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Old Friday 29th July 2011, 21:56   #1
FrankD
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Dakota Elite series

I thought it might be a good idea to start a new thread to continue the discussion of the Dakota Elite series binoculars from the Binocular Bargains thread. For those of you that did not read the thread these binoculars are a Ritz Camera house brand that have been on clearance through Wolf Camera's clearance center on Ebay. Several individuals on the forum have ordered the 7x28s with a few picking up the 8x32s. Nobody that I am aware of has purchased the 10x42s at this point.

I purchased two pairs but not at the same time. A second batch of the 7x28s showed up a couple of days ago and I ordered my second pair (along with an 8x32 that is due to show up on Monday). I took the two pairs and compared them side by side outside just a bit ago. The two binoculars have an identical exterior with one key change....the color of the reflections in the eyepiece. One pair has a pure "purple" reflection. The other pair has a purple/green combination. The view through both is very good but I did notice that the overall color representation, and possibly apparent sharpness, is different. The unit that displays a purple/green reflection has a slightly brighter image and seems to have a more relaxed view. The sweet spot appears slightly larger and I feel like it provides slightly more detail than the other unit.

After my recent experience comparing the Zen Ray ED2 and ED3 and their subsequent changes in antireflective coatings I have learned a thing or two about how much those changes can affect the view through a specific binocular model. The ED3 appears brighter with slightly more detail because the antireflective coating change is designed to key in on that portion of the light spectrum that gives us the perception of a bright image. It also keys in on what I would consider a more neutral color bias to the entire image. I feel that much the same is occurring here with my two specimens of the Dakota Elite 7x28s.

Comments, thoughts, suggestions are welcome.
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Old Friday 29th July 2011, 22:26   #2
Bob A (SD)
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Frank,

While you were posting this mine arrived. I went back out and checked coating colors and on mine the eyepieces are purple but the objectives are green. Admittedly I've only given them a 5 minute check out outside but I'm not finding CA or edge issues of any consequence. So apparently unlike Steve and Henry, I've scored a "good" pair. Bottom line and again with very preliminary handling, I'm pleased.

Also now looking for a wrist strap for these as the neck strap seems like overkill given the small pocketable size.
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Bins: Swaro 7x42 B SLC; ZenRay 7x36 ED2; Pentax 8x32DCF-WP/9x21UCF; Minox BD6.5x32 IF; Leupold GR 9x35IF/8x30Yosemite; Dakota 7x28; Binolux 7x35s 11 & 10.5; ZOMZ 6x30 12.5

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Old Friday 29th July 2011, 22:43   #3
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I haven't pull the accessories out of the box yet Bob so I wasn't aware of the neckstrap issue. Will check shortly. I will say that I did like the custom box they came in as well as the carrying case provided with them.

I do wonder what the distribution is of those that received the solid purple versus the purple/green eyepieces. Both of mine have green objectives.
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Old Friday 29th July 2011, 23:06   #4
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I think at this price point batch variations in the coatings colors are likely. I wouldn't read too much into that.

I'll post a review of the 8x32 on this thread, but it's going to take awhile to finish it. The optical performance is puzzling, really much more entertaining and interesting to test than the bland good stuff.

I can say a few things at this point. Focusing is counter-clockwise from close to distant. Light transmission is pretty low, apparently because one of the prisms is not coated at all. Instrument resolution is pretty good, at least in the better barrel. Veiling glare is poorly controlled because the objective cell is shiny and poorly baffled. Distortion is the same compound "anomalous" type found in the Swarovski 8.5x42 SV.

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Old Friday 29th July 2011, 23:23   #5
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Henry,

I did take a look for any type of internal baffling between the objective and the prism and did not see any. I did see some loosely placed glue in some spots.

I would agree that it can be "fun" to tear apart, from a technical perspective, some of these lower priced models. If I could add one request of your review. After you pull all the technical info then could you add a final "general impression" of them? I am not expecting anything good but I do value your opinion and like to hear your subjective impressions as well. Thanks. :-)
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Old Friday 29th July 2011, 23:45   #6
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Frank,

My initial impression is that they are finicky. Getting the best image requires more work than I like to do. Collimation is OK, but I'm constantly fiddling with the IPD, diopter adjustment and my pupil placement to try to achieve a more relaxed view. I haven't figured out why that is yet.

