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Close Focus Anyone?

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Old Wednesday 27th February 2019, 16:02   #1
Tringa45
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Close Focus Anyone?

Contributors on this forum often state that they can focus closer than the manufacturers' specifications, but the attainable close focus is just as personal as the individual focus or dioptre setting and is also determined by the user's ability to accommodate.

I assume that manufacturers' specifications are calculated values for the shortest focusable distance where parallel "rays" (i.e. image at infinity) emerge from the eyepiece, so most users will be able to undercut this.

On another thread a desire for variable speed focus was expressed and I not only question the sense of this, but also the extremely close focus offered on many recent roof prism binoculars. There is a tendency to compete on specification figures that have no relevance to birding situations. I have an owned a 7x42 Swarovski SLC with 4 m close focus for the past 14 years and the number of times I have hit the bottom limit could be counted on the fingers of one hand. In fact, I can only recall one instance where I used around 2 m and that was to view a rare Swallowtail butterfly. For those applications, though, there are specialists (Pentax Papilo).

Much as I appreciate some of the qualities of my 10x42 EL SV, it does try to be an "Eierlegendewollmilchsau" (egg-laying woolly milking pig). A close focus of 1,5 m is as if I were viewing at 15 cm and even after reducing the IPD by 5 mm the view is uncomfortable because the objective spacing is still 66 mm (objective spacing larger than eyepiece spacing).

Holger Merlitz has often lamented the cost and complexity of many modern binoculars. Close focus capability demands either a more powerful focussing lens or longer travel. Both of these solutions are going to be detrimental to chromatic and spherical aberration over much of the focussing range.

In retrospect, Swarovski's "downgrading" of the 42 mm SLC HD to a close focus of 3,2 m made a lot of sense.

John
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Old Wednesday 27th February 2019, 16:57   #2
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The papilio are excellent for transporting you onto the land of small critters. I have made a lens mount to enable (one eye) to focus even closer if you need.

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Old Wednesday 27th February 2019, 17:28   #3
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Perhaps the close focus of modern binos is to make them also attractive to those with a broad interest in nature observing as well as those that specialise only on birds. I have also seen tourists using binos to observe features on buildings at close range and have read of people using this feature in art galleries and museums.

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Old Wednesday 27th February 2019, 18:44   #4
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The Pentax U-Series Papilio II have a 1.6 ft (0.5m) close focus, and my girlfriend uses them. They are great for little critters. But for use as regular long distance binoculars, she has trouble locating things and much prefers a regular binocular (e.g. opticron 7x42).

The Leica Trinovid 8x32 and Meopta Meopro HD both have a 3.3 ft (1m) close focus. I personally do not like the eye relief on the Trinovid (its too short for me), but the Meopro is ok.

Personally, I use either the Conquest HD 8x32 or Kowa Genesis 8x33 with 4.9ft (1.5m). I find that standing up the 4.9ft close focus is enough to look at stuff on the ground straight down or low things at a slight angle.

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Old Wednesday 27th February 2019, 19:05   #5
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I recall having a Leica Trinovid 8 x 32 BA that I cherished for several years and then was seduced by the BN for close focusing. I disliked the BN as the view from " middle distance to infinity" just wasn't sharp to my eyes..... I quickly traded them in towards a pair of Swarovski 8.5 EL ( first ones ) which I enjoyed for a long time. The subsequent models were very good ( faster focusing, close focus etc ) but the ones that are my go to bins are Zeiss FL 8 x 32 that cover everything quite amazingly.
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Old Thursday 28th February 2019, 00:11   #6
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I'm a butterfly watcher as well as birder, so I appreciate bins that focus closely as well as performing well at distance. The Pentax Papilio are unbeatable for close views but, as a cheap reverse-porro compact, they can't compete with premium x32 and x42 roofs for birding. The Zeiss 8x32 FL and 8x32 Conquest models work beautifully (precise and efficient focus control) for birding and butterflying from ~5 ft to infinity. I often call for variable-ratio focus because it would improve the performance of all close-focusing bins (that don't already have it) and because I am told that it can be achieved without making focus mechanisms more complex. It is silly for companies to offer bins with excellent close focus but that lack the focus control needed to make it of practical use (e.g. Swarovski 8.5x42 EL SV).

--AP
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Old Thursday 28th February 2019, 01:43   #7
james holdsworth
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Sometimes I want a ''do-it-all'' bin, and that requires close, fast and precise focus. I can understand why some think these features superfluous but they [I assume] just don't have the same natural history interests.

