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Shopping Advice - Best way to test out new binoculars?

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Old Thursday 19th September 2019, 17:28   #26
InspiredSquare
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Originally Posted by mskb View Post
Hello IS,

It's great to hear about your past experience with the M5. You mention you are about an hour away from B&H. If I recall correctly, the Cape May Fall Festival is scheduled for sometime mid-October. As far as I know, they always run a 10%-15%off sale during the festival days. That's about the same price as what stores like B&H would offer if I am not mistaken.

During the festival, you not only get to interact with several different optics vendors and their representatives, but you get to try out various copies of binoculars of the same model! And they let you try it out outside with no issues. I was there last year, and it was truly extraordinary -- not just the optics part, but spending sometime on the Hawkwatch platform with commentaries from a world class birder was a great experience!

So that's what I would recommend if your travel time allows - figure out a model that you like the most, make a trip to Cape May, pick the best to your eyes among the copies, spend some time with the best birders, rejoice! At the end of the day, you would also be supporting Audubon's conservation and research efforts with your purchase.

All the best,
Kumar
My thinking too, Kumar. The Festival is Oct 17-20th, and I spoke with someone who confirmed that starting at 12:00 noon on Friday the 18th, all the major venders (she didn't mention Nikon, and didn't know about Vortex) will be there. I will not, alas. My window of vacation doesn't cover that timespan this year. Maybe next year, it sounds exactly where I want to be.
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Old Thursday 19th September 2019, 17:31   #27
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I do like my Monarch 5s, but I am also expecting a life altering (visual) event when I look through $2k glass/prism/coats.. as deeply as I'm into birding, having extra detail and greater depth of field would be an enormous addition. If I don't get that, I will be disappointed... but richer in more ways than one.


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Originally Posted by etudiant View Post
Think Kumar is offering excellent advice, the CMBO Fall festival is the best set up venue for evaluating birding optics that I've seen.
All the major brands have stands at the CM Convention Center and allow one to take the glass out to the adjoining sea watch platform, which incidentally is usually festooned with a full range of scopes as well.
That venue allows easy A on B comparisons across a full range of prices, in comparable conditions.

All that said, your Nikon glass is actually pretty good, so I doubt that you will find the effort to be a life changing experience. You will probably get more out of chatting with the professional hawk and sea watchers than from the time you spend agonizing over very small differences in optical performance.
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Old Thursday 19th September 2019, 17:41   #28
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Great story about open-mindedness as it relates to bins, and your willingness to try things out. Much to your benefit, it sounds like.

I held a pair of Conquests 8x32s yesterday, and found my fingers fighting with one another.. there wasn't enough room. That's really helpful info. for me going forward.

I do expect to spend weeks with the right ones, and I'm hoping that ergonomics will help a lot to narrow the field. The SwaroVisions I held today that are 10x42s felt great. I hope to have some high tier ones feel not great, and then they are just out (at least for now).

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Originally Posted by justabirdwatcher View Post

It usually takes me a few weeks with a pair of binoculars to know whether I really like them or not. I've been fooled before by binoculars that I didn't think I would like but ended up liking very much, and vise-versa. So spend some time with them before you really decide.

I just picked up an older pair of Meopta Meostar non-HD's and for years I avoided those because I thought they were too heavy and too bulky. But I couldn't pass up this deal and now that I've had them for a few weeks, it turns out I really like them. They fit my very large hands much better than I expected (now my other binoculars all feel "too small" in my hands) and the extra weight makes the 10x easier to hand-hold. So they have become my go-to binoculars now. And to think I avoided them for a good 5+ years. Shame on me.

So make a list of what's important to you. Image quality really isn't everything once you get above the $300-400 price point. Ergonomics, eye relief, focus wheel speed and direction, diopter adjustments, hinge tension, single or double bridge, etc. all become very important in a binocular you use all the time.

The right binoculars will feel like an extension of your body. The wrong ones never will.
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Old Thursday 19th September 2019, 22:12   #29
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A shop happened to have an 8x25 Zeiss Pocket, a binocular I had tried and not liked. I tried their sample, took it to the street, and it was extraordinary, I bought it on the spot. I have been fighting it ever since, but it’s winning :)

Edmund
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Old Thursday 19th September 2019, 23:27   #30
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I've patronized a shop, and I've gone the online route. Both work fine. I'll admit I've even tried a bin in a shop, then waited for a good online price to buy it. However, at the same shop I've purchased several binoculars, so I don't feel too bad about doing that.

Being able to compare one directly to another can be enormously instructive, especially when one can do the $300 bin vs. the alpha, and realize how close they can be in some respects. Instead of miracles, one might notice a subtle but consistent accumulation of improved qualities: bigger sweet spot, even illumination of the entire field, improved contrast between light and shadow, better CA control off axis, possibly a wider field, an AFOV that suits you, a smooth, fast focuser, balance in the hand, color rendition. You start checking off the boxes and may have to admit, 'Yes, its better', then factor in quality of build, reputation, and warranty service. Is it $xK better? Only you can decide!

