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Old Tuesday 20th September 2011, 15:43   #1
LucaPCP
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Advice on light waterproof binoculas

I do a lot of hiking and cross-country skiing, and I am looking for a good pair of waterproof binoculars to carry always with me. I want binoculars that I can always have with me, as "permanent residents" of my backpack, for trail scopingh and wildlife viewing. Weight is thus very important. Right now I have a pair of Olympus Roamer 8x21 that are surprisingly good and light (5 oz!). I am looking for a pair of waterproof binoculars for when the weather is not good, and for kayaking.

The two models I am most looking at are the Nikon Prostaff 8x25 and the Pentax DCF SW 8x25. I have read the warnings about cheap roof prisms... the Pentax have phase coating (unlike the Minox ones), and are 10oz. Their field of view does not seem fantastic though: 288 ft at 1000 ft. The Nikons are better, with 330 ft, but weigh 12 oz, which is borderline (if the weather is not great, I might be tempted to leave them home to travel lighter, defeating the purpose).

Does anyone have advice on how the Pentax compare optically to the Nikons?
Are the Pentax a good substitute for the Leica 8x20, which are what I guess I should be getting if price was no objection?

Last edited by LucaPCP : Tuesday 20th September 2011 at 15:45.
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Old Tuesday 20th September 2011, 15:56   #2
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I have tried the Nikon on several occasions. I will say that they are probably my favorite 8x20-something reverse porro in terms of price versus performance. I have no experience with the Pentax.

In truth I am having a bit of difficulty relating to your particular situation as all of my binoculars weigh significantly more than the models you listed. True compact binoculars are not really my cup of tea. The smallest that I own and would recommend is the Bushnell Excursion 8x28 but that is 15 oz. I am sure that the 5 oz binocular is a dream to carry and I doubt the 12 oz Pro Staff would be that notable of a difference from a weight perspective but then, again, when we are talking this lightweight I am at a bit of a loss.

Might you consider a lightweight monocular as well?
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Old Tuesday 20th September 2011, 16:25   #3
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I wanted some extremely compact and ultra lightweight compacts for carrying in my pocket last summer. In the end, I went for the Ziess 8x20 (~7 ounces) and love them. The weight is perfect and I can even put them in my jeans pocket. However, they are expensive. The other model which I tried and thought was good was the Opticron DBA Oasis 8x21 (11 ounces) (http://www.at-infocus.co.uk/opticron.html#bins) however, I guess that would be difficult to get in the states. Sorry not to be of more help.
Good luck
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Old Tuesday 20th September 2011, 18:45   #4
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I haven't seen the Pentax but it's a safe bet they aren't as good as the Leica UV, which is a certified marvel (other alphas are worth a look too, but I haven't seen them).

The Pentax do have dual hinges though, which will keep them compact. They have a ton of eye relief if you wear glasses, but it cuts into the FOV, which will seem narrow compared to the Leica and Nikon.

The Nikon Prostaff is probably better than the Pentax optically (FOV and sharpness) but it is kind of a chunk. I tried it for hiking/backpacking and returned it because it was bigger/heavier than I wanted to carry. It appeared to be built like a tank though.

You can often get a pretty good deal on eBay for one of the Leicas--mid-$400's maybe. I had my eye on a like-new 10x25 UV that just went for $480.

Try to see all three. They are quite different binoculars and you might be surprised which you like best.

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Old Tuesday 20th September 2011, 20:25   #5
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Thanks for all the advice!

I have a pair of Canon IS 8x25, which is a bit heavy for hiking and not weatherproof, and I compared them with Leica 8x20 BC from a friend. I noticed that the Canon are much easier for long-term (even one-minute-long) viewing, and I think it might be due to the larger exit pupil. Due to that, I am wondering whether I would not find it easier to use 8x25 binoculars... and I am now looking at:

- Pentax 8x25 DCF SW

- Pentax 9x28 DCF LV (there seems to be many people who love these; I wonder if they tried also the 8x25?).

- Bushnell 7x26 Elite Custom

I tried the Nikon 8x25mm Trailblazer, and they were quite inferior to the Olympus Roamer 8x21. I just don't want my Pentax to be worse than my Olympus Roamer!

If anyone has advice about lightweight, large-exit-pupil, waterproof binoculars, do let me know!

Last edited by LucaPCP : Tuesday 20th September 2011 at 20:54. Reason: added the Bushnell to the comparison
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Old Tuesday 20th September 2011, 22:24   #6
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Much as I love my Bushnell 7x28 I would say they are unsuitable for you activities. Not waterproof, slightly bulky and I wouldn't like to risk dropping it. My wife has the Pentax 9x28 LV. By comparison, the view is narrowish, the field curvature a bit pronounced, but it is bright, sharp, with good colour rendition and pretty compact and feels like it might take a knock or two. I guess 13oz is a bit heavier than ideal but I think it would be a pretty good choice; specially at Cameraland's sale price.
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=211159

Otherwise get two pairs of the 10oz Olympus PCI 8x25. I prefer it to the Nikon Prostaff 8x25, not far behind the Bushnell, but it's not waterproof, so you'll need a spare while the other dries out.

