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Your dream binocular

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 02:13   #76
Peter Audrain
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Hi Bob,

I tried to say that nearly all birders "would love to have IS incorporated into their everyday binoculars—if only it were incorporated well," and I quite agree that so far it never has been.

The reasons why no one but Canon has made even perfunctory efforts to change that situation for 20 years are what intrigue (and, I admit, frustrate) me.

And, perhaps because IS has now been woven so successfully into such a variety of consumer products, I'm probably less confident than you that the current situation reflects inherent technical limits that make it unlikely to be incorporated into binoculars "in an efficient and weight saving manner." I agree that that's the real question.

But, basically, this is one of those situations where the only thing people in our position can really conclude is that time will tell. I guess I just wish time would start to hurry up a bit!

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 08:44   #77
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Originally Posted by james holdsworth View Post
It's been said here in a round-about-way, but lower power IS binoculars are extreme over-kill for the average birder, whose primary objective is ID the bird and move on to the next. It's rare indeed that I can't ID something because of shakes and unsteadiness, unless its windy and I'm out in the open.

Honestly, I think after 45 years of birding my eye-brain does an excellent job already of eliminating the small tremors / shakes that might compromise the image. Higher powers though - like 15+ - for sure benefit from IS, esp. for seawatches, raptors ,shorebirds etc.
Of course your brain may work different than mine, but a very quick test of a low powered (e.g. 10x) IS bin (e.g. looking at the writing on a fareaway sign) is sufficient to convince me that IS shows clearly more details, and in practice would certainly allow me to ID some fareaway birds, that otherwise would be too far away to ID.

It is quite contradictory that most of us are giving IS a pass, but are ready to shell out 2000 € plus for top-binoculars, although we hardly would miss any ID with a 200 € bin of the same configuration.


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That's interesting, about the rising use of cameras with super-powerful zooms in birding alongside—and now sometimes in preference to—binoculars. I guess the camera market has been driven by the iPhone, during the past 5–6 years, to double down on ever more capable 'pure' cameras, complete with big glass and ultra-high megapixel counts.

It does suggest that some kind of convergence may be happening naturally. In other words, back in the day people would 'digiscope'—but now many just use cameras that work like scopes. Perhaps soon enough they'll be using binoculars that work like cameras.
Most likely that is what will happen. Not optical stabilised bins as the Canons, but fully digital ones, which can be made smaller (no prisms needed) and offer the potential for all sorts of other gimmicks (e.g. the merlin bird ID app built in). In principle, such a binocular could be made already today, all components are there. In the camera world, even Canon and Nikon have now jumped on the mirrorless train, which means that they decided electronic view finders are now good enough to replace optical view finders even in their top line products.

Panasonic, Canon, Sony, Nikon would probably able to do a usable digital binocular very soon. However, they are struggeling hard to keep their foot the fast shrinking camera market, which however is still some dimensions larger than the binoculars market. So it may take a while until they invest into this niche market.

Zeiss and Leica would probably be able to go digital fast too, but I think they are unlikely to do so before being seriously challenged by a newcomer. (a bit like the German car makers, who only now start getting serious about electric cars)

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 11:25   #78
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Dalat, right. Panasonic, if you are listening, when you next do the annual update of the travel cameras perhaps you could forget the 'binocular' suggestion, and just call some new 250gm models 'DVZ' (Dual Viewfinder Zoom) instead of 'TZ' (Travel Zoom).

You could tell the more cautious departments that, by adding a second viewfinder to the successful existing designs, this should shake off even more of the competition from mobile phones, and include some additional birders too

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 13:20   #79
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I enjoy the simplicity of current glass design, if I get the shakes later on I will likely try > 15 mag in IS, by the time some of these inventions being discussed come along I will be long gone.