If you're wearing glasses, don't be surprised when eye relief turns out to be one of the biggest impediments in terms of 'access' to a range of binoculars of all stripes, alphas included. In person sampling quickly determines the ones that fit and the ones that don't, as opposed to waiting a few days for one to appear at the door, find out it doesn't fit, then you've got to repackage it and send it away.

Enjoy the journey!

-Bill

Last edited by wdc : Thursday 19th September 2019 at 23:36.
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Old Friday 20th September 2019, 15:00   #31
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Originally Posted by dries1 View Post
The optics in some very low cost glass have been getting better, however we pay more for those eyecups, focus wheel, diopter, armor that (function the same after a year of use). IMHO this is where the lower end glass falls short, some way short, and that is craftsmanship, so we end up paying more 800-1000 for those items, not just the warranty.

Andy W.
Andy, can you be more specific on your personal experience with various models/makes? One of the strengths of the posts people have been offering up is that they've shared concrete details about their personal experiences with certain bins. If you can offer that up, all the better for any others reading your posts. Thanks! IS
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Old Friday 20th September 2019, 15:10   #32
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That's helpful, Bill. I do wear glasses, and understand conceptually what eye-relief is, but don't know yet how to select for that. (I read reviews that say, 'X has excellent eye relief at 18mm...' but if you don't need 18mm of eye relief, its quite irrelevant, right?) I would guess my M5's fully retracted is a good distance. Can I assume from your post, that the best way to find what your ideal eye relief is, is to try out a lot of pairs and then I'll know good, bad, great? (I think I need to experience bad, so I can appreciate good and great.) Is there something like too much eye relief? I've never experienced eye fatigue.. only pains in the neck while birding warblers... so I don't know if I'm missing something here or not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wdc View Post
I've patronized a shop, and I've gone the online route. Both work fine. I'll admit I've even tried a bin in a shop, then waited for a good online price to buy it. However, at the same shop I've purchased several binoculars, so I don't feel too bad about doing that.

Being able to compare one directly to another can be enormously instructive, especially when one can do the $300 bin vs. the alpha, and realize how close they can be in some respects. Instead of miracles, one might notice a subtle but consistent accumulation of improved qualities: bigger sweet spot, even illumination of the entire field, improved contrast between light and shadow, better CA control off axis, possibly a wider field, an AFOV that suits you, a smooth, fast focuser, balance in the hand, color rendition. You start checking off the boxes and may have to admit, 'Yes, its better', then factor in quality of build, reputation, and warranty service. Is it $xK better? Only you can decide!

If you're wearing glasses, don't be surprised when eye relief turns out to be one of the biggest impediments in terms of 'access' to a range of binoculars of all stripes, alphas included. In person sampling quickly determines the ones that fit and the ones that don't, as opposed to waiting a few days for one to appear at the door, find out it doesn't fit, then you've got to repackage it and send it away.

Enjoy the journey!

-Bill
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Old Friday 20th September 2019, 16:06   #33
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Originally Posted by InspiredSquare View Post
That's helpful, Bill. I do wear glasses, and understand conceptually what eye-relief is, but don't know yet how to select for that. (I read reviews that say, 'X has excellent eye relief at 18mm...' but if you don't need 18mm of eye relief, its quite irrelevant, right?) I would guess my M5's fully retracted is a good distance. Can I assume from your post, that the best way to find what your ideal eye relief is, is to try out a lot of pairs and then I'll know good, bad, great? (I think I need to experience bad, so I can appreciate good and great.) Is there something like too much eye relief? I've never experienced eye fatigue.. only pains in the neck while birding warblers... so I don't know if I'm missing something here or not.


My experience is that if the eye relief is too short for me it is very relevant. I am always fiddling around trying to find the right place on my brow ridge to brace the binocular. I usually had no problem there if the binocular had long eye relief.

Remarkably there now is the unique versatility Swarovski has given to its new CL Companion 8/10x30 B binoculars by placing a so called "Optical Box" in its eye pieces that solves this problem.

I can use my CL Companion SLC 8x30 B with the eye cups set back in my eye sockets, or braced as I described above, up against and just under my brow ridge.

Bob
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Old Friday 20th September 2019, 16:56   #34
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Originally Posted by InspiredSquare View Post
That's helpful, Bill. I do wear glasses, and understand conceptually what eye-relief is, but don't know yet how to select for that. (I read reviews that say, 'X has excellent eye relief at 18mm...' but if you don't need 18mm of eye relief, its quite irrelevant, right?) I would guess my M5's fully retracted is a good distance. Can I assume from your post, that the best way to find what your ideal eye relief is, is to try out a lot of pairs and then I'll know good, bad, great? (I think I need to experience bad, so I can appreciate good and great.) Is there something like too much eye relief? I've never experienced eye fatigue.. only pains in the neck while birding warblers... so I don't know if I'm missing something here or not.
Eye relief in the specifications you can read online are at the very least a helpful guide, but the actual results vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, because eye cups are not the same size or height, and some manufacturers seem to be measuring from the top of the lens, and others from the top of the eye cup. 'Usable' eye relief is what is actually available above the eyecups.