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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 02:27   #7
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Much as I love my Bushnell 7x28 I would say they are unsuitable for you activities. Not waterproof, slightly bulky and I wouldn't like to risk dropping it. My wife has the Pentax 9x28 LV. By comparison, the view is narrowish, the field curvature a bit pronounced, but it is bright, sharp, with good colour rendition and pretty compact and feels like it might take a knock or two. I guess 13oz is a bit heavier than ideal but I think it would be a pretty good choice; specially at Cameraland's sale price.
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=211159

Otherwise get two pairs of the 10oz Olympus PCI 8x25. I prefer it to the Nikon Prostaff 8x25, not far behind the Bushnell, but it's not waterproof, so you'll need a spare while the other dries out.

David
I would have mentioned the reverse porro 8x25 Tracker but it's not WP. Good as a Leica 8x20 UV for doodly squat $. They can bury me with what's left of mine. My second that is. Heck, when you hit Class III rapids, throw it in the dry well. You won't be scrutinizing the scenery anyway.

I tried the 9x28 DCF LV but it is a bit of a tunnel. Not a bad choice though. I'd give it a second chance.

Funny you should mention the Bushnell 7x26. Mine arrives tomorrow. I'll let you know how I feel about it. I put it off for years because it's not waterproof.

LucaPCP you have stumbled upon one of the last great binocular quests--for me at least: the search for the best compact.

You are correct that exit pupil is a big criterion. The 8x20's are "fiddly" in that regard. 3mm exit pupils seem to be the minimum that allows for much "ease of viewing."

The Vortex 8x28 Viper is still on the horizon. 11.8 oz. Pricey, and narrow FOV, but maybe worth it.

The jury is still out,

Mark
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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 04:04   #8
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For less than $100 a Leupold 6x30 Yosemite is very light, waterproof, and has surprisingly good optics. So far I have banged mine around a lot without any alignment problems. Many people believe 6 power is not enough. Just my opinion, but I question whether they have given that level of power a real test. If you have been hiking, x-cty skiing, or kayaking, your pulse will be strong enough to interfere with steady viewing with higher powers. John
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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 05:17   #9
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Thank you all for the great replies!

Yes, I have the Olympus 8x21 Roamer, which is the little brother of the 8x25 Tracker, and I can believe how good the tracker is (at 280g vs. 170g). In truth, the Roamer is for my daughters, who like to hike as light as possible (they are young), and love nature.

For myself, I can carry a bit more weight, and I wanted a pair I could happily pull out even e.g. if it snows a bit or drizzles... and more importantly, attach to the front backpack straps so that they are quickly accessible... so I ordered after reading the advice, a pair of Vortex Viper 8x28. I have a mixed feeling about this: I could easily have bought two (or three!) Olympus Tracker for the price, so I do feel a bit foolish... but I took the plunge, and I hope that they turn out to be as nice as some reviews claim.

Many many thanks again! --Luca
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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 10:54   #10
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Good deal. Report back with your impressions. I'd be interested.

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Old Wednesday 21st September 2011, 12:33   #11
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If you are considering 8x28s then please look at the Bushnell Excursions. At 15 ounces they are a little heavier than your other choices but the optics are the best I have tried in the under-30 mm class. 400+ foot field of view, decent eye relief, phasecoated and only $70 on the usual auction site. Surprisingly I also enjoy their handling too.
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 01:27   #12
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LucaPCP:

I have 8x28 and 10x28 Vortex Fury's. Several months ago I was able to compare my 8x28 Fury's with the new Vortex Viper 8x28's at the Portland Audubon store. I spent about an half hour comparing, both indoors and outdoors, these very similar binoculars. My conclusion, was that they were virtually the same; although the Viper's had a slight edge in depth of field.

I've owned my 8x28's for over three years (paid $250, list plus sales tax) and I bought my 10x28's recently when they were discontinued for $140. I continue to use my 8x28's often, but the 10x's are too dim unless there is good light. Although I'm very fond of my 8x28's, I've always thought that they were overpriced. $320 for the Viper's is too much in my view.

You have purchased a quality binocular in your Viper 8x28's; however, test them out thoroughly, make sure that they are right for you. At 11.8 oz they are light for 28's and they have an extremely deep depth of field. Their field of view is not as wide as other 28's, but that has never been important to me as I find it easier and more comfortable to turn my head a bit than to shift my eyes to the edge of the view. I like most people look through the center of my binoculars. All Vortex 8x have excellent eyerelief, which is important if you wear eyeglasses. If not, their eyecups are very good.