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Old Saturday 30th July 2011, 02:46   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankD View Post
I thought it might be a good idea to start a new thread to continue the discussion of the Dakota Elite series binoculars from the Binocular Bargains thread. For those of you that did not read the thread these binoculars are a Ritz Camera house brand that have been on clearance through Wolf Camera's clearance center on Ebay. Several individuals on the forum have ordered the 7x28s with a few picking up the 8x32s. Nobody that I am aware of has purchased the 10x42s at this point.

I purchased two pairs but not at the same time. A second batch of the 7x28s showed up a couple of days ago and I ordered my second pair (along with an 8x32 that is due to show up on Monday). I took the two pairs and compared them side by side outside just a bit ago. The two binoculars have an identical exterior with one key change....the color of the reflections in the eyepiece. One pair has a pure "purple" reflection. The other pair has a purple/green combination. The view through both is very good but I did notice that the overall color representation, and possibly apparent sharpness, is different. The unit that displays a purple/green reflection has a slightly brighter image and seems to have a more relaxed view. The sweet spot appears slightly larger and I feel like it provides slightly more detail than the other unit.

After my recent experience comparing the Zen Ray ED2 and ED3 and their subsequent changes in antireflective coatings I have learned a thing or two about how much those changes can affect the view through a specific binocular model. The ED3 appears brighter with slightly more detail because the antireflective coating change is designed to key in on that portion of the light spectrum that gives us the perception of a bright image. It also keys in on what I would consider a more neutral color bias to the entire image. I feel that much the same is occurring here with my two specimens of the Dakota Elite 7x28s.

Comments, thoughts, suggestions are welcome.
Frank,
My 7x28 purchase history mirrored yours and my second pair also arrived today. Both pair have purple/green reflections from the eyepiece coatings and the objective reflections are both solid green. I did notice a larger sweet spot in the second pair and the softness at the edges was less severe then the first pair. The second pair also was a bit sharper and showed a bit more detail. These factors led to an easier view in the second pair. These differences are small but noticeable.
One other difference I noticed was the diopter. In order to achieve proper focus I had to set the diopter at six "clicks" to the positive side on the first pair. The second pair required three "clicks" to the negative side. I'm guessing sample variation due to poor quality control.
Bottom line on these is I'm still happy as a clam with the Dakota 7x28. Two pair of very serviceable bins for $60 bucks. I'd say that's a bargain.
My 8x32's will arrive Monday. I'm hoping they're at least as good as the 7x28's.
Tom
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Old Saturday 30th July 2011, 03:24   #8
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Tom,

That is very funny...since our purchase history is practically identical...even down to the 8x32s coming in on Monday. One thing you did mention, which I did not, was the diopter settings. Though not exactly the same my experiences again mirror yours. Both of my units require two totally different settings...the first one to positive by about 3 clicks and the second to the negative by 2 clicks. I am not upset as long as the diopter setting remains constant inside of the bins. I have had several bins in the past where the diopter moved periodically internally which was extremely frustrating.

I may be tempted to order one of the 10x42s. I don't have a particular affection for 10x bins but $50 for a phase/silver coated roof prism with the water/dirt repellant coating seems almost too good to pass up. Since I am returning the Barsks Huntmasters I do have some money to kick around

I am now off to search the net for further "deals". I will let you all know if I find anything interesting.



Henry,

Thank you for the initial impressions. I have been down that road before myself. Just not being able to solidly place your finger on some issue can be a bit frustrating. I am often left wondering if it is the binocular design itself that doesn't sit well with me or if it is a quality control issue.

I look forward to hearing more of your comments on these bins.

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Old Saturday 30th July 2011, 04:45   #9
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Well, my 2 pairs came today, and my first impression on picking up the box was that they were heavy. Unpacked them and took one pair out of the box and spent the afternoon thru the evening testing them.

