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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Reviews by mfunnell

Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • sharp, good colour, fast-focusing, close-focusing, good stabilisation
Cons
  • none
I bought mine to replace my MkI version (which I dearly loved for many years) essentially for it's faster focus (my copy of the MkI was very sharp so the MkII was at best a minor improvement in that regard) - especially when used with the 1.4x Extender III on my Canon 7D2. That lens and camera combination (with or without extender) is excellent and the improvement in focus speed and accuracy is considerably more than just marginal. An unexpected but much-appreciated bonus is the ability to focus closely, which is great for insects and other small things (especially with the extender). In the field, just wandering around, that really reduces the need to swap out to more traditional macro lenses to get up-close and personal with creepy-crawlies (or nice butterflys and dragonflys).
Recommended
Yes
Price
115$
Pros
  • close-focus compact light-weight unique
Cons
  • distance performance
I have the 6.5x version of the Papilio II (the newer, fully-multi-coated one).

As others have noted, the key point of these binoculars is their close-up viewing ability - at which they excel; providing bright, clear views with good contrast and well saturated colours, to a very close minimum focusing distance. They are obviously great for viewing insects (hence the name) and other "bugs", flowers and anything else close by which you might want to see magnified. The other side of this optimisation for close-up viewing seems to be an only-OK view at longer distances (say, 30M/100ft to infinity). Not bad, mind you, but just OK.

My Papilios provide a decently wide field of view, but certainly not expansive (I went with the 6.5x rather than the 8x as I suspected the FOV of the latter would be to restrictive for me). The "sweet spot" for focus seems quite wide as a proportion of FOV, with only gradual degradation towards the edges. Chromatic aberration is a different matter, being well controlled in the centre but becoming apparent fairly soon off-axis, though never becoming especially intrusive (but do note that I'm not particularly sensitive to CA).

Flare seems quite well controlled, including veiling flare. This is probably because the Papilios are constructed with deeply recessed objective lenses, with what seems to be a flat pane of coated glass near the front of the binocular to protect from dust etc. Note that this protective pane looks quite susceptible to scratches in the coatings or even the glass (mine arrived with a small coating scratch, albeit one that causes no apparent problems). Another obvious aspect of construction is its reverse-porro-prism design, which aids overlapping views at close focusing distances while potentially reducing the contribution of objective separation to "3D effect" (which I find quite decent, regardless, especially when close viewing). Overall, the Papilios seem fairly well constructed within the constraints of their light-weight, small-sized, plastic body and small optical elements. However, they don't seem as if they would stand up well to harsh use (unlike, say, my other small bins: Vortex Diamondback 8x28s, which seem very rugged).

The focus wheel on my Papilios seems precise, but requires little force to move and is easily nudged off-position. Focus is clockwise to infinity (I have no preference for or against clockwise or anti-clockwise focus.) The eyecups are small, with three positions (call them down, middle and up). I've found the eyecup setting, inter-pupiliary distance and diopter settings critical to getting a decent view through my Papilios, along with more care in eye position than I'm used to - perhaps because focusing up-close and personal is less forgiving. I've found I need to use the middle eyecup position with glasses, while having them fully up without. I also need to move IPD slightly when changing between with/without glasses use. I've also found that I need the diopter position wound somewhat in the "+" direction. [With most binoculars I use eyecups fully up and a neutral diopter setting both with and without glasses. Note that I am near-sighted; ie. I need glasses for distance vision rather than close-up.]

All told, I'm very happy with my Papilios. I think they give great performance for their price, allowing that they are more for specialised close-up use than for general usage.

...Mike
Recommended
Yes
Price
105$
Pros
  • compact lightweight well-constructed
Cons
  • QC-issues
I recently acquired a set of Vortex Diamondback 8x28 binoculars, and thought I should provide my impressions. To interpret these impressions you should have a bit of background, especially the following points:

  • I am not an expert in binoculars. Any knowledge of optics I might have comes from photography and there are considerable differences in application between the two.
  • My primary binoculars are Zeiss Terra ED 8x42s, which are by far the best binoculars I have ever looked through. I have no points of comparison with better binoculars, only those not as good in one way or the other. Take that as a caveat on what is said below: those with more experience and more refined tastes may disagree with my assessments.
  • I bought these Diamondbacks as a supplement to the Terras, mostly for use while travelling which I do fairly regularly for work. I like to travel light (no checked luggage).


