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Looking for mid-range 8x32s

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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 00:08   #1
Bob_McBob
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Looking for mid-range 8x32s

My main binoculars are the 2018 Viper HD 8x42. I've been quite happy with them for birding, but I only tend to carry them when I specifically plan to set up and observe somewhere because of the size and weight (today I was watching beavers across a river!). I'm looking for a more compact pair I can toss in a coat pocket or at least have with me on a more regular basis when I don't want to break out the Vipers. I'm in Canada and here are some of the options I've been considering, with prices in USD.

$331 - Nikon Monarch 7 8x30, 435g, 119mm x 123mm (on special)
$358 - Kowa BD II XD 8x32, 540g, 116mm x 124mm
$368 - Opticron Traveler BGA ED 8x32, 451g, 119mm x 115mm
$482 - Kite Lynx HD 8x30, 461g, 120mm x 114mm
$525 - Maven B3 8x30, 461g, 119mm x 117mm

I don't wear glasses, and weight and size are primary concerns. I would also prefer to not go much higher than the Maven since I'd rather have spare cash to spend on upgrading the Vipers in the future, so something like the Conquest HD 8x32 fails on both counts. The Kowa also stands out as a bit larger and heavier than the other options, while also being a fairly new model.

Unfortunately it's not practical for me to try any of these in person before buying. The Maven in particular is the most expensive pair under consideration and would have to be special ordered from the US, complicating any potential return. I gather the Nikon, Opticron, and Kite are fairly similar optically, though people often seem to prefer one over the others, and in particular complain about glare with the Monarch 7. I actually demoed a pair of 8x42 Monarch 7 last summer and nearly kept it instead of the Viper, so I'm pretty familiar with their build quality. They are also appealing for the special price, though I'd be happy to pay a bit more if necessary.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the options I'm considering or something else I might add to the list?
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 03:27   #2
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Hi Bob and welcome to BirdForum. You are asking a very good but very broad question.

To keep it short and simple, I own several Nikons, Kowas, Opticrons, Vortex and one Maven but none of the specific formats you mention and have never tried a Kite although they seem to get mostly positive reviews from experienced people.

Since you have and like the 8x42 Viper HD and are willing to consider the size and weight of the new Kowa, I recommend you consider the 6.5x rather than the 8x. I do own and love the new Kowa 6.5. Also the reviews here of the other Kowa formats seem somewhat mixed whereas reviews of the 6.5 are mostly positive. And since you already have a good 8, the 6.5 has very different specs or characteristics (much greater FOV and DOF) and therefore IMO would be a better complement to what you already have. In other words, mid level 8x42s and 8x32s are likely to be very similar in performance except in low light so you may enjoy and get more use out of a good binocular with very different specs than your 8x42.

You will likely get a lot of input from experts here who actually own all the specific models you mention. Good luck with your search and let us know how it goes.

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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 04:11   #3
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Without a doubt the best value on your list is the Nikon M7 8x30 and it would give you good performance in a compact size. You also said you liked the Nikon Monarch 7 8x42 so I bet you will like the 8x30 also.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 04:32   #4
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Thank you for adding your thoughts. I've spent a lot of time on Bird Forum over the last year, and I thought it was time to finally start posting! I realize my question is rather broad; I find when I'm trying to make this type of decision, it's helpful to gather my thoughts together in a post like this and get a bit of feedback from more knowledgeable people, so really anything is helpful.

The 6.5x32 Kowas have been on my radar throughout my research, and I know they have a bit of a cult following because they're somewhat unique. Allbinos mentions issues with field curvature etc. though I gather that is not unusual with this type of spec. The point about mid-level 8x32 and 8x42 binoculars performing similarly in many conditions is excellent, and something I hadn't really considered. Most of my binocular usage is in the daytime where the extra performance of the 8x42 doesn't come into play much, so it may be silly to replicate the magnification. On the other hand, my hiking locations don't really qualify as "scenic panoramic views" so I am really more interested in looking at wildlife, to the point I had actually considered purchasing some 10x42s before deciding a compact companion pair for the Vipers would make more sense. Today I was watching a family of beavers from across a river, and I'm not sure 6.5x would have cut it. I will add them to the list though (going the wrong way here adding more models ).
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 10:43   #5
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Of those on your list I only have experience of the Monarch's and the Opticron's. I'd go with the Opticron's. They didn't noticeably have the glare problem that the Monarch's did and had better feel in the hand (I didn't care much for the rubber armouring on the Monarch's that felt a bit loose/spongy on the copy I tried). Hopefully Pbosh can comment further as he's owned both, but I believe prefers the Opticron's. Also both weigh the same, but the Monarch's have a couple of extra milimeters on the objects with associated advantages. For the money I think they really deliver.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 13:21   #6
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I will add a vote for the Opticrons here. Nice and light with an enjoyable view.