They came in a padded hard outer case and the small nylon carry case is fairly decent, but the belt loop on the back is way too small for much more than a dress belt. It has 2 extra zippered pockets and a top loading front pocket. It did not look like this pair had ever been unpacked and the nylon bino strap is 7/8" wide tapering to 3/8" at the end connections and is fairly cheaply made. There is a tag attached that states a weight of 13 oz, a 7.2* (376 ft) FOV, an 8ft close focus, and an ER of 19mm. I don't know where they got all this as mine vary quite a bit. Mine weigh 17 oz stripped, have a close focus nearer to 7 ft, and have a FOV closer to about 345 ft. When the eyecups are fully extended, they are just about the perfect ER if I hold them lightly up to my eyesockets. With my glasses on I have to extend the eyecups up a bit, as its impossible to get a good view with the cups fully down. The eyecups have one intermediate stop in the middle, and when full up they stay where put with no jiggles. The tethered objective lens caps are nice, but the occular lens rainguard could stand to be a little deeper as it keeps wanting to fall of unless pressed down firmly and squarely. The rubber armoring is nice and the binos have a nice solid feel. They have the typical right barrel diopter adjuster which seems to have a nice tension and positive movement, but the centering mark is almost impossible to see on the diopter ring.

Focusing: The binos have a nice large focusing knob that is rubber coated and is very smooth thru the travel range, but just slightly on the stiff side. The focus knob moves just slightly more than 1 turn, with close focus to infinity taking almost 3/4 turn and then going 1/4 turn past infinity focus. The focus is CCW from near to infinity.

Optics; Mine had predominately purple coated occulars with hints of green and green coated objectives which showed a slight amount of purple. They seemed fairly sharp in the central 40-50% of the FOV but then the pin cushion and field curvature starts kicking in fairly quickly. The edges are extremely soft and most of the distorsion can be focused out, but not all.

CA: I thought the CA was well controlled overall, but it had some very strange patterns to me. For dark or black objects in a bright and backlit sky, I never could see hardly any of the typical purple fringing. When I could finally see it, it was at the very extreme edges only, and only a hint of color. For white objects against a dark background it was a whole different story. Almost non existant in the central 40-50% of the FOV, but as soon as you moved outside that small sweetspot, it became quite evident all the way to the edges. Almost like turning on a switch. Most binos give a green or purple fringing depending on which side of the edge you are looking at. This pair gave a green fringe on one side and an orange fringe on the other. They have the worst white object CA of any bino I have ever tested outside of the small sweetspot.

Stray light and glare wasn't a real problem overall, but on axis and even off axis under the sun or a bright backlit area, it became most noticable as veiling glare ( the dreaded fog). On axis under a bright sun, they showed some hard glare spots down in the lower quadrant. Looking in thru the objectives you can see some barrel rings inside reflecting light. Shame they could not have darkened them. These do have the worst stray light performance of any bino I currently own.

Brightness: Under normal conditions they seemed bright enough but when I compared them at dusk against my 8x28 Excursions and 8x30 SLC's they came up short, despite the fact that the 8x28 Excursions do not have silvered prisms.

While I think these are certainly worth the $26 per pair that I paid, I probably won't keep them. I may keep one pair just to have around for grins, but will probably donate the other pair to the delaware Nature Society. They certainly aren't worth $75 to $100 as there are too many better binos available.