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 14:13   #80
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SARD 6x42 with state of the art optics.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 14:58   #81
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Foss, post 80,
And a weight of more than 1700 grams????
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 19:59   #82
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Dalat, right. Panasonic, if you are listening, when you next do the annual update of the travel cameras perhaps you could forget the 'binocular' suggestion, and just call some new 250gm models 'DVZ' (Dual Viewfinder Zoom) instead of 'TZ' (Travel Zoom).
A stereo image can be extracted from some current lens designs, which combined with 2 viewfinders, might allow a zoom that stays in collimation..
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 20:25   #83
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.... fully digital ones, which can be made smaller (no prisms needed) and offer the potential for all sorts of other gimmicks (e.g. the merlin bird ID app built in). In principle, such a binocular could be made already today, all components are there. In the camera world, even Canon and Nikon have now jumped on the mirrorless train, which means that they decided electronic view finders are now good enough to replace optical view finders even in their top line products.

Panasonic, Canon, Sony, Nikon would probably able to do a usable digital binocular very soon. However, they are struggeling hard to keep their foot the fast shrinking camera market, which however is still some dimensions larger than the binoculars market. So it may take a while until they invest into this niche market.

Zeiss and Leica would probably be able to go digital fast too, but I think they are unlikely to do so before being seriously challenged by a newcomer. (a bit like the German car makers, who only now start getting serious about electric cars)
Interesting and the sort of instrument you speculate about could be groundbreaking. However, whilst digital binoculars might in theory soon be able to satisfy casual episodic use would the currently available batteries be light enough and of sufficient duration to sustain the levelof use that many keen birdwatchers demand? There's also the problem of charging them. I certainly wouldn't want to suffer a 'black-out' at the vital moment. If such instruments were to be developed then I suspect that they'd first be used in a situation where they could be plugged into a power source (e.g. military uses).
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 20:46   #84
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However, whilst digital binoculars might in theory soon be able to satisfy casual episodic use would the currently available batteries be light enough and of sufficient duration to sustain the levelof use that many keen birdwatchers demand? There's also the problem of charging them. I certainly wouldn't want to suffer a 'black-out' at the vital moment. If such instruments were to be developed then I suspect that they'd first be used in a situation where they could be plugged into a power source (e.g. military uses).
Good point, but then this is exactly the same problem camera users struggle with and have become used to live with. Higher battery use is an important disadvantage of mirrorless cameras, compared to DSLRs (and of course analogue cameras), but that hasn't stopped mirrorless in taking over. Heavy camera users simply take along a couple of spare batteries.

While long-time binocular users may hesitate to switch to such power limited devices, this will probably different for the younger generation of birders, for whom already today a camera is the more important tool than the binocalar.

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If such instruments were to be developed then I suspect that they'd first be used in a situation where they could be plugged into a power source (e.g. military uses).
I don't know, but I guess these exist already.
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 02:34   #85
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I have thought about the people I see at hotspots—but whom so far I think I only run into at big, showy hotspots, ones stocked with photogenic birds in open landscapes, like Hawk Mountain, Scarborough Marsh, and Brigantine—who are walking around with giant cameras instead of binoculars as representing a marginal phenomenon. Even perhaps being a bit eccentric or naïve. But I'm starting to see that that impression may be exactly wrong! They may be the wave of a fast approaching future.

I wonder what the experience of finding birds all day with a camera is like for them. I think it must be fun, or else they wouldn't do it.

I think using a big camera would be frustrating amid the kind of birding I usually enjoy most—which is plunging into a complicated environment and trying to make sense of fragmentary, overlapping sensory cues, being taken by surprise, having to strain to figure out 'who' is where in the landscape and what they're doing. But there are obviously a lot of ways to watch birds.

What was said about the triumph of non-optical viewfinders in cameras—that's just fascinating. What advantages, exactly, did the bitter-enders see, or claim to see, in optical viewfinders? Since I would bet that we are more or less certain to repeat, word for word, the precise debate that the community of photographers already went through, only transposed to the register of binoculars!

These are such interesting prospects to think about. I was considering the Merlin app, and what it would be like to have binoculars that employed a version it to serve up a suggested identification of the bird in your field of view to you in real time. I don't think I'd like it. For one thing it would make it seem as if the act of identification was the end, in both senses, of looking. For another, it would drain away too much of what we get from birding: the experience of figuring something out, feeling our brains form connections and process the evidence of our senses in novel ways, as they call upon every form of memory, auditory and spatial as well as visual.

