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Trying to decide on the best of the best

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 05:05   #1
b-lilja
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Trying to decide on the best of the best

I am considering splurging on some top end birding binoculars. To me these seem to be:
Swaro 8.5x42 SL
Swaro 8x32 SL
Zeiss 8x42 FL
Leica 8x42 Noctovid

I currently have the Zeiss 8x32 Conquest HDs, which I think are amazing for the $$, but not quite at the level of the four above. I also have the Nikon 8x32SEs, which have a special place in my heart (they were a wedding present from my uncle, and I am just a Nikon person in general, using their DSLRs etc.). The Nikons are great in certain expansive situations, I love them on the dashboard in big open country, but their resolution and detail is not as good as the Conquests, or the options above.

I have looked through all of the four above. The first three I was able to look at outside for about a half hour, looking at a backlit Merlin and other things outside. I also was able to see the Swaro 8x32 at B and H in NYC and was a impressed by how much it popped, even in the windowless interior. I saw the Noctovid separately in a camera shop indoors, and actually was really impressed - it has a very special feel. Overall, here are my impressions:

The Swarovski 8.5x42 was my least favorite - bumping to 8.5 I think was a mistake - narrowing the field of view and reducing the pop a bit. I think the Swaro 8x32s are pretty incredible - a lightweight, gorgeously made package that is easy to grab, stuff in a pocket. Terrific pop, maybe best of all of them. And maybe the nicest build quality.

The Zeiss though are very special - more light gathering, and looking at the Merlin I could see the most detail of all. Also, there really is something to the balance of these - I swore they were the same weight as the Swaro 8x32 until we weighed them - they just feel very light for their size. Plus I'm a bit of a Zeiss guy too.

Looking at the Leicas was an afterthought - but so glad I looked. For all the folks saying the Noctovids are just some frufru lux product, come on, don't be so jaded. Those are great binoculars. Incredible clear view edge to edge. Lovely and solid. Actually, I love the steady substantial weight, even though these are the heaviest of the group. For me what is impressive is the HD like pop - like the Swaro 8x32s but maybe even better. However, I didn't see these alongside the others.

I will be looking at all of them again. My eyes were a bit tired on the first look.

I would really like to get thoughts about this - I was looking for a thread on "the best" but they are all buried on all the brand subforums. I would like to hear opinions that don't just slam some of these glasses - they're all clearly great...anyone out there with experience with all/most in the field? It may just be, like so many say here, at the end of the day what seems to work best for me. That said, I'd like to hear impressions.
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 06:40   #2
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For me, Nikon EDG.
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 06:42   #3
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The Zeiss FL or the Nikon EDG. The FL has the highest transmission with the AK prisms, better CA control, good glare control and is a little sharper on-axis. The EDG has sharper edges, good glare control and the best focuser of any binocular. Swarovski's show the most glare of any of the alpha's. Noctivid's never worked good for me.

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 07:36   #4
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Zeiss FL but Zeiss HT handles better for me.

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 07:38   #5
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Zeiss FL but why not the SF in your list?
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 07:49   #6
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Zeiss FL but why not the SF in your list?
Good question.

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 08:14   #7
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The Zeiss FL or the Nikon EDG. The FL has higher transmission, better CA control and is a little sharper on-axis. The EDG has sharper edges and the best focuser of any binocular. Try them both.
You'd have to be careful not to cut yourself on those FL's. My EDG are quite excellent regarding CA at that.
Regarding transmission I really wonder if anyone can truly see the difference unless it's vast or whether contrast and colour balance etc has more to do with it because our eyes don't respond to light in a linear fashion?
What about colour balance? Do you have a preference Dennis (or anyone else)?

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 11:01   #8
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I am considering splurging on some top end birding binoculars. To me these seem to be:

Swaro 8.5x42 SL

Swaro 8x32 SL

Zeiss 8x42 FL

Leica 8x42 Noctovid



I currently have the Zeiss 8x32 Conquest HDs, which I think are amazing for the $$, but not quite at the level of the four above. I also have the Nikon 8x32SEs, which have a special place in my heart (they were a wedding present from my uncle, and I am just a Nikon person in general, using their DSLRs etc.). The Nikons are great in certain expansive situations, I love them on the dashboard in big open country, but their resolution and detail is not as good as the Conquests, or the options above.