When I do surveys in the spring / summer, I'll be using my minimum close focus dozens of times a day as my targets are all living things, not just birds.

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Old Thursday 28th February 2019, 01:47   #8
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I'm a butterfly watcher as well as birder, so I appreciate bins that focus closely as well as performing well at distance. The Pentax Papilio are unbeatable for close views but, as a cheap reverse-porro compact, they can't compete with premium x32 and x42 roofs for birding. The Zeiss 8x32 FL and 8x32 Conquest models work beautifully (precise and efficient focus control) for birding and butterflying from ~5 ft to infinity. I often call for variable-ratio focus because it would improve the performance of all close-focusing bins (that don't already have it) and because I am told that it can be achieved without making focus mechanisms more complex. It is silly for companies to offer bins with excellent close focus but that lack the focus control needed to make it of practical use (e.g. Swarovski 8.5x42 EL SV).

--AP
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Old Thursday 28th February 2019, 09:17   #9
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I have also seen tourists using binos to observe features on buildings at close range and have read of people using this feature in art galleries and museums.
I used to work as a tour guide for many years, and it is absolutely true that a visit to any church, cathedral or museum is simply not the same once you get used to the "bino-cultural" side of it This is especially true for the stories painted/sculpted on altarpieces and reredos, that are otherwise difficult to enjoy in their full splendor. And then, visiting a Natural History/Archaeology Museum with the Pentax Papilio is just opening another level of enjoyment/understanding, as is a 5 minute stroll looking at the undergrowth with the Papilio :)
I have read Holger Merlitz comments on the "cost" to pay for modern commodities like waterproofing and close focus; but when it comes to the latter, I do think is an essential selling point of an allrounder binocular (daydreaming, something close to perfection would be a waterproof Nikon EII 7x30 with the close focus of the Papilio).
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Old Thursday 28th February 2019, 13:40   #10
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daydreaming, something close to perfection would be a waterproof Nikon EII 7x30 with the close focus of the Papilio.
Hi,

sounds nice, but won't happen - an integral part of the papilio concept is the use of a reverse porro configuration to get the objectives close together and thus decrease the stereo base - so basically the opposite of what makes for the nice 3D view in normal porros...

Joachim, who loves his 6.5x21 Papilo and the 8x30 E2 - just for different things...
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Old Thursday 28th February 2019, 14:01   #11
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I used to work as a tour guide for many years, and it is absolutely true that a visit to any church, cathedral or museum is simply not the same once you get used to the "bino-cultural" side of it This is especially true for the stories painted/sculpted on altarpieces and reredos, that are otherwise difficult to enjoy in their full splendor. And then, visiting a Natural History/Archaeology Museum with the Pentax Papilio is just opening another level of enjoyment/understanding, as is a 5 minute stroll looking at the undergrowth with the Papilio :)

Binos are supremely useful instruments and the close-focus capability opens up new experiences looking at many kinds of subjects from lichens and mosses, to life in freshwater pools and rivers and lakes, life in salt-water rock pools and of course insects and flowers, and there are mini-ecosystems to be found on the bark of trees and on rocks.

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Old Thursday 9th July 2020, 19:35   #12
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The desirability of close focus was one of the topics discussed in the recent thread talking about Swarovski's NL binoculars - it's quite an interesting topic that was getting lost in the background noise, so I've taken the liberty of restarting this thread.

I tend to use my binoculars at quite long distances (raptor watcher) and have never turned my focus all the way to the "other side" - but realize that others may quite frequently observe things much closer in. For those of you that do, what sort of distances are you observing over? Marcsantacruz above talks about observing things at his feet - is that something you close viewers do a lot? What's the close focus of your favourite binoculars for short distance observation, and at what point do you feel it would become a handicap were it to be lengthened?

NB. on a hot sunny day at the Walthamstow wetlands a few weeks back when all bird life seemed to have completely disappeared, I used my binoculars to properly observe insects for the first time - good numbers of common blue damselflies and the (very beautiful) banded demoiselles over one of the streams flowing through the area. They were wonderful to watch, and I can now appreciate why other folks enjoy watching insects with their binoculars. They were much closer than my normal observing distance, but the 2m close focus of my 8x32 FL was never troubled.

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Old Thursday 9th July 2020, 20:54   #13
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As a birder first, and someone who almost never thinks about doing close up study of bugs or flowers or whatever, extreme close focus is really just a novelty for me. I've had bins with excellent close focus down to 1m, and I do have a pair of Papilio 6.5x that I got for the kids, but I honestly cannot remember a situation where I've ever needed less than ~2m close focus in the field.

