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Which Starter Binoculars

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Old Saturday 7th December 2013, 14:25   #1
apwood
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Which Starter Binoculars

I'd like to buy some binoculars for my wife for Christmas - but low priced - up to around 100. Since its a surprise I can't really consult her, but know she'll be delighted with whatever I chose, as long as I don't spend too much!

This would be her first set. She would use them chiefly around local lakes / reservoirs for viewing birds and small wildlife. She might occasionally take them when hiking or on holiday for general use.

I guess ease of use is important, which I think translates to smooth and easy to focus precisely, reasonable field of view and brightness. They may be used at sunset. She wouldn't be likely to use them for more than 5-10 minutes at a time, so weight might not be most important though the lighter the better (unless that makes them more difficult to hold still). She's unlikely to want to use a tripod.

I'm really uncertain what to choose. I've seen the following in the range 50 to 80. All are water / fog resistant bak-4, all have 5m or less minimum focus, not aware of relative quality of multi-coating and optics though. FOV = field of view (at 1000m). (Hopefully I have the specs correctly quoted.)

Listed in order of prices.

Barr & Stround Skyline 8x42 670 grams
FOV 119m
relative brightness 27.04
10 year guarantee

Barr & Stround Sierra 10x42 673 grams
FOV 101m
relative brightness 16.81
10 year guarantee


Bushell H20 10x42 13-2410 765 grams
FOV 115m
relative brightness 20.5
30 year guarantee

Oregon LE WP 8x42 680 grams
FOV 114m
relative brightness 27.56
5 year guarantee

There are also more expensive 10x42 versions of the 8x42 ones above, but with correspondingly smaller FOV and relative brightness. I guess 8x42 is generally better for her needs (though higher magnification might help with general use)?

Then there are these at 104:

Strathspey 8x42 with level IV multicoating 600 grams
FOV 133m
relative brightness unknown

I also wonder if any of the following is worth the extra investment at about 155:

Vortex Diamondback 8x42 714 grams
FOV 140m
relative brightness 28.1
limited lifetime guarantee

Vanguard Spirit ED 8x42 (Phase Coated optics I believe) 599 grams
FOV 110m @ 1000m
relative brightness
limited lifetime guarantee

I was originally attracted to the 7dayshop 10x42 binoculars, but I guess they wouldn't quite meat her needs (especially minimum focus) and the others above would be better?

I also saw some Nikon Akulon A211 binoculars, though I don't think they are anti-fog / waterproof:

at 90
Nikon Akulon a211 10x42
FOV 105m
relative brightness 17.6
10 year guarantee

at 110
Nikon Akulon a211 8x42
FOV 140m
relative brightness 28.1
10 year guarantee
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Old Saturday 7th December 2013, 15:08   #2
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My wife loves the Leupold yosemites porros. On your side of the pond it would probably be easier to find Opticron savanna or a Kowa YF. Excellent little binocs for not much money
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Old Saturday 7th December 2013, 15:40   #3
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Hello apwood, and welcome to the Binocular Forum !

8x under 100 is a difficult price bracket, unless you are looking at ex-demos, I know from experience having recently looked at this for a friend.

Power isn't everything though and you may find that a higher magnification than 8x a handicap rather than a help in general use.

I agree with perterra that the Kowa 8x30 YF offers good value and is worth considering.

At a lower magnification and offering a brighter wider view is the Viking 6.5x32 MD.

The RSPB/Viking, and Opticron threads on here are both well worth looking over for information on starter binos.
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Old Saturday 7th December 2013, 15:44   #4
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I also think the Kowa YF would be an excellent choice.
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Old Saturday 7th December 2013, 18:53   #5
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Apwood,

Some of the binoculars on your list do not have phase coating which will reduce brightness and contrast in roof prism models so best avoided. The Bushnell H2O, B&S Skyline, Opticron Oregon and the Strathspey.

