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Does anyone use Nikon's SE 12x50 for birding?

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Old Saturday 2nd May 2015, 12:12   #1
John Dracon
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Does anyone use Nikon's SE 12x50 for birding?

Over the years I have found the 12x50 to fill a distinct niche in birding. This is when a rest of some sorts is available whether it be a mono, bi, or tripod, over a vehicle hood, a window mount, resting against a tree, or sitting down. Many will prefer a small spotting scope, but I find the Nikon 12x50 very handy when cruising around in a vehicle to look at birds.

Along this line, has anyone on BF made a comparison of 12x50 binoculars, porro or roof? It appears to be an orphan of sorts. Perhaps not many were marketed or purchased when the SE rage first hit the market. I started out with the SE 10x42, then the 8x32, and lastly the 12x50. Eventually the 10x42 went to a relative, since, if I wanted more power than the 8x32, the 12x50 fit the gap nicely.

Having looked at the alpha roofs of 12x50 persuasion, none of them IMO surpass the Nikon other than in being waterproof. The jump to my Zeiss 15x60 increases both bulk and weight, and that "honker" is a hand full.

Using Ebay as a kind of reference in scarcity, I rarely see a Nikon 12x50 SE for sale. Am curious about other contributors to BF who use the 12x50 for birding and under what conditions or circumstances.

John
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Old Saturday 2nd May 2015, 16:28   #2
brocknroller
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Originally Posted by John Dracon View Post
Over the years I have found the 12x50 to fill a distinct niche in birding. This is when a rest of some sorts is available whether it be a mono, bi, or tripod, over a vehicle hood, a window mount, resting against a tree, or sitting down. Many will prefer a small spotting scope, but I find the Nikon 12x50 very handy when cruising around in a vehicle to look at birds.

Along this line, has anyone on BF made a comparison of 12x50 binoculars, porro or roof? It appears to be an orphan of sorts. Perhaps not many were marketed or purchased when the SE rage first hit the market. I started out with the SE 10x42, then the 8x32, and lastly the 12x50. Eventually the 10x42 went to a relative, since, if I wanted more power than the 8x32, the 12x50 fit the gap nicely.

Having looked at the alpha roofs of 12x50 persuasion, none of them IMO surpass the Nikon other than in being waterproof. The jump to my Zeiss 15x60 increases both bulk and weight, and that "honker" is a hand full.

Using Ebay as a kind of reference in scarcity, I rarely see a Nikon 12x50 SE for sale. Am curious about other contributors to BF who use the 12x50 for birding and under what conditions or circumstances.

John
John,

I went in the other direction with the SEs. Started with the 12x50 for stargazing, for which it is my favorite handheld bin, however, as sky conditions deteriorated because of encroaching light pollution due to rampart development and an increase in Cloudy Nights (how I came to find those forums), I began turning the 12x50s earthward. I found them harder to hold steady for birding than stargazing where the weight is shifted back on my face.

They were useful for watching birds of prey, but I purchased a monopod and head from bigbinoculars.com (the 4-way swivel head), and used that for the occasional night when the "stars were aligned" (i.e.., clear, moonless and dry - moisture builds the light dome).

The epiphany came when I saw some migrant Cedar Waxwings perching in the hedgerow that borders my backyard, and I took out the 12x50 SE to get a closer look. I couldn't find them! They were only about 30 ft. away. I kept looking over the bins and then pointing, but still couldn't find them. Took a while but eventually I found them and what a sight! They were beautiful with their bandit masks, iridescent coloring, and brightly colored tails. Made me realize why so many people liked to watch birds.

That made me realize that that I needed a bin with a larger FOV and closer focus for birding since most of the areas I bird have dense brush rather than open spaces, so I found Better View Desired, and Steve Ingraham had the 8x32 SE listed as his reference standard in birding bins. I could still enjoy the same sharp-to-the-edge views of the 12x50 but with a wider FOV and lower magnification, so I bought an 8x32, a 501xxx model, the first of three samples over the years. Btw, the first 12x50 SE I owned had 5.2* listed as its FOV rather than 5*. That was the only one, my other two samples I tried listed 5* FOV.

I did miss the detail of the 12x50 SE, so I bought another 12x50 SE, which had a closer focus of 16 ft. like the 10x42 model. However, I noticed more CA than I had before for ground birding, not sure if it was my eyes or if I just never noticed it before other than on BOP since I didn't use them in the winter for birding. Steve (mooreorless) and I went to the park and compared my 8x32 and 12x50 and his 10x42 SE. The CA was directly in proportion to the magnification, which you would expect. I watched birds of prey from the park and CA was minimal with the 8x, a bit more noticeable with the 10x (had to keep them more centered not to see it), but with the 12x, it was harder to keep them centered and control the shakes pointing up without lying in a reclining chair as I do with stargazing, and the Purple Haze was noticeable and distracting.

Eventually, I sold the 12x50 SE and bought a 050xxx 10x42 SE, which had probably the finest optics I've seen in a bin. Unlike an earlier sample 10x SE I tried whose sharp focus started subtly falling off center and then had a "Nippon Ring" about 75% out (a thin ring of fuzziness), this newer sample was sharp from the center to nearly the very edge, and sharp, contrasty, and color saturated. Excuse me a minute while I bend over and kick myself for selling it for $550 (what I paid). The view was as good as the 10x42 SLC-HD, which costs $1,800.

