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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 00:16   #1
johnf3f
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Compact Binoculars

Which should I buy??
I am on the lookout for a good pair of compact binoculars and am having some trouble finding a reliable source of reviews. I can find plenty of reviews for 30mm + bins but little for the small stuff.
What I am after is a genuinely useful pair of small binoculars for general use (I have a pair of Swarovsky EL bins for serious use) so I want something smaller/cheaper that will still give top quality results. I am quite taken by the Swaovsky 8 x 20s, brilliant for their size and I can get a pair V cheap, but I would like to know are there others I should be looking at?
I am not brand sensitive, what I want is a top quality view within the limitations of a small (ish) pair of bins.
Any input from experienced users would be appreciated.
Thanks!


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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 00:38   #2
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8x20 Nikon premiers.
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 00:39   #3
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You really only have 4 choices at 8 x 20. Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski and Nikon. All are expensive. The Nikon's are the best buy in this class. Pentax, however, makes a very small reverse Porro Prism 8.5 x 21 which you might consider. It also has very close focusing ability. It costs a bit over $100.00 US funds. And the Opticron 8 x 25 also gets outstanding reviews as does the Olympus 8 x 25. Both are reverse porros but are visibly larger than the 8 x 20's which can fit in most shirt pockets. (I have a Zeiss 8 x 20 Victory in the pocket of the Golf Shirt I am wearing right now. An 8 x 25 reverse porro won't fit there.)

Bob

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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 02:21   #4
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You may want to try and compare the Bushnell 7x26 Elite E2,( formerly known as the Bausch & Lomb 7x26 Audubon Custom).
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 02:42   #5
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Several threads here on this. Pretty much ALL sub-25mm bins SUCK, no matter the brand or how much you want to pay. Therefore, I recommend you spend as little as possible to get the best mix of weight/size/bulk and optical features you want, beit a roof (phase coated at minimum) or a reverse porro.

The Nikon Micron's are always cute, as are their Uber-expensive Titanium model. I have a Canon 5x15 cigarette pack-sized that is decent in a pinch but it is disconitued. Good enough for the theatre or a museum but that is about their limit. Recently bought a Bushnell Excursion 8x28mm off Ebay for US$70 to use for hiking. Pretty good value with glare/vignette being it's only noticeable shortcoming. Unusually wide FoV for this class. Closer to a Leica 8x32 in size though than the typical 25mm class. Finally the Kowa BD8x25 is probably the absolute smallest/lightest single hinge available BUT I have yet to find a demo sample that did not have issues, even in Kowa's own showroom!

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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 05:15   #6
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You may want to try and compare the Bushnell 7x26 Elite E2,( formerly known as the Bausch & Lomb 7x26 Audubon Custom).
Agree here. Probably the best reverse porro of them all.

You might also consider 10 x 25. Fields of view are narrow and again you are pretty much limited to the big 4 if you want good ones. Here again the Nikon Premier is a best buy.

Bob

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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 05:36   #7
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I will take the counter opinion to RJM.

The best 25s deliver a fantastic image considering their size and the ability to travel with you all the time.

Therefore you should spend as much as possible to get the image you are satisfied with. Poor quality small bins are so bad they even give the good ones a bad reputation!

Comparison before the purchase will deliver more happiness than comparison after the purchase.

You can only pick 2 - Better Cheaper Smaller.

Inferior quality will deliver limitless dissatisfaction. My math shows It's cheaper to start at the top than it is to buy your way up the ladder to your desired level. So don't cut corners. Don't purchase junk.

Quality portable bins (which are not a substitute for larger bins) are worth their weight in gold.
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 06:15   #8
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Look at the new Opticron binoculars 6x32 Traveller Mg. The smallest lightest full sized binoculars I am aware of. I have had a pair for two months, they are outstanding.

