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Brightness in Low light?

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Old Tuesday 23rd October 2007, 22:45   #1
erikschupp
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Brightness in Low light?

Hello, I am planning on upgrading......... again (man this is getting expensive). The most important thing to me is brightness in low light. How much brighter are the Leica Ultravid and Zeiss FL over the EL's in last light. I love the image I have gotten from my Swarovski SLC's (edge to edge clarity and color rendition), but am wondering if the Leica's and Zeiss' are better then the EL when I need it most. Thanks
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Old Tuesday 23rd October 2007, 23:42   #2
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Erik,
What size binocular are you using now? Maybe you need a bigger exit pupil, like 7 x 42 or 8 x 50? Consider that before you decide to split hairs and spend big bucks.
Cordially,
Bob
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Old Wednesday 24th October 2007, 01:16   #3
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I'm going to just take a guess that you're using a 8.5x EL now since you didn't mention which it was. Going to an Ultravid or even to the 'known for it's brightness' FL isn't really going to give you any perceptible increase to your eye. All three of these bins are within a couple of percentage points of light transmission already. Going to a bin with a larger exit pupil many not help much either if you're already using a bin with close to 5mm exit pupil.

If you're already using a 10x EL, then going to a 10x50 SLC might help but I wouldn't go from, say....a 8.5x42EL to a 7x42FL thinking that you might see things better in low light. It's more important to bring the object closer to you under difficult lighting conditions that it is to increase the exit pupil size.

My most effective low light bin is the 15x56 SLC and it only has a 3.7mm exit pupil. Before that it was the Zeiss 15x60. I can still observe deer and elk at dusk with the 15x56 when making out detail with a 8x42FL or 10x42EL is almost impossible. The magnification is what allows us to see detail when our eyes are struggling to gather light. Increasing magnification, especially in low light really works best with a tripod and solid mount. I use 8x42FL for most handheld viewing but when I go to the 10xELs I usually use them with a tripod. It's not as convenient but after I make that initial peek offhand I always try to lock into my tripod quickly. The view is so much more rewarding in my opinion. Tripod viewing with premium optics is what hooked me on this hobby.

Last edited by Patriot222 : Wednesday 24th October 2007 at 21:51. Reason: spelling
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Old Thursday 25th October 2007, 01:42   #4
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Thanks for the info. The binoculars I am currently using is the 8x30 SLC. Great little bin with little weight. But when the light really gets dim, when out hunting, it is a real struggle to make out much detail on distant whitetails (200-300 yards). I did have the 7x42 SLCs......... they were killer in low light and killer on my neck. That is why I got rid of them. I want to upgrade to the 42mm's again and love Swarovski EL's, but was afraid the FL's and the Ultravids were alot brighter. So Patriot222 maybe I should get the 10x42 EL's so I can make out better detail in lower light.
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Old Thursday 25th October 2007, 04:48   #5
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Eric,
Since you use your binoculars in hunting and you already own an 8 x 30, you might find this article interesting.
http://grayssportingjournal.com/stor...shooting.shtml
Bob
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Old Thursday 25th October 2007, 19:07   #6
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Eric,

Unless you always mount your binoculars on at least a monopod, using an image stabilized binocular is going to give you the biggest advantage in very low light. What Patriot222 said about exit pupil and magnification is true, and higher magnification is more important than a large exit pupil, but I can add that when testing a hand-held premium 10x42 against the Canon 10x42 IS L in such low light that colors were no longer discernible, I could resolve roughly twice as well with the IS binocular and see things much faster. Likewise, with a 15x50 IS, I have consistently been able to see much more detail at night than with any hand-held 7-10x42 binocular. I think that in very low light our eye-brain system needs more time to pick out whatever information there is in the image, and if the image shakes this is simply not possible.

Kimmo
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Old Thursday 25th October 2007, 22:45   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erikschupp View Post
Thanks for the info. The binoculars I am currently using is the 8x30 SLC. Great little bin with little weight. But when the light really gets dim, when out hunting, it is a real struggle to make out much detail on distant whitetails (200-300 yards). I did have the 7x42 SLCs......... they were killer in low light and killer on my neck. That is why I got rid of them. I want to upgrade to the 42mm's again and love Swarovski EL's, but was afraid the FL's and the Ultravids were alot brighter. So Patriot222 maybe I should get the 10x42 EL's so I can make out better detail in lower light.