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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 15:35   #7
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I have (and like a lot) the Nikon M7 8x30 and the Kowa 8x32 BD XD. I have tried the Kite Lynx a couple of times on a shop (directly comparing them to the MHG 8x30); no experience with the Opticron or the Maven.
Given that all but the Kowa are closely related, it will be a matter of "feel". I would not necessarily rule out the Kowa, they're a very nice glass. Their FOV is only 7,5º, but they are sharp to the very edge, as I commented once around here. However, they're heavier and definitely feel clunkier; 100 g in a 400 g binocular makes a biiiiiig difference, especially considering this is one of your main concerns. For me, that puts the Kowa altogether in a different category, at least to my eyes.
Between the Kite and the Nikon, the FOV is (on paper) a bit wider on the Kite, but both are more than OK. "Feel"-wise, I don't particularly like the Kite. They are supposed to be a little better (metal eyecups, bette performance??), but I'm not sure they're worth that difference. When I hold them in my hands, I didn't like the texture of the rubber armour. The rubber on the Nikon M7 is very soft and grippy. Some people don't like it: I do. It is true that if you squeeze them hardly, there is a certain "give", while the rubber in the Kite is harder, to my eyes it does not look any more "premium". One important feature I didn't like about the Kite is that the eyecups are whether all in or all out, no intermediate stops, while the Nikon does have intermediate eyecup positions.

I like the ease of use of the M7; it is so nimble, such a joy to use, it feels lighter than it actually is (while some other "light" binoculars as the 8x30 SW new Companion feel -at least to me- heavier than their scale weight). Besides, the strap provided, while not the small is really comfy (actually, given its small size, I'm sure they could do with a thinner one). I've done 7+ hour treks on 10.000 ft mountains with them and not noticed I had them on my neck for that long.
Another minor point; the lens covers on the Kite are not really useful, while the ones on the M7 are just perfect. They snap into position and avoid dust, water or any other aggressive object from damaging the lenses (I've taken the M7 kayaking on the open sea, they were all drenched with sea salt and no problem whatsoever).

Regarding the size; while I can squeeze them on the pocket of my raincoat (without case; luckily they have objective covers), I would not consider them a "pocket binocular".

Finally, an important detail if considering the purchase of an M7. I've had two units. One had a serial number lesser than 1000, and the other one had a serial number higher than 30.000. The latter is simply better. Not only does it suffer less glare, but it has higher contrast and is sharper. I'm not sure whether it has to do with improvement of the series over time, or simply a matter of quality control between two units. But it can be worth taking your time to test at least a couple of units if possible.

Regarding the "repetitive" 8x format; well, I know 10x30 is not necessarily an ideal, but it could also be worth investigating. From the many 8x32 I've owned and tried over the last months (a handful), the Monarch 7 have, surprisingly one of the easiest views, contrary to what the format would lead to believe.
I've bought both my M7 second hand (one from a fellow forum member here in BF) for really nice prices, I'm sure with a little time you can also find a great deal. The official retail price is however, very attractive as it is.
Do let us know what you finally decide.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 19:45   #8
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It sounds like either the Monarch 7 or Opticron Traveller would work fine for my purposes. Opticron seems to win on warranty as well as having a slightly larger exit pupil and better eye relief, though they have no presence in Canada and only one dealer (Urban Nature Store). Kite and Maven seem to offer little for the extra money, and I can't even purchase the Maven in Canada.

The 6.5x32 Kowa is an interesting option I hadn't really seriously considered. It is worth noting the new BDII series has significantly wider FOV than the original, with the 8x32 at 8.8° and the 6.5x32 at a whopping 10°. I am concerned 6.5x wouldn't be enough magnification for rambling in the woods, and the added weight is also a significant consideration considering why I'm buying them in the first place.