I have looked through all of the four above. The first three I was able to look at outside for about a half hour, looking at a backlit Merlin and other things outside. I also was able to see the Swaro 8x32 at B and H in NYC and was a impressed by how much it popped, even in the windowless interior. I saw the Noctovid separately in a camera shop indoors, and actually was really impressed - it has a very special feel. Overall, here are my impressions:



The Swarovski 8.5x42 was my least favorite - bumping to 8.5 I think was a mistake - narrowing the field of view and reducing the pop a bit. I think the Swaro 8x32s are pretty incredible - a lightweight, gorgeously made package that is easy to grab, stuff in a pocket. Terrific pop, maybe best of all of them. And maybe the nicest build quality.



The Zeiss though are very special - more light gathering, and looking at the Merlin I could see the most detail of all. Also, there really is something to the balance of these - I swore they were the same weight as the Swaro 8x32 until we weighed them - they just feel very light for their size. Plus I'm a bit of a Zeiss guy too.



Looking at the Leicas was an afterthought - but so glad I looked. For all the folks saying the Noctovids are just some frufru lux product, come on, don't be so jaded. Those are great binoculars. Incredible clear view edge to edge. Lovely and solid. Actually, I love the steady substantial weight, even though these are the heaviest of the group. For me what is impressive is the HD like pop - like the Swaro 8x32s but maybe even better. However, I didn't see these alongside the others.



I will be looking at all of them again. My eyes were a bit tired on the first look.



I would really like to get thoughts about this - I was looking for a thread on "the best" but they are all buried on all the brand subforums. I would like to hear opinions that don't just slam some of these glasses - they're all clearly great...anyone out there with experience with all/most in the field? It may just be, like so many say here, at the end of the day what seems to work best for me. That said, I'd like to hear impressions.
Do you mean Swaro ELs and Zeiss SF's, the FLs haven't been made for years and are no longer the top of the pile, although still very good. Your will have trouble getting a new one.

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 11:19   #9
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Hello b-lija,

All the binoculars you have named have excellent optics. You should be thinking about handling, weight and how you use them. If you are a frequent user during twilight, either the Zeiss or the Leica might be your choices, as you cannot seem to use the Austrian glass with ease.

Happy bird watching,
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 13:02   #10
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I'm trying not to reveal any bias (!) but - if you like the compactness of the Swaro 32mm but the view through the Zeiss, it might be worth trying an FL 8x32 as well - these are still made, while the rest of the FL series has been sacrificed for the SFs (as the HT seems to have been too, despite its excellence as a dawn/dusk bin)
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 13:43   #11
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Swarovision has no peer IMO.
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 14:13   #12
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In my opinion the Zeiss SF 8x42 is perfect - really bright and pin sharp, but I must admit the Conquest 10x42 is pretty brilliant also, and $1000 less. Face and eye socket shape along with the quality of your own eyes are also obvious factors.
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 16:55   #13
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All, I'm really sorry...I'm not good with the initials. Paskman read through my confusion. I meant the Swaro ELs, and the Zeiss SFs.

I actually find my Conquest HDs equal to, maybe a little better than the Victory FL 8x32s.

And I am not looking at the EDGs as I simply can't countenance spending $3k on a pair of bins (I know, what's the difference from mid $2s...).
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 17:29   #14
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You can get new Nikon EDG 8x42's on Ebay from Japan for $1700.00. That is where I got mine. An 8x42 will always outperform an 8x32(And an 8x56 will outperform an 8x42). The 8x42's bring in 70% more light then the 8x32 but if you need a smaller and lighter binocular an 8x32 will work especially in the daytime. I think the Zeiss 8x42 SF is a perfect binocular but I tried two brand new ones from Sport Optics and overall I loved them but I saw a small orange crescent on the edge of the FOV every time I used them. They just didn't work for me. Allbino's talks about it. I returned them both.

"Cons:
Distinct reflections visible beyond the eyepiece's diaphragm. The Zeiss’s field of view is wider than their fields but the slip-up with the reflections behind the eyepiece's diaphragm simply shouldn’t have happened in a case of a top-of-the-range instrument."


https://www.allbinos.com/304-binocul..._SF_10x42.html
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Nikon-EDG-8...QAAOSwDINdiLb1

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 17:47   #15
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I did just see those EDGs on ebay...my pause is that they might not be covered by US warranty (that said, I did buy an ED50 Fieldscope from Japan, which was covered under warranty...although not fixed...but that's another story)...
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 18:00   #16
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My personally preference would for the colour, contrast and sharpness characteristics of the Noctivid, but they probably wouldn't be my first choice for ergonomics. Though I suspect that's something I could adjust to. There have also been questions raised about their after sales support over here, but things may be different in the US.