Honestly even ~3m is sufficient for 99% of birding, I've been toting around a pair of 10x42 Trinovids with a 3.5m close focus and I haven't even thought about or noticed it.

It's quite rare for a bird to approach within 3m and ALSO stay still long enough to bring the binoculars up to your eyes and focus.

So, for my uses, it's largely irrelevant and anything ~3m or less works for my general uses.
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Old Friday 10th July 2020, 07:33   #14
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Holger Merlitz has often lamented the cost and complexity of many modern binoculars. Close focus capability demands either a more powerful focussing lens or longer travel. Both of these solutions are going to be detrimental to chromatic and spherical aberration over much of the focussing range.

In retrospect, Swarovski's "downgrading" of the 42 mm SLC HD to a close focus of 3,2 m made a lot of sense.

John
I feel that this topic is only existing because one specific binocular maker doesn't take the effort, while it's clear from other makers that you can have a high quality, CA-free, close-focusing binocular that is cheaper than the specific binocular maker.

So rather than arguing why a close focus is not really necessary, I would argue that this specific binocular maker is making itself irrelevant for me.
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Old Friday 10th July 2020, 08:20   #15
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Patudo

Both Troubadoris and I use close focus a lot and we use it in several different ways.

On the one hand we deliberately get close to all kinds of things for example to look at bright orange objects in a cascading stream about 2m away that turned out to be a fungus called Bog Beacon. And because we had heard of the dragonfly Aeshna cyanea breeding in upper-shore pools near the sea in Scotland we searched these habitats with our binos and found Palmate Newts breeding in every one we looked in. Using binos at very close focus we discovered (and have since revisited) a kind of Sea Urchin on the west coast of Scotland that is more common in the Mediterranean. On North Uist we used binos to survey boggy areas for the rare Bog Orchid which is really tiny and we found 14 sites for this over a period of a few years. Using the binos meant we did not trample the boggy ground and risk destroying orchids that had not yet put up an aerial stem.
The above are examples of us deliberately approaching places and subject often right down to the minimum focus distance.
On other occasions, because we are alert to the presence of small creatures we can find ourselves suddenly close to a snake or a lizard (I posted photos of this on another thread) and there are a few moments when the snake or lizard freezes (mostly they immediately flee) and you can use your binos for breathtaking views. If you need to step back because your close focus isn't close enough, your movement invariably triggers the subject to flee.
And then there are things like lichens and mosses and fungi that look so much better through binos at minimum distance. These views are like those shots on nature shows where the camera captures a butterfly on a flower and you think 'you never get views like that in real life'. But through binos you do get these views.
So yes we use binos really extensively and at all distances down to the absolute minimum.

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Old Friday 10th July 2020, 10:57   #16
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Hi,

I tend to look at close stuff (insects, spiders, small reptiles & amphibiae, fungi, lichen or plants) with my binoculars all the time... and being able to use them to see stuff right in front of my toes w/o stepping back helps a lot.
My usual Pentax 8x32 ED allows to be focussed quite close (1m or so), but the objectives are too far apart for comfortable viewing at that range, so you need to either close one eye or you can reduce the IPD a bit for some relief.
When I have the Papilio 6.5 with me, I'll slowly get as close as the critter lets me - or as close as I feel comfortable if it's sth scary.
During the last vacation the views of a large beetle enjoying the warmth of my convertible soft-top at minimum range were kinda breathtaking...
As for not finding stuff with the Papilio, that is not a problem with the 6.5x version - it has 131/1000m true field, which is very respectable for a pocket pair...

Joachim
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Old Friday 10th July 2020, 13:13   #17
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Hi,

I tend to look at close stuff (insects, spiders, small reptiles & amphibiae, fungi, lichen or plants) with my binoculars all the time... and being able to use them to see stuff right in front of my toes w/o stepping back helps a lot.
My usual Pentax 8x32 ED allows to be focussed quite close (1m or so), but the objectives are too far apart for comfortable viewing at that range, so you need to either close one eye or you can reduce the IPD a bit for some relief.
When I have the Papilio 6.5 with me, I'll slowly get as close as the critter lets me - or as close as I feel comfortable if it's sth scary.
During the last vacation the views of a large beetle enjoying the warmth of my convertible soft-top at minimum range were kinda breathtaking...
As for not finding stuff with the Papilio, that is not a problem with the 6.5x version - it has 131/1000m true field, which is very respectable for a pocket pair...

