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Finding out what you like - What matters?

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Old Sunday 8th July 2018, 22:06   #1
chris6
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Finding out what you like - What matters?

What do I know? but at least I think I know more than when I started to buy binoculars to try to find what suited best...

Ideally one could go to a shop to decide what to buy but there is no shop which can stock them all, and then here is the question of availability, whether in UK, EU, or USA. The most regular and consistent members on this forum give very useful pointers to star quality in individual examples, which I have found to be a great help, so one of those recommendations would be a great place to start.

However there remained a degree of mystification concerning factors which are less likely to be a problem with current binoculars, as follows.

1. 'Eye relief' is needed to be able to use binoculars when wearing glasses and for me around 15 or 16mm seems to be the limit. It is probably worth mentioning that ER of '15mm' suits me better than say '20mm', because I don't then need to wind the eyepieces out to a position which they may not retain in active use...especially since some binoculars do not have reliable intermediate stops.

2. The most out-dated is probably 'clarity' which I take to mean the mistiness which used to be common, but you would have to try much harder now to find that clarity is significantly lacking. For most casual users 'flare' and 'veiling glare' probably fall into the same category.

3. The next is perhaps 'sweet spot' which I believe not to matter so much when you are mainly looking at the centre of the view i.e. I find it hard to understand why a user would need to 'let the eye wander' to look at something on the edge of the field when simply moving the binoculars would be the normal response. However I believe that over time the average Sweet Spot has grown in size, perhaps to the extent that it is also no longer likely to be a problem.

4. The reverse seems to have happened to claimed 'Field of View'. Over 4 or 5 years the fashion seems to have bounced back but I have found that anything more than 7 degrees at 8x magnification, or 6 degrees at 10x magnification, is perfectly adequate.

The excellent low cost Nikon Action Extreme EX 7x35 still has a relatively small sweet spot and could be a good starting point. It is rightly popular and on the one hand it might demonstrate that its small sweet spot does not matter much to you, while on the other its huge FOV 9.3 degrees might be unnecessary.

5. Chromatic aberration ('CA') used to be common and was said potentially to limit sharpness (see 9.). It is still often mentioned as something which can be present at the periphery of the view but it has become unusual at the centre and, if so, it's not clear why it should now matter so much (as in 3.)

6. Brightness, mainly important to give a few extra minutes of use at dusk. This depends upon the optical glass, lens coatings, and mainly the size of the objective lenses. The higher range of prism glass according to the 'Bak4' standard is now the norm, while the terms 'ED' and 'Dielectric coatings' are no more specific and cover a range of possible other relatively marginal improvements.

7. Ease of use: some prefer 'open bridge/dual hinge' over the traditional single hinge because you can grasp each barrel individually, and this can help, along with greater weight to hold the binoculars steady, so to that extent the bigger the better. However the weight might only really matter if you are out all day, when a harness could be the solution. A larger Exit Pupil (objective size divided by magnification) can also help by making it easier to line up the binoculars to get the best view, and 4mm seems to be the tipping point for this if it is critical for you e.g. for small size and low weight, 8x32 is often preferred.

8. Colour. This might appear to be a complicated issue which can only be understood by looking at transmission charts for the range of frequencies of light which the human eye can see. However it seems to boil down to 'RGB', as for the controls on a TV: if red does not look red then there is something wrong (suitable test subjects being red berries?), and when green does not look green there is something wrong (leaves/trees/grass) and when blue does not look blue there is something wrong (the sky). For me the main thing here is still the tendency for the colours to appear too muted, as with B&W TV when you might want to turn up the colour control, and 'contrast' is related in a similar way.

9. Sharpness. To make comparisons it is probably enough to look at the same bit of text in the same light at the same distance. Imo, in combination with Colour this is what can really make all the difference in the enjoyment to be had from a particular pair of binoculars.

10. Quality Control/ Warranties. Obviously QC is likely to be more reliable at higher prices, but if they are new you can always return them. My own experience has been that the warranties on Vortex, Opticron, and Meopta were solid.

Last edited by chris6 : Sunday 8th July 2018 at 22:40.
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Old Sunday 8th July 2018, 22:29   #2
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Nice opening post for this interesting thread.

The optics always get the ink in this type of thread, which is sad because "number 6: Ease of use" can--and should--dominate optics. Ease of use is sometimes referred to as "convenience".