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 18:45   #17
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Originally Posted by b-lilja View Post
I am considering splurging on some top end birding binoculars. To me these seem to be:
Swaro 8.5x42 SL
Swaro 8x32 SL
Zeiss 8x42 SF
Leica 8x42 Noctovid
(corrected for Zeiss SF)

Well, you have a decision to make. Many, many pages, on this forum and elsewhere, have been written on these alphas. As you have seen from replies to your query, you can find advocates for any of these, and a few responses for 'none of the above'.

What makes this fun is not that one of these is perfect, but rather that none of them is. The designers for each of these instruments had an optimization problem to resolve-- how to balance all the myriad variables to come up with their best compromise. That is what engineers do.

Each one of these bins has a different character, and each one speaks to you in a different way. You are lucky that you can try them all (or at least three of the four) at one place, at one time. Many of us have made a decision like this without that luxury.

The best thing to do is go back and spend as much time as you can looking through each of them. Then pick one, and don't look back.

Any of these choices would be a good one, and any could be a lifetime companion. I have a clear favorite, but it might not be yours.

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 19:00   #18
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...It may just be, like so many say here, at the end of the day what seems to work best for me. That said, I'd like to hear impressions.
It really comes down to you. Still, exposure to others' opinions can provide warnings about things that might bother you but that you might not notice at first. It also may facilitate refining your taste.

I've tried them all and I strongly prefer the Swarovski 8.5x42 EL SV (nonFP) as my primary birding binocular. Love its sharp to the edges and flat view, its solid feel, and its ergonomics.

--AP
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 19:38   #19
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I did just see those EDGs on ebay...my pause is that they might not be covered by US warranty (that said, I did buy an ED50 Fieldscope from Japan, which was covered under warranty...although not fixed...but that's another story)...
They are just covered by Nikon Japan Warranty. That is the only choice for new ones. It doesn't bother me. If there is something wrong with them when you get them you can send them back for a refund. The sellers in Japan are generally very good.

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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 22:28   #20
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The 8x32 SV is my favourite ergonomically but my least favourite view, compromising veiling glare far too frequent, I`v had two, sold them both.

Noctivid compromised ergonomically for me, and to my eyes just too sharp, too much C/A at this level, never owned one.

8.5X42 SV near perfect in every way, (can`t see why you feel the 32mm is better built than the 42), owned one but sold it because I fell for the 8x42 SF which in direct comparison is better balanced, has better stray light control, better focus operation and better ergonomics, it just gives up absolute sharpness to the edge, despite the claims I`v read that it is, currently the SF is my only binocular, can`t see anything taking its place anytime soon.
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 23:39   #21
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The 8x32 SV is my favourite ergonomically but my least favourite view, compromising veiling glare far too frequent, I`v had two, sold them both.

Noctivid compromised ergonomically for me, and to my eyes just too sharp, too much C/A at this level, never owned one.

8.5X42 SV near perfect in every way, (can`t see why you feel the 32mm is better built than the 42), owned one but sold it because I fell for the 8x42 SF which in direct comparison is better balanced, has better stray light control, better focus operation and better ergonomics, it just gives up absolute sharpness to the edge, despite the claims I`v read that it is, currently the SF is my only binocular, can`t see anything taking its place anytime soon.
I agree on the glare problem in the 8x32 SV. The 10x32 SV is even worse. The bigger aperture Swarovski's like the 8.5x42 and 12x50's are better for glare but they are still not as good as the Zeiss FL or Nikon EDG. I got tired of the glare so I sold all my Swarovski's except my Habicht's. The 8x30 Habicht has glare but the 10x40 and especially the 7x42 control glare quite well. I put up with the glare in the Habicht 8x30 because the transmission is so high. If you want a binocular that doesn't have any glare get an 8x56. The glare never hits your eyes. The Conquest HD 8x56 I have now has absolutely no glare. I agree with you also on the Zeiss 8x42 SF. It is almost a perfect binocular and I too liked it better than the SV 8.5x42 but I got those orange crescents at the edge of the FOV. It must be my eyes and the way the binoculars fit me. It really irritated me because other than that I loved the SF's.
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Old Monday 30th December 2019, 23:52   #22
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You can't go wrong with any of those binoculars, plus a few others that were also mentioned.