Hi Eric. Bob and Kimmo both posted some really good information to. I've read that Gray's sporting story before that Bob posted and it's a great argument for the 8x30. Some parts of the story are a bit vague because is speaks little of the type terrain they were hunting in. It's still brings up other very valid points. Kimmo's experience with the IS bins is really neat because is shows the contrast between the classic hunter and the 8x30 with a new technology that didn't exist back then. Undoubtedly the 10x42 Canon IS will give you a better view of your subjects in low light while glassing off-hand.

It's my opinion that the Canon comes up short of the other premium glass optically in the departments of sharpness and light transmission. I also realized that as a birding bins, where things sometimes happen very quickly, there is a huge advantage to stabilizing the image. In fact, many times the Canon has the advantage over a premium glass that's wiggling all over the place. From the passenger seat try reading the license plate on a car 100 yards in front of while driving down the highway. Even with a top bin it's difficult or impossible. With the Canon it's a piece of cake. The the biggest compromise the you run into with the Canon's is the weight and bulk. The second is the optics, though not bad at all, they're still short of the top bins.

Just as the the Canon 10x42IS will perform better than your 8x30s off-hand during low light, a 10x42EL on a tripod will give you a better image than the Canon whether you hand hold it or tripod mount it. So, for the ultimate in viewing, whether in great lighting conditions or low lighting conditions, a tripod mounted, top shelf optic will always provide superior viewing of subjects. This is where the compromise comes in and where you'll have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages for the task that you're trying to accomplish.

My kind of hunting and guiding is normally based around locating the game with optics (spotting) and then trying to get within shooting distance of the game, (stalking). In west there are an endless number of far open expanses as distant as the eye can see. Much of the game I spot is often 500 to 2000 yards away. But it isn't uncommon to see elk from 3-5 miles away in open fields. It involves hiking long distances and then sitting down for hours while looking through bins on a tripod. I'll usually have my 8x30s around my neck and 10x42EL, 15x56SLC and Leica77APO in a pack. It's heavy, but is the ultimate way to locate game, judge it's size, and make a decision to go after it or pass it up. Occasionally, heavily wooded forest only allows me to see 100-200 yards through trees and I never get to hunt those open lands. At those times the 8x30SLC or 8x42FL are perfect for me. But I'll sometime carry just the 10x42ELs in my pack in case I have to observe more closely in low light. As you can see, different glass for different kinds of terrain and hunting.

Your uses may fall somewhere between long distance observation and the wooded forest work. If you're going to do much viewing at 200-300 yards, as you mentioned, the 10x42 bins will make a big difference in low light or shadowed woods obervation. Remember, you'll not be getting nearly the full advantage of the 10x unless you tripod mount them. I have three different tripods, and I'd recommend a small, ultralight, seated use tripod for your purposes. It may cost $150-$300 for tripod, head, and binocular adaptor, but it's worth every dime, so get the best that you can afford. If you're curious about tripods, I'll tell you which ones I'm using.

One last thing, the "twighlight factor" given to binoculars is (usually) a good indicator of how a bin will perform respective to others of the same maker. As you'll see the 10x42EL has factor of 21 while the 8x30SLC has a factor of 16. That's about a 25% difference, which is fairly substantial IMO. These ratings are most accurate when comparing bins of the same manufacturer. Obviously a Tasco with a 21 twilight factor is going to be a joke compared to a premium optic in real world use. That's because the twilight factor does not take into account the transmittance or quality of the optic.


Good luck Eric :)

P.S. Hey, if there is any way that you can swing the 10xs without selling or trading in your 8xs, I think that you'll be happy that you kept them. Depending on what you're doing you may prefer one or the other. In all honesty, the 10x42 is more mission specific than the 8x30 while the 8x30 is more versatile.