The B&S Sierra is quite reasonable for the money but I'd suggest the 8x for the wider. steadier view. The Diamondback and Vanguard Spirit are a worthwhile improvement but the Bushnell at over 700g is getting a little heavy and. though I think the Vanguards are very good for the price, there have been a few QC issues reported here so one to check carefully.

I've not tried the Aculon but it is believed to be the same optically as the discontinued Action. A bit big and heavy, not waterproof, not good with glasses, but optically pretty good.

I'd go along with others here and wonder if an x30/32 might be more appropriate. The little Opticron/Kowa porros are light and rather cute. Most here prefer the 6x. I'm rather keen on that Viking 6.5x32, but it won't win a beauty contest. One roof that I suspect might appeal is the Opticron Discovery 8x32 which is very light, fairly compact and good fun to use. Unfortunately a bit over budget but better prices might be available if you phone.

David

Last edited by typo : Saturday 7th December 2013 at 19:15.
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Old Saturday 7th December 2013, 19:04   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perterra View Post
My wife loves the Leupold yosemites porros. On your side of the pond it would probably be easier to find Opticron savanna or a Kowa YF. Excellent little binocs for not much money
I just got back together with Yosemite 8x30s .. they don't black out easily
anymore (more tolerant eye placement) and the glasses use is awesome.
I love these as toss-in binocs. Extremely solid.

My 5 cents is: the Yosemites are even better than before, and a bargain.
Uncanny for the price.
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Old Sunday 8th December 2013, 16:30   #7
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Thanks for all the replies / advice - and more welcome please!

I've only started looking through the advice, so have only researched the first couple of posts but regarding the Yosemites recommendations: Presumably that's for 6x30 rather than 8x30? It never occurred to me to go for less than 8x mag and 42 lens.

Clearly the optics on these are excellent - though the relative brightness is lower than Oregon LE WP 8x42? I wonder if 6x is large enough for them to be used for general purpose and for viewing waterfowl at a distance of up to a mile? Actually I'd be tempted to go for Vortex Raptor 6.5x32 (which I can get at 89 as against 129 for the Yosemites). I believe they are optically similar to the Yosemites though perhaps slightly less well built, but with smoother focus and a more useable magnification?

I get the impression the Yosemite 8x30 are optically inferior and wouldn't be as good at sunset?

One other thing - the only negative I've read about the Yosemites refer to internal reflections and spikes when viewing bright objects against dark - I wonder if this would be a problem regarding reflections of sunlight off the water early / late in the day or generally at sunset?

Last edited by apwood : Sunday 8th December 2013 at 16:33.
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Old Sunday 8th December 2013, 16:53   #8
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Havent looked thru the Vortex offering but I suspect it might be a little better build.

I looked thru 8X and didnt find the view distressing at all, eye relief was shorter but it wasnt a bad view.