I do realize none of these are really "pocket" binoculars, and for that I'd probably have go down to something like the 8x25 Terra ED, or even the inexpensive 7x28 Maven C2, which is available in Canada on amazon.ca. I'm not sure any binocular that size would really be satisfactory compared to the Viper HD though.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 22:13   #9
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I have the Maven B3 and the Opticron Traveller ED. I also had a Moinarch 7 for a few weeks for review. The Maven B3 is hands down the best binocular of the three. It won't give up anything to the Zeiss Conquest either.
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Old Thursday 6th February 2020, 23:12   #10
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I have the Maven B3 and the Opticron Traveller ED. I also had a Moinarch 7 for a few weeks for review. The Maven B3 is hands down the best binocular of the three. It won't give up anything to the Zeiss Conquest either.
I was afraid of that! What about the Maven did you prefer?

I went ahead and ordered a pair of Monarch 7 from a large retailer before the special pricing ended. That should give me a baseline to decide whether I like the form factor and whether it's worth going for something pricier like the Maven. In all likelihood the Monarch 7 will be perfectly fine for my needs, but I really appreciate the discussion and will keep the thread updated.
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Old Friday 7th February 2020, 00:02   #11
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I was afraid of that! What about the Maven did you prefer?

I went ahead and ordered a pair of Monarch 7 from a large retailer before the special pricing ended. That should give me a baseline to decide whether I like the form factor and whether it's worth going for something pricier like the Maven. In all likelihood the Monarch 7 will be perfectly fine for my needs, but I really appreciate the discussion and will keep the thread updated.
What did I prefer on the Maven? Pretty much everything. It has a wider fov, better contrast, brighter, and the eye cup extension better matches the eye relief, something some users of the x30-32 mm class have some issue with.

Maven glass always more directly compares a league above its price point. The Maven is a better comparison with the Zeiss Conquest and the Swarovski CL. How they compare will be a matter of some discussion, but the better comparison is there. Edit to add, for the price, there really is not a better binocular than the Maven B3.

Yeah, you will most likely find the Monarch 7 a pretty good binocular, because that is what it is. Just take it out and use it. If it has faults that bother you, time will tell the tale. Go looking for faults,you will find them, for they exist in all binoculars. Once you start finding faults, be prepared to spend some money. But my ranking of your list is Maven, Traveller, then Monarch 7. I haven't seen the others so I can't comment.
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Old Friday 7th February 2020, 02:17   #12
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It sounds like either the Monarch 7 or Opticron Traveller would work fine for my purposes......

The 6.5x32 Kowa is an interesting option I hadn't really seriously considered. It is worth noting the new BDII series has significantly wider FOV than the original, with the 8x32 at 8.8° and the 6.5x32 at a whopping 10°. I am concerned 6.5x wouldn't be enough magnification for rambling in the woods, and the added weight is also a significant consideration considering why I'm buying them in the first place.

I do realize none of these are really "pocket" binoculars, and for that I'd probably have go down to something like the 8x25 Terra ED, or even the inexpensive 7x28 Maven C2, which is available in Canada on amazon.ca. I'm not sure any binocular that size would really be satisfactory compared to the Viper HD though.
Bob,

In the event you don't like the Monarch for whatever reason:

If the size and weight alone of the Kowa 6.5 is a deal breaker for your purposes it makes good sense for you to scratch it off the list. However, regarding your concern with the 6.5x mag, I was really surprised and impressed by how much more useful and enjoyable the 6.5x mag is as compared to a 6x for general wildlife and birding. Two very different animals to my eyes anyway.

The Terra 8x25 would be an excellent choice. I actually prefer the ergos of the Terra over the SW 8x25. You might even consider the Terra in 10x25 since you have your 8x42, but I've never looked through the Terra 10

The Maven 7x28 is good news and one bit of bad news. Nice bright sharp clear steady image and 4mm EP (!) in a larger/cargo pocket format and decent FOV of 341'. But the 7x28 format and $200 price means a very narrow AFOV, only 45.5, which is a personal pet peeve of mine. If you can abide that one spec, the Maven would be a reasonable choice.

Mike

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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 19:39   #13
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I was hoping to spend the weekend testing the Monarch 7, but Canada Post disagreed with that plan so I'll have to wait until Monday. I think just holding and using it for a bit should give me a good idea of whether I'm on the right track. I'm not at all opposed to moving up to the Maven B3 if it seems like the right choice after handling the M7. It's unfortunate I can't get them up here though.