If AI ID technology gets too good, we could end up just sending out our binoculars—or sending out binocular-drones—to do the birding for us, or to run legs of the Breeding Bird Survey! I'm joking, but at the same time I'm sure that at some point that will in fact happen, as surely as cars are going to drive themselves.
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 05:14   #86
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I think using a big camera would be frustrating amid the kind of birding I usually enjoy most—which is plunging into a complicated environment and trying to make sense of fragmentary, overlapping sensory cues, being taken by surprise, having to strain to figure out 'who' is where in the landscape and what they're doing. But there are obviously a lot of ways to watch birds.

What was said about the triumph of non-optical viewfinders in cameras—that's just fascinating. What advantages, exactly, did the bitter-enders see, or claim to see, in optical viewfinders? Since I would bet that we are more or less certain to repeat, word for word, the precise debate that the community of photographers already went through, only transposed to the register of binoculars!

.. what it would be like to have binoculars that employed a version it to serve up a suggested identification of the bird in your field of view to you in real time. I don't think I'd like it. For one thing it would make it seem as if the act of identification was the end, in both senses, of looking. For another, it would drain away too much of what we get from birding: the experience of figuring something out, feeling our brains form connections and process the evidence of our senses in novel ways, as they call upon every form of memory, auditory and spatial as well as visual.

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Peter,

Well thought out observations and extrapolations, many of which seem quite plausible.

I think of birding as a sort of treasure hunt for several reasons. One, because most of the birds in a given location are 'known', but they aren't guaranteed to be in any one place when one arrives at the spot, so there's some effort required to find them. Second, there's always the prospect of the outlier, or the lost migrant, that will show up and mystify one's expectations, and likely end up surprising and delighting the viewer.

In astronomy, for amateurs with scopes, the known objects are in the same place at the same time. It is just a matter of tracking them down and appreciating them at any given time of the year, light, and weather. Some objects are just stunning on some nights and not so interesting on others. Stargazing for me, is like a museum, or gallery of cosmic wonders to peruse and appreciate when most folks are asleep. And one can always go dimmer and dimmer, wandering through obscure catalogs with larger aperture scopes.... or let the guided camera do the work...

To each his own. There is no 'right' way to go about these endeavors....

If AI, combined with a myriad of gadgetry, does all the work, I may not see the fun in it, but it might suit others just fine. It is one thing to extend one's vision via an optical device, and have reference material at hand. That description can apply to birding and astronomy for the last century. After that, I think there's a split where the gadgetry becomes for some folks the most interesting aspect of the hobby, while others prefer more of a simple, hands on approach.

I've been a landscape painter for over 20 years, but I love taking photos as well. I don't feel that one tool or activity must make other one's obsolete. I think for many folks in birding and/or astronomy, there's so much internal processing, understanding, connecting the dots, going on, and the equipment, regardless of it's nature, is merely a means towards those ends.

Cheers,

-Bill
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 09:15   #87
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A stereo image can be extracted from some current lens designs, which combined with 2 viewfinders, might allow a zoom that stays in collimation..
That is intriguing. I thought that viewing the two LCD images would be like watching a single TV screen, but through a pair of viewfinder lenses which would be required, as with a single viewfinder, to allow the eyes to relax when looking at screens which were so close to the eyes.

Guessed that in a simple system it would be like watching TV where, to view a 2D image on a single screen at a fixed distance, the eyes would not need to change accommodation and that this, along with viewing in '2D', would be familiar enough to go unnoticed. Focussing would be done automatically by the camera lens but there might also be a control for this, neither of which would be new for a camera.

The LCDs would need to be adjustable for IPD but don't begin to understand how '3D' (aka VR) might be realized, even with two camera lenses, or would the effect of 3D be achieved just through using separated camera lenses with two viewfinders (as with 3D TV using coloured glasses) without any need for collimation?

PS I see that collimation would of course be needed for 2 camera lenses!