I have attached some pics that were taken thru my collimnating lens test stand, so you can see some distorsion patterns. The grids are 1 degree and the target is perfectly flat, and the bino is focused at infinity. I went up to Staples and had them print my target on a laser printer at 1200 dpi, but it looks worse than the targets taken thru my Bushnell that were printed on my 9 year old 600 dpi inkjet. I am in the process of redoing my stand so these were just some quickies for rough info. Each 1951 target grid is about 3mm wide on the target stand to give you an idea of the magnification. Also put up some pics of my 8x28 Bushnell Excursions for a comparison. The left and right barrels of the 7x28 dakotas are on the left and the 8x28 Excursions are on the right side. As you can see, the Bushnells not only have a much wider FOV, but a much wider sweetspot as well before the field curvature starts kicking in.
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Old Saturday 30th July 2011, 15:08   #10
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Hi Tom, I am not impressed at all with the QC of your print from Staples. Very interesting series of images. You want to sell your Excursions? I will have to start looking at the name of the poster with some of these posts, I will think it is RonE.
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Old Saturday 30th July 2011, 16:56   #11
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Good work, Tom! The photos are very informative, but it should be noted that the eye can't actually take in an entire field in this way. It has to swivel the fovea to an area of interest which decouples the optical axis of the eye from the binocular optical axis and, I think, partly explains the widely differing subjective impressions of off-axis sharpness and lateral color we've read on this thread.

Looking at the Dakota images zoomed to a large size reveals that the best group is not in the center, but is the first group to the left (right image) or the lower left (left image) of the center group. You can notice the first signs of lateral color in the center group and if you compare the edge groups you'll see worse lateral color and sharpness at 3:00 compared 9:00. This suggests either misaligned optics in the binocular or a misalignment of the camera to the binocular. Even if it's the latter, however, that kind of misalignment between the eye and the binocular exit pupil is continually happening when you hand hold a binocular so that, in the field, glimmers of lateral color frequently show up in the very center.

Once again, excellent information.

Henry

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Old Saturday 30th July 2011, 18:06   #12
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Tom / Henry

Thanks to both of you for the recent posts. I was going to ask Tom why my perceived impressions differ so much from his test results. Specifically my last night's starry sky sanity check. I was finding sharp pinpoint stars in about 85% of the field. As an aside my mid 60s eyes are OD -0.25s -1.75cyl OS -1.25s -0.25cyl.

Regardless, I'm finding my pair quite satisfactory with no CA or FOV edge issues sufficient to sour me. Frankly I'm not too susceptible to CA and tend to tune out edge distortions unless severe and distracting. These will be replacing my circa 1996 Pentax 9x21 UCF-Mini reverse porros as my "pocket carry."
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Old Saturday 30th July 2011, 19:28   #13
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Well based on these comments I bought 5 pairs.

They will be X-mas presents for the young nieces and nephew, ages 4 to 14.
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Old Saturday 30th July 2011, 21:09   #14
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I think I've done all the testing Of the Dakota Elite 8x32 I want to do, so here's a short review.

First the measured resolution is respectable for a binocular, about 5 arcsec in the left side and 5.5 in the right. A perfect 32mm optic would measure about 3.6 arcsec, but even some 32mm alpha binoculars don't do any better than 5. What appears to limit the resolution here is sloppy assembly. Both sides show astigmatism and coma in a 64x star test and the left side has an odd aberration I haven't seen before, which may be a turned down edge, but the underlying spherical aberration is actually quite low. I was able to eliminate most of the astigmatism (and the possible turned down edge) by stopping down the binocular to 24mm, which resulted in a pretty good looking star test except for the coma. That and the forgiveness of low magnification explain why the center field image looks quite sharp in daylight. Off-axis sharpness is good enough, not too different from a Zeiss 8x42 FL, maybe a little worse. Distortion is very similar to the Swarovski 8.5x42 SV. It looks like normal pincushion until about 75% from the center, then it reverses so the last 5 degrees or so are free of rectilinear distortion, but show angular magnification distortion which compresses objects at the field edge.

The two weakest areas of performance are light transmission and resistance to veiling glare. I'm including two photos that show the nature of the problems. The left photo shows the reflection of a light bulb returning from the some of the lenses and prisms of the Dakota (left) and a Zeiss 8x42 FL (right). The two largest reflections in each case come from the prisms. In the Dakota one of those is uncoated (large white reflection) and the blue one is bright enough to be a single layer coating. There is probably one other uncoated prism surface I wasn't able to see. The result is overall light transmission that I found slightly dimmer than an old Porro with single layer coating (Nikon 8x30 E), perhaps 75% or less. This isn't the first time I've seen this kind of corner cutting in an inexpensive Chinese binocular. I don't see much point in speculating over possible refinements to the coatings when the OEM doesn't even coat interior surfaces when they can get by with it.