Last edited by Patriot222 : Thursday 25th October 2007 at 23:06. Reason: P.S.
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Old Thursday 25th October 2007, 23:01   #8
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Hi

Perhaps this point is a cue for Alula to put some new optics reviews on the net. PLEASE
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patriot222 View Post
Just as the the Canon 10x42IS will perform better than your 8x30s off-hand during low light, a 10x42EL on a tripod will give you a better image than the Canon whether your hand holding it or tripod mount it.
I have a feeling that after Kimmo's testing of the Canon he would disagree with the above though unfotunately I don't have access to his review
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Old Thursday 25th October 2007, 23:37   #9
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Quote:
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Hi

Perhaps this point is a cue for Alula to put some new optics reviews on the net. PLEASE

I have a feeling that after Kimmo's testing of the Canon he would disagree with the above though unfotunately I don't have access to his review

Maybe I didn't word my post correctly....you're saying that Kimmo would disagree that a premium, (big three) tripod mounted, 10x42 wouldn't provide a better image that the 10x42IS while being hand held. I'd be surprised if kimmo thought that. Now, if both were handheld it might go either way. People's ability to hold optics steady varies greatly. Someone who's able to hold very still or supported might be able to take advantage of the optical clarity of the premium glass. Though I doubt that I have the IS experience that Kimmo has, I pondered the purchase of the 10x42IS for a long time before I decided against it. I was going to use it for the purpose of glassing out of my vehicle with the engine running as I drove forest and canyon roads. In the end there was more for of an advantage for me to just shut the engine off and attach the bins to a window mount. Certainly and extra step but well worth it to me.

I think there is a big difference between viewing animals and locating animals. To view an animal you lift you bins and observe, to locate animals you're using the eye's sensitivity to movement to locate them. This requires that the optic remain perfectly still so that when a wing flashes, or an ear twitches the eye immediately detects the movement. When the bin is shaking around or floating around (in the case of IS) it's exponentially more difficult to detect minute movements.

Last edited by Patriot222 : Thursday 25th October 2007 at 23:48.
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Old Friday 26th October 2007, 08:24   #10
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I will not present my opinion in full detail here, since my full review of the Canon will likely be posted on the Alula website in the near future. Briefly, though, and with the important qualification that as far as I have seen, the quality of the Canon is still more variable sample to sample than with Swarovski, and poor samples indeed cannot be considered equal to the other premium binoculars, I'll say the following as my opinion:

A premium binocular mounted on a tripod will show a slightly better view than the Canon hand-held with the IS. If the non-IS binocular is also hand-held, the Canon will always win, no matter which premium 7-10x30-50mm binocular you pit against it. As far as optical parameters, light transmission is the only one where the Canon falls slightly short of Zeiss FL, and even here the difference is barely perceptible. Indeed, in our field tests one of the testers (in daylight, mind you) said the Canon appeared brighter when he picked it up right after the 10x42 FL.

When it comes to weight, size and handling, I, too, much prefer the Swarovski EL.

Kimmo
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Old Friday 26th October 2007, 08:59   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patriot222 View Post

It's my opinion that the Canon comes up short of the other premium glass optically in the departments of sharpness and light transmission.
When measured, the EP of the Canons is not 4,2 mm but only 3,7 mm.

cheers

Tom

Last edited by bralk : Saturday 27th October 2007 at 04:59.
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Old Friday 26th October 2007, 20:48   #12
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Patriot222, I may have misunderstood you - I thought you were saying that a tripod mounted premium 3 bin was better than the Canon tripod mounted ie IS off.

As I understand it the IS slightly degrades the image but with it off the image is the equal of the others and better in some parameters.

As Kimmo says the only edge the Zeiss FL has is light transmission. ( Assuming a good example Canon ).

Kimmo - as ever I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to seeing your new optic reviews on Alula.

Nev
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Old Saturday 27th October 2007, 06:06   #13
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I've only view through three 10x42IS. One of them I got to use for a whole weekend. The other two were only handled in the store for a maximum of 15 minutes. I really wanted to purchase the Canon, but all three examples that I looked through fell noticeably optically short of all the bins on that trip including the ELs, FLs and Trinovids. There wasn't a single person in our party who thought the Canon was comparable with our usual glass. Yes, we all liked the IS feature especially when riding the ATV or stopping to look out the window on dirt roads. When we got serious about locating game the tripods and European glass came out and the Canons sat on the front seat.

My brother is a bit of a newbie when it comes to glassing, but he usually, "got stuck" according to him, with the Canon. He did like the Canon, but not off of a tripod. That's where even his inexperienced eyes picked up on deficiencies. He often asked if he could use the ELs again. While glassing as the sky darkened, one person went so far as to say "these suck." While I don't agree with that, I do realize that the Canon with IS has it's place, it just wasn't as transmissive as the 10xEL, 10xSLC, or 10x50 Trinovid, The FL is an 8x so I wasn't surprised that it was brighter also. I don't know if there is that much variation between these Canons, but I'm amazed that anyone would ever feel that it was "bright" especially when compared to the big three. Of the 5 people on that trip we had 11 premium optics of which I'm not including the Canon.