Last edited by chris6 : Wednesday 31st October 2018 at 09:52. Reason: correction
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 09:24   #88
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who are walking around with giant cameras instead of binoculars a
I didn't really mean the bird photographers with the big guns in what I said above. I rather meant the birders (usually young birders, or not so young people being new to birding), who do birding in the sense you describe it, but who use an inexpensive but powerful bridge camera (e.g. Nikon P900: 500 bucks, 2000 mm reach), or other portable cameras. The reach of the affordable lenses and the capability of autofocus has improved dramtically over the past decade, so that many birders now use the camera as a primary tool and carry only a cheapish bin or none. Take a quick shot of an interesting bird, and study the bird on the screen immedately or later at home. I think for those, the step to accept binoculars showing the world on two screens, rather than through glass only, will not a be big step.

I said above that I actually like that we still use such an old technology as a binocular, and I still have some doubts if a fully digital binocular will ever offer a similar sensual experience as looking through a high end binocular. However, I can see that the advantages of a digital binocular could soon win over.

I started out the classical way, with a binocular, but now also use a capapable but portable camera alongside. I now get IDs that I couldn't have got 10 years ago, because there wasn't an affordable and portable camera that would have allowed me to take pictures to study and discuss the ID lateron. For example see this thread. Half of those birds would have remained unidentified 10 years ago.

So that's great. But now I often face a typical dilemma when an interesting bird appears: should I first take a good look with the binocular and take a pic later, if it stays around; or should I frist make sure I have good record shots and then watch the bird with bins. Sometime I take the wrong decision and I got neither a good look nor a usuable shot. Also, this fiddling around with gear takes away something of the pleasure of just observing the birds.

A device that would merge these two tools, allowing good observation and taking pictures at the same time, would solve this problem. Perhaps.
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 11:31   #89
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dalat, post 88,
Combining a binocular with a built in camera has been done quite a few times during the past century and before. For an historical overview, see my powerpoint of multifuctional binoculars on the WEB--site of House of Outdoor.
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 11:43   #90
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Thanks Gijs, very interesting, especially the earlier attempts.
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 17:40   #91
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The LCDs would need to be adjustable for IPD but don't begin to understand how '3D' (aka VR) might be realized, even with two camera lenses, or would the effect of 3D be achieved just through using separated camera lenses with two viewfinders (as with 3D TV using coloured glasses) without any need for collimation?

PS I see that collimation would of course be needed for 2 camera lenses!
There are single lens systems that use an intermediary, 'pinhole',element that breaks up the image into a myriad of singular pov images within the diameter of the lens. Software then extracts 2 separate coherent images from those multiples. I've seen a working model explained and demonstrated. A single zoom lens system with 2 IPD adjustable viewfinders might be a functional and cost-effective system for birding, combining the qualities of a scope, a camera, and a binocular. That would be the ideal. Until then, I'm fine with a good bin, and a small super zoom. Thinking about getting a scope for the shorebirds, but haven't made the leap. Maybe this product will show up before I make up my mind!

-Bill
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 18:14   #92
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I now get IDs that I couldn't have got 10 years ago, because there wasn't an affordable and portable camera that would have allowed me to take pictures to study and discuss the ID later on.

So that's great. But now I often face a typical dilemma when an interesting bird appears: should I first take a good look with the binocular and take a pic later, if it stays around; or should I frist make sure I have good record shots and then watch the bird with bins. Sometime I take the wrong decision and I got neither a good look nor a usuable shot. Also, this fiddling around with gear takes away something of the pleasure of just observing the birds.

A device that would merge these two tools, allowing good observation and taking pictures at the same time, would solve this problem. Perhaps.
Exactly. There's benefits to the new tools, but also potential distraction. I have used my small bridge zoom (Nikon p610) numerous times to get ID's on a bird too far away for the binocular. A really useful tool to extend one's range, and it weighs half a pound less than the bins!

The camera or bins first conundrum has occurred many times for me. At that point, being more efficient and comfortable with the gear is what I continue to strive for, along with just being tuned in to what's going on around me.

Perhaps this unification of devices will be similar to how the telephone, the portable stereo, the camera, the computer, and the wallet, have been merged into a single object that fits into one's pocket....
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 18:17   #93
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...Maybe this product will show up before I make up my mind!
Thanks for the info Bill, and love new gadgets so hope it does come about.
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Old Thursday 1st November 2018, 03:07   #94
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Really interesting discussion and I would love to know (I'm not alone in this I'm sure) what the industry leaders are thinking.