I have the 6X and really have no problem with the 6X, it doesnt bring you as close as a 10, but it's also not tiring to view thru all day long. You dont notice the shakes in 6X, I dont particulary shake much, but with a 10X hand held, I need to be supported or at least braced for the best view.
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Old Sunday 8th December 2013, 16:54   #9
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Seems like the mag power thing is something you will have to figure out for your own purposes. I can say I really like 7X in general and for distant objects you might consider then going to a spotting scope. My Heather is a mag power gal. Seems to prefer the higher power 10X no matter how much or many explainings to her I do. But in truth, my experience with the 10X configuration generally is that it rarely provides the ID that the 7X fails to provide and for that ID it seems like I find myself going for 20X or more in a scope configuration. Although these doublers "looksharp" turned me on to work rather well in my limited experience to assist in a distant ID, they're light, effective, close at hand if you didn't forget to "bring it", and expensive from what I have seen. Easily costing as much as your budget for binoculars. I think most will have an easier time holding 6-7X. Especially for scanning. Although for quick looks at a distance the 10X might better satisfy. Just remember you are generally sacrificing wideness of FOV and depth of field the more mag you go, not to mention brightness depending on objective sizes but with the larger objectives they need to be housed and supported so then more weight too. Which may explain in large part why so many knowledgeable folks prefer the lower 6-7 power. But then there is no right binocular for all situations so you spend your buck and you deal with your compromises.
I was impressed with what little experience I had with the Yosemite 6X's but they did feel cheap and the focuser didn't seem the best. It functioned. Just felt like it had play but I was able to see what I looked at. At the pricepoint unless you want to go used....
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Old Sunday 8th December 2013, 17:04   #10
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Originally Posted by curvecrazy View Post
I was impressed with what little experience I had with the Yosemite 6X's but they did feel cheap and the focuser didn't seem the best. It functioned. Just felt like it had play but I was able to see what I looked at. At the pricepoint unless you want to go used....
This brings up something to think about, quality control on a $90 optic is going to be very different than QC on a $500 optic in general. My Yosemites have a firm focuser, but there is no play at all. So be aware, that quality may vary more between unnits. Play around with one before you buy if you are able.
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Old Sunday 8th December 2013, 17:11   #11
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Hi Apwood:

I took the new Yosemite BX-1 8x30s I have to my 'glare test' range to check out
the internal reflections from a torchiere light 1 degree out of the field. I have to work
hard to get a flash, and when I do it's around the rim outside the field, like some
Nikons do. It has a front iris like Nikons, so maybe that's why. Not a problem within
the view, at least for me. I wouldn't worry about sunset.

Having looked through both, I would chose either the Raptor or the Yosemite 8 power
if the other weren't available. The contrast depth on either is tremendous.

The 6 power really does brighten things. The increment in field width is noticeable
too, and the sharpness across the field is better. Relative sharpness is better at
6x, but your eyes have to be extra-sharp. Some days my eyes could
get the extra detail from the 6x, other days not (later in the day). The extra
reach of the 8 power gives me detail regardless of how fresh my eyes are.
When I know I'm going into dusk I pick up one of the old 7x35s I have. There are
so many used gems.

I'd say, don't agonize it much. The Raptor, Yosemite, and Kowa are great, and it
seems like they have picked up better points from each other recently.
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Old Sunday 8th December 2013, 17:17   #12
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apwood, Sherwoods optical have an end of line Opticron Trailfinder T2 8x42 in green, its brand new, scroll down the list in the link, its 27th item down from the top.

http://www.sherwoods-photo.com/ex_de...emo_optics.htm

Here`s a link to the model on the Opticron webpage, (its been updated as the T3 now).

http://www.opticron.co.uk/Pages/trailfinder_ii.htm

I`d be well pleased to get this as a Christmas gift, but I am a big Opticron fan.

John.
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Old Sunday 8th December 2013, 17:19   #13
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"
This brings up something to think about, quality control on a $90 optic is going to be very different than QC on a $500 optic in general. My Yosemites have a firm focuser, but there is no play at all. So be aware, that quality may vary more between unnits. Play around with one before you buy if you are able.
"
This is why I loved walking out of a brick-n-mortar store with the actual binocs
I looked through. QC that ends in your living room is a horror. They had some
Nikon ProStaff 8x42s there with definite focuser differences unit-to-unit.

I did check the Yosemite 8x30 against 5 different roof binoculars,
and it wasn't until I got to the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42s (at $300) that I saw
a roof unit pull ahead in contrast. BTW, the Monarch 5 also surged ahead
in resolution....I couldn't tell the difference in the Vartex and Nikons until that point.

Just putting in a an extra cheer for porros at this price point ($90-150).

Last edited by OPTIC_NUT : Sunday 8th December 2013 at 17:24. Reason: additional
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 07:45   #14
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Originally Posted by apwood View Post
Thanks for all the replies / advice - and more welcome please!

I've only started looking through the advice, so have only researched the first couple of posts but regarding the Yosemites recommendations: Presumably that's for 6x30 rather than 8x30? It never occurred to me to go for less than 8x mag and 42 lens.

