I just got a pair of the 6.5 x 21 Papilio IIs. And I follow the trend that rates these 8 or 9 – but they are binoculars you shouldn’t pass by. They DO punch above their weight. 8 plus a bonus point.
The day after I got them I took advantage of early opening at the Omaha zoo. They have a butterfly and bug house which opens later in the morning, so I first visited the recessed butterfly garden that surrounds about 2/3 of the building. As I explored I kept saying “wow” under my breath.
Along a chest-high retaining wall I could stop and scan an area, moving the focus back and forth just like we do for birds. All kinds of critters, some pretty formidable looking, would appear. You could follow them as they went about their business over and around branches and big dirt clods – encountering other critters along the way. And then I’d lower the binoculars and see that the branches were little twigs and the big clods were little clods. At first moving from these little scenes back to the 1:1 world was a bit disorienting. These binoculars give you a very immersive experience (no need for 3D VR goggles).
I was working another stretch of that retaining wall and noticed a few very tiny little critters flying slowly between plants and landing on leaves. I saw one flying and raised my thumb into its flight path. It landed on the end of my left thumb. This turned out to be a yellow Grass Fly, only a few millimeters long. I extended my arm fully, and then focused on the fly. I observed it for quite a while as it explored back and forth on my thumb.
To get to the point -- I see comments by some here touting other (especially European) binoculars over the Papilios. But they consistently miss the most important feature – CLOSE focus. So, BinoBoys, consider this: Tell me which binoculars you have that will allow you to observe something perched on the end of your thumb (with both lenses).
Later, in the butterfly enclosure, my activity was more like exploratory birding, but without calls to guide you -- scan and focus. The 6.5X has the advantage here, especially when scanning for insects. And moving in to maximum close focus of a butterfly at a feeder, for the first time in my life I could clearly see the full workings of the butterfly’s proboscis – live. And a moth four feet away that fully filled the field of view.
There are several nice things about this family of binoculars that I have always liked:
* I’ve found them easy and natural to hold.
* The tripod socket on the bottom of the Uni-Barrel is great (though it may require an extension for large tripod heads/plates).
* They make great guest binoculars. IP adjustment is not too tight. The models with the push button right eyepiece adjustment (press the center button on the focus wheel and the EP adjustment knob pops out – once adjusted press it again to hide and disengage) are easy to explain and seem to make sense when you explain how it works.
Their distance viewing performance is good for the price point, but I can easily see the difference between the Papilio IIs and my Kowa BD 8x25s – which are more than twice the price.
What would I change? If Ricoh charged another 25% percent or so for a waterproof version I’d be there with my credit card. And I wouldn’t mind slightly larger objective lenses and the push-button eyepiece adjustment – but that’s just dreaming.
But as others have (repeatedly) pointed out, there is little reason not to have a pair of these around – especially if you already have binoculars in the $500+ range. The Papilios can do something that none of those can do.