A few random thoughts on image stabilization:

Long term reliability and packaging/compactness are the two big hurdles IS systems need to overcome in binoculars. The requirement for batteries, I think, can be overcome as we are all accustomed to using batteries in our cameras now. The long term reliability thing is important because most binocular users desire their purchases to last a long time - I'd suspect close to half of the binoculars I see are a decade old and some (including most of my own!) are quite a bit older. Packaging/compactness is important because a well packaged binocular isn't just good to look at, but is significantly nicer to use. Modern binoculars have, if anything, actually stepped back a little in this respect - I still find my 10x40 B/GA Dialyt the nicest 10x package I've tried, that is the easiest to hold steady, and I've heard similar sentiments expressed about all three classic Leitz Trinovid models (8x32, 7x35 and 10x40). I think IS's success in camera lenses is at least in part because IS lenses are more or less the same size as non-IS ones. If they were more bulky - in the same way that the oft mentioned Canon 10x42 IS L is - I think they would be less accepted.

My brother and I have both tried the 10x42L and were impressed by what the IS could do, but despite the type of birding we do playing straight to its strengths, neither of us own one. I have just kicked over his reasons for not doing so with him, and it boiled down to the superior brightness and image quality of the 10x56 SLC he went for being of greater value in finding and staying with distant targets than the IS. He also mentioned that when panning, as one does when following a flying bird, hand shake seems less than when focusing on a stationary target. I will say that the image quality of the 10x42L I tried, to my eyes, was good, but the top alphas were noticeably better. If the 10x42L had the same image quality as say the 10x42 Swarovision - and I know some folks consider it every bit as good - I'd be much more tempted to get one, awkward handling and all.

I'm happy to admit the 10x42L really deserves a more prolonged trial - and if anyone in the London area would like to let me try his/hers for a few hours, I would be more than willing to return the favour with any of the binoculars I own.

I can imagine electronic imagery becoming good enough to substitute for optical in binoculars as it has done in cameras, although I'm not sure in what timeframe. The power requirements would be considerable - but if these can be overcome, and combined with (say) metalense technology for a really small and compact device, possibly with significant zoom ability, such devices would probably be like the advent of the digital watch.

Here's to all optical inventors and innovators,
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Old Thursday 1st November 2018, 10:54   #95
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Bill (post 86),

I loved these observations, with which I concur completely—yes! A treasure hunt! And you like having no idea where, or even, at least at first, what the treasure is, or else it’s just a stroll to a safe deposit box, not a treasure hunt. I think by evolutionary design there’s something deep in human brainstems, too, that switches on with ‘hunting,’ which is also turned on by birding—the pleasures of perception. And, of course, the more you can leave aside things that have to do with yourself, your preoccupations, the clutter and baggage you have along, whether literal or metaphorical, and just be cleanly submerged, moment after moment, in the things outside yourself that you’re observing, the more deeply the whole experience resonates. And what you say about being awake and alone outside while the world is asleep, also yes! I know a lot of us have spent those hours too, at intervals under dim red light, shivering with cold, or shivering at how real and how little a part of us the objects in our fields of view are. Thanks for describing those feelings, the ends to which the technology is the means. Though I know you’re right, too, that the viewing technology itself becomes the primary source of pleasure for some of us, and that’s all right as well.

I know amateur astronomers have had to reckon with the question of whether you’re ‘really’ seeing something when, instead of the photons it emitted millions of years ago hitting your retina directly, it’s photons from a display that is echoing what a CCD sees, in its own private photon-bath, that end up entering your field of vision, and with what it means to see photographically and through long exposures, rather than instantaneously. Birders will have to reckon more in the near future with both questions, in more or less the same way (though not with the long-exposures part!). It will be fun to see what answers this community comes up with.