For looking long, the 12x50 SE is still a great bin, for BOP not as good because of the shakes and CA. The 8x32 SE is easiest to hold steady, but due to the oversized eyecups, it was uncomfortable to use because I had to pull in the IPD at closer distances to keep the perfect circle and reduce image blackouts. Never had image blackouts with the 12x and minimally with the 10x since I used those at a distance and rarely need to adjust the IPD.

Today, my hands are shakier than they used to be. If I ever bought a 12x50 SE again, and I seem to always return to the SEs, though now that they are discontinued, one would be harder to find and probably more expensive than what I paid for my other samples.

I don't know if you have any interest in stargazing, but since you have the 12x50 SE, I would recommend you take out a reclining chair on some clear, moonless night and point them skyward. you will be amazed at the detail you can see in deep sky objects (star clusters, globular clusters, nebulae, and the Andromeda galaxy).

Given that I do more birding than stargazing these days if I bought another SE, it would probably be the 10x42 model since it's the best dual purpose SE, but for stargazing and long distance birding/natural observing, the 12x SE is the bong.

Brock

Last edited by brocknroller : Sunday 3rd May 2015 at 03:35.
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Old Saturday 2nd May 2015, 18:30   #3
John Dracon
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Thanks Brock for your most interesting and informative experience with the 12x50. I had never measured the close focus distance but did today. It is 18 feet, but by twisting the diopter to the plus side, it becomes 14 feet in the right barrel. My current 12x50 is the 5 degree model. I'm lucky. I don't see CA.

Since the SE was one of Nikon's premier models, one would expect the quality control would yield uniform results on all components, close focusing included. But your experience demonstrates is just isn't so. If my recall is accurate, Henry Link, using what I call mega magnification behind the oculars, found differences in even some of the alpha models. Somehow, this simply shouldn't be. Or am I being naive?

Your comments on the 12x50 ergonomics reinforces what some users believe is the reason some binoculars seem to fit some but not others. Bill, the Navy guy, probably has had more real experience in seeing differences in supposedly identical models than most of us. I'm curious what his experiences have shown him. Comments, Bill?

Anyway, my 12x50 has become my pickup binocular.

John
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2015, 04:22   #4
brocknroller
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Originally Posted by John Dracon View Post
Thanks Brock for your most interesting and informative experience with the 12x50. I had never measured the close focus distance but did today. It is 18 feet, but by twisting the diopter to the plus side, it becomes 14 feet in the right barrel. My current 12x50 is the 5 degree model. I'm lucky. I don't see CA.

Since the SE was one of Nikon's premier models, one would expect the quality control would yield uniform results on all components, close focusing included. But your experience demonstrates is just isn't so. If my recall is accurate, Henry Link, using what I call mega magnification behind the oculars, found differences in even some of the alpha models. Somehow, this simply shouldn't be. Or am I being naive?

Your comments on the 12x50 ergonomics reinforces what some users believe is the reason some binoculars seem to fit some but not others. Bill, the Navy guy, probably has had more real experience in seeing differences in supposedly identical models than most of us. I'm curious what his experiences have shown him. Comments, Bill?

Anyway, my 12x50 has become my pickup binocular.

John
Except for that early 10x42 SE (made ~1997), I found the image quality in SEs very consistent from sample to sample (three eights, two tens, and three twelves), but what did vary was the close focus. I had one 8x32 with a 9 ft. close focus and one with a 13 ft. close focus whereas the spec is 10 ft, which my first sample fit. The other two 12x SEs had a close focus of over 20 ft., spec was 24. I never measured the cf on the first sample 10x SE, but the second was 16 ft. on the nose, just as specked.

One's focus accommodation can affect close focus distance, generally, with younger eyes being able to focus closer. Frank almost always can get the same bins to focus closer than I can, for example, the 7x50 Vixen Foresta. But these are the same eyes looking at different samples, so it's sample variation.

Optically, the EII varies more sample to sample, with varying degrees of field curvature, based on three eights and three tens. Again same pair of eyes, different samples, so it must be sample variation. I've also compared three 8x30 EIIs side by side and saw this variation, so it's not from memory or done over time where my focus accommodation might change.

You can imagine that if sample variation runs rampart with Japanese-made optics, how much more you might see it with Chinbins. Hence, why Frank during his heyday, bought several samples of each bin. Ditto for John Cota, who would buy four or five samples of each bin to compare, sell off the "inferior' samples and keep the best (but not for long before he was at it all over again!).

Brock
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Old Wednesday 10th June 2015, 23:49   #5
jaymoynihan
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I have and use all 3 of the SE line. I use my 12x for astronomy, at which it may be unsurpassed in the 50mm size, in no small measure due to the flat field it shares with its smaller kin.
I have found (for my eyes, our individual eye characteristics are not given enough their due), in day time use, a tad too much CA in the 12x. I decided to use them on a tripod one daytime, and discovered that the CA went away when the focus was exactly on point. All the SE's are remarkable glass.
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