The other photo, made through the eyepiece, shows the source of veiling glare, a bright unbaffled spacer behind or between objective elements, which looks like a thin crescent at the edge of the objective. In the binocular FOV the glare shows as a big fuzzy crescent of light filling about half of the field opposite a bright light source like the sun when the binocular is pointed within about 40 degrees of the light. This can be minimized by moving the binoculars laterally in front of the eyes a little to line up the prism aperture so that it covers the shiny side of the objective.

Eye relief is a bit short for eyeglass wearers. I measured about 11mm from the rubber eyecup in the down position, about 15mm from the glass. Happily, the aperture is a full 32mm, the magnification appears to really be 8x and the FOV appears to be about as specified.

Overall, I think this is a pretty decent pair of binoculars. Mine will probably go to a nephew.
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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 00:29   #15
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Henry,

Thank you for posting all of your findings with this binocular. I am was glad to see the last line or two as well. I hope your nephew enjoys them. Now I feel a bit better about the Celestron Nature sample that you had not working out quite as well.
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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 00:52   #16
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I've had a couple of days with the 7x28 and will offer the following to my previous comments.

Did you ever hire somebody for a job, somebody who looked good, had decent qualifications, and then did a more or less adequate job? Somebody who never got the hard assignments, but who was just good enough to keep around? That is how I view the Dakota Elite 7x28. I don't think it is as bad as I initially thought, but I will say this to anybody who is ordering a bunch of these for gifts. If you need six, order twelve, cherry pick through them and return the others. From what I see posted here, there is waaaaaaaaaaay tooooooo muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch smaple to sample variation here to meet even minimum muster.

I am not particularly bothered by CA, so I can live with what there is here. I am not too fussy about edge performance, but I concluded that the edge distortion I noted on mine is probably due to the fact that the fov is more like 330' rather than 376'.

These thing do offer a very nice size package, even though mine won't fit even the oversize pockets of a large pocketed safari or fishing shirt. If somebody would pick up this size glass, open up the fov and put really decent glass with up to date coatings, this would be a heck of a unit.

This unit comes up short against every 6-7x glass I can lay hands to to compare. It gets whacked by the 6x30 Yosemite, the 6.5xx32 Raptor, the 6.5x Fury, the 7x25 Swift Eaglet reverse porro I have, the 7x26 Bausch & Lomb, and forget about it being with the 7x36 Eaglet of the ZEN ED 2.

It is decent enough in the center field, and as a knockabout glass for use in dusty and wet farm use on the ATV, it does, what I need. Like the job applicant, what you may need is maybe less than what you would like. This 7x28 Dakota Elite is like that job candidate, just barely good enough to keep. Also, I have no faith in its ability to remain intact through the summer. Besides, if I returned the thing, somebody else would wind up with it in the newest recirculation of the ebay clearance bargains.
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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 03:19   #17
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Before we get too worked up about the optical shortcomings of the Dakota Elites remember they are a glass made to sell at the $100 price point. At the closeout price they are a great inexpensive first pair fir a beginning birder or a back up pair for rough weather birding.

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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 05:00   #18
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Before we get too worked up about the optical shortcomings of the Dakota Elites remember they are a glass made to sell at the $100 price point. At the closeout price they are a great inexpensive first pair fir a beginning birder or a back up pair for rough weather birding.

Charlie Schmalz
Charlie,

Trust me I'm not worked up here . I walked into this with my eyes wide open and got about what I expected to get, a cheap useable binocular. My point is to add a bit of reality here as those who got good specimens post their good comments and others buy based on that. As I emphasized in my post there is pretty obviously too much sample variation here and people need to NOT be thinking they can buy a potful as gifts and have a uniform set of binoculars. Just that nothing more.