With respect to even more compact binoculars like the 8x25 Terra, I rather like the idea of also having a pair I can just slip into cargo pants or a jacket pocket, but I suspect the larger 8x32 class is probably what I'm after first. I know from trying a ton of pairs before choosing the Viper HD that blackouts and fiddly eye positioning bug me a lot, so I worry about models with smaller exit pupils like the 8x25 Terra even though they are clearly a popular and appropriate choice. It's unfortunate about the AFOV of the Maven 7x28, which even even worse using the ISO standard at 43.35°!
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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 20:42   #14
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A binocular with an 8* field of view has an 8* field of view. Calculate the same fov either way, the simple way or the iso way, you get an afov of 64*, the Iso way is 56*. Same binocular, same fov. It seems the simple way vs the Iso way is kind of silly. OK, the Iso may be mathematically correct. Since the standard wide field designation with the simple way is 60*, the the wide field of the Iso needs to be set at 56*. Again the two figures change nothing, your eye still sees the world through the real 8* angular fov. However no matter how you figure it, the Maven 7x28 is just way too narrow.

You are likely right about the Monarch. It is a good binocular. Just let it speak for itself when you get it.
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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 21:20   #15
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It seems the simple way vs the Iso way is kind of silly. OK, the Iso may be mathematically correct.
It may be correct, but it might just as well not be correct. That just depends on the distortions in the binocular.
I have two binoculars with the same magnification and the same measured FOV. Yet the AFOV is significantly different, it's a lot narrower in the one having noticeable AMD.
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Old Saturday 8th February 2020, 23:35   #16
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If you expect to be "rambling in the woods" as you noted in Thread #8 above; the Kowa 6.5x32 would be an excellent binocular to take with you. You would have a binocular with both a very wide real FOV and great depth of field!

Bob

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Old Sunday 9th February 2020, 06:58   #17
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If you expect to be "rambling in the woods" as you noted in Thread #8 above; the Kowa 6.5x32 would be an excellent binocular to take with you. You would have a binocular with both a very wide real FOV and great depth of field!

Bob
Absolutely right Bob.

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Old Sunday 9th February 2020, 20:25   #18
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I went ahead and ordered a pair of Monarch 7 from a large retailer before the special pricing ended. That should give me a baseline to decide whether I like the form factor and whether it's worth going for something pricier like the Maven. In all likelihood the Monarch 7 will be perfectly fine for my needs, but I really appreciate the discussion and will keep the thread updated.
I have had M7 8x30 for a year and I use it really a lot for birding. I have been happy with it. Bright clear pic with no slack focus wheel. Light and handy in size. Only the known glare problem is sometimes annoying.

True Story: I was in a trip in a bird fair and one of our group was newcomer birder with some cheap bins. I said to her that I test your bins to see if they are any good, and you can test my M7. Her bins were really crappy. When she looked trought my M7 her jaw almost dropped - it was like getting your eyesight back. She did buy M7 from the bird fair...
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Old Monday 10th February 2020, 15:41   #19
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Canada Post really doesn't want me to have these binoculars.
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Old Monday 10th February 2020, 21:49   #20
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I have had M7 8x30 for a year and I use it really a lot for birding. I have been happy with it. Bright clear pic with no slack focus wheel. Light and handy in size. Only the known glare problem is sometimes annoying.

True Story: I was in a trip in a bird fair and one of our group was newcomer birder with some cheap bins. I said to her that I test your bins to see if they are any good, and you can test my M7. Her bins were really crappy. When she looked trought my M7 her jaw almost dropped - it was like getting your eyesight back. She did buy M7 from the bird fair...

I have a pair of Nikon Monarch 8x30, I also have Vortex Razor 8x42.. I really like the Nikon’s. They are my go to binocular. . When yours finally arrive, be sure to let us have you thoughts.
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Old Thursday 13th February 2020, 01:22   #21
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The package finally arrived! Upon first impression the Monarch 7 feels significantly smaller and lighter than I was expecting based on the specifications. It's not a "pocket" binocular, but it's extremely unobtrusive compared to even a relatively lightweight and small 8x42 like the Viper HD, and would easily slip under a coat or into a large coat pocket. The size difference doesn't really come through effectively even seeing photos of my own binoculars side by side. The barrels on the M7 are tiny by comparison.

In terms of handling, I can appreciate why many people seem to consider the 8x30 class the smallest "real" binoculars. They're certainly more fiddly to use than my 8x42, but they're still extremely capable. Like previous Monarchs I've tried, the rubber armour has a bit of a "rubbery" odour, and the eyepiece cover sucks, to put it mildly. One other potentially important detail I noticed was after sitting in a cold delivery vehicle, the focus knob was so stiff it was essentially impossible to adjust with one finger without altering the IPD. This could obviously become an issue in Canada.