Good also to recognize the value of the Conquest line.

I own the 8x32 El, the 8x42 SF, and a 10x42 Noctivid. After getting the Noctivid a year ago, it has been my primary birding binocular for most of that time. I admit, the SF has a better ergonomic design, but it hasn't mattered, once you just start using it. The Noctivid handles just fine. The eye relief and the AFOV are really well matched for my eyes with glasses on. I find the focuser to be smooth. I enjoy the view.

I used the 8x32 EL's daily when I was overseas for a few weeks, and they did everything I needed. No complaints. Just an excellent, portable bin with good eye relief, and a sharp field.

A few weeks ago, Chuck mentioned in another thread how he would be reminded all over again why he liked certain binoculars when he picked them up, and I feel the same way about the 8x42 Zeiss SF. It is another great binocular which I intend to use more often going forward. I've been experiencing, and enjoying the 10x view of the world for the last 12 months, but, as I'm going be carrying a scope around more often, I'll put the 8x42 back in the mix to see how that feels. Plus, I expect they'll be easier to use with one hand, when I'm carrying the tripod, with the better balance and lower magnification.

Interestingly, using a scope on a tripod makes quite evident the amount of motion there is in a handheld 10x bin...

I have looked through the 8.5x42 Swaros a few times in stores, but never got the unquenchable desire to get one.
Some bins you connect to, and some you don't. Its not the binocular's fault! Any of the binoculars you mentioned could easily be your one and only purchase that you could be satisfied with for years.

Enjoy!

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Old Tuesday 31st December 2019, 00:54   #23
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Originally Posted by b-lilja View Post
I am considering splurging on some top end birding binoculars. To me these seem to be:
Swaro 8.5x42 SL
Swaro 8x32 SL
Zeiss 8x42 FL
Leica 8x42 Noctovid

I currently have the Zeiss 8x32 Conquest HDs, which I think are amazing for the $$, but not quite at the level of the four above. I also have the Nikon 8x32SEs, which have a special place in my heart (they were a wedding present from my uncle, and I am just a Nikon person in general, using their DSLRs etc.). The Nikons are great in certain expansive situations, I love them on the dashboard in big open country, but their resolution and detail is not as good as the Conquests, or the options above.

I have looked through all of the four above. The first three I was able to look at outside for about a half hour, looking at a backlit Merlin and other things outside. I also was able to see the Swaro 8x32 at B and H in NYC and was a impressed by how much it popped, even in the windowless interior. I saw the Noctovid separately in a camera shop indoors, and actually was really impressed - it has a very special feel. Overall, here are my impressions:

The Swarovski 8.5x42 was my least favorite - bumping to 8.5 I think was a mistake - narrowing the field of view and reducing the pop a bit. I think the Swaro 8x32s are pretty incredible - a lightweight, gorgeously made package that is easy to grab, stuff in a pocket. Terrific pop, maybe best of all of them. And maybe the nicest build quality.

The Zeiss though are very special - more light gathering, and looking at the Merlin I could see the most detail of all. Also, there really is something to the balance of these - I swore they were the same weight as the Swaro 8x32 until we weighed them - they just feel very light for their size. Plus I'm a bit of a Zeiss guy too.

Looking at the Leicas was an afterthought - but so glad I looked. For all the folks saying the Noctovids are just some frufru lux product, come on, don't be so jaded. Those are great binoculars. Incredible clear view edge to edge. Lovely and solid. Actually, I love the steady substantial weight, even though these are the heaviest of the group. For me what is impressive is the HD like pop - like the Swaro 8x32s but maybe even better. However, I didn't see these alongside the others.

I will be looking at all of them again. My eyes were a bit tired on the first look.

I would really like to get thoughts about this - I was looking for a thread on "the best" but they are all buried on all the brand subforums. I would like to hear opinions that don't just slam some of these glasses - they're all clearly great...anyone out there with experience with all/most in the field? It may just be, like so many say here, at the end of the day what seems to work best for me. That said, I'd like to hear impressions.
Hi, b-lilja,

Glancing through this thread, I see you have been addressed by some very knowledgeable observers. Although their opinions are of value, they are particular to themselves OR a limited number of observers. While all could lead you to a fantastic binocular, I feel you need—for future reference—the unvarnished, politically incorrect truth.