For me, Leica is good at 17mm and up, Nikon 17+mm, Zeiss 18, Opticron at 19 hasn't worked for me. Vanguard: 19, and so on. What I mean by 'work' is that I can see the entire field as a circle, with a crisp black edge to it. There are exceptions to these findings, in that a smaller binocular like an 8x25 or 8x30 has physically smaller eye cups, so more of the real eye relief is available to the user.

Some other eyeglass wearers on the forum, such as Chill6x6, need less eye relief than I do, either due to prescription, or style of spectacle, so there are a range of variables in play that will affect your results. Its like trying on shoes to find a pair that fits... One size does NOT fit all....

Yes, you can have too much eye relief. You get blackouts if you get too close to the eyepiece, so have to twist up the eyecups to find a setting that eliminates that. In general too much ER is more of a problem for non-eyeglass wearers, but even those with glasses will do it, if needed.

You should make it a point to try out some low eye relief <16mm binoculars to see how low you can go... Ultravid HD+ 8x32, Nikon eII 8x30. How hard are you willing to press the binoculars against your glasses, or do they present the entire view with just a light touch?

If you've got the 8x42 Monarch 5's, they are listed with 19.5 mm of ER. That's generous, and should afford you an easy view with specs on. You should try the Nikon MHG 8x42. They are a tad under 18mm ER, and it is not as easy for me to see the whole view with those. You may get a better result.

Ironically (or fortunately), many of the alphas have exceptionally good ER, as well as IPD, compared to a vast selection of more affordable mid-range bins, which seemed to be built to a set of measurements that keep folks like me from enjoying them. ;-)

-Bill

Last edited by wdc : Friday 20th September 2019 at 17:14.
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Old Saturday 21st September 2019, 18:26   #35
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Originally Posted by wdc View Post

Ironically (or fortunately), many of the alphas have exceptionally good ER, as well as IPD, compared to a vast selection of more affordable mid-range bins, which seemed to be built to a set of measurements that keep folks like me from enjoying them. ;-)

-Bill
Think the alphas have good eye relief because most of the people who can afford to buy them are old enough to need glasses.
A real life example of how capitalism works. Zeiss used to make super wide angle glasses with minute (10mm or so) eye relief. They did not sell. Zeiss then learned to serve the buyer better.
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Old Saturday 21st September 2019, 18:55   #36
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Think the alphas have good eye relief because most of the people who can afford to buy them are old enough to need glasses.
.
Spot on.
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Old Tuesday 24th September 2019, 23:22   #37
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Originally Posted by wdc View Post

You should make it a point to try out some low eye relief <16mm binoculars to see how low you can go... Ultravid HD+ 8x32, Nikon eII 8x30. How hard are you willing to press the binoculars against your glasses, or do they present the entire view with just a light touch?

If you've got the 8x42 Monarch 5's, they are listed with 19.5 mm of ER. That's generous, and should afford you an easy view with specs on. You should try the Nikon MHG 8x42. They are a tad under 18mm ER, and it is not as easy for me to see the whole view with those. You may get a better result.


-Bill
I will do that.
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Old Friday 11th October 2019, 22:13   #38
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Originally Posted by InspiredSquare View Post
I do like my Monarch 5s, but I am also expecting a life altering (visual) event when I look through $2k glass/prism/coats.. as deeply as I'm into birding, having extra detail and greater depth of field would be an enormous addition. If I don't get that, I will be disappointed... but richer in more ways than one.
I think the ways in which top tier binoculars are better are sometimes not always immediately apparent - and until one has spent a fair amount of time behind both decent/good and "alpha" class binoculars (and indeed, often not even then), it can be difficult or impossible to justify the expense needed to purchase that level of optical performance.

A few years back I was going to purchase a quality 10x40 class binocular secondhand and the choice came down to the Dialyt 10x40 P model I now own, or a 10x42 FL which was about four hundred pounds more expensive. I was fortunate enough to be able to try both of them side by side on a dull grey winter afternoon, and although I could tell the FL was a little sharper and a little brighter, I didn't, at the time, think those improvements were worth the cost. I still have the Dialyt and very much enjoy using it, but after having done a lot more long distance observation, and lost difficult targets that my brother was able to follow with his Swarovision, I now have a different perspective of those improvements that seemed small and not worth paying for then.

Testing binoculars indoors is no test at all - the distances are far too short (at least compared to my typical observing distances) and artificial light bears no resemblance to outdoor conditions. Ordering and returning binoculars has never appealed to me. I would not consider binoculars that have been sent to the likes of denco, tried, and returned to be truly new, and would not wish to do the same to another buyer. I try my best to look through the pair I'm buying myself, ideally with a good reference pair to hand, a pair you are very familiar with. Nothing beats a proper test outdoors. I have been mostly very happy with binoculars I have done this with. Stores and birding fairs that give you the opportunity to do so are worth rewarding.


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I have always said "Once You Try Alpha You Can Never Go Backa". There was a famous thread with that title also in the distant past on Bird Forum.
There is also an equally famous thread called "Death of the Alpha" ...https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=336709
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