not really a butterfly watcher but the 6.5 version has the combination of a wide fov and long enough eye relief to work for me and not get tunnel vision. I wish the 8.5s had a wider field because that would seem a better magnification for my intended purposes (casual birding and sporting events). I dunno, I used a 7x for a while, would 6.5x be that much worse?
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Old Thursday 21st April 2005, 16:36   #9
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Has anyone had the chance to compare the Papilio to the BL/Bushnell Custom compacts as of yet?
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Old Thursday 21st April 2005, 23:33   #10
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Alexis Powell wrote, in part, "What is there to look at with the Papilio at 20, or, for me, 18 inches? All sorts of things of course, but I admit that it is a very different universe than the domain of traditional binoculars. The Papilio is almost a categorically new device that meets a different set of needs when used at its closest focus distance--it is a sort of long-distance, binocular loupe. ..."

I suspect the existance and ownership of such instruments will reveal a wealth of things to look at. The wide availablility of quality astronomical telescopes capable of low power, wide field views of the sky has made for a greater awareness of the objects in the sky that benefit from such capabilities.

Under sunny skies, Alan
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Old Friday 22nd April 2005, 00:53   #11
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Robert,
I have both the "new style" Bausch & Lomb 7x26 custom compact (identical to the current Bushnell model as far as I know) and the older unarmored version, which I like better (it focuses to about 5 feet versus 8 feet for my new model unit, it is better built, is slightly more compact, has very distinctive styling) even though it is just slightly less bright than the new style.

In comparison to the 6.5x21 Papilio, both custom compacts are considerably more compact and much brighter, but have a narrower real field of view, do not focus nearly as closely (5 and 8 feet versus 18 inches), and do not provide as flat and distortion free an image outside the center of the view. I like the build quality of the old custom compact as much as the Papilio, and prefer both over the new custom compact design. Eye relief (I wear glasses) is in practice about the same in all three models, but the Papilio have the new style twist-up eyecups with detents for intermediate settings, whereas the custom compacts have the fold-down rubber type.

The custom compacts are an excellent general-purpose reverse-porro type compact, and for some time were arguably the best (certainly the brightest, and one of the few with good eye relief), but I'm not sure how much better they really are, if at all, than currently available much less expensive alternatives from Pentax (UCF) or Nikon (Travelite), except when it comes to field of view.
--AP
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Old Sunday 24th April 2005, 04:10   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexis Powell
... Since this is a birding discussion group, let me add that I much prefer full and 2/3 size binos for birding and other demanding viewing at moderate to great distances, so for combination serious birding with serious butterflying, I would choose the Zeiss 8x32 FL over the Papilio, or I would use a full size binocular and carry the Papilio without its strap in a case on my belt (One nice feature of the Papilio is that the neckstrap can be removed/attached in a few seconds).

--AP
Alexis,

My main binocs are all Swaro SLCs, which focus to 8 ft. minimum (for the 8x20s). I really like the idea of a separate binocular for close distance observation. Do you find the 6.5x or 8x5x is more useful for that purpose?

Thanks,
-elk
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Old Sunday 24th April 2005, 15:59   #13
Robert Ellis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elkcub
Alexis,

My main binocs are all Swaro SLCs, which focus to 8 ft. minimum (for the 8x20s). I really like the idea of a separate binocular for close distance observation. Do you find the 6.5x or 8x5x is more useful for that purpose?

Thanks,
-elk
I would say the 6.5 because the fov is much wider. At two feet a few inches of view could mean a good portion of what you are examining is either there or not.
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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 14:19   #14
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In answer to the question of 6.5x versus 8.5x in the Papilio, I haven't looked at the 8.5x. I chose the 6.5x for its larger real field of view and its larger exit pupil. I very much doubt that the greater magnification of the 8.5x would be of any real benefit, especially since it comes at cost to the other two specs.
--AP
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Old Tuesday 26th April 2005, 17:02   #15
Robert Ellis
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Those who have bought them, do you find them bulky for "compact" bin?
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Old Friday 29th April 2005, 02:49   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexis Powell
Robert,
Eye relief (I wear glasses) is in practice about the same in all three models, but the Papilio have the new style twist-up eyecups with detents for intermediate settings, whereas the custom compacts have the fold-down rubber type.
I think someone said the eye relief was 15mm. Since you wear glasses, do you find that adequate in the Papilios? I know one manufacture's 15mm is anothers 12mm.
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Old Friday 29th April 2005, 04:25   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btschumy
I think someone said the eye relief was 15mm. Since you wear glasses, do you find that adequate in the Papilios? I know one manufacture's 15mm is anothers 12mm.
I wear glasses and found the eye relief of the Papilios was enough to allow me to see the entire field. With my old, larger lensed and framed glasses, it would not have been. I suspect the amount of eye relief you need will depend on your particular glasses and how far from the eye the frames and your face structure make them sit. Try before you buy...

Clear skies, Alan
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Old Wednesday 4th May 2005, 02:27   #18
Alexis Powell
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Just a note relating to the, in my opinion, very comfortable focusing speed at all distances of the Papilio. I noticed recently that they have variable, or at least dual ratio, focus gearing. It is fast at close distances, and slow at far distances--yet another excellent aspect of these binocular's design!
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Old Thursday 13th August 2009, 10:29   #19
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Great review Alexis, thanks.
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