Joachim
That Papilio is something else as it places you in a world that you have never seen before that often. My only problem is that any movement of your bins or the creature, throws the focus off, and my eye's went nuts after awhile. But I think I will try to pick up one again, as for a relatively cheap price, I am brought into the insect world during the heat of the summer as the birds shy away. I will just have to deal with the focus and take frequent breaks.
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Old Saturday 11th July 2020, 01:31   #18
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Daily birding in my neighborhood can be feast or famine. Thanks to this forum I am a recent convert to the joys of close focus when the birds are coy.

To answer Patudo's question, post 12: My two most used daily roofs are a 6.5x32 Kowa with CF of 1.1 m and a 7x42 Zeiss FL T with a CF of 2 m. Believe it or not, IME this difference is huge for reasons explained by other members in this thread and elsewhere on the forum. 2 m CF is good, but 1.1 unlocks another world.

Mike
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Old Saturday 11th July 2020, 16:51   #19
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Personally I don't use close focus of 2m a ton but I do use it enough to not want to be without it. Given the competition, I don't really consider bins that are close focus > 2,2m or so, AFOV < 65 degrees or so, or not waterproof, unless they offer some other killer feature. Even my IS bins have 2m close focus and about a 65 degree AFOV, though they're not waterproof.

I personally cannot converge / bring into stereo vision subjects closer than about 1,8m or so. I'm guessing narrower IPD would help, and that there must be some personal variation in ability to mentally merge the two images, but are there forum members here that can easily get a comfortable, merged stereo image out of a roof prism binocular under about 1,5m?
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Old Saturday 11th July 2020, 17:16   #20
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As a birder first, and someone who almost never thinks about doing close up study of bugs or flowers or whatever, extreme close focus is really just a novelty for me. I've had bins with excellent close focus down to 1m, and I do have a pair of Papilio 6.5x that I got for the kids, but I honestly cannot remember a situation where I've ever needed less than ~2m close focus in the field.

Honestly even ~3m is sufficient for 99% of birding,
I agree with you that 99% of the birding with a min of 3m ...for birding. But as you state, you are not really into the insects etc ... I know I am not 'really into them' but certainly enjoy looking at them as I bird.

So perhaps there is a difference between pure 'bird watching' and 'nature watching' in general. Then, under 3m is nice to have.

I have thought about carrying a Papilio on the belt (in case I want them) and bins around the neck when I go out birding.
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Old Saturday 11th July 2020, 17:30   #21
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Definitely, there's a difference between birding and general "nature watching" in this context.

For me, binoculars are a tool for identifying birds. It never occurs to me to stare at lichen or beetles from 3-4 feet away. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just not my thing. I'm satisfied with being able to stare at them from 6-8 feet away if I ever so choose.

I'm not a tall guy, around 5'6". So let's say it's 5 feet from my eyes to the ground. If I happen to stumble on a bird that's only 5 feet away, which is about as close as a bird ever gets, my friend Pythagoras tells me the bird is 7 feet from my eyes.

So anything better than ~2m is plenty for birding, the only reason to require closer focus than ~2m is if you want to lean in and get up really close to something stationary like a bug or flower. Or the "stumble upon an animal and they freeze and you don't want to step backwards" scenario. That will never happen with birds, they will not stay still long enough to allow you to lean in and put your face 3-4 feet away from them, and they will not freeze and be still if you are right on top of them.

Again, just me. No judgment on those who have different priorities. I've had bins with 1m-1.5m close focus and it's a fun novelty, just not at all a priority for ME.
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Old Saturday 11th July 2020, 18:14   #22
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What's the close focus of your favourite binoculars for short distance observation, and at what point do you feel it would become a handicap were it to be lengthened?

Regards,
Patudo
I've just come in from the garden where I go and wander round, recently taking with me some binoculars.. I go out simply to have a break from day long editing of a newsletter and to keep moving around as I'm not used to a sedentary life, either at work or as now on vacation. So the viewing aims are casual: to find relaxation and just examine anything that looks appealing -- it might just be a contrast in colours or it might be to see the tiniest features of a stalk or flower head that I wouldn't pick up without magnification. In the process I am getting to observe quite a lot of insect behaviour; for instance it occurred to me today that insects aren't so dim as to wander unwittingly into a spider's web; I get the feeling the they have an instinct to avoid them. Correct me if this is nonsense!