I’m starting to think I should get a camera, too, to help with puzzling over IDs. I don’t see myself carrying something with a long lens, but just the megapixelage of even quite ordinary point-and-shoots would probably come as a revelation. I’d only ever thought to try and use my phone before, but that never works for photographing a bird usefully. I have used Song Sleuth semi-successfully on my phone, though it seldom tells you anything you weren’t already pretty confident of, to the point that I really just prefer not to have my phone anywhere around and bring a little notebook instead. I’ve been reading John Muir Laws’s book on drawing the birds you see (he treats drawing and ‘ordinary seeing’ as two ends of a single spectrum)—which, incidentally, I recommend if anyone hasn’t come across it.
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Old Thursday 1st November 2018, 14:46   #96
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Hi Peter, Fun to exchange these thoughts. I think there is something fundamental to being a witness to all sorts of things in nature, from bushtits to galaxies! Part of the pleasure of being here. Whether we're looking at the photons from the source, or re-created on a screen of some sort, I think the desire to see these objects, is a worthwhile pursuit.

John Muir (Jack) Laws is right about the spectrum between drawing and 'seeing'. I think all observation is analysis of some sort. I'll leave it at that, and return the thread to its proper course while daydreaming about the development of a lightweight superzoom binocular, and be satisfied without one...

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Old Thursday 8th November 2018, 17:54   #97
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The Victory SF's weren't much of a risk since all the concepts had been thoroughly market-proven for a decade by Swarovski

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Not entirely true Peter as the SF majored on handling as much as optics. If you search on Birdforum you should be able to find a photo of a cutaway Swaro EL next to a cutaway SF and you can see how the SF's objective lenses were reduced to two instead of three and how the weight of the glass has been shifted back towards the eyepieces. What you can't see is the work that was done to integrate the focusing lens into the objective group. SF is longer than many 42mm models and I suspect this was done to reduce the speed of flaring of the optical tubes towards the objectives, thus leaving more room for fingers between the optical tubes so that the grip envisaged by the design team results in your first finger falling naturally on the focus wheel. The focus wheel itself is contained within the top two bridges and there is a third bridge by the objectives. In short I think its fair to say that SF is very different in concept from Swaro's superb and market-leading EL.

In the meantime Zeiss's Harpia scope with 3x zoom within the objective tube and not the eyepiece, majoring on field of view at low mag and sharpness at top mags, certainly forges a different path from other scopes on the market.

I would say the evidence suggests Zeiss is capable of taking innovative design decisions although it can be criticised for other reasons such as announcing HT binos, SF binos and Harpia scope well before these products were actually ready for sale on the market and leaving us waiting for months, or in the case of the hinted-at 32mm SF, years.

Lee
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Old Friday 9th November 2018, 01:05   #98
Peter Audrain
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Patudo, I just looked up ‘metalens,’ and was there ever anything that sounded more capable of wildly improving birders’ optics? Mother of God, what a promising concept! Like semiconductors vs. vacuum tubes. This cannot possibly happen fast enough for my taste.
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Old Friday 9th November 2018, 01:15   #99
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Lee, I absolutely defer to you—you know far better than I how much ingenuity, care, and institution-bending has been poured into making new concepts like the SF’s and the Harpia actually come to pass. If I differ it’s really only in what you might think of as wondering where, after all this time, the binocular equivalents of ‘flying cars’ are! I am a little surprised by the strength of my own opinions, seeing them written out, but please don’t read them as flatly dismissive of the wonderful and even, at times, rhapsody-inducing level of refinement we’ve achieved in conventional high-end optics. Frustration is often born of love.

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Old Friday 9th November 2018, 09:01   #100
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Originally Posted by Peter Audrain View Post
Lee, I absolutely defer to you—you know far better than I how much ingenuity, care, and institution-bending has been poured into making new concepts like the SF’s and the Harpia actually come to pass. If I differ it’s really only in what you might think of as wondering where, after all this time, the binocular equivalents of ‘flying cars’ are! I am a little surprised by the strength of my own opinions, seeing them written out, but please don’t read them as flatly dismissive of the wonderful and even, at times, rhapsody-inducing level of refinement we’ve achieved in conventional high-end optics. Frustration is often born of love.
I know what you mean Peter. Back in the 1980's if we had all been told what a smart phone was and what it could do we would have all thought it was an impossible science fiction fantasy. And yet while we do have smart phones, binos look and for the most part are, so similar to the binos of the 1970s even if their performance has stepped up over the years.

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