Clearly the optics on these are excellent - though the relative brightness is lower than Oregon LE WP 8x42? I wonder if 6x is large enough for them to be used for general purpose and for viewing waterfowl at a distance of up to a mile? Actually I'd be tempted to go for Vortex Raptor 6.5x32 (which I can get at 89 as against 129 for the Yosemites). I believe they are optically similar to the Yosemites though perhaps slightly less well built, but with smoother focus and a more useable magnification?

I get the impression the Yosemite 8x30 are optically inferior and wouldn't be as good at sunset?

One other thing - the only negative I've read about the Yosemites refer to internal reflections and spikes when viewing bright objects against dark - I wonder if this would be a problem regarding reflections of sunlight off the water early / late in the day or generally at sunset?
The history of these little porros as I understand is that a particular manufacturing facility produced both the Leupold Yosemite and the Vortex Raptor. Two or three years ago Leupold changed manufacturer and came out with the BX-1 which is the same optically and mechanically but clearly has cosmetic changes. The black finish might reduce glare a little. The gap in the original facility production was filled jointly by Opticron and Kowa who made different cosmetic changes. We are not certain if there were differences in the coating specification etc. for the two companies.

I've not seen the BX-1 yet but have tried the others and view wise I couldn't choose between them. As porros they are brighter with better contrast than similarly priced roofs. They all have some susceptibility to glare though perhaps the black versions might be a bit better as I mentioned but not much IMO. They have field curvature which means the 8/8.5x the sweet spot is comparatively smaller than the lower powers. Generally these are not as sharp as more expensive models (though some are better than others) and this is more evident in the higher power versions. I thought the lower powers had the more pleasing view overall. I also liked the more compact style.

I don't know what which magnification might best suit your wife. One that is good for chasing warblers round a reed bed isn't going to be so good for ID'ing a duck the other side of a lake. A light weight 10x may be too unsteady to get a more detailed view than a 6x. A light 7x and big heavy 12x (rather than a scope) works for me. I think one of the little porros would be a great place to start. You are better placed to judge which aesthetically might please most.

Low light performance is a complex issue. One element is exit pupil. Many here think 4mm works well enough for their need but if you stay out 'till the last glimmer of daylight then 5mm (or more) is a better option for birding, so that's a 6x30, 8x40, 10x50 etc. However your eyesight deteriorates in low light so you need more magnification to see the detail. The twilight factor gives perhaps a better indication of how binoculars compare, but it's certainly not foolproof. Other elements like transmission and colour balance make a difference as well.

Good luck.

David

Last edited by typo : Monday 9th December 2013 at 07:48.
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 09:14   #15
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Thanks every one for your help. I might decide to buy two for her to try and then return one if possible or re-sell on Ebay, unless I can find a suitable dealer that has the various models at a good price.

My short-list - rightly or wrongly seems to be as follows. I do feel that due to less than perfect eye-sight, the detail from a 6x might be lost, and a higher mag might be best for my wife - though as low weight as possible. I'm uncertain of the weight of the Barr and Stroud Sierra 8x42 - some website say 596g, some 670g, some 660g.

83 B&S Sierra 8x42
2m min focus, FOV 129m
670g, 660g or 596g ???
10 year guar
relative brightness 27.04, twilight factor 18.33

83 Opticron Trailfinder II Green 8x42
1.5m min focus, FOV 125m
748g
5 year guarantee
relative brightness 27.56, twilight factor 15.81

89 6.5x32 vortex raptor
4.5m min focus FOV 136m
490g
relative brightness 24.42, twilight factor 14.42
lifetime warranty

103 opticron savanna WP 8x30
3m min focus FOV 131m
491g
relative brightness 14.06, twilight factor 15.49
10 year guarantee

Any final thoughts on how these compare optically. It seems to be a matter of compromises otherwise - the two cheapest are heavier, but appear to be brighter, with better minimum focus. The two most expensive have slightly better FOV at the expense of focusing distance. Perhaps the Sierra stands out at the price, or the Vortex Raptor given it's very low weight, high FOV and lifetime warranty - but would the 4.5 metre minimum focus be likely to cause any problems?