There is no “best of the best” binocular, nor can there be until:

— Each person has the same number of rods and cones.
— Each rod and cone has the same sensitivity for the same wavelengths.
— Each person’s synaptic gap is of the same length and their synaptic cleft is of the same sensitivity.
— Each person’s brain processes received impulses with the same temporal resolution.
— Each person perceives all optical aberrations (chromatic aberration, astigmatism, field curvature, etc.) to exactly the same extent.
— Each person has eyes sharing the same dioptric scale (only 2- 3% do) and that scale is the same for every observer on the planet.
— Each person has the same IPD.
— Each person has the same opinion of weight and ergonomics.

And the list above could go on for hours.

In addition, should that bino be created, you may rest assured it would be replaced with something different within a few months because of financial considerations or a new—over the top—ad campaign. Physics always trumps opinion. However, it is opinion that make cash registers ring—reality based or not.

You have been given some GREAT advice. The OTHER Bill said it best: “You can't go wrong with any of those binoculars.” Buy SOMETHING, use it, and be happy until YOU see a reason to change! Some would say “upgrade.” However, while differences in weight, ergonomics, and IPD are very real considerations, people talk too frequently about “upgrading” to a binocular that is only optically better in computer printouts compared to clinical, physiological realities of the “average”—whatever that means—observer.

I have spoken to a large number of birds who have endorsed my “stacking BBs” analogy. There was one bird, however, who said he didn’t get it. He lived on an island east of Madagascar and seemed to have a limited IQ, as shown by his misplaced affinity for mankind.

Cheers,

Bill
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Old Tuesday 31st December 2019, 01:04   #24
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The 8x32 SV is my favourite ergonomically but my least favourite view, compromising veiling glare far too frequent, I`v had two, sold them both.

Noctivid compromised ergonomically for me, and to my eyes just too sharp, too much C/A at this level, never owned one.

8.5X42 SV near perfect in every way, (can`t see why you feel the 32mm is better built than the 42), owned one but sold it because I fell for the 8x42 SF which in direct comparison is better balanced, has better stray light control, better focus operation and better ergonomics, it just gives up absolute sharpness to the edge, despite the claims I`v read that it is, currently the SF is my only binocular, can`t see anything taking its place anytime soon.
Good point on the 8.5 build quality - that was poorly written on my part. They have the same excellence in build as the 8x32 ELs.
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Old Tuesday 31st December 2019, 01:07   #25
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Hi, b-lilja,

Glancing through this thread, I see you have been addressed by some very knowledgeable observers. Although their opinions are of value, they are particular to themselves OR a limited number of observers. While all could lead you to a fantastic binocular, I feel you need—for future reference—the unvarnished, politically incorrect truth.

There is no “best of the best” binocular, nor can there be until:

— Each person has the same number of rods and cones.
— Each rod and cone has the same sensitivity for the same wavelengths.
— Each person’s synaptic gap is of the same length and their synaptic cleft is of the same sensitivity.
— Each person’s brain processes received impulses with the same temporal resolution.
— Each person perceives all optical aberrations (chromatic aberration, astigmatism, field curvature, etc.) to exactly the same extent.
— Each person has eyes sharing the same dioptric scale (only 2- 3% do) and that scale is the same for every observer on the planet.
— Each person has the same IPD.
— Each person has the same opinion of weight and ergonomics.

And the list above could go on for hours.

In addition, should that bino be created, you may rest assured it would be replaced with something different within a few months because of financial considerations or a new—over the top—ad campaign. Physics always trumps opinion. However, it is opinion that make cash registers ring—reality based or not.

You have been given some GREAT advice. The OTHER Bill said it best: “You can't go wrong with any of those binoculars.” Buy SOMETHING, use it, and be happy until YOU see a reason to change! Some would say “upgrade.” However, while differences in weight, ergonomics, and IPD are very real considerations, people talk too frequently about “upgrading” to a binocular that is only optically better in computer printouts compared to clinical, physiological realities of the “average”—whatever that means—observer.

I have spoken to a large number of birds who have endorsed my “stacking BBs” analogy. There was one bird, however, who said he didn’t get it. He lived on an island east of Madagascar and seemed to have a limited IQ, as shown by his misplaced affinity for mankind.

Cheers,

Bill
Bill, I recognize the avatar. I believe you sold me a fine pair of EII 8x30s many a moon ago. Your comment is much appreciated!
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