Besides that, there is nothing ever produced better for a kids or beginners binocular at the $100 price point than the Leupold Yosemite.
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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 05:38   #19
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I definitely won't argue your last point Steve. I spent a great deal of time over the last week comparing the Dakota Elite 7x28s to everything else I have on hand. Their shortcomings are obvious compared to everything else except for maybe the Barska Huntmaster...but in that case I believe I have a poor specimen of the latter.

On the other hand when I compared them to a cheap little 8x21 Konus model that I picked up for my 5 year old to use (translation...beat up while walking through the woods) the Dakota Elites look as good as the Swarovisions.

As always I believe it to be a matter of perspective. I am not aware of any other $20 binocular that performs at this level...regardless of individual unit quality.

Not being argumentative in the least...just expanding the context in which these binoculars are being discussed.
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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 06:02   #20
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I can't understand why Pentax doesn't make a 7 x 28 version of their 9 x 28? My son crawled all over Northern Chile, Southern Peru and neighboring Bolivia with them last year, saw a Condor with them, and beat them unmercifully and they still are ticking. They even got momentarily dunked in Lake Titicaca and survived. They are bouncing around in my car now.

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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 06:18   #21
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I would love to see it as well Bob. The only other 7x28 I have seen recently (short of that military reticle model) was the new IF Minox unit. Looks "cute"...now if it just wasn't IF.

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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 16:36   #22
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Ceasar,

I second the Pentax 7x28 comment. One of those would be just what I want. I have zero interest in 9x in a small binocular, zero. I'm not so sure a 6x28 might not be even better.

Frank,

It is certainly a matter of perspective, and I don't think you are being argumentative, and I'm not trying to be here either .

It simply seems to me that the purchaser of one of these $19.99 "bargains" has about an equal chance of getting a whale of a deal on a $100+ quality glass or spending it on a "deal" on a $49.99 glass. From my perspective, one of the scenarios is a deal, the other...not so much. I think the variation apparent in the comments is precisely the reason we see these on the clearance/closeout counter. I'd like to hear from some of those who've bought several to see what their take on product variation is. I still don't think there is anything "wrong" with mine. Both barrels are virtually identical. In my experience a bum binocular usually has its problem in widely different performance between barrels.

I'm tempted to send these to Charles at Zen Ray and say "here, these are about what I want, but... fix these things and put me first on the list for the new ZRS 7x28".
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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 19:17   #23
Bob A (SD)
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As always I believe it to be a matter of perspective. I am not aware of any other $20 binocular that performs at this level...regardless of individual unit quality.
Perspective and expectations :) I simply wanted a cheap but functionally competent pair of compact (pocketable if possible) bins to replace my aging 9x21 UCF-Minis. My pair of Dakota DEs will fill that bill nicely, although they only fit some of the pockets I was shooting for. They certainly loose out in critical comparison to all my other bins but I never expected otherwise. They're not trash either, performing optically very satisfactorily, which makes the closeout acquisition price the bargain that was hoped for :)

And yes, I'd love to see Charles give us a great low power pocket bino too!
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Bins: Swaro 7x42 B SLC; ZenRay 7x36 ED2; Pentax 8x32DCF-WP/9x21UCF; Minox BD6.5x32 IF; Leupold GR 9x35IF/8x30Yosemite; Dakota 7x28; Binolux 7x35s 11 & 10.5; ZOMZ 6x30 12.5

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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 21:10   #24
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Steve,

Please add the following requests on your note to Charles....

- dielectric prism coating
- ED glass objectives
- better internal baffling

Oh, and around a $200 or under price point.

All I can think of for now.

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Old Sunday 31st July 2011, 21:40   #25
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Steve,

Please add the following requests on your note to Charles....

- dielectric prism coating
- ED glass objectives
- better internal baffling

Oh, and around a $200 or under price point.

All I can think of for now.

Well, the ZRS standard was good enough, despite lack of ED (didn't want to push my luck) . I suppose Charles just loves another complication tossed into his path.

That said this physical size (maybe a tad more svelte) I think has a lot going for it.

Give me a hand here Frank, send Charles one of yours too...
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