All in all it's a great tool. I spent a lot of time in the passenger seat looking out truck windows with it. It was great for walking up to the top of small ridges to quickly off-hand glass the back sides without having to bring along a tripod. I consider the Canon perfect for informal glassing during very short walks from the vehicle. For me it's too bulky to carry all day unless it was in a pack. It seems to be durable as it got very dusty several times between cleaning. On the last day of our trip the owner accidentally knocked it off the back of his ATV onto some rocks as we all stared and cringed in horror. He wiped it off and ascertained that it was still in perfect working order and we all started breathing again. We're all pretty careful with our optics as they become our primary tool and we have optic sympathy for one another when somebody hurts their...lol. Well, I'm just babbling now sorry....I'm done
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Old Saturday 27th October 2007, 06:16   #14
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When measured, the EP of the Canons is not 4,2 mm but only 3,7 mm.

cheers

Tom

Well that's interesting. I did not know that or ever notice that while using them for a weekend. That helps to explain my experience with them. Additionally I don't think that the coatings are among the ultimate standard but that's mostly speculation on my part. The reason I say that is because when it was getting dark I felt like I was seeing a lot of reflection off of the ocular and was cupping my hands near my eyes to help with that. That one of my brother's gripes also. During the day, there was absolutely no difference between the Canon and the others where brightness was concerned. They all appeared to be equal.

Last edited by Patriot222 : Saturday 27th October 2007 at 20:57. Reason: spelling
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Old Saturday 27th October 2007, 09:11   #15
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Patriot,

Yes, unfortunately there can be that much sample variation. Poor samples are quite common in my experience also, and I'm not even surprised that all three you have tried were as you describe them. Canon does not seem to put enough care into their assembly protocols, although they are not alone in this. So, although it may seem like I am arguing with you on the merits of the Canon, I actually trust that your comments and opinions are an accurate description of what you have seen and experienced.

On the topic of the exit pupil, there was a somewhat extensive discussion on it on Cloudy Nights some time back. Here's the link for those who can be bothered (it is a somewhat heavy read): http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthrea...l/fpart/1/vc/1

To put it briefly, the entire objective diameter of the Canon does not illuminate the entire exit pupil, but no part of the objective's surface area is redundant either. The actual exit pupil averages about 3.9mm.

As far as your last post, on the stray light reflections, the literally hideous eyecup design is also one of my main gripes with the Canon. They are so large that they cannot be inserted into my eye-sockets (or anybody else's I know of) and easily allow light in from the sides. I have seen equally bad eyecups only in the 50mm Canons and large Fujinons.

Kimmo
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Old Saturday 27th October 2007, 20:52   #16
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Patriot,

Yes, unfortunately there can be that much sample variation. Poor samples are quite common in my experience also, and I'm not even surprised that all three you have tried were as you describe them. Canon does not seem to put enough care into their assembly protocols, although they are not alone in this. So, although it may seem like I am arguing with you on the merits of the Canon, I actually trust that your comments and opinions are an accurate description of what you have seen and experienced.

On the topic of the exit pupil, there was a somewhat extensive discussion on it on Cloudy Nights some time back. Here's the link for those who can be bothered (it is a somewhat heavy read): http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthrea...l/fpart/1/vc/1

To put it briefly, the entire objective diameter of the Canon does not illuminate the entire exit pupil, but no part of the objective's surface area is redundant either. The actual exit pupil averages about 3.9mm.

As far as your last post, on the stray light reflections, the literally hideous eyecup design is also one of my main gripes with the Canon. They are so large that they cannot be inserted into my eye-sockets (or anybody else's I know of) and easily allow light in from the sides. I have seen equally bad eyecups only in the 50mm Canons and large Fujinons.

Kimmo
Oh, no problem Kimmo. I never took anything that you were saying as argument.

I'm glad that you shared the information about sample variation. I was starting to think I was crazy or something because I've read all the Canon threads too. I kind of felt like I was from a different Galaxy because my experience and the experience of some good glassers was so opposite to much of what I had read.