Just be aware that minor annoyances in small binoculars become major issues the longer you own them. Small binoculars must fit you and your need precisely, otherwise they will get left behind. I've tried the Bushnell Excursion 8x36, but not the 8x28's and I've never seen a pair of Pentax 9x28's. So I can not compare them to my Fury's or the Viper's. However at $320, there may be 28's or 27's or even 25's that offer more bang for the buck. So make sure that you want to keep them; if not - send them back.

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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 01:45   #13
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The Columbia Back Country 8 x 25, which was made by Kreuger, would have been ideal. They are no more and Kreuger doesn't make an equivalent one either. But it was a heck of a good binocular!

http://www.cameralandny.com/optics2/...ackcountry8x25

Check around the internet. Maybe you will get lucky. I got 2 of them and my son uses one. He gave me back my 9 x 28 Pentax which he had used Back Packing around Peru, Bolivia and Northern Chile and took these after he tried them.

Bob

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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 04:06   #14
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Luca

Since you have ordered the 8x28 Vipers, then I guess you will have to determine if they suit you for the high price. A lot of non eyeglass wearers report eye relief problems (myself included) with the 28mm Vortex's because the eyecups do not twist out far enough to get the proper ER. I have to hold them slightly away from my eyes to avoid blackouts. Like Bearclawthedonut, I also did some comparisons on the 8x28 Fury vs Vipers, and found the optical differences almost negligible. The Vipers have a slightly better close focus and a very minor improvement in the handling of CA, but not enough in my mind to justify the much higher price.

You got a lot of good advice on a lot of different bins, which are as a whole some of the best of their kind.

I'll throw my vote in with FrankD for the 8x28 Bushnell Excursions. For the $70 asking price, these are truly a surprising little optical wonder that does everything extremely well. The sweetspot on these gems are not much smaller than the entire FOV on the Vipers and Furys.

And I still have my 6x25 & 7x26 Bushnell Customs and 8x25 Trackers, but they are not waterproof, and are outstanding little reverse porros nonetheless. The 8x25 Prostaffs are not as good, but are WP.

Tom
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 04:10   #15
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The Columbia Back Country 8 x 25, which was made by Kreuger, would have been ideal. They are no more and Kreuger doesn't make an equivalent one either. But it was a heck of a good binocular!

http://www.cameralandny.com/optics2/...ackcountry8x25

Check around the internet. Maybe you will get lucky. I got 2 of them and my son uses one. He gave me back my 9 x 28 Pentax which he had used Back Packing around Peru, Bolivia and Northern Chile and took these after he tried them.

Bob
Bob
Amazon is still selling the Columbia Backcountry 8x25's for about $87. Kruger is now marketing the Backcountry under their own banner, and I see places like SWFA selling the 8x25's for about $99. The Columbia/Kruger were advertised with silver coated prisms, whereas the Kruger Backcountry's don't say.

I still like the 8x28 Excursions better, but the Krugers are the best of the good phase coated 8x25's out there IMO.

Tom

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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 09:06   #16
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On the subject of the 8x28 excursions, I just bought some and they are a real enigma. How the heck can a cheap non ED roof be this good? In good light they are amazingly sharp. I've had various significantly more expensive phase coated roofs that were just pants in comparison.
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Old Friday 23rd September 2011, 04:33   #17
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Where can I find information on the 8x28 Bushnell Excursion? They sound extremely interesting, yet when I checked on several sites (Eagle Optics, Binoculars.com, ...) I could find no mention of them.

I don't wear glasses, and if the Vortex Viper eye-cups don't extend far enough, I would have to return them. I found no mention of this in the Vortex Viper reviews I could find on the web, so I hope it won't be an issue (I did read this for other Vortex models). The Pentax 8x28 also sound like a worthy alternative.

Thanks for the advice, I will let you know how I like them when they arrive!
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Old Friday 23rd September 2011, 14:39   #18
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Luca,

What type of info are you looking for?

A quick google search found a few websites that still carry them. Here is one:

http://www.code3tactical.com/bushnel...rs-240828.aspx

The specs/description are listed there. I did see it at several other commercial sites for as low as $82 but I would suggest buying from that gentleman/dealer on Ebay. I will see if I can dig it up. He relists a new one every week. Price was $69.99 plus shipping.

....in case it wasn't mentioned previously, Bushnell discontinued them but they are still available at several retailers.
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Old Friday 23rd September 2011, 14:40   #19
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Here you go.....

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bushnell-Exc...item415d92958e
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Old Friday 23rd September 2011, 15:24   #20
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Bushnell discontinued the Excursion line which had 28 & 32mm binos, and brought out the redesigned Excursion EX, but the smallest bino in that lineup was 7 & 8x36. I imagine Bushnell phased out the 28's as they were too expensive to make for that market segment.