But whatever you call it--ease of use or convenience or something else--we should also pay attention to things like weight, feel in the hands, feel against the face, how the barrels "scrunch" when we hold them. And this list of ergonomics or human factors goes on and on.

If you don't enjoy using a pair of binoculars, you probably won't use them after the newness wears off.
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Old Sunday 8th July 2018, 22:39   #3
chris6
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Thanks for the comment, convenience does deserve high prority so I gave it the ink it deserves!
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Old Monday 9th July 2018, 03:01   #4
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I've found that the type of eyecups is a big one for me. The traditional fold down rubbers on some make an otherwise great bino annoying for me to use. Big, chunky twist ups are really a game changer.

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Old Monday 9th July 2018, 09:51   #5
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I agree with the above, but in reverse. Owing to my bone structure, big chunky eyecups get nowhere near my eyes and let in so much light that contrast is drastically reduced. Not really a problem as I have a load of eye shields that I attach to block out the glare (and the sight of my hands and arms). Only downside is of course that the rain covers don't fit, but creativity can overcome all. Actually, being able to simultaneously look through the bins and see past them does have its uses with small targets and high powered bins, a bit like keeping both eyes open with some cameras.
Up side is that my eyes are excellently protected if I ever meet an agressive fellow cave dweller.
QC of the users needs looking at? Clearly I am less than an alpha model human?

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Old Monday 9th July 2018, 11:26   #6
edwincjones
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For me it is easier

-I like them
-I do not like then
-I am uncertain

edj
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Old Monday 9th July 2018, 11:43   #7
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A couple of comments relating to point 4 in Chris's original post ("sweet spot").

I have 2 pairs of 8x42 bins - some newish Hawke Endurance EDs which live in the car glove box, and some 14 year old Swaro ELs which I carry around. I would say that the Hawke bins produce an image just as pleasing to my eyes as the Swaros - sharpness and brightness are very similar. However, there's a huge difference in how quick and easy it is to scan for, and find and focus on targets, with the Swaros being miles easier to use.

I believe - rightly or wrongly - that there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the Swaros have a larger sweet spot, so when I'm scanning for a target, items at the edge of the image are easier to spot in my peripheral vision, whereas with the Hawkes, unless the target is reasonably central, I'm quite likely to miss it altogether, or spend much more time looking for it. Secondly the Swaros appear to have greater depth of field (in the photographic sense) so that the target is a bit sharper and more defined even when it's not fully focussed, which again makes it easier to find. To my mind the "sweet spot" is less about "letting the eye wander" around the image when you're focussed on a target, but about finding the target in a three dimensional world in the first place.

Interestingly, I recently tried out some of the latest Swaros in my local shop, and I found the same issues with the "flat field" ELs versus the non flat field SLCs. I got on much better with the SLCs. Flat field may all the rage, but the benefits only kick in when you're on target. If you have to spend so long looking for the bird that you miss it, the flattest field in the world doesn't help much.

I have to agree with Crusty in his post above, that the technical optical issues are given far too much prominence in discussions of binoculars (probably because they're readily measurable and quantifiable), whereas the personal and perceptual issues such as the above can be just as important. Unfortunately, that means you actually have to try things out preferably for a decent length of time. You don't necessarily have to find a dealer to this - I've found that most birders are happy to let you have a go with their bins and swap experiences in the field.


Jeff (owner of 14 year old bins and 74 year old eyes)
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Old Monday 9th July 2018, 14:35   #8
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do they make me a chick magnet....particularly important when glassing gulls , shore birds, and shipping traffic.... along the beach on a warm summers day....with all the pretty girls wanting to take a look..you hand them to a alluringly cute one…...and you reach around from behind her to help her adjust the bins properly....then she slowly turns around...buzz buzz buzzz buzzzz……..DAMN Alarm Clock !!…...
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Old Monday 9th July 2018, 17:23   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edwincjones View Post
For me it is easier

-I like them
-I do not like then
-I am uncertain

edj
Another great quote from edj.