Does greater FOV (Field of View) also mean greater depth of field and a better 3D perspective?
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 09:21   #16
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If you're looking at 6.5x in that price range then you really should also consider the Viking 6.5x32 mentioned earlier:
http://www.vikingopticalcentres.co.u...2-md-binocular
It's very good optically for the price - probably as good as anything you could get under a 100.
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 09:45   #17
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Some comments on magnification by Stephen Ingraham :

" Magnification : We have already noted, in the discussion above, two ways in which higher magnifications can adversely affect binocular handling performance. Higher magnifications generally limit both the field of view and the depth of field of binoculars. Worse, however, is magnification’s affect on image steadiness. As you increase the magnification, you are also magnifying every motion of the binoculars. It is next to impossible to extract information from an image that is bouncing around.

With practice, and given exceptionally well-balanced binoculars, the average birder can learn to extract detail from a 10 power image. Extracting detail from an 8 power image is even easier, and, in objective tests conducted by ZEISS, birders consistently extracted the most detail (at least on eye charts) from a 7 power image. As noted above, my experience has been that there is no practical difference in the amount of detail you can see in hand-held binoculars of equal quality between 7 and 10 power. There is, however, a real difference in the amount of fatigue generated over a day’s use.

The extra effort and concentration needed to hold 10x binoculars steady and extract detail will tire many birders after a fairly short time in the field, especially if the depth of field is shallow enough to require constant refocusing. A tired birder will, in the long run, see less. There are exceptions, of course, but my general recommendation, after years of testing and using binoculars, is that 8x is just about the ideal power for birding . . . enough power to give a satisfyingly large image of the bird, but not enough to cause undue fatigue. "

Taken from here : http://www.betterviewdesired.com/The...-Binocular.php

From your list the Vortex warranty really takes away the worry of the O rings wearing out on the little porro, and back with the Aculon Uttings have the A211 7x35 for 70.00.

Last edited by Samandag : Monday 9th December 2013 at 10:11. Reason: Aculon
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 09:45   #18
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A 4.5m close focus is rather on the long side. I'm pretty sure the ones I've tried did a little better than that, but the Viking MD 6.5x32 with 1m is best of the low powers in that regard. It's also the sharpest of the models mentioned IMO.

Technically the DOF is only dependant on magnification. A 10x would be less than half that of a 6.5x. However I find that models with field curvature give the impression of a greater DOF than flat field designs. All of these have field curvature.

David
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 10:18   #19
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I was guessing the viking was same as the vortex but more expensive with less warranty - guess I'll have to take a closer look. How do others compare these two models? Though I still wonder if with less than perfect eye sight it night be easier to see detail with 8x instead of 6x ?
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 10:35   #20
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The Viking we are talking about is this one:
http://www.vikingopticalcentres.co.u...2-md-binocular

It originally sold for 250. Optically I think it's the best of the bunch. It's bigger and heavier than some x32s, some dislike the eye-cups and the looks are very much a matter of taste.

With weaker eyesight certainly higher magnification will potentially help, but there are down sides as well in brightness and stability. Are you able to try any binos to figure out what works for you?

David
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 10:43   #21
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I think that of the four UK posters to this thread three either own or have owned the Viking and the other would have done so if the price hadn't gone back up to 255 !

I agree with Andrew (#16) that it is very good optically, and with David that it is sharp, and I use mine often.