Here is a link to a PDF of the 2009 Bushnell catalog which shows the specs and features:

http://www.bushnell.com/downloads/ca...Binoculars.pdf
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 04:24   #21
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Frank D:

You are far braver than I. I would NEVER expose my any of my credit cards to PayPal, which is as I understand is a requirement to make purchases on ebay (as ebay owns paypal). I salute your courage.

Have you seen any reviews on the Vanguard Spirit ED 8x36? It has intriguing specs. 4.9" tall, 18.69 oz, 17 mm of eyerelief and ED glass all for $280. I wonder if it is worth a try? I've seen a couple of good reviews on the Vanguard Endever series (which like the new ZR ED3 is too heavy for me), but nothing about the Spirit ED series. Things too good to be true are generally not. Still, I guess it could be done with a polycarbonate frame. Vanguard's promotional photos appear to sugest that the usable eyerelief might be a good bit less than 17mm's due to the eyecup design?

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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 05:54   #22
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Frank D:

You are far braver than I. I would NEVER expose my any of my credit cards to PayPal, which is as I understand is a requirement to make purchases on ebay (as ebay owns paypal). I salute your courage.

Have you seen any reviews on the Vanguard Spirit ED 8x36? It has intriguing specs. 4.9" tall, 18.69 oz, 17 mm of eyerelief and ED glass all for $280. I wonder if it is worth a try? I've seen a couple of good reviews on the Vanguard Endever series (which like the new ZR ED3 is too heavy for me), but nothing about the Spirit ED series. Things too good to be true are generally not. Still, I guess it could be done with a polycarbonate frame. Vanguard's promotional photos appear to sugest that the usable eyerelief might be a good bit less than 17mm's due to the eyecup design?

bearclawthedonut
After over 10 years on ebay and PP I've never had a problem, and I've never heard or read anything about them having any financial info compromised. But I do have a dedicated bank account and debit card that I use exclusively for Paypal.

Have a look at the 8x36 Bushnell Legend Ultra HD which is a very nice bino. ER is advertised as 15.4mm, but I have not had a problem with my bifocals or progressives, although I generally don't use glasses but test every bino with them. With the $50 rebate, the net cost comes to around $150-$160 or so.

Tom
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Old Monday 26th September 2011, 01:06   #23
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Luca
Bushnell discontinued the Excursion line which had 28 & 32mm binos, and brought out the redesigned Excursion EX, but the smallest bino in that lineup was 7 & 8x36. I imagine Bushnell phased out the 28's as they were too expensive to make for that market segment.

Here is a link to a PDF of the 2009 Bushnell catalog which shows the specs and features:

http://www.bushnell.com/downloads/ca...Binoculars.pdf
Thanks! I see however that the Bushnell Excursion 7x28 is a bit out of my weight range.
I think if the Vortex won't suit me, I will try the Pentax 9x28 or DCF SW 8x25...
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Old Monday 26th September 2011, 02:14   #24
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Luca,

I researched this last Spring in prep for hiking season here in Japan. I am also into ultralight backpacking and count grams in my pack. I have spent silly money just to save 100g too!

I do not consider any of the reverse porros as they are generally way too bulky in a 25mm size. Any bino with smaller objective lenses are really special purpose and generally too dim for nature views.

The lightest/most compact fully waterproof roof with phase coatings is the Kowa BD8x25GR at 320g (11.3oz). I am a big Kowa fan and really wanted these to work as I can get them for ~$150 here but unfortunately, I found their image quality lacking, especially the relatively narrow 6.3 field of view (FoV) for their price.

I have never seen the similar sized Vortex Viper so have no comment.

#2 is the Pentax 9x28 at 365g (12.9oz). It too has a narrow tunnel-like 5.6 FoV that should be sharp to the edge but unfortunately is not.

#3 is the Bushnell Excursion. It weighs 486g (17.1oz) including the lens caps, rainguard, and snap-in strap holders or 446g (15.7oz) in its bare state. This binocular has a considerably larger Wide Angle 8 FoV with optics I would say are very good to excellent across most of the FoV. It really is the best choice at US$70 as the other choices will cost 2x-4x MORE $$ and are optically inferior.

Other ways to save weight that are a more efficient use of funds if you have to spend at all. Carrying 120ml less water is all you have to do. Heck, even just getting a haircut can make the difference!

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Old Monday 26th September 2011, 05:34   #25
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Why don't you just get one of the top alpha's? You will have to scratch for a few extra bucks but in the long run they will be worth it to you. These Nikon 8 x 20 Premiers are probably the least expensive of the group. They are waterproof, weigh less than 10 ounces, have a 350' FOV and have almost edge to edge sharpness. I have the 10 x 25 version so I can confirm the edge to edge sharpness.

http://www.cameralandny.com/optics/n...page=nikon7506

Bob
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