The things I like about these Diamondback 8x28 binoculars:
  • The size and weight they are small and light enough to pack in my camera bag without inconvenience. Thats something that couldnt be said for a full-size binocular.
  • Good contrast and saturation, giving the impression of good clarity of view.
  • Decent (but not fantastic, it must be said) resolution on centre extending to about 50%-60% of the radius of the field of view. The drop-off from there is gradual and not distracting.
  • The price. They seem, to me, to provide remarkably good value.
  • Chromatic aberration is present throughout the field of view, but not distractingly so. I can find it if I look but do note that Im not especially sensitive to CA, so others experience may differ.
  • Decent flare control. They flare if the sun is near the axis of view (sometimes dramatically so) and veiling flare can degrade contrast in similar conditions or under bright diffuse light. Generally, though, I dont find much of a problem under most conditions.
  • They are quite comfortable to hold, with plenty of real estate to grip and no feel that theyre fiddly (pocket binoculars seem that way to me).
  • The supplied accessories including carry case, neck strap, rain guard, objective protection and cleaning cloth appear to be functional and of good quality. I find the rubber-band-and-cap objective covers simple and practical.

Things to note (not necessarily positive or negative):
  • While small and lightweight, these are not true pocket binoculars (unless wearing a big winter coat). Thats a trade-off that suits me: I wanted small and light, but with performance closer to a real binocular than a pocket one without paying a bucket of money. Others may prefer something truly pocketable or, alternatively, a more proper mid-size binocular. While these may be neither Arthur nor Martha, that characteristic suits me. Theyre better than the pocket binoculars Ive used, while small enough for my purposes.
  • The field of view is adequate, though not expansive. Its good enough for me, at any rate.
  • Close-focus is OK but, according to specification, not great. I find they focus closer than specified - which is more than good enough for me - but that may be due to my nearsightedness and not apply to others.
  • Solid-seeming construction, giving an impression of ruggedness (I guess only time will tell how justified this impression is). Note, however, a couple of points under could use improvement below. The hinge for adjusting eyepiece spacing seems solid, with firm-but-smooth resistance and no tendency to change without intentional alteration.
  • Eye relief is good for me, and the eyecups comfortable, both with and without glasses (I generally wear glasses). This, of course, may vary for others. In particular, those who dont wear glasses may need to check to see if the eye relief is too long when Im not wearing glasses the eyecups barely extend far enough for me. Im not sure how that would affect those without my nearsightedness.
  • The gearing on the focus adjustment is, I find, slow with a fair amount of rotation needed to move from close to distant focus. Id (mildly) prefer something faster so long as its precise - but others may differ.
  • Direction of the focus wheel is clockwise to focus closer, anti-clockwise to infinity. I have no preference; others might.

Things which could use improvement:
  • Theres a degree of play in the focus wheel, with a fairly distinct click feeling before focus begins to move. This feels a bit cheap but probably has no practical consequence unless it worsens with use.
  • The eyecup position doesnt lock in place very well. I find they need readjusting too frequently.
  • My set have a construction problem, meaning I have to move the dioptre adjustment way over in the plus direction (unlike any other binoculars Ive used). That is within my available range of adjustment but isnt confidence-building as far as quality control is concerned. (Im almost certain this is an assembly problem with my particular example, rather than a more general problem with this model.)

I have been very pleased with my Vortex Diamondback 8x28 binoculars. While I havent, yet, used them for their primary purpose of travel, I have packed them in my camera bag and found them useful to have along in a great many circumstances, without adding intrusive bulk or weight (camera bags, in my experience, never have enough room and are always too heavy: both conditions Im sure are my fault). I find they provide a good view, are pleasant to use and easy to bring along. In a pinch, I could use them as my primary binoculars (though I would miss the lower-light performance and nicer view of my larger ones). That is, intentionally, high praise for binoculars which are 2/3rds the size, around half the weight, and 1/3rd the price of my (much loved) Terra ED 8x42s.
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Recommended
Yes
Price
339$
Pros
  • see below
Cons
  • see below
I recently acquired a set of Zeiss Terra ED 8x42 binoculars, and thought I should provide my impressions. To interpret these impressions you should have a bit of background, especially the following points:

I am not an expert in binoculars. Any knowledge of optics I might have comes from photography and there are considerable differences in application between the two.