It's just a nice bright wide angle low power good for work close to in increasing light and for general walking during the day. Good contrast and colour, field of view is spot on. Less perceived hand tremor with the lower power. Fairly heavy with a utilitarian appearance but perfectly functional, good tight diopter and smooth quick focus. Long eye relief (22mm). Value is what you think it is and for me, for the money, a bargain.
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 11:37   #22
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Though I still wonder if with less than perfect eye sight it night be easier to see detail with 8x instead of 6x ?
On a tripod, maybe so, hand held, maybe not. Take a look through some, it's about the only way to determine for yourself
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Old Monday 9th December 2013, 14:31   #23
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Aw., hope this helps. From my experience:
- Kowa YF has excellent optical quality for the price.
- B+S Sierra has v. good optical quality for the price.
- Hawke (also a Brit. co.?) Nature Trek 8x32 is < 100. V. good for the price. I prefer its colour rendition vs Opticron.
- Re your qns. about greater FOV. It may add depth of field for you in the way David says, but what does affect this most is magnificn. - it is strikingly more at ≤ 7x (vs ≥ 8x), making such bins easier to use for that reason also. That in turn may slightly improve 3D perspective - but what noticeably enhances this is the porro design (vs roof).
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Old Wednesday 11th December 2013, 00:06   #24
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My comment above on the Yosemites might have been taken the wrong way. I looked at them at a Gander Mountain store. They were the 6X I played with. Just looking across the store basically at price tags on the far side high racks down the main aisle. The focus moved very easily at first movement [initial 20 degrees of motion say? ] and then would firm up with heavier feel. The bridge was moving in that initial easy movement but looking through the binocs it did not seem like they were focusing in that initial movement and that only made me think more that it was freeplay in the focuser. But looking at the bridge while moving the focuser there was no freeplay in the mechanism and the bridge was moving. Maybe it was an optical illusion due to a deeper depth of field than I realized. I know my 7X50 Vixen Forresta has a very deep depth of field and it seems to take a fair amount of movement to get your correct focus but with the Vixen's there is none of that easy movement followed by tightening up and more focus resistance in the focus knob. I really can't explain it. I was able to get a clear view and to hold them steady. Just the initial focus felt like freeplay because it was so light before tightening up and increasing resistance. I do think for the money and if they are waterproof it would be hard to beat them. Wasn't that one of the things with the Yosemite's? Waterproof? That said I do prefer a sturdier feel and consistent resistance on the focuser all the way across the movement. All my other binoculars are consistent across. Even if there's no freeplay in the Yosemite that initial easy movement with no resistance on the focuser makes you think its got freeplay. It moves that easily.

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Old Wednesday 11th December 2013, 14:52   #25
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Originally Posted by curvecrazy View Post
My comment above on the Yosemites might have been taken the wrong way. I looked at them at a Gander Mountain store. They were the 6X I played with. Just looking across the store basically at price tags on the far side high racks down the main aisle. The focus moved very easily at first movement [initial 20 degrees of motion say? ] and then would firm up with heavier feel. The bridge was moving in that initial easy movement but looking through the binocs it did not seem like they were focusing in that initial movement and that only made me think more that it was freeplay in the focuser. But looking at the bridge while moving the focuser there was no freeplay in the mechanism and the bridge was moving. Maybe it was an optical illusion due to a deeper depth of field than I realized. I know my 7X50 Vixen Forresta has a very deep depth of field and it seems to take a fair amount of movement to get your correct focus but with the Vixen's there is none of that easy movement followed by tightening up and more focus resistance in the focus knob. I really can't explain it. I was able to get a clear view and to hold them steady. Just the initial focus felt like freeplay because it was so light before tightening up and increasing resistance. I do think for the money and if they are waterproof it would be hard to beat them. Wasn't that one of the things with the Yosemite's? Waterproof? That said I do prefer a sturdier feel and consistent resistance on the focuser all the way across the movement. All my other binoculars are consistent across. Even if there's no freeplay in the Yosemite that initial easy movement with no resistance on the focuser makes you think its got freeplay. It moves that easily.
Mine is the same, and mine are waterproof so far.
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