Anyway. to answer your question, Patudo, I've found by trial and error that if I use 7x42s the fact I can hold them very steady means that even at their long minimum focus of 3.3m or 10' 9.6" -- or a bit further out -- I see plenty of detail. Today I was studying various tall weeds that were strongly backlit against a shadowed background of dark leaves and branches. 7x42 wouldn't be my normal choice for close work; it's what I have with me, but for general relaxation I was astonished how well this worked and how revealing the image was. Given a free choice I dare say I would try an 8.5x42 EL SV (before Swarovski strangles the minimum focus!) or an 8x32 EL SV (except I'm not sure how they would cope against today's strong backlighting) or Lee's good old, excellent 8x32 T*FL. I have found with the 8x32 T*FL that even up against the close focus stop I am reasonably comfortable at least for a whlle to view so close without undue eye strain, but they just aren't with me at present. Today at 11-12 feet significant detail in plants and insects was visible even with very strong backlighting and a bit of flare. The instrument I used was a UV 7x42 HD Plus. Talking of flare my guess would be that there isn't a field glass on earth that would have beaten it off entirely!

Hope this helps.

Tom
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Old Saturday 11th July 2020, 18:15   #23
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Personally I don't use close focus of 2m a ton but I do use it enough to not want to be without it. Given the competition, I don't really consider bins that are close focus > 2,2m or so, AFOV < 65 degrees or so, or not waterproof, unless they offer some other killer feature. Even my IS bins have 2m close focus and about a 65 degree AFOV, though they're not waterproof.

I personally cannot converge / bring into stereo vision subjects closer than about 1,8m or so. I'm guessing narrower IPD would help, and that there must be some personal variation in ability to mentally merge the two images, but are there forum members here that can easily get a comfortable, merged stereo image out of a roof prism binocular under about 1,5m?
One option is the Minox Macroscope (or Minoscope), a waterproof porro 8x25 monocular, which has a close focus of around 30cm.
It is the ideal tool for museum and church visits as well as for nearby nature viewing. It does have a fatter body because of the porro configuration, but is easily pocketed.
Availability seems to be limited, perhaps because Minox itself has been stressed. Optics4birding still offers it in the US, for $265. An apparent knockoff on Amazon for much less, albeit not waterproof and no tripod mount:

https://www.amazon.com/Jizmo-Definit...ustomerReviews
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Old Saturday 11th July 2020, 18:21   #24
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As a birder first, and someone who almost never thinks about doing close up study of bugs or flowers or whatever, extreme close focus is really just a novelty for me. I've had bins with excellent close focus down to 1m, and I do have a pair of Papilio 6.5x that I got for the kids, but I honestly cannot remember a situation where I've ever needed less than ~2m close focus in the field.

Honestly even ~3m is sufficient for 99% of birding, I've been toting around a pair of 10x42 Trinovids with a 3.5m close focus and I haven't even thought about or noticed it.

It's quite rare for a bird to approach within 3m and ALSO stay still long enough to bring the binoculars up to your eyes and focus.

So, for my uses, it's largely irrelevant and anything ~3m or less works for my general uses.
Actually last week I found myself watching a female blackbird foraging (gleaning?) in a small enclosed garden and wished I could back up enough to view her and her insects through binoculars. Blackbirds do seem very tuned in to the fact that noise in a garden means shorter grass and upturned, dug over earth to hunt in and this one - and last year's one, possibly the same bird? - has/have no qualms about coming within 3 feet of me, even when I don't stop moving. I don't need binoculars to observe at 3 feet but to see her at work in the shadow of a bush 5 or 6 feet away is interesting with magnification. Robins much the same.

Tom
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Old Saturday 11th July 2020, 21:38   #25
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One option is the Minox Macroscope (or Minoscope), a waterproof porro 8x25 monocular, which has a close focus of around 30cm.
It is the ideal tool for museum and church visits as well as for nearby nature viewing. It does have a fatter body because of the porro configuration, but is easily pocketed.
Availability seems to be limited, perhaps because Minox itself has been stressed. Optics4birding still offers it in the US, for $265. An apparent knockoff on Amazon for much less, albeit not waterproof and no tripod mount:

https://www.amazon.com/Jizmo-Definit...ustomerReviews
Another option is the Zeiss 6x18 mono with 25 cm close focus. When out in the field I wear the little Zeiss around my neck alongside my bins. When I see something closer than 2 meters I look at it through the Zeiss, for objects further away I use my regular bins. The Zeiss are so small and light that I don't notice they are there till I need them.

George
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