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Old Wednesday 11th July 2018, 23:35   #10
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We have a saying in our mushroom hunting club that covers 95% of what you see in the field: "Better to kick 'em than pick 'em."
I'd say to a certain extent the same holds true with binoculars.
If you strive to acquire top 5 percentile glass (new or used in good condition), some or all of the numbered points in the OP's great list will be covered.
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Old Thursday 12th July 2018, 02:33   #11
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You forgot to mention rolling ball. I don't experience it with my EL SV 8.5x42, but some do, and find it deeply objectionable.

I would add haptics. I much prefer leather to rubber armoring, although the Swarovskis are not too bad in this regard with their textured armor. My favorite binoculars to hold are Leica Ultravid 8x42 BL. Optically outclassed, but a pleasure to handle. Not to mention that some rubber armor just smells terrible.

The quality of the strap can also be an issue. One of the nice things about the Leica is the ingenious strap design that avoids loose ends. With most straps you can use this technique:
https://www.wired.com/2014/02/proper...rap-technique/
Unfortunately, the Swarovski (pre-FieldPro) strap is terrible in this regard, and loose ends are unavoidable.

Finally, tripod attachments. Some binoculars have standard 1/4" tripod screw mounts on the hinge, and you can attach tripod adapter plates, whether OEM or like the Peak Design https://www.peakdesign.com/device/binocular/bino-kit
Oddly, most Alphas lack such a feature, and you are forced to use Rube Goldberg contraptions to secure the binoculars to a tripod or parallelogram mount.

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Old Thursday 12th July 2018, 07:59   #12
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For hand-holding, the total weight and weight distribution is important too, the less front-heavy the better.

eg: the SLC 8x42 made my arms tired pretty fast.
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Old Thursday 12th July 2018, 13:12   #13
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My first thoughts in reading this was HOW HARD it was for me in 2014 at the Birding Expo in Columbus to pick a main binocular from several flagship models, because of these reasons and how I feel about them in order of priority. This was the first time I could actually hold and look through Swarovski EL 8.5x, Swarovski SLC 8x, Zeiss HT 8x (SFs hadn't came out then) and Leica Ultravid HD 7x and 8x, all at the same time. I knew I had to pick one and it took me (literally!) HOURS. Even when I thought I'd decided, I was still torn between two (Zeiss and Leica) and my wife sent me back and said "Decide on one for good!" (The Expo had been the main reason for our 7 hour drive /trip to Ohio, for the expressed purpose of me deciding for good which I'd spend my money on-a decision I'd been struggling with for months).

I ended up with Leica 8x, but that decision was personal and very difficult-this should not be taken to mean I seen them as superior to any of the others-just that I preferred the feel in the hand, the immersive view, and color renditions. Everyone's eyes are different though-I know many who have decided the flat field of the Swaros are more "immersive" than the Leica.
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Old Thursday 12th July 2018, 19:32   #14
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Among the many things I like about my 10X42 EL SV is the color intensity and contrast, without being artificial.

The ease with which a bird "jumps out" at you when it is sitting still and partially concealed is mind boggling for me.

Also, the distance from which you can identify a familiar bird never ceases to amaze me.
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Old Friday 13th July 2018, 15:50   #15
dries1
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What matters

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Originally Posted by Maljunulo View Post
Among the many things I like about my 10X42 EL SV is the color intensity and contrast, without being artificial.

The ease with which a bird "jumps out" at you when it is sitting still and partially concealed is mind boggling for me.

Also, the distance from which you can identify a familiar bird never ceases to amaze me.


I was so used to 8X glass, as time went on and I acquired 10X, I find my self now using 10X as much as 8X if not more, for terrestrial viewing.

Additionally as stated earlier regarding personnel preferences, I have both the EL and UVHD+ 10X50 and while the EL provides a view clear to the field stop and great for the night sky, I prefer the contrast, color and handling of the Leica as the better all around glass, (probably the minority in this camp) but hey, its my eyes. I have spent extensive time with both.

Andy W.
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Old Friday 13th July 2018, 16:56   #16
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It takes me about 30 seconds to determine if I like what I'm looking through. If I have to talk myself into saying how great they are then I'm usually disappointed in the long run.
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Old Sunday 22nd July 2018, 18:19   #17
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Essentially I want some general use bino that is good to go on darker days as well and easy to look through. I don't mind if it is a little bigger and heavier. So I have a Steiner 7x50 and a Docter Nobilem 10x50. Both Porros. The Docter is really nice.
And some Zeiss Jena 7x40 EDF as some sort of historic collector's piece because of the bizarre radiation resistance requirement.