The low power produces a large exit pupil making placement less critical. The lightweight magnesium alloy chassis gives them a weight similar to many compact binoculars. The optics are of a genuine high resolution standard. The image produced is surprisingly bright and stable.
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 07:01   #9
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We have hashed this around many times in many threads if you do a search. Here's a link to the "can a small bino really deliver" thread that had a lot of info on one of our last go arounds.
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=187490

Many people do not like the small double hinge alphas (ie: 8x20 & 10x25) because they are kind of a pain for some to operate, are not great in low light, and are a little more difficult with eye placement issues, not only because of the small EP, but also the small occulars. I've had the Zeiss Victory's, Nikon LXL's and Alpen Wings ED's and got rid of all but one of them for those reasons. For a small bino I decided to stay with my 6x25 & 7x26 Bushnell & B&L Customs and 8x25 Olympus Tracker reverse porros, as they have excellent optics, larger FOV, better DOF, and are easier to operate than the small double hinge alphas.

But everyone is different, so good luck.

Tom
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 08:46   #10
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Opticron dba oasis 8x21 are an excellent bin. I have a pair and recommend them 100%. They are a compact bin yet they still feel like a larger pair. Ger.
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 11:04   #11
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I agree with Tcv15 and Squidge. Compacts are no substitute for 32 or 40mm binos, but their advantage is simple - you can carry them with you all the time, when not "birding" per se. You are therefore quite likely to see more birds through your "always-to-hand" compacts than through your bigger binos. Poor quality compacts will irritate, as your main binos are top-class. You can get quality optics in a compact size in a few models already mentioned.
I'll only refer to compacts I've owned over the last decade because others will advise differently.
Ger's Opticron DBA Oasis 8x21 are very good optically with a wide FOV, and they feel like 8x32mm in the hand, i.e. not "fiddly". If you can go up to 25mm, the reverse-porro models referred to won't disappoint optically (Opticron Taiga 8x25, Bushnell Elite Custom Compact 8x26mm, Vortex Vanquish 8x26). However, if you really need something that fits in a shirt pocket, you'll need roof-compacts. The tiniest of these when folded is the Leica Ultravid 8x20, but it isn't cheap. The Nikon 8x20 HGL is comparable optically (some would say superior), but it is chunkier when folded and has the focusser at the "far" end of the bridge. The Zeiss Victory 8x20 is also tiny, very comfortable in the hand (being single-hinge), but although bright and clear, I didn't like the amount of "flare" it delivered.
Having been through all of these models, I've settled on the Leica Ultravid 8x20, which I prefer for it's waterproofing and compact size when folded, as I use it when cycling.
Ultimately you'll have to decide on just how small you need and whether you want waterproofing. After that it's a question of comparing features like focusser position, ergonomics and optical quality. Try to compare them in a store and save yourself a lot of hassle.

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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 11:18   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnf3f View Post
Which should I buy??
I am quite taken by the Swaovsky 8 x 20s, brilliant for their size and I can get a pair V cheap
Sounds like a no brainer to me...If the V means VERY,seems like You have a deal...Get them ,Try them ,and If you dont like them, Ebay them
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 12:21   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnf3f View Post
What I am after is a genuinely useful pair of small binoculars for general use (I have a pair of Swarovsky EL bins for serious use) so I want something smaller/cheaper that will still give top quality results.
That is a tough niche to fill, if you are seeking a performance level the equal of your regular binos. Perhaps the easy route is not to a bino, but to a monocular?
Leica makes a "shirt pocket" (without the case) coat pocket (with the case) monocular in the 8x20 size, I think it called the Monovid. It goes for about $500 USD. It also has a magnetic attaching on/off front lense that add's a macro/extreme close focus capability. I would like to have one but the price for item for me is daunting.
Pro-con: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?p=1907183

http://www.birdwatch.co.uk/channel/r...11&review=2855

http://majid.info/blog/leica-monovid-review/

I use 2 compacts myself. One is either the Bushnell 7x26 Elite E2 Custom or the earlier version, the Bausch & Lomb 7x26 Audubon Custom. 7 deg. field, reverse porroprism design. If you Google around you will see they are generally considered the best birding compact, but of course try before buy if possible. My use? If traveling to a city bound destination,and siting just to the left of the office computer. These are not shirt pocket, may be coat pocket.
Otherwise, my go-anywhere is a pair of 8x30 Zeiss (out of production Dialyt/Classic BGAT-P etc).