Thanks for explaining the EP size and the stray light reflections too. Although this bin comes up lacking for me I can truly see the benefits of the CanonIS. It's much easier the detect movement while glassing off-hand and it's easier to see detail too. For those times when a tripod isn't practical, and if weight and size aren't a concern, I can't think of anything better that the Canon. Now that I'm talking about it I wish that I could go spend another weekend with it. Unfortunately the person who owns them lives 100 miles away. I might get another chance to use them in December though.

Thanks Kimmo,

Paul
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Old Saturday 27th October 2007, 22:21   #17
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What a very interesting thread! Really useful info here, and most informative!
My astronomer mate swears by Canon IS binos, and I've tried them on a number of occasions but come away unconvinced. I am lucky enough to have rock steady hands and a binoc/scope holding technique that has never failed me. This was something that field birders used to practice and learn 30-40 years ago when I started. Bracing against objects and/or clothing is 99% effective. Target rifle-shooters do the same - they wear a strap around their shouders and rest their weight on it, then breathe shallowly whilst firing.
I tried out Canon IS binos at the UK Birdfair and in several shops, but I can't make my hands shake enough to make them worthwhile. I've tried stamping my feet to vibrate my whole body whilst looking through the glasses, and that works to demonstrate that the IS binos do actually work, but in normal conditions I just don't need them. Does anyone else have the same 'problem'?

As for the optical qualities of the Canons, I agree that some samples aren't very impressive. But then, neither are the worst extremes of some of the 'top three' makers. It's always essential to try several examples of the same model and pick out the best one before leaving the shop. Binocs just can't be bought by mail order unless you are prepared to risk getting a second-rate pair. But I've personally never seen a Canon IS model that approaches a 'top three' binocular optically in any case, and they're quite 'dark' in comparison.

Dunno what Erik's gonna do to acheive brightness in such a small glass? Erik, if you find something, you'd better tell the rest of us, cos this is the age-old problem of size-vs-brightness. I've owned two pairs of Swarovski 8.5x EL's over a period of five years, and used them in almost total darkness with great success. I also have Leica Ultravid 10x50, which are almost as good. The EL is the sharpest, most natural image in low light, in my opinion. But compared to what you're using now, these are huge instruments! If you threw out your 7x42's cos they were too heavy, you needn't bother going shopping in the 'night glasses shop', ho ho!

all the very best Paul
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Old Sunday 28th October 2007, 00:38   #18
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Erik, Zeiss 10x56FL 44 oz. , Swarovski 15x56 SLC 47.3 oz. I agree with Paul on this one, the only way you will get night glass is heavy. On the cheap side to try is the Leupold Olympic 10x50 or 12x50 with a weight of 25.7 oz. they are a lot lighter, cheaper price might be worth a try. Also Stephen Ingraham of BVD fame liked the Leupold Olympic 10x50 very much. Just a thought.:-)
Regards,Steve
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Old Sunday 28th October 2007, 01:25   #19
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There is the Nikon Monarch 10 x 56 at $399.99 and 42 ounces or so, too. Don't know how durable they will be though. http://www.eagleoptics.com/index.asp?pid=4532
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Old Sunday 28th October 2007, 01:10   #20
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I agree, In order to have the low light vision I am needing I will have to deal with weight. I am thinking of upgrading my 8x30 SLC's to the 8.5x42EL's. Thank you all for your VERY useful information.
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Old Sunday 28th October 2007, 04:48   #21
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Quote:
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I agree, In order to have the low light vision I am needing I will have to deal with weight. I am thinking of upgrading my 8x30 SLC's to the 8.5x42EL's. Thank you all for your VERY useful information.
Sounds like a great plan Erik. I was at the park tonight watching rabbits, squirrels, cactus wren, quail, hummingbirds, curve billed grays and an assortment of other critters. I only took the 10x42 EL tonight and sat until it was almost dark. Since I normally use the 8x42 FL at the park, I was really aware of the difference in performance using the EL tonight when looking at familiar objects and distances.

I think you'll be happy with your choice. Please don't forget to share your experience with us after you get them.

Paul
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2007, 15:11   #22
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I love my SLC 7x42 Having owned Ultravids in 8x42 and FL's in 8x42, the SLC 7x42's are my favorite..... BRIGHT BRIGHT BRIGHT EASY ON THE EYES AND CLEAR!!!!! but a little heavy.....
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