Optically, eye positioning is somewhat challenging in bright daylight. I don't wear glasses, and the eye cups aren't quite long enough, which means I have to either hold them slightly away from my face or carefully position the edge on the underside of my eye ridge. This means I don't get very effective shading from stray light, and I'm also fighting blackouts. I noticed distortion begins much closer to the middle of the field than any other binocular I've tried, which I later discovered is reflected in the Allbinos review that estimates only 46% of the field is distortion-free. I would say the view otherwise is... pretty okay. It's sharp enough, though I wouldn't say details jump out at me or anything like that. The baffling isn't great, and I haven't had an opportunity to test flare resistance yet. There is significant field curvature which is to be expected, and it does seem to lose contrast near the edges.

I was able to try the M7 "in the field" today (aka sitting by a river with the dog), and it made me realize pretty quickly I need a pair of binoculars this size. They are so easy to carry around I wouldn't think twice about taking them nearly anywhere, and I know having a pair like this will result in me using them significantly more often.

So overall, I would say the M7 isn't the right choice, but trying them certainly was. Would any of the other models on my list improve on the short eye cup issue? I don't have much to go on other than claimed eye relief. I'd also be quite interested to see the Kowa 8x32 or 6.5x32 beside any of the other models to get a feel for the size.
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Old Thursday 13th February 2020, 14:43   #22
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Hi,

sorry to hear you didn't like the M7. Just to make sure, since the eyecups are not extended in your picture - you did turn them all the way up, right?

As for eye relief, what you describe is too much eye relief, so the bins need to be farther away from the eyes and the eyecups are too short. This is a very uncommon problem with this model with its 15mm ER. But of course this also depends a lot on the users facial physiognomy...

As for eyepiece covers, there seems to be a conspiracy among manufacturers to only supply ill fitting and fiddly examples...
I tend to get loose fitting zeiss style rubber ones for my pairs which are attached to the strap on both sides and more or less just lie on the eyepieces and fall off to hang on the strap when you take the bins to your eyes...

If the grease of the focus drive was really frozen solid after a night out, that would be a bummer, but of course can happen with any pair if it gets cold enough... the question is, what was the temperature when it happened?

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Old Thursday 13th February 2020, 15:11   #23
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The Maven B 3 and the Opticron Traveller ED both have screw off eye cup assemblies. A proper sized O-ring can be used to extend the eye cup. For whatever reason the complaints if poor eye cup extension seem to be more prevalent with 30-32 mm class binoculars. That might be a thing to consider specifically as you search, even if it requires a phone call to the company. I don't recall if that applies to the Monarch 7 you have, but since it is in hand I'd check.

jring's first sentence is may be obvious, but obvious things are all too often overlooked.
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Old Thursday 13th February 2020, 17:35   #24
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I agree with Steve and Jring. Check and be sure on the M7, and then try some others. Both the Maven and Opticron may work better for you, in terms of the eye relief/eyecup issue. Its good to try them for yourself exactly as you are doing to realize how important these sorts of ergonomic/fit issues are on a case by case basis.
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Old Thursday 13th February 2020, 18:11   #25
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Whoops, meant to post this earlier but forgot to hit submit:

Thank you for asking since it would certainly have been an easy solution, but yes I do realize the eye cups need to be extended

I spent a really long time researching on the forum before posting this thread, and I came across multiple mentions of non-glasses wearers having the same issue with this class of binocular, though I don't recall which specific models. I think it must have to do with the smaller eye cup diameter leading to them sitting too deep in the eye sockets? The M7 eye cups are about 3mm lower diameter than my 8x42s and have ~3mm less extension from the surface of the eyepiece glass. Basically I can't comfortably cram them into my eye sockets for stability without increasing blackouts to annoying levels under bright lighting conditions.

With respect to the frozen focus knob, temperatures the previous night were only a touch below freezing, so nothing particularly crazy. The low tonight is -19°C! I also didn't notice any issues using them outside for an hour, so it may be that I would have to avoid storing them in freezing conditions.

Please don't get me wrong about the M7. Despite the issues I would probably keep them if there weren't any alternatives because I love the size. I was really pleased to discover they fit in my coat pocket today! I just feel like one of the other models on my list would probably work better. For example, the Maven B3 appears to have larger diameter eye cups from side-by-side photos, though I have no idea how much extension they provide since that's not a normal manufacturer spec. They also have removable eye cups that can take an o-ring unlike the M7 (I tried reverse threading the eye cups off several brand new M5 and M7 binoculars last year with no success).
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