Also, another compact. This one is even carried sometimes with a larger bino in the field. Pentax Papilio 8.5 x21. Close focus is around 17 inches. If these ever caught on, you would see insect watching forums on the Web It is essentially a reverse porro inside a "shell", with a unique converging lens design, allowing a stereoscopic view at close focus. Actually, due to this system (similar to the Greenough Design in stereo-microscopes), at max close focus, the actual magnification is 10x. It has a tripod screw hole on its center bottom, which can be handy. If you want true "general use", try these.
At normal viewing distances, the optical quality is kind of like a $300+- roof without ED glass and with a shallow DOF though.
They run about $100 USD. Depth of field is very shallow at all focus distances. This threw me off when using them at normal distance. But once i started to precisely focus, i was surprised how good they were.

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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 15:00   #14
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Leica makes a "shirt pocket" (without the case) coat pocket (with the case) monocular in the 8x20 size, I think it called the Monovid.
A good option if you can hold a monocular comfortably - optically, the Monovid is a jewel. However, I had it for a while (thinking it would be ideal bicycle shirt-pocket kit), but found I couldn't hold it steady - very "fiddly", and I needed two hands gripping it to get anything like an acceptable view. It costs about the same as the Nikon HGL 8x20.
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 15:07   #15
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Pretty much ALL sub-25mm bins SUCK, no matter the brand or how much you want to pay.
Agree to that. I have the Nikon HG 8x20, which are very nice, one of the best compacts (only the Ultravid is clearly better, but condsiderably more expensive) but I almost never use them. When I want a light binocular, I take a 32mm with me.
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 18:56   #16
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...What I am after is a genuinely useful pair of small binoculars for general use (I have a pair of Swarovsky EL bins for serious use) so I want something smaller/cheaper that will still give top quality results. I am quite taken by the Swaovsky 8 x 20s, brilliant for their size and I can get a pair V cheap, but I would like to know are there others I should be looking at?...
Many have suggested reverse-porros, but if you tried and liked the Swarovski 8x20, I think you are asking about pocket roofs. They can't be beat for small size, and the very best of them--Leica 8x20 Ultravid, Zeiss 8x20 Victory, Nikon 8x20 LX, and the Swarovski--are, I find, _very_ functional, especially if you learn to unfold them properly, don't press the little eyecups into your eyes or eyelids (not a problem if you wear glasses), and wear a hat to cut stray light from the ocular end. I like reverse-porros fine (and own some of the best), but unlike most folks, I prefer pocket roofs (smaller size, better performance against the light), despite being very picky about my optics.

Personally, I've not been as impressed with the Swarovski pockets as with their current competitors. The Swaro used to be arguably the best pocket roofs, but that was before any of the current competing models existed. I've heard that the model has improved over the years with better coatings, but I've tried the Swaros on numerous occasions and always found them inferior to the latest top models from L/Z/N, especially with respect to brightness and looking at backlit birds. If you can get a really good deal on them, they might be the obvious choice, but if you are looking at a used set you should investigate their age since the model has been around for a really long time.

My favorites are the Leica Ultravid BL and Zeiss Victory. They are optically superb, very sleek, and ergonomically perfect for me.

--AP
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 19:02   #17
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WOW!
Thanks for all the replies, you have given me a LOT of research to do!
Before I bought the ELs my bins were a pair of Nikon Monarch 8x42 and Nikon 10x25 Sportlight compacts. The 10x25s were bought to help with my primary interest - photography, being small and light and just about good enough to find things to photograph.
The only, quality, compact bins I have tried were the 8x20 (which are too cute for words) and a used pair of 10x25 Leicas. I preferred the Swaros, probably because of the lower magnification, but they both showed me that small bins can be very useful (though no replacement for full size).
I think I will spend the next week or two tracking down some of the suggested models to try.
Thanks again for your input, there are a number of models you have mentioned that I would never have thought of!
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 19:09   #18
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A good option if you can hold a monocular comfortably - optically, the Monovid is a jewel. However, I had it for a while (thinking it would be ideal bicycle shirt-pocket kit), but found I couldn't hold it steady - very "fiddly", and I needed two hands gripping it to get anything like an acceptable view. It costs about the same as the Nikon HGL 8x20.
The other problem with monoculars, besides holding them steady (esp. while focusing) is that they only use one eye. The brain can extract much more info from two eyes. Given the challenges of using tiny bins, and that birding is an activity that frequently tests the limits of bins, eyes, and brain in making IDs (e.g. of briefly or distantly seen birds in variable lighting) I recommend bins over monoculars.