These binoculars are by far the best I have ever looked through. I have no points of comparison with better binoculars, only those not as good in one way or the other.


The things I like about these Terra ED 8x42 binoculars:

Good contrast and saturation, a punchy image giving the impression of great clarity, especially as regards colour saturation. (The close-up view of a Rainbow Lorikeet with these binoculars is quite a treat!)

Good resolution on centre extending to about 75%-80% of the radius of the field of view. The drop-off from there is fairly rapid but not dreadful and not distracting.

Chromatic aberration is well controlled. It is not often noticeable in the centre 75%-80% of radius, becoming apparent thereafter (especially with bright sunshine on distant foliage).

Excellent flare control. While these binoculars can be made to flare, it takes work in challenging conditions and the area blocked out by flare is generally small. Veiling flare is particularly well-controlled, even under challenging conditions, with image contrast mostly preserved in conditions where I would have expected otherwise.

Close focus to around 1.5 meters. I like being able to focus that closely and I use the facility frequently for birds feeding on the native bushes near my balcony. Its nice not to have to back up to get the birds in focus.

Good apparent depth of field (width front-to-back of the in-focus area) and a nice 3D effect (I had expected a more substantial difference between these and the porro-prism designs Im more familiar with).

Solid-seeming construction, giving an impression of ruggedness (I guess only time will tell how justified this impression is). The focus wheel turns smoothly, with no play, while the dioptre and eyecup adjustments are smooth, positive, and appear to stay in place without further fuss through repeated usage. The hinge for adjusting eyepiece spacing seems solid, with firm-but-smooth resistance and no tendency to change without intentional alteration.

The supplied accessories including neck strap, rain guard, objective protection and cleaning cloth appear to be functional and of good quality. It did take me a while to figure out the objective cover, but I find it useful enough once worked out (a line or two in the instruction manual might have been a good idea).


Things to note (not necessarily positive or negative):

Eye relief is good for me, and the eyecups comfortable, both with and without glasses (I generally wear glasses). This, of course, may vary for others.

I find the size and weight about perfect, allowing a comfortable, steady, hand position with easy focus adjustment via two fingers on the focus wheel. Others may find them less comfortable, especially those with larger hands. I would find them a deal less comfortable if the barrels were shorter or narrower suggesting those with larger hands may find less comfort than I have. (Note: Id guess my hand-size is around the male average.)

The gearing on the focus adjustment is quite rapid, with only small movements making fairly large (but, I find, quite precise) focus changes. I like this (quite a lot, in fact) but others may prefer lower gearing.

Direction of the focus wheel is clockwise to infinity, anti-clockwise to focus closer. I have no preference; others might.


Things which could use improvement:

Chromatic aberration in the outer zones. While CA is generally well controlled, I find it occasionally appears strongly (distractingly so at times) in my peripheral vision. This might be making a vice from a virtue: the colour saturation is so good that it makes CA stand out more! Ive (mostly) learned not to be distracted by colour flashes in the corner of my eye (of course, this may have me ignore something I should notice).

Field of view: it is not exceptionally wide, and a wider field of view is always desirable, as long as other important attributes (like price!) are not sacrificed.

Lack of a carry-case, requiring one to be obtained separately (assuming you want one; I did). Yes, I know about the stupid display case (and even understand why Zeiss did that). But, still, there has to better way. I even have suggestions, but I doubt anyone will be clamouring to hear them.


I have been very pleased with my Terra EDs in use so far. I've used them mostly for birdwatching - whether from my front balcony or walking through local bushland, often near dawn or dusk. Are there better binoculars out there? I am sure there are, though I haven't looked through them. I am also sure, though, that these Terra EDs provide a combination of price, specification and view that suits me very well indeed.
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