What I would really like is some reedition of the WW2 Zeiss 8x60 Commander's glass. However it would likely be WX-priced and that would take me a while to save for it. All I read about it sounds like it was the culmination of optics art. Super costly back then. Couldn't this be made cheaper today with all the precision technology we have? Unfortunately the military has only limited use for traditional binoculars so they don't fund stuff like that any more. All they want seems to be night vision, GPS and datalinks. Their optical performance can be standard.

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Old Sunday 22nd July 2018, 21:09   #18
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...
.....
..... Unfortunately the military has only limited use for traditional binoculars so they don't fund stuff like that any more. All they want seems to be night vision, GPS and datalinks. Their optical performance can be standard.
.... plus infrared and thermal imaging.

I also get the impression that the military seems to spend less on optics. In my days (admittedly a long time ago ), Kern/Leica/Zeiss/Hensoldt etc. binos used to be among the best available at the time, but not any more.
Does anybody know whether that has in fact changed or whether it‘s just perception?
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Old Sunday 22nd July 2018, 21:35   #19
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Kern/Leicas 8x32s are still great, I own a kern 8X32 IF military issued glass, and an old 6X24 from 55. I know a few in the military who carry/use the Leica IF 8X32, same glass but with laser protection. I own a few Hensoldt models, past and present production, still great optics and superior construction for a military glass. Optics are good today, but the build quality of modern military glass is not built to last/repair, just replace.

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Old Sunday 22nd July 2018, 21:43   #20
chris6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffhosier View Post
A couple of comments relating to point 4 in Chris's original post ("sweet spot").

I have 2 pairs of 8x42 bins - some newish Hawke Endurance EDs which live in the car glove box, and some 14 year old Swaro ELs which I carry around. I would say that the Hawke bins produce an image just as pleasing to my eyes as the Swaros - sharpness and brightness are very similar. However, there's a huge difference in how quick and easy it is to scan for, and find and focus on targets, with the Swaros being miles easier to use.

I believe - rightly or wrongly - that there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the Swaros have a larger sweet spot, so when I'm scanning for a target, items at the edge of the image are easier to spot in my peripheral vision, whereas with the Hawkes, unless the target is reasonably central, I'm quite likely to miss it altogether, or spend much more time looking for it. Secondly the Swaros appear to have greater depth of field (in the photographic sense) so that the target is a bit sharper and more defined even when it's not fully focussed, which again makes it easier to find. To my mind the "sweet spot" is less about "letting the eye wander" around the image when you're focussed on a target, but about finding the target in a three dimensional world in the first place.

Interestingly, I recently tried out some of the latest Swaros in my local shop, and I found the same issues with the "flat field" ELs versus the non flat field SLCs. I got on much better with the SLCs. Flat field may all the rage, but the benefits only kick in when you're on target. If you have to spend so long looking for the bird that you miss it, the flattest field in the world doesn't help much.

I have to agree with Crusty in his post above, that the technical optical issues are given far too much prominence in discussions of binoculars (probably because they're readily measurable and quantifiable), whereas the personal and perceptual issues such as the above can be just as important. Unfortunately, that means you actually have to try things out preferably for a decent length of time. You don't necessarily have to find a dealer to this - I've found that most birders are happy to let you have a go with their bins and swap experiences in the field.
Jeff thanks very much for your remarks on the subject, which were more sensible than my own . The sweet spot of my latest acquisition older model Nikon 8x42 HGL also goes almost to the edge when compared to the last, a Kenko 8x32. I had been looking especially for sharpness for distant views, for which the Kenko is indeed a bit better. This advantage is not great and have to admit that the Nikon is nicer to use because of its better overall view, while its bigger sweet spot more than compensates for the Kenko's nominally half a degree of extra field. I enjoyed this YouTube video which seems relevant, and thought it was especially well done in a second language...interesting too that 'only' 6.3 degrees was considered enough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t10bjC4CxpA
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Old Tuesday 24th July 2018, 00:16   #21
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I enjoyed this YouTube video which seems relevant, and thought it was especially well done in a second language...interesting too that 'only' 6.3 degrees was considered enough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t10bjC4CxpA
I also enjoyed this video. Thank you for sharing the link.
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