--AP
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 19:52   #19
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What happened with the hype around the Alpen Wings ED 8x20?

Anyway, I have a Nikon Mikron 6x15 and it's way too small to operate fast, easily and securely. I owned the Minox BV 8x25 BRW but exchanged it for the Bushnell Excursion 8x28.
The Excursion is for me the most feasible compromise between ergonomics, portability and ability to deliver a wide-field and relaxed view.

I dare not buy a smaller bin again, but if I'd had smaller hands I'd probably consider it again.

//L
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 20:06   #20
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The other problem with monoculars, ...
Yes they are problematic. I do not recommend consideration of one, as i did above, very often. BTW, the latest issue of BWD has a rave review of the Monovid. I think the long to close focus monocular (or any monoculars) may not be, for reasons you and others point out, the best choice for recreational birders looking for a small carry.
this option is it appears from Googling around a few months back, most attractive to the vocational/avocational naturalist/scientist type of user. When you just have a good distance - to - macro optical capability with you. If a person is bird or butterfly watcher, one of the smaller binos is probably best.
The Monovid is indicated if you want a very small do it all, excepting astronomy of course
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 21:46   #21
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Sounds like a no brainer to me...If the V means VERY,seems like You have a deal...Get them ,Try them ,and If you dont like them, Ebay them
Not certain (yet!) how big the V in very should be - but my ELs were significantly cheaper than a used pair - so got to be worth a look!
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 21:49   #22
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You may want to try and compare the Bushnell 7x26 Elite E2,( formerly known as the Bausch & Lomb 7x26 Audubon Custom).
Of course I had to snoop about for the price and found a return at the Amazon warehouse for $152. Couldn't resist and was curious how these and the Papilio 6.5x21 compared. The Elite won't be able to close focus to 18", but 7' isn't the end of the world and along w/ED 26mm glass it should perform nicely.
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 22:31   #23
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O The Elite ....but 7' isn't the end of the world and along w/ED 26mm glass it should perform nicely.
My newer pair of 7x26 Elite (2-3 years old) are not ED. Perhaps they added that?
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Old Friday 4th November 2011, 23:07   #24
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Amazon throws that out there as the 8/10x42 Elite is ED and listed as such on the Bushnell website. I didn't notice and only quoted Amazon,

A 60 plus year masterwork of ruggedness, clarity and light transmission, our Elite binoculars represent the pinnacle of optical performance for today's outdoor enthusiast. Want bright? Fully multi-coated and featuring XTR technology, our advanced fusion hybrid lens system delivers 99.7% light transmission per lens. The result is unmatched edge to edge clarity, contrast and color true imagery pushed to the highest levels with the use of premium ED Prime glass. For clarity in the foulest conditions, our patented RainGuard(R) HD coating eliminates lens fogging, boosts brightness and scatters moisture even faster than the original RainGuard. The view is unbelievable, the technology is unmistakably Bushnell. Features twist-up eyecups fully multi-coated including ED Prime glass and Bak-4 prisms. Comfort neck strap and custom-molded case is included. Also features standard size class with a center focus system.

Problem being that I didn't realize is the reverse porros don't include XTR technology, ED glass nor are they waterproof. I get the rainguard HD.

I should watch the Amazon descriptions more carefully in the future and check them against Manufacturers specs.
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Old Saturday 5th November 2011, 07:21   #25
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I also own a Papilio and can't say it is compact, being so much thicker than the Bushnell.
But OTOH it fits my large hands quite well.
It also suffers from a quite low transmission, most likely because it's not